Q. Who is the developer?
Orion is a privately-owned London-based property development, architecture and investment company. It operates either independently, or with financial partners in joint venture structures to transform underutilised land and buildings into landmark destinations, enhancing the community infrastructure and the appeal of neighbourhoods.
Q. What other plans does Orion have for development projects in Watford?
Orion is also working on the redevelopment of Gresham House on Clarendon Road into an office and residential scheme. On Thursday 9 March 2017, Orion secured planning consent for 67,250 sq ft office space, 1,500 sq ft retail space and 59 new homes in an attractive 11-storey building on Clarendon Road, Watford. It will deliver much-needed grade A office space as well as housing, comfortably meeting the requirement for affordable homes and being one of the first proposals to be considered against the Council’s recently adopted policy on taller buildings.
Q. How much is Orion spending on the development?
Orion is committed to Watford and is investing over £130m and will commit a further £50m over the coming years across this site and a recently-approved office-led scheme on Clarendon Road.
Q. Why does this site need redeveloping?
There is an urgent need for more homes across the country and locally, in particular on brownfield sites such as this one identified within the Western Gateway policy area. To meet population growth, Watford Borough Council is committed to delivering a minimum of 6,500 new homes between 2006 and 2031. Watford Borough Council is also aspiring to create a minimum of 7,000 additional jobs to accompany population growth and maintain Watford’s role as a regional centre. Watford Borough Council and Hertfordshire County Council have attracted some £280m to upgrade the transport infrastructure in order to attract new busineses and employment space as well as much-needed homes.
The Croxley View/Ascot Road Masterplan Study (https://watford.jdi-consult.net/localplan/readdoc.php?docid=21) reflects the Council’s ambitions for this site to set a benchmark of the high-quality design it wishes to see across the borough, bringing new architecture that is a step-change from what is currently seen in Watford. The masterplan calls for a high-density mixed-use development close to the new transport hub that connects to the surrounding area with strong pedestrian routes to the proposed Cassiobridge station.
Q. How high will the new building(s) be?
The majority of buildings proposed are between six and eight storeys, a scale similar to mansion blocks found round traditional garden squares. The tallest building has 23 residential storeys in addition to two lower floors of retail space (85 metres in total).
The proposed scheme marks the first step towards the Council’s ambitious masterplan for Western Gateway, which includes Croxley View and Ascot Road. It also reflects the principles set out in Skyline: Watford’s Approach to Taller Buildings (https://www.watford.gov.uk/downloads/download/361/watfords_approach_to_taller_buildings_-_spd), the Council’s supplementary planning guidance (adopted March 2016).
Q. Isn’t this too high for Watford?
At 85m, it is unmistakably a tall building and we have worked hard on a modern design, which is slender and well-articulated, that we believe will create an elegant arrival point for the new Cassiobridge quarter.
We appreciate tall buildings divide opinion but over a third of the new homes will be delivered in this single building. There are a further four buildings of a much lower scale, all of which have been carefully designed to create more intimate spaces, landscaped squares and pocket gardens that will benefit existing and new residents.
Carefully-designed tall buildings need raise no concerns with crime, social isolation, safety or wellbeing. All our planning and design has focused on reinforcing the community’s sense of pride and ownership, plus there would be a management team on-site to maintain the buildings and green spaces. We will create beautiful, landscaped public spaces for everyone to enjoy.
This scheme is one of a number of ambitious plans in the pipeline across Watford. We’re asking the local community to visualise ten years in the future. It’s a leap of imagination but all the schemes that come forward under the masterplan should be considered in this context.
Q. Will you be demolishing any of the existing buildings, if so which?
All existing warehouses will be demolished. They do not hold community value and are aesthetically unattractive and ageing. They will also soon be un-lettable due to their Energy Performance Certificate ratings.
Q. How many new homes are you proposing? What will be the tenure spilt?
The proposed Cassiobridge residential quarter will deliver 485 new homes, 170 of which will be affordable, as well as cafes, restaurants, shops and community space on a new tree-lined boulevard.
Q. How much will the new homes sell for?
At this stage in the process we do not know. It will be dictated by local market values once the scheme is completed.
Q. Who will the homes be for?
The new homes will be for local people in Watford. We will be working with Watford Borugh Council, a local housing provider and local estate agents to target the marketing of the new homes to people from Watford and the surrounding areas. There will be a broad mix of homes from one bedroom to family size homes.
Q. Who will manage the other homes?
A private local management company with a reputable track record will be selected.
Q. What public realm improvements will take place?
Attractive, open areas of public realm leading to restaurants and shops is a central element of the scheme. The visual amenity of the area will be attractive and of the highest quality with landscaping, open spaces and high-quality design and building materials throughout the designs. Active frontages and access points to the buildings at ground level will provide good levels of natural surveillance in the area.
Q. What restaurants and shops will you have?
At this stage in the process, we do not know who will occupy the units. We will be working with local agents to market the space.
Q. How will the local services and infrastructure cope with the increased popultation, how will schools, GPs and hospitals cope?
The proposals are years in the making and reflect the Council’s desire for growth in this location as outlined in the Western Gateway masterplan. We have spent time considering how this development will fit into the local infrastructure. As with all planning applications, we will be obliged to make a significant financial contribution towards local education, health, amenity and transport infrastructure.
The recently opened Ascot Road Community Free School currently has 185 pupils but has the capacity for 420. Nearby, the Croxley Green Secondary School is due to open in September 2017, which by 2022 will be able to accomdate 1,200 pupils, including 300 in Sixth Form.
Section 106/278 contributions will also go to Watford Borough Council to support inprovements in the area, including to schools, highways and other services.
Q. Will you be digging down?
There will be undercroft parking for 185 cars and some excavation will need to take place to create these spaces.
Q. Are you introducing any sustainable transport facilities?
As with all new homes, Orion has a duty to promote sustainable transport and attention has focused on new pedestrian and cycling routes, integrating the scheme with existing roads and the proposed Cassiobridge station. Car parking spaces for 185 vehicles will be provided in an undercroft parking area. 575 cycle parking spaces will be provided at ground floor.
As part of the planning application, a comprehensive transport assessment has been submitted that demonstrates, with the identified improvement works, there will not be a significant impact to local traffic. In line with the Council’s standards, this takes into account the likely population growth not just as a result of this scheme but forecasts of planned development in the surrounding area.
The ratio of car parking spaces to new homes proposed is at 40% because we have anticipated that the typical person(s) who will live in these new homes will be young professionals who do not use or need a car to commute to work. We have also seen a rise in the use of car clubs, which provide a cost-effective and flexible alternative to owning a car.
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