Watford’s Case For Keeping Green Belt
The fate of the Oxhey Place Estate is now in the balance, the battle having reached its climax at Watford Town Hall on Monday and Tuesday, when Mr W H Collin, ex-Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Health, came out of retirement to hear the London County Council’s case for confirmation of a Compulsory Purchase Order and the arguments put forward by the opposition, including Watford Town Council, Herts County Council, Rickmansworth Urban Council, and the trustees of the Blackwell Estate.
Defining the attitude of Watford Town Council, the Town Clerk, Mr G Salter Davies, said that although they sympathised with the LCC in tis problem of having to provide housing for 100,000 families after the war, they considered that there should not be one standard of accommodation for the wealthy and another for those referred to under the Act as “persons of the working class.”
They did not want Watford drawn into the London maelstrom, but if the Order materialised Watford Town Council would do its best to make the people feel at home.
Opposing the scheme were: Watford Town Council (Mr G Salter Davies); Herts County Council (Mr Elton Longmore); Colne Valley Sewerage Board (Mr J Williams); Artisans and General Dwellings Co (Mr G D Squibb); St Albans Diocesan Register (Henry John Smith); Rickmansworth Urban Council; Essex, Cambridge and Herts Society of Architects (Harry Peat); and the Trustees of the Blackwell Estate (Mr Sydney Turner, KC, with Mr G D Squibb).
Supporting the scheme: Watford and District Trades Council; National Federation of building Trades Operatives.
Mr H G Robertson appeared for the London County Council.
Keen interest was shown in the inquiry, those attending including the Mayor of Watford, Councillor Mrs M A Ward, Lord Hemingford, Sir David Rutherford, Ald T G Simmons, Mr T J O’Sullivan, chairman of Rickmansworth Urban District Council, and Mr J G Shaw, chairman of Bushey UDC.
Forming one of the beauty spots of Hertfordshire, the Oxhey Place Estate includes a woodland area, golf course, some houses and cottages and the Blackwell mansion.
The LCC have indicated that they would leave untouched a church and burial ground on the site.
Total area of the Estate is 920 acres, and the LCC propose to build between 4,000 and 5,000 cottages to accommodate some 15,000 to 20,000 London workers.
Mr H G Robertson, in his opening statement, said the LCC’s task of housing people of the working class was divided in three stages: the pre-war, the war, and the post-war periods.
Under the Housing Act, 1935, the duty was cast upon local authorities of making a survey to see how much overcrowding there was and of taking steps to abate it.
It was found that 70,953 families were living in overcrowded conditions in the county, and by January, 1937, the number had been increased to about 81,000 families.
“By the end of 1938,” said Mr Robertson, “by the provision of new dwellings and removal some 37,000 of that 81,000 had been relived from the conditions in which they were living. That left us with approximately 43,000 families to be dealt with when war broke out.
“Then all these housing plans had to come to an end, and now we have the war to deal with. There are a lot of dwellings which have since been demolished, and a lot have been damaged and nobody can tell exactly how many, or what, will have to be done with them.
“Since the war began, the old houses have been growing older and repairs have been impossible to effect.”
PRIORITY FOR HOUSING
Regarding the post-war period, Mr Robertson said it was generally agreed that housing would be given the first priority. In that case, new houses would have to be provided to abate overcrowding, to replace bomb-damaged dwellings and as homes for the new families.
“You cannot build houses,” he commented, “without a site to build them on.”
“In the estimate that the LCC has made 100,000 new houses are required. There are thousands waiting because their need for housing cannot be fulfilled.”
In the first year when the building of post-war houses could be commenced the LCC proposed building 16,000 new houses, and had the sites for that number but they had no further sites with which to continue, and the present Order was the first step towards getting them.
Mr Robertson said the Oxhey Place Estate was “biggish,” and, therefore, suitable because they could build faster on a big, new site than on a small site or on one that had been previously built on.
It was proposed to build a cottage estate on the site, but no lay-out had been prepared at this stage. A trunk road was envisaged through the centre, but no site had been fixed for that either. One proposal was to take it through the edge of the wood, another to take it through the wood itself.
A PLEASANT WOOD
The LCC did not anticipate that the whole area would be covered with houses – there was a very pleasant wood which it was hoped would be preserved.
When they laid out an estate, allowance for playground, etc, was made. They had been very busy making plans and the Oxhey Place Estate was the best site they could find.
Mr Robertson mentioned that of the 920 acres comprising the estate, 870 belonged to the Blackwell Trustees and 50 to the Artizans and General Dwellings Co Ltd.
There was a piece of ground – about one acre – on which a ### Ltd, which extended on both sides of the county property.
He concluded his statement by elaborating on the suitability of the estate as a building site, its accessibility to London, its good communications, the fact that there was no agricultural difficult – as expressed by the views of Dr Dudley Stamp, published recently in the “Times.”
Also, under the Draft Town Planning Scheme the estate had already been zoned as a residential area, he added.