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Voting against the stadium and the botched Country Club plans

April 12, 2021 10:59 PM

We've made our choiceStatement by Jerry Evans, Bushey North councillor and leader of the Lib Dem group on Hertsmere Borough Council.

Two major concerns dominate the agenda in Bushey. Firstly, the prospect of Watford FC building a stadium on Bushey's greenbelt. Secondly, the proposal to ruin the Bushey Country Club site by fencing off greenspace for a huge new school.

Understandably, many Bushey residents don't appreciate seeing either issue unduly politicised. You want your representatives to work together, not bicker and point-score. But the plain fact is that both issues will ultimately be decided by local politicians. So as a leader of a group of councillors, it's my duty to tell you where we stand - so you can make an informed choice.

We have carefully considered all the factors, and can now make the following pledge to you.

ALL Bushey's Lib Dem councillors will vote AGAINST any Local Plan which
includes either:

  • A new Watford FC stadium on Bushey Hall Golf Course, or...
  • The proposed 1,950 pupil secondary school on the Bushey Country Club site.

We've made our choice, and now, you can make yours.

Bushey Tories: no clear policy Watford Football Club's design for a new stadium (Watford Football Club)

Look away now if you don't want the political stuff, because here's the rub: the borough's Tory party have no clear policy on the stadium. They say different things depending on who's listening.

One Tory borough councillor claims to oppose it, but *twenty six* have stayed silent.

Another, Bushey Heath Conservative councillor Paul Morris, hosted a presentation of stadium designs, and described it as among the "exciting developments that are hopefully going to be coming forward".

And crucially, Tory council leader Morris Bright, refused to rule out permission for the stadium, saying it was "premature to give a view" and would be "considered on its own merits".

The stadium was not the Tories' idea and the council don't own the site. The stadium is not their fault, as such - it's Watford FC's idea and still only a proposal. But if and when it ever comes to a vote by the council to approve the scheme, we still have no idea what the Tories would actually do, or what they really want.

And if you signed the petition which is vaguely in their name, you might wonder why it's anonymous, and why - nine months later - it's still not been presented to Hertsmere Council. We don't think the petition is very sincerely intended.

Bushey Lib Dems: taking action to oppose the stadium

On our side, as Lib Dem councillors in Bushey, we don't claim to have stadium-prevention superpowers. But we have consistently sung from the same hymn-sheet, right from the start - and taken action, too.

Councillor Paul Richards has:

  • Asked council officers to throw out the bid to add Bushey Hall Golf Course to the borough's next Local Plan for the purpose of building a stadium. Paul's argued that the bid - jointly made by Watford FC and course owners Veladail Leisure - does not meet the official criteria for a new employment site, which it needs to be, to qualify under the relevant planning rules.
  • Paul's also repeatedly told the club and Veladail to abandon the proposal, reminding them of
    residents' fierce opposition.
  • Last year, he secured a Tree Preservation Order for the golf course, to help prevent
  • And he also founded 'Bushey Against Watford Stadium', a cross-party community campaign group.

- Meanwhile, Watford mayor Peter Taylor is now in a dialogue with Watford FC, to see what Watford Council can do to help the club extend their existing ground at Vicarage Road.

In comparison, the local Tories have done precisely nothing to stop the stadium, except tell tall tales and blame other councils.

Bushey Country Club Masterplan for Bushey Country Club

The future of the Bushey Country Club site is a very different situation from the stadium. Unlike the stadium, Hertsmere Borough Council own the land. It's a public asset. And they're in full and sole control over its future. That means that the Conservative councillors who run the council have the final say in what happens to it. It also means, again unlike the stadium, the council can actively decide what to do with the land, not just what to approve or refuse.

The plans for the site's future are being steered by a consultation group dominated by Conservative councillors, who've shut out all other parties, including Bushey's Lib Dem councillors.The group is led by Bushey Heath Conservative councillor Paul Morris - yes, him again - and last month they revealed a shock plan to dominate the greenbelt site with a 1,950 pupil school which is highly inappropriate for the location, and which no one asked for during the prior public consultation. What residents wanted was to preserve the great bulk of the land as open public greenspace.

But once again, we have no real idea what the Tories' real intentions are. The plan triggered a huge public backlash, prompting a couple of Tory councillors to come out against it, even though it was their colleagues' own idea. But others sat on the fence, and most stayed silent.

Some, bizarrely, tried to shirk responsibility by again blaming Watford council, who have no say in the matter at all. Other Tories tried to blame Hertfordshire County Council, who oversee education - which was even stranger, because the Tories run that council too, and three Hertsmere borough Conservative councillors also sit on the county council.

By contrast, and as mentioned above, we as Lib Dems pledge that we will vote against any Local Plan which includes the proposed school on Bushey Country Club. We will also fight to get the results of the public consultation honoured. That means keeping 75-90% of the site as a country park, building a community facilities hub, and ensuring that any new housing has a good mix of social and affordable.

Make your choice

Ultimately - like it or not - both the stadium and country club will be political decisions. The people you elect as your councillors will vote on your behalf. That's why elections - like the upcoming by-election in Bushey North - are important.

Despite what you might think, I'm not going to try and convince you that all Lib Dems are heroes and all Tories are villains. All parties do things people don't like. Bushey Lib Dems are not promising paradise and perfection. Bushey Tories are not going to bring an end to civilisation as we know it. And some of you won't like the Lib Dems, whatever I say. But - on the two crucial issues of the stadium and Country Club, there *is* a tangible difference between us and the other main party in Bushey.

The local Tories can't get their story straight. They propose things, then claim to oppose their own ideas, then claim to be neutral, then blame everyone else - but without ever committing to a real and specific course of action. The Lib Dems, however, will simply vote against any Local Plan which includes either scheme.

We've made up our minds. Now you can make up yours.