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FAQ

  • What is the Town Hall Quarter Programme?
    The Town Hall Quarter is an ambitious programme, which is transforming the historic Town Hall, Watford Colosseum and the surrounding area, bringing an exciting range of improvements right to the heart of Watford town centre. By revitalising the area, we are creating an exciting and attractive destination for local people, business, visitors and the wider community. The plans have a strong focus on enterprise and new business, recognising that Watford is a great location for entrepreneurs and growing businesses.To complete the transformation, the scheme will also deliver more appealing public spaces and much needed new homes, all within the new town centre destination.
  • How will the programme be funded?
    The cost of the programme is being met in a number of ways, including through government funding and support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It is also generating savings for the council with over £300,000 saved each year as we have significantly reduced the space we use in the Town Hall, opening it up for other purposes. The council was awarded £3.2million government funding to deliver the decarbonisation works to the Town Hall and Colosseum moving Watford towards its Climate Change objectives. The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting the development of the plans for Watford Museum and the council will continue to work with them to progress the plans to delivery The council has been provisionally awarded £16million in Levelling Up Funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities The council is investing in the programme to rejuvenate the area and support Watford’s economy, which, in turn, bring prosperity and jobs to the town.
  • Where is the Town Hall Quarter?
    The Town Hall Quarter – which is largely under the Council’s ownership – sits at the north end of Watford High Street. It covers 3.5 hectares and includes a number of civic uses such as the Town Hall and council offices, Watford Colosseum, Watford Central Library, two NHS clinics and surface level car parking with around 360 spaces.
  • What does the programme include?
    The programme brings together eight interconnected projects that will be delivered over its lifetime. These include: Securing the future of two of Watford’s well-loved historic building – the Town Hall and Watford Colosseum – being part of the wider programme allows the council more options for their future, with the aim to open up both buildings for wider community and business use. This includes more entertainment, culture and live performances as well as business opportunities such as start up and networking space for new businesses Relocating Watford’s Museum and Heritage Service, including a new home for the Museum, where it will showcase the town’s diverse a history in a way that everyone can access and brings it to life Creating a vibrant hub for culture in the area, including Watford Colosseum and Watford Library, supporting the town’s cultural, arts and entertainment ambitions, which helps our local economy thrive Improving and connecting the top of the town centre from the underpass to West Herts College so that it delivers a unique offer for residents, businesses and visitors, encourages greater footfall and, overall, is able to match the success of the rest of the High Street Creating more attractive and welcoming spaces around the Town Hall with better pedestrian and cycle access and pathways Building sustainability and greener ways of living, working and travelling, so that we have more environmentally friendly buildings and town Ensuring the council is making the best use of our assets and achieving positive returns on our investments in line with its commitment to be more commercial and to reduce our costs
  • How long is the programme?
    The programme is expected to be completed by 2030/31.
  • Who is delivering the programme?
    The council is leading the delivery but will be forming some important partnerships to help achieve its ambitions. These include: National Lottery Heritage Fund – working with us on the new Watford Museum and Heritage service AEG Presents – to manage the refurbished and improved Watford Colosseum Mace Developments – as our joint venture partner for the new neighbourhood project We are also working with numerous other organisations in the design and development of the project as well as other landowners, leaseholders and those who have an interest into the transformation of the area.
  • How is the Town Hall going to be used in future?
    The Town Hall is a very important, landmark building in the town. It is Grade II listed and forms part of the Civic Core conservation area because of its historical and architectural interest. Whilst the whole building is listed, there are parts that are of specific historical interest because of their Art Deco style: The Council Chamber The Committee Rooms The stairway The Mayor’s office The council is committed to persevering the Town Hall for future generations and for ongoing civic use but this doesn’t mean it cannot have other uses, whilst remaining home to Watford Borough Council - the purpose it was designed, and built for, back in the 1930s. As part of the Town Hall Quarter programme, the most historic parts of the building will become home to the town’s Museum and Heritage service. This fits well with the Town Hall’s history and, with the right design and layout, will be the perfect space for a modern, interesting and exciting Museum experience. The re-designed ground floor of the building will continue to act as a welcome area for council services and other new uses of the building as well providing space for a café, which opens out on the new public space opposite Central library, meeting rooms and part of the Museum. The first floor is currently designated for space for local community organisations, opening the Town Hall building up more widely to communities. We recognise the importance of the exterior of the building and so any plans will need to be sympathetic to the look and feel of the building and ensure the Town Hall is located within a setting that is both attractive and appropriate to its historic importance. This would also apply to the Colosseum. Plans for both buildings have been awarded listed building consent.
  • So is the council moving its offices or staying where it is?
    The council, apart from our face to face service, is currently mainly located in an Annexe building next to the Town Hall. The plan is that, once the Town Hall has been refurbished, the council will move back to the Town Hall but occupy a reduced area. Our experience of agile working shows the council can provide a good and responsive service to residents, businesses and other customers without all being physically located in a single building. It also fits well with our drive to be more commercial and to reduce our operating costs, so we can focus more of our resources on the services and facilities that matter to local people.
  • What about the Town Hall Annexe?
    Two floors are occupied (BBC Concert Orchestra and Sexual Health Clinic). The two upper floors, which the council is currently using are likely to be repurposed and rented commercially for business use or local organisations.
  • Why is the Museum moving?
    Watford has an amazing history and lots of stories to tell about the people who have lived here over the years. We are also a town that loves to celebrate our diverse and living history. Our current Museum building (built in 1775) has served the town for over forty years but, as the town has changed over the decades, we want to better recognise our diverse and vibrant community in a way that reflects Watford today and inspires people to find out more. This is not possible in the current building because its Grade II listing limits what can be done, particularly in terms of accessibility but also what interactive technology can bring to the museum experience. It has outgrown the practical requirements of the museum and also the ever-growing collection. Moving the museum and heritage service opens up a wealth of opportunities to create something really special and which attracts more people to find out more about the town they live in or visit. One thing we are clear about is the importance of this service to the town and that any future plans need to attract more people, both local and from further afield, to share in Watford’s unique history.
  • Where will the Museum be moving to?
    The new museum and heritage service will move to the front of Watford Town Hall, using the historic, listed committee rooms as well as other parts of the ground floor and first floor.
  • When is this happening, what is the timetable?
    We have a provisional timeline for launching the new service: October 2023 Current museum closed to the general public to allow for the Museum items and collections to be catalogued and moved safely October 2023 - Autumn 2025 Museum on Tour to offer exciting heritage experiences Late 2025 New Museum and Heritage service opens in the Town Hall
  • What Museum activities can we expect from October 2023?
    Our ‘Museum on Tour’ programme is offering exciting heritage experiences
  • Will other Museum services be available?
    Until the new Museum opens, the services and activities the Museum can offer will be different. What will be available ⦿ Available resources We do have some free downloadable resources here that might be helpful: watfordmuseum.org.uk/teacher-resources There may also be some information about significant Watford individuals for your planning later in the year here: watfordcentenary.com/top-100. Another useful planning website may be ourwatfordhistory.org.uk/ ⦿ Available school activities We can still do educational / learning talks at schools or at other venues. Please email museum@watford.gov.uk What will not be available ⦿ Loan boxes As the collection is being catalogued, we will not be able to offer loan boxes until the new Museum opens. ⦿ School visits We will not be offering school visits from October 2023. As soon as we can, we will offer visits to the new museum. ⦿ Available school activities We can still do educational / learning talks at schools or at other venues. Please email museum@watford.gov.uk ⦿ Research requests We will not be able to support these until the new Museum opens. ⦿ Event bookings As the current building is closed, it will not be available to hold any events. If you need event space for a group or an activity, please contact: events@watford.gov.uk for advice. ⦿ Work experience Whilst we won’t be able to offer work experience at the Museum, Watford BC does have a work experience scheme to offer opportunities to anyone interested in finding out about working in local government. Please contact: human.resources@watford.gov.uk ⦿ Volunteering We have welcomed some fantastic volunteers over the years who have supported the Museum and helped made the service such an important, and enjoyable, part of the town. The new Museum will be offering a range of volunteering opportunities when it opens. ⦿ Taking donations We love receiving donations that tell Watford’s story and history. However, whilst we are managing the current collection for the move and ready exhibitions at the new museum, we cannot accept donations.
  • How can I keep up to date with what is happening with the new museum?
    The pages on this website - watfordtownhallquarter.com/museum will be kept up to date. The current Museum website will also be updated but we are planning on launching a new website, which will reflect our exciting new museum.
  • What can we expect in the new Museum?
    The proposals for the new museum can be found on the dedicated pages here. We are delighted that the National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting us and helping shape the new Museum.
  • Why did the previous museum building need to close before the new one opens?
    The museum has been in its current building since 1981. During this time the Museum’s collection of objects and artefacts has grown to over 40,000 items. All these items have to be checked against the Museum’s catalogue before they are carefully moved to their new home at the Town Hall. To do this properly, we need time and space and so will take a considerable amount of staff time over the next year. After this, the Museum team will be working on getting the new museum at the Town Hall ready for opening in autumn 2025.
  • What will happen to the current building?
    When the Museum and Heritage service finally leaves its current location in Benskin House, the building is likely to be sold. The building is an important piece of Watford’s heritage, and its Grade II Listing will ensure it is protected for future generations.
  • What is happening to Watford Colosseum?
    The Colosseum is recognised as an outstanding entertainment and live performance venue, with internationally renowned acoustics and an exceptional history of acts who have performed on its stage over the decades. The Colosseum is currently closed to allow for a significant programme of refurbishment and improvement to bring the Colosseum up to modern standards, ensuring it has a secure future as a popular Watford landmark, attracting great performers and artists. Refurbishment of the building, including the replacement of end-of-life equipment, was overdue. With the help of £3.2m of funding from government to improve the energy efficiency and reduce the carbon impact of the building, and a proportion of £16m of Levelling Up Funding, the council has taken the opportunity to carry out the major refurbishment scheme.
  • What actual works will take place?
    The Colosseum is more than 80 years old and some of the fabric of the building is reaching end-of-life. It underwent refurbishment around 10 years ago, but this landmark building needed some further essential works and enhancements to secure its long-term future.
  • Who will be running the Colosseum when it opens?
    We have appointed global venue operator and concert promoter AEG Presents to run Watford Colosseum when it reopens after extensive refurbishment works are completed in 2025. AEG oversees a global network of over 350 preeminent arenas, stadiums, theatres and clubs across the world, including indigo at the award-winning The O2 arena - matching the council’s ambitions to put the venue firmly on the live entertainment and performance map. AEG has demonstrated their ability to attract an outstanding mix of live music, comedy and dance acts to Watford, enhancing the town’s entertainment and cultural offer and making an important contribution to the local economy.
  • What is the New Neighbourhood project?
    The Town Hall Quarter programme has set out a vision to create ‘a vibrant and thriving hub in the heart of the town’. This ambition is cemented by the redevelopment of the area around the Town Hall to promote investment and growth in Watford through the delivery of a vibrant and attractive new neighbourhood.
  • What’s the need for housing within the Town Hall Quarter?
    There is a national need for more homes across the UK. Housing in Watford is currently relatively low rise and low density, particularly for a town less than 30 minutes from London by train. Building new homes within the Town Hall Quarter will create a more vibrant centre with more local footfall and doorstep activity. Following a competitive dialogue procurement process, in November 2022 , the council approved the Mace Develop as a preferred private sector development partner with whom the council could set up a joint venture (JV) vehicle to develop the land around the Town Hall. Mace and the council agreed to pause formal investment at the current time due to existing market uncertainty but work on a business plan continues.
  • What is the Business Hub and the plans?
    The Business Hub will aim to support a range of innovative businesses with the potential to grow. As well as providing accommodation, it offers numerous support services, such as access to equipment, business networking, business guidance, training, mentoring, investment and funding opportunities. It typically offers a structured growth pathway for businesses, through a range of packages, resulting in newly created businesses moving onto their own accommodation as they expand, making way for newcomers to start their journey. It also promotes ‘clustering’ of businesses in a specific sector to stimulate further benefits. Revenues are generated from these packages and also from additional offers including rental of meeting room space and cafes.
  • Why create an Business Hub?
    The development of a new business hub, would enhance the town’s offer for business, providing inspiring, productive and connected working space and investment in kit for businesses, all to accelerate business growth, collaboration, learning and wellbeing.
  • Is there demand for a Business Hub?
    Market analysis has also been conducted which has indicated that there is demand for such a facility within Watford. The council has also undertaken some high level research with the support of an experienced economic development analyst. This has included a range of interviews with stakeholders and operators. One of these initiatives was an online survey of local small businesses. This showed that there is an appetite for support, ranging from financing to practical business advice and mentoring, combined with a desire to network.
  • What has the work achieved?
    This project is now complete. You find out more on this page. What was the Town Hall and Colosseum Decarbonisation project? Watford Borough Council was awarded £3.2m government funding to help towards the cost of the project as part of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme. One of the greatest challenges today in meeting the UK’s 2050 Net Zero target is decarbonising the way buildings are heated. Watford Council has declared a climate emergency and has pledged to make the borough carbon neutral by 2030. The council has installed low-carbon heating measures, alongside heat reduction and energy efficiency measures in the Town Hall and Watford Colosseum, both 1930s, Grade II listed buildings. This has reduced the overall energy consumption of the buildings by 50% and makes an important contribution to the council’s carbon neutral commitment. Specific measures include: installing PV panels for renewable energy, improved heating control and lighting, the refurbishment of the windows to reduce heat loss, as well as new cavity wall insulation.
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