Watford Borough Council commissioned Project Centre to redesign a key section of Watford High Street. The intu shopping centre invested £180 million in the extension and refurbishment of its offer, and the Council identified that a substantial investment was required to complement this scheme and maximize the anticipated increases in footfall and spend for all local businesses. The High Street, although vibrant, had large numbers of illegal vehicles cutting through in addition to the significant volumes of bus traffic which caused congestion. The carriageway was wide, and the previous layout caused pedestrians to be constrained to the narrow footways, cluttered with furniture. Utilising our multi-disciplinary team of highway engineering, traffic engineering and urban design we restructured the High Street to feel more pedestrian-friendly, safer and better for businesses.
The many facets within this scheme included:
Vehicle restriction – The area was predominantly a pedestrian zone except for buses, taxis and loading at any time. The restriction however was not being enforced. The design reduces the volume of traffic, enabling improvements to the public realm through the relocation of taxi ranks and disabled parking to areas adjacent to the High Street and the installation of rising bollards to enforce the pedestrian zone restrictions.
Bus lane/bus stops – The concentration of bus stops caused congestion on the footway. The stops were also being used to layover/regulate services. The design rationalised the bus stops making the space more permeable and re-routed some buses, providing greater bus access to other areas of the town centre and relocated some regulating/layover activities outside the Town Centre.
Carriageway – The carriageway was approximately 6.9m wide, dominating the space. Due to the low volume of vehicles that officially require the carriageway the design placed the bus cages within the carriageway, narrowing it down to 5.5m and providing additional footway space for pedestrians.
Materials – The project sought to link the variety of materials used across the town centre. As the project is the centre piece to the High Street the materials used are of high quality with some bespoke detailing where adequate.
Street furniture – The previous street furniture layout was cluttered restricting footway widths and forcing pedestrians away from their desire line, leading to some walking in the carriageway. Through careful design Project Centre created a street furniture corridor which not only reduced the clutter and obstructions but also provided a “safe route” for pedestrians away from vehicle movements whilst providing permeability.
The relocation of the taxi rank and disabled parking as well as re-routing some bus routes has improved user access and removed vehicles from the High Street, enforcement has stopped illegal traffic through the site. This has resulted in a reduction of over 65% (over 740) vehicles per day and reduced the number of buses in this area by 42%.
Watford High Street is a successful and safe shopping street that is ready to welcome residents and visitors for the next few decades.