Golf course proposed as site for new Watford stadium

Proposals for English Championship football club Watford to relocate from its Vicarage Road home have resurfaced after the private owners of a nearby golf course put forward their land as a potential site for a new stadium.

In October, representatives from the club were reported to have been in contact with Hertsmere Borough Council about a potential move to Bushey Hall Golf Club, which is located around 1.5 miles from Vicarage Road (pictured). The move was said to have been in the “earliest stage of the planning process”, with a number of sites being considered.

In March 2020, renderings were published of what a new stadium on the Bushey Hall Golf Club site might look like, with this project now back in the news again. The Watford Observer newspaper said a virtual public meeting of Hertsmere Council held yesterday (Tuesday) saw Bushey Hall Golf Club proposed as one of 21 new employment sites put forward by landowners as part of the Council’s plans for development in the borough through to 2036.

Bushey Hall closed as an 18-hole golf course in 2019, with the clubhouse being redeveloped into 32 flats. According to the Observer, the site’s owners, Veladail Leisure, have now proposed a two-phase plan for development of a package of land spanning over 40 hectares.

While phase one encompasses a clubhouse, care home, five and seven-a-side football pitches, and a nine-hole golf course, the second phase is anchored by a 30,000-capacity football stadium. This phase would also include the development of a club shop, offices, arena, hotel, cinema, restaurant, and recreational facilities.

The site, officially proposed by HGH Consulting on behalf of Veladail, names Watford FC as the proposed occupier. The Council’s development plan is due to be released later this spring, with the prospect of a football stadium at Bushey Park having drawn opposition last year by a campaign group started by the Bushey Conservatives.

Bushey Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Richards, who wrote to the owners of Watford FC last year to “express his deepest concern” about the club moving to Bushey, said after yesterday’s meeting: “We will continue to resist any attempt of the development of Bushey Hall Golf Course and are very concerned to hear that Veladail have submitted the land following the recent call for employment sites.

“We call on council officers to heed residents’ feedback on the complete impracticality of any move by Watford FC to the site and reaffirm the greenbelt status of the course.”

In October 2019, it was reported that Populous had been enlisted to advise Watford on the expansion of Vicarage Road, specifically to finalise designs for a two-phase, £40m (€47m/$55.1m) project that would significantly increase the stadium’s capacity from 21,577 to 32,000.

Watford has played at Vicarage Road since the stadium opened in 1922. The ground last underwent expansion in 2015 when 700 seats were added to the Sir Elton John Stand.

Image: Greger Ravik/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size