A public consultation to look at plans for Leamington’s Creative Quarter have been attacked by councillors who say it’s at the wrong time of year and doesn’t go on long enough.
Members of Warwick District Council’s overview & scrutiny committee recommended a rethink after hearing that the public would be consulted over Christmas and the New Year but their calls were rejected at this week’s executive committee when the ruling Conservative group decided to carry on with their festive plan.
A 44-page draft masterplan has been drawn up by developers Complex Development Projects (CDP) who were also involved in Coventry’s Electric Wharf and Fargo Village schemes. Two groups of consultants have also been drafted in to work on the glossy document setting out the aims of the Creative Quarter which is centred on Leamington’s Old Town but extends north to the old Post Office and Town Hall.
At this week’s O&S meeting, Cllr Pam Redford (Con Stoneleigh & Cubbington) said it was vital that as many people took part in the consultation process as possible.
She said: “It is quite clear that we need to be transparent and this is a good report but the public always think that consultation documents are a bit iffy and they wonder if anyone takes any notice.
“Will we be taking some notice of what the public actually say and taking on board some of their suggestions and how are we going to get the message across to the public that we really want their opinion and we really value their opinions? Every individual needs to know that there is public consultation going on and it is a meaningful one.”
And her fears were echoed by Cllr Alan Boad (Lib Dem Crown) who questioned the timing of the consultation.
“Here we go again,” he said. “We are going to consultation and we start on the 3rd December and we finish on the 21st January - so you have Christmas and New Year smack in the middle of it.
“Why on earth are we doing something as big as a masterplan consultation over the Christmas period? Does this council not learn? We’ve had lousy consultations over the last few years. This is going to have a big impact on Leamington and I’d suggest that the consultation period is extended”
Councillors at that meeting voted 8-1 in favour of a four-week extension but that was rejected when the item was presented to executive the following evening.
Business portfolio holder Cllr Noel Butler (Con Aylesford) said: “This draft has been prepared after public consultation so it is already in the public domain and therefore I’m not convinced that the extension will improve the consultation.
“There are many times when it is not good to go out to consultation - January and February are too cold, then you have Easter and it is too hot in the summer.”
His colleagues backed Cllr Butler’s call to reject the idea of extending the consultation period but agreed to set-up a Creative Quarter cross party working group.