Council HQ move slammed at public meeting in Leamington

What the new Warwick District Council HQ could look like
What the new Warwick District Council HQ could look like

More than 240 Leamington residents voiced their opposition to Warwick District Council’s controversial plans to move its headquarters at a public meeting in Leamington last week.

The meeting took place on Thursday October 25 in Leamington Town Hall, and saw several businesses and residents speak out against the planned move from Riverside House to the current site of Covent Garden Car Park.

A panel comprising of Aubrey Allen’s managing director Russ Allen, North Leamington resident Jonathan Nicholls, Cllr Sue Gallagher (Arden, Independent) and Cllr Colin Quinney (Leam, Labour) took questions from the audience.

Although all Warwick district councillors were invited to the meeting, no one from the Conservative ruling group attended.

A new public meeting has since been organised by the council for Monday November 12 at the Royal Spa Centre, starting at 7pm. Conservative councillors are expected to attend.

The lack of attendance by the ruling group was criticised by audience members. One said it showed ‘apathy’ towards the electorate, and another said

One of the concerns raised at the meeting about the HQ move was the sale of the council’s old offices at Riverside House to private housing developers to help pay for the move. Planning permission to build 170 homes on the land was granted in January.

The project will have no affordable housing, despite the council’s own Local Plan saying all large developments should consist of 40 per cent affordable homes.

Richard Ashworth, the former chairman of the Leamington Society, blasted the reduction of affordable housing on the site.

He said: “At what point does the Council become irrelevant when financial engineering trumps all questions of policy? It sets a terrible example and a terrible principle.

“If we cannot accommodate a population of diverse means and jobs, we’re in trouble. Is Warwick district going to be a great place to live, work and visit, just as long as you’re well off?”

Another issue raised at the meeting was the loss of 592 parking spaces when the Covent Garden car park is demolished to make way for the new HQ.

The council drew up a ‘displacement strategy’ to find new spaces, such as at Archery Road and Court Street, but this has been heavily criticised.

David Adams of Friends of Victoria Park claimed: “The Executive hasn’t consulted with park users, the residential neighbourhood, nor the Royal Leamington Park Bowls Club over the car park displacement plans.”

Work will start on Covent Garden car park in January 2019, with the car park closing at the end of that month.

The new car park should be open in time for the Christmas holidays in 202, and the new HQ is expected to open in January 2021.