Expansion of Jaguar Land Rover site takes major step forward

Jaguar Land Rover has taken a major step forward in expanding its site near Whitley, which could create up to 4,000 jobs.

Wednesday, 27th April 2016, 10:53 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th April 2016, 11:59 am
The site where the expansion will be built on. Much of it is green belt land. Copyright: Google Maps

The development, known as ‘Whitley South’, will take up 105 hectares of space and will be built on green belt land north and south of the A45 between Festival and Tollbar Island, straddling Warwick district and Coventry.

But despite the encroachment onto the green belt, Warwick District Council’s planning committee unanimously agreed to grant outline planning permission on Wednesday April 26 for the development due to the ‘special circumstances’ it presented.

However, a condition of granting permission was amended. JLR must now commit to occupying 10,000 sq metres of floor space instead of the 5,000 originally suggested.

The development also includes a new countryside park, a hotel and small shops alongside the new offices and research buildings.

Before the committee debated the plans, speakers from Baginton, Bubbenhall, and Stoneleigh and Ashow Parish Councils voiced their opposition to the development.

They all claimed it was similar to the 2012 ‘Coventry and Warwickshire Gateway’ application, which although approved by both Coventry City Council and Warwick District Council was called in by the Secretary of State and was refused.

Mike Crone from JLR sought to explain the apparent economic benefits of the development and the strong need for JLR to expand.

He said: “JLR has expanded rapidly over the last five years, and this expansion is set to continue. Our current UK sites are at full capacity and we can’t continue this growth without new sites.

“The development will allow JLR to establish deep roots in the area.”

Some councillors realised the development had issues but thought the potential economic gains from the site were worth it.

Cllr Martyn Ashford (Con, Aylesford) said: “There are lots of things to consider, and there are legitimate reasons to object to this.

“But the proposal put in front of us is quite compelling, and I can see why JLR have chosen the site.

“To be fair, I think the green belt issue is ameliorated by the proposed park.”

Cllr Alan Boad (Lib Dem, Crown) said: “I think building a world-class centre and the opportunities that it creates far outweighs the loss of the green belt land in that area.”

Cllr Felicity Bunker (Con, Park Hill) said: “I welcome the fact that JLR want to expand in this area. However, for me the site is very speculative like the Gateway.”

When it came to the vote, all councillors voted to approve the plans despite some of their reservations.

Following the decision, Jonathan Browning, chairman of Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This is extremely positive news for Coventry and Warwickshire and the wider West Midlands.

“The expansion of Jaguar Land Rover’s research and development centre at Whitley will create new jobs and improved infrastructure.

Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The fact that Jaguar Land Rover is continuing to expand and invest here is a great testament to everything the sub-region has to offer.”