October 26th, 2016

Fears new council HQ could hit trade of nearby businesses

Fears new council HQ could hit trade of nearby businesses Fears new council HQ could hit trade of nearby businesses

CONCERN has been voiced at the possible impact on businesses during the construction of Warwick District Council’s new headquarters.

The council is to move from its current aging Leamington premises at Riverside House on Milverton Hill to a purpose built new headquarters on the site of Covent Garden car park in the town centre.

The plans will see the existing multi-storey car park demolished to make way for the authority’s HQ, together with a new 650 space car park as well as some 40 flats.

Work on the £18million plus project is expected to begin towards the end of 2017, and be completed by October 2018.

But the prospect of living next to a building site for the best part of a year has alarmed traders in the passageway between Covent Garden and Warwick Street – known as Covent Garden Market – which is home to a number of businesses.

Among them is recently opened sweet shop Sweet, run by Steve Price, who also owns the Grub Hub on Park Street.

Having opened before the council’s plans to relocate came to light, Mr Price said he would have thought twice before launching his new venture in the passageway had he known of the potential disruption to come.

He told The Observer: “We’ve had no information from the council at all – everything we know we’ve read in the papers.

“We’re concerned where all the cars are going to park while the work is carried out.

“Potentially it could be disastrous if there’s no passing trade – that’s our customers gone. The beauty of this set up is it is a lovely little passageway for passing trade, as long as people use it as a cut through.

“You hear people as they’re passing – and it’s usually families using the car park – say to the kids ‘if you’re good we’ll get some sweets on the way back to the car.'”

Jane Ward, owner of Chez Titine salon has customers with her for several hours and said having long stay parking nearby was essential, while Mick Drake of neighbouring Smoke No Smoke added his concerns about the potential loss of passing trade.

A spokesman for Warwick District Council said the authority would be communicating with businesses and the public as plans progressed.

The new HQ, which is expected to cost somewhere in the region of £8.6million, will be completely paid for by the sale of the existing Riverside House site for new housing, while the council will fund the new £9.75million car park.

Council chiefs hope to save around £300,000 annually by moving to a new home which they say will be much smaller but more suitable for the 21st century needs of staff.