A SOLUTION to Warwick district’s future housing needs emerged this week in the form of a possible 5,000 new homes near Stoneleigh.
There has been much controversy over Warwick District Council’s Draft Local Plan with protestors arguing too many of the proposed 12,860 homes to be built by 2031 have been earmarked for the south of the district around Leamington, Warwick and Whitnash.
This week Coventry City Council said it was prepared to consult on the land at King’s Hill – which is in Warwick district, but a large part of which is owned by the city council – between Stoneleigh and Kenilworth.
Lynnette Kelly, Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate for Warwick and Leamington and a former member of Coventry council’s cabinet, said: “This potential breakthrough allows a much-needed new option to enter into what has become a very polarised debate over the Local Plan for Warwick District. I am in favour of the new option being looked into in more detail so that we can assess its feasibility properly.
“I do recognise that the King’s Hill option would involve building on green belt land, however we can build in safeguards. I would seek to ensure this happens, including protecting key areas like Wainbody Wood.”
Warwick and Leamington Conservative MP Chris White has been vocal in his criticism of the proposed Local Plan.
He said: “There needs to be fewer homes, and the council needs to listen to the legitimate concerns of local people.”
Coventry City Council is understood to be contacting Warwick District Council to say the King’s Hill site was now available for inclusion in its local plan, if Warwick council chiefs wanted to consider it.
The current draft proposals have also been called into question following projections by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for population growth, which were 29 per cent lower than estimates used by Warwick District Council in its Draft Local Plan.
It has prompted campaigners to demand the figure of 12,860 new homes to be drastically reduced.
According to the Save Warwick Group – which has been fighting for fewer homes – the difference is so dramatic the adopted plan is no longer valid.
Spokesman David Williams said: “For many months we have been telling the council that the plans for almost 13,000 new houses are excessive and would be catastrophic to the areas in the south of the district where many were to be concentrated.”
“The news that the growth will be just 16,000 people over the plan period shows we were right. It means they will need to plan for far fewer than the 13,000 houses proposed in their plan.
“The logical next step is for the council to respond to these important changes and review their proposals and in doing so respond to the wishes of the community and cut back on the developments proposed for the district. The ball is now in their court.”
The Local Plan – subject to an on-going consultation – states the population of Warwick district will rise from around 139,000 in 2012 to 161,594 in 2031.
But the latest ONS figures predict a rise of just 16,000 over the same period, to 155,000.
Richard Ashworth, Chairman of the Leamington Society, said applying the difference to the council’s own model means 3,700 fewer homes are required over the plan period.
He said: “This has huge implications for the number and location of designated building sites and also for the vexed issues of
road congestion and pollution, as well as schools and other services.
“We now see that the draft is not based on the best evidence and is unfit for the necessary Public Examination before an inspector in its present form.”
A spokesperson for Warwick District Council said it would consider the ONS projections over the next month to understand whether they have any impact for the Local Plan.