WARWICK District Council’s planned new headquarters in the heart of Leamington are set to provide a major economic boost to the town.
The green-light for the move from the council’s current aging Riverside House headquarters on Milvertion Hill, to a new purpose built home on the site of the Covent Garden car park, would prompt two major development schemes – together worth £50million.
The council, working through its partnership with Public Sector Plc – a specialist public sector property investment and facilitation company – is aiming to create a new council headquarters, together with a multi-storey car park and around 40 private apartments on the Covent Garden site.
The Milverton Hill site would be redeveloped for housing – in the region of just over 100 new homes – meaning the new council headquarters should cost tax-payers nothing.
The council would need to pay somewhere in the region of £7million for a new multi-storey car park. The current multi-storey is suffering from so-called ‘concrete cancer’ meaning it is not cost-effective to repair.
But a new larger car park could also be key to the realisation of the long-heralded plans to build a new shopping centre on the nearby car park opposite Argos.
Plans for the two schemes will be on public exhibition early next month, while planning applications are expected to be submitted by the end of June.
The new council headquarters – which would be less than half the size of its current base – would save more than £300,000 a year in operating costs.
It would include a new council chamber – allowing for new uses of the current council chamber at Leamington Town Hall –
together with a one-stop shop for the public.
The new hq would see 350 jobs moved adding an estimated £1million spending boost to the town centre economy, while the two schemes would create more than 250 full-time jobs during construction.
District council leader Coun Andrew Mobbs, said the plans had been drawn up to solve several major problems, and at the same time bring a major economic and regeneration boost to the town.
He told The Observer: “This is a complex project that will bring significant benefits to the town. The Covent Garden site is in need of major investment. The multi-storey car park is an eyesore that doesn’t do justice to our wonderful town centre, isn’t fit for purpose and has major structural problems so we intend to take it down and replace it with a new, modern, state-of-the-art car park to support the town centre.
“At the same time, the council is saddled with an out-dated headquarters which is not only far too large for what is needed, but is costly to run and in need of major repairs so we intend to replace it with a smaller office that will cost us £300,000 a year less to run – money that we can then ensure goes towards preserving vital and high-quality services for our residents.
“This plan will solve both issues, and at the same time produce a welcome boost to the town centre economy. It will have the added benefit that the new council headquarters building can be delivered at no cost to Warwick District Council tax payers.”
The council will be holding discussions with interested parties before the plans are submitted. The planning application for Covent Garden would be detailed, but the Riverside House plan would be submitted on an outline basis with a further detailed application to follow.
Coun Mobbs added: “We fully understand that any development of this scale will inevitably cause a degree of disruption.
“We will be working on drawing up a parking displacement plan with the Chamber of Trade and the Business Improvement District teams to ensure that the impact on the town centre is as little as possible during construction.
“However, let me be clear, this is a wonderful opportunity to bring real benefits to the town centre and improve it for the future.
“These plans are driven by the desire to bring improvements to the town centre, economic efficiencies to council operations and provide increased trade to local business.”
The plans, designed by Warwick-based architects Corstorphine & Wright, will be on show at the Royal Priors shopping centre on June 3, between 10am and 2pm, after which they can also be viewed by visiting www.warwickdc.gov.uk/relocation