ANGRY residents are ‘demanding’ a judicial review into controversial plans to build new council headquarters.
A group of residents is seeking an independent review into a decision by Warwick District Council’s planning committee which saw proposals to build on Covent Garden car park in Leamington given the green light.
The plans will also see some 170 homes built on the council’s current hq at Riverside House on Milverton Hill.
But the group say recently published ‘viability assessments’ into the plans show public benefits are being sacrificed to enable the development of the new offices.
Spokesman Jonathan Nicholls said: “A whole range of public benefits are being sacrificed – affordable housing, contributions to local services, large numbers of trees, town centre parking – all in pursuit of a new, much smaller ‘cost neutral’ council hq.
“The planning committee decision was made on the assurances it would be cost neutral however this is a fantasy. This promise is dependent on there being a surplus generated from the sale of Riverside House but the viability assessments show a £2.75m shortfall.
“The figures show that more public money will be needed to fund this scheme – so not only do we not get the public benefit of housing, infrastructure and and Riverside House sold off for far less than it’s worth – it is unlikely that the promise of a ‘cost free’ council building is possible.”
The group’s concerns have been echoed by the local Labour party.
Spokeswoman Kristie Naimo said: “The administration should take a long look at this project before more public anger is generated and more public money put at risk.
“Many businesses, residents and the local MP are urging a reappraisal of options which better balance community and economic needs with the financial duties and objectives of the council.”
And Warwick and Leamington MP, who has campaigned against the planned development, said: “The assessments raise serious questions about the basis of the project and how it will be funded, especially given the discrepancies between the studies.
“I remain convinced that this is a fatally flawed project that will cost the public dear, yet one the public does not want.”
But Warwick District Council says it has answered the group’s concerns and believes it has acted legally.
And council leader Andrew Mobbs is inviting people to talk to him and find out more about the hq plans at a public exhibition in the Royal Priors on Friday and Saturday (June 8 and 9) between 11am and 4pm.
He said: “It’s disappointing some people feel we haven’t followed correct procedures as I am very clear everything we do is fully compliant with all our legal responsibilities but more importantly is for the benefit of the whole district and all its residents, even if those decisions are unpopular with some.
“We are holding a public exhibition to explain our plans for our new offices, why we’re doing it, what it involves and what benefits it will bring to people using our services and why it is only part of a major new investment in Leamington that will provide a major boost to the local economy and benefits for local businesses.
“I’d urge anyone who has been confused or concerned by the information that has been reported to come along and speak to one of the staff involved in the project face to face. I’ll also be there at various times as will other members of my executive so come along and have your questions answered.”