THE BRAKES have once again been put on Warwick District Council’s plans to build a new headquarters and the redevelop Covent Garden Car Park.
The council has announced it is once again postponing the decision until July 2019, just months after first pushing back the date to the start of the year, as first revealed by The Observer.
Council leader Andrew Mobbs says the decision was made due to concerns raised by local businesses, residents, councillors and council partners including Leamington’s Business Improvement District (BID) and Chamber of Trade.
He said: “This revised timeline is a consequence of the current uncertainty in the economy. I have welcomed the approach from many that town centre businesses should be allowed to prioritise their immediate needs during these uncertain months without the distraction of having to adapt to new parking arrangements and this deferral will allow exactly that.
“We will postpone the final decision on the Covent Garden redevelopment, the car park closure and HQ relocation until, at the earliest July 2019.”
Coun Mobbs also says an independent review has been commissioned by a marketing company which the council will use to raise awareness about alternative parking before Covent Garden car park closes.
But the plans to build a new HQ look set to continue, with the council executive saying it will provide value for money.
Coun Mobbs added: “This is a strong and financially prudent council and I and my executive are committed to continuing to provide value for money for the local tax payer.
“Progressing the council’s HQ relocation plans and redevelopment of Covent Garden site is a major contribution to this priority.
“The council’s financial strength will enable it to withstand the delay in achieving the projected savings, but I can also reassure members and the public that we will not proceed until we and our partners are certain that the time is right to do so.”
Leamington Chamber of Trade and BID welcomed the move but say they hope the project will be postponed until January 2020.
A chamber spokesman said: “We will continue to work with WDC to ensure as far as possible the displacement plan which is produced is acceptable and causes the least disruption to the town’s trade, already in difficult times.”
And executive director of BID Leamington, Stephanie Kerr said: “We welcome the decision by WDC to postpone the final decision on the redevelopment of the Covent Garden car park until July 2019 at the earliest.
“BID Leamington supports positive investment in the town centre and recognises the need to renew the multi-storey car park but strongly believes that a collaborative and innovative solution to displacement parking needs to be in place before Covent Garden is closed.
“We felt a delay until January 2020 would give WDC the opportunity to resolve critical issues, open new car parks including Station Approach which is due in November, and might also allow time for other parts of the scheme to be reviewed if necessary.”