PLANS for Warwick District Council’s new headquarters have been put ‘on hold’ pending a government review.
The Ministry for Homes, Communities and Local Government has written to Warwick District Council formally placing the development of new council headquarters at Covent Garden car park in Leamington town centre on hold, together with the proposed development of the council’s existing Riverside House HQ for housing.
The move comes after Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western wrote to Secretary of State Sajid Javid back in January requesting he make a judgement on the planning decisions.
The Labour MP has made no secret of his anger at the Conservative-run authority’s plans for the new headquarters, and lack of any affordable housing within the development plans for the Riverside House site.
In his letter to Mr Javid he highlighted concerns over the “lack of public scrutiny”, the lack of any social or affordable housing within the plans, the “serious implications” of losing the car park on the viability of town centre businesses, and the absence of alternative options to the schemes.
The government intervention comes just a week after council leader Andrew Mobbs accused Mr Western of ‘mischief-making” over the plans.
Mr Western has arranged a public meeting at Leamington Town Hall on Monday April 16 to debate the relocation plans, but Coun Mobbs said he and chief executive Chris Elliott would not attend as they had not been invited before it was publicaly announced – something the MP refuted.
Reacting to the government’s move, Mr Western said: “The decision is significant and underlines the very serious concerns raised by over 3,000 residents and Leamington town centre businesses.
“The government would not take such a decision lightly – thankfully, it seems to be listening to me and understands the public’s genuine concerns.
“The public is beginning to see this plan as a vanity project on the part of Coun Mobbs and his council leadership team. Against the backdrop of austerity, the huge waiting list for housing and the doubling of rough sleeping, the council should be prioritising the building of new social and affordable housing.
But council chiefs say they are waiting to hear if Mr Javid will further consider the ‘call-in’ request.
Mr Elliott said: “This is not a significant development, and does not represent a change to the ‘call-in’ request already received by the council.
“The Secretary of State’s department received the request to consider a call-in of the planning decisions for the Covent Garden and Riverside House applications. They immediately contacted Warwick District Council to advise that no formal planning consent was to be issued until a decision on their call-in request was made.
“The council has agreed to this request and has now received it as a formal “Article 31” direction. The Secretary of State has yet to decide on the merits of the call-in request he has received.”