DISTRICT council chiefs have pushed back plans for a new headquarters and closure of Covent Garden car park after the final report into proposals was not completed in time.
But council leaders have ruled out holding a referendum on their plans for a new purpose built headquarters at Covent Garden car park in Leamington town centre, following a motion put to full council yesterday (Wednesday) by Labour councillor Colin Quinney and independent councillor Sue Gallagher.
A report to make any final decisions on funding the multi-million pound project, which includes the building of a new larger multi storey car park, was set to go to the council’s Conservative ruled executive in November, with the aim of it then being discussed by full council before Christmas.
But Warwick District Council chiefs have delayed the meeting until January with the full council then discussing it in February.
The closure of Covent Garden car park has also been pushed back to the end of March, instead of January, and the council says no car parks will close until a parking displacement strategy is finalised.
Coun leader Andrew Mobbs said the report has overran due to discussions still being underway with Public Sector Plc – a private company which works with local authorities on property projects. He says discussions are underway regarding financial and legal agreements.
Coun Mobbs said: “Rather than ask officers to rush things to bring the report we decided that the prudent and proper approach is to defer the consideration.
“We will not close the car parks until the car park displacement plan is finalised, has been widely communicated and all the practical support arrangements like new signage and rangers on the ground to direct people to alternative parking are in place.
“As the consequence of deferring the report will be that Covent Garden car park is now more likely to close in March 2019 than at the end of January, this allows us time to ensure we have completed the work at the new car parks we are creating and have communicated widely and effectively on all the alternative parking options available to shoppers, visitors and commuters.”
And Coun Mobbs says when work does begin on the new headquarters the town will keep running as usual.
He added: “I am pleased to advise that we are commissioning a local marketing business to assist us in getting the message out that Leamington will firmly remain ‘Open for Business’ throughout the closure period and remains the vibrant and exciting destination that we all know it is.”
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western says the plans need postponing until after the May 2019 district elections.
It follows a recent public meeting when residents questioned the financial implications of the scheme, the felling of mature trees and the lack of a realistic car parking displacement services.
Mr Western said: “It is clear there is no mandate for the council to push ahead with this decision and it should be postponed until after the district elections at the very least. Local residents and businesses feel continually ignored and side-lined by the council.”