23rd Aug, 2019

Worried residents fear number of houses planned for council headquarters could rocket

Laura Kearns 13th Jul, 2017 Updated: 13th Jul, 2017

RESIDENTS are fighting plans which could see the number of new homes built on the site of Warwick District Council’s headquarters in Leamington more than double.

The ageing Riverside House on Milverton Hill is being sold to developers to help fund the building of a new headquarters on Covent Garden car park in the town centre.

But residents living around the current hq fear the number of homes to be built could rise to a maximum of 170.

Plans for both Riverside House and Covent Garden – where new council offices, a new multi-storey car park and 44 flats are set to be built – were meant to be submitted at the end of June but have been deferred.

A public exhibition was held previous to this date revealing the proposals.

Worried residents have now come together to urge the council to develop the land ‘sympathetically’.

A spokesman for the group told the Observer: “It is still far from clear how the council proposes to engage with residents and the public to achieve sympathetic development of the Riverside House site.

“They have ruled out consulting with the public and impacted residents to develop a detailed planning application. This is seemingly on the basis that to do so would cut into the substantial profit they stand to make from sale of the site, with only outline planning permission which would impose few restrictions on future developers.

“Interestingly, original plans provided for 50 to 70 dwellings, nearly half of which would have been allocated to affordable housing. However, it appears that over the past 18 months plans have changed.

“Current proposals have increased the number of dwellings in the plans and have completely abandoned the idea of social housing.”

The residents are also worried about the environmental impact as the development would include cutting down trees.

The spokesman added: “Grave concerns have been raised about the preservation of the area as the proposed development would require the felling of a large number of trees.

“This will dramatically change the landscape, reduce the green zone and also jeopardise the integrity of its conservation area.

“Residents have been locked in a battle with the planning office to obtain protection for the trees. Discussion is ongoing but their fate is far from certain.”

But Warwick District Council say they will continue to work with residents.

Deputy chief executive Bill Hunt said: “We are well aware of residents’ interests and concerns regarding the Riverside House site.

“We held a public exhibition on our plans for Covent Garden and Riverside House earlier in the summer. Since then we have met with residents living near Riverside House. They raised a series of questions which we are currently answering and plan to meet residents’ representatives in the next couple of weeks to go through the points they raise in greater detail.

“We are more than confident we will bring forward schemes which will be of benefit to local people, the town centre and the wider community.”

The new Covent Garden council headquarters in the centre of Leamington would be less than half the size of its current building and the council say it would save nearly £300,000 a year in operating costs.

The development would be funded by the sale of Riverside House, and council bosses expect they will need to pay £7million towards the new car park.

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