Campaigners welcome Gateway decision

Outline of the proposed Coventry and Warwickshire Gateway.
Outline of the proposed Coventry and Warwickshire Gateway.

Local campaign groups have welcomed the Government’s decision to refuse the Coventry and Warwickshire Gateway proposals.

The Community Group (TCG), representing the interests of the communities Baginton, Bubbenhall and Stoneleigh and Ashow, said it was “extremely relieved” at the news “this horror has been averted”.

The proposed £450 million manufacturing and logistics hubs - hoping to create up to 10,000 jobs on land around Coventry Airport and Baginton - was rejected by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles because it would “give rise to substantial Green Belt harm”.

A spokesman for TCG said: “The Community Group and the communities it represents are extremely relieved by the refusal today of the proposal to develop on huge swathes of Green Belt land around Coventry Airport. The 740 acres of Green Belt which would have been destroyed by Gateway acts as a vital check on the sprawl of the City of Coventry southward into the Warwickshire countryside.

“The development would have totally engulfed the historic village of Baginton, overshadowed the village of Bubbenhall and brought chaos to Stoneleigh. It is a great relief to these villages that this horror has been averted.

“The existing strain on the local transport network is currently being addressed by the extensive Highways Agency works at Toll Bar. The Gateway development would have aggravated further that strain and would have required even more protracted highways works to mitigate the pressure. It is likely that, even then, narrow rural lanes would have become even more heavily used as rat runs by traffic trying to avoid the hold-ups which undoubtedly would have resulted.

“The potential damage to the environment clearly demonstrated by the loss of biodiversity, the adverse impact on heritage assets, the noise, the pollution and the contamination have all been avoided.

“However, Warwick District Council’s emerging Local Plan proposes to remove this area of land from the Green Belt and allocate it for employment use. This would remove the presumption that development in the countryside is intrinsically inappropriate and replace it with a presumption in favour of development. The Community Group will continue to oppose this proposal. The fight to protect our rural communities continues.”

TCG’s thoughts were echoed by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England which said “the development would have torn a vast hole in the West Midlands Green Belt which has largely prevented the outward sprawl of Coventry and kept it separate from Leamington, Warwick and Kenilworth to the south.

Sir Andrew Watson, chairman of Warwickshire CPRE, said: “We applaud the Secretary of State’s decision to refuse planning permission for this proposal. Protecting the Green Belt is vital to the quality of life in our towns and cities and in the surrounding countryside.

“Despite the strong support of two local authorities and the Local Enterprise Partnership (4) for the proposal, the Secretary of State has listened to reasoned argument and the views of local people and taken the right decision.

“This case, at heart, was very simple. The Appellants conceded that this was an inappropriate development in the Green Belt, but claimed ‘very special circumstances’ to whit that it would create 10,000 jobs. We dispute that number.”

“This will not be the end of this story. Warwick District Council wants to remove this area from the Green Belt and designate it for employment. CPRE will be vigilant in the face of these threats and will fight proposals for inappropriate development in the Green Belt to the very best of its ability.”