Plans to move Warwick District Council’s current headquarters to a new building in the centre of Leamington and replace the current site with up to 170 new houses in the town have been recommended for approval.
The two major applications which make up the £50 million project will go before the authority’s planning committee on Tuesday and planning officers have said that both should be given the go-ahead.
Under the plans, the council’s Riverside House site in Milverton Hill would be demolished and make way for a large housing estate in which none of the properties would be affordable homes.
And the Covent Garden mutli-storey car park site in Russell Street would be knocked down and rebuilt alongside a new building including offices for the district council and 44 private apartments.
The council has said that, with the sale of the Riverside House site, the project will be ‘cost neutral’ to the tax payer and would save £300,000 a year in operating costs while moving 350 jobs into the town’s ‘retail core’.
But Labour councillors and Warwick and Leamington MP Western have voiced grave concerns regarding the project with the latter having recently described the plans as scandalous.
Mr Western said: “It seems scandalous to sell off the Riverside House site purely for 100 per cent private housing,with no social, affordable or council housing on the site.
“How does this square with its responsibility to oversee and enforce planning and the provision of such low-cost and rental housing in all housing developments? How will private developers of other sites see this in terms of precedent? “It is completely unacceptable to close down one council office to build another brand-new building in a time of austerity, when our public services are under strain and
we are set to lose two-thirds of our children’s centres.
“This is the wrong development, at the wrong time,in the wrong place.
“It marks the council’s failure to combat the housing crisis locally.”
In response, Warwick District council’s leader Cllr Andrew
Mobbs said: “I am both surprised and bemused by the
content of press releases submitted by Matt Western MP regarding the ‘soundness’ of
WDC’s relocation plans.
“All parties are fully aware that our proposals haven’t been made on the back of a cigarette packet,but follow years of intense scrutiny to find a location and develop a pragmatic forward plan,which will not only save council tax payers £300,000 a year, but also provide a smaller more efficient council HQ, a new gateway to our town, a new car park and much needed housing.
“I along with Mr Western share the disappointment when planning applications
fail to deliver our target of being 40 per cent affordable.
“However, early next year, the council’s two linked applications for Riverside House and Milverton Hill will be considered rigorously and independently by the planning committee.”