Coventry and Warwickshire Gateway turned down

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

The decision to block the development of the Coventry and Warwickshire Gateway could have profound long-term economic consequences for the area, according to the team behind the scheme.

But the decision has been welcomed by objectors to the plans.

Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Eric Pickles today turned down the scheme despite it having received approval from Coventry City Council and Warwick District Council and being backed by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

The £450 million development – entirely funded by private investment – was expected to directly create up to 10,000 jobs for the region and was to have included a new technology hub on land north of Coventry Airport and a major manufacturing and logistics hub to the south, also carrying out major road improvements to ease congestion and improve access around Jaguar Land Rover’s premises at Whitley Business Park.

A country park was designed to occupy nearly half of the overall site with the planting of 30,000 trees and 5km of hedgerows in addition to the establishment of 9.5km of new cycle and footpaths.

But now the firm behind the scheme – the Coventry & Warwickshire Development Partnership (CWDP) – have expressed their disappointment at the decision.

Sir Peter Rigby, one of the partners in the development, said he was “surprised” that the decision had been negative.

Sir Peter, whose international Rigby Group business is based in Warwickshire, said: “We had no indication which way the minister would go, but having won support from the two planning authorities and with the backing of the business community, several local MPs and the LEP – not to mention being at the heart of Warwick District Council’s local plan – we were obviously disappointed to see this turned down.

“There is a tremendous amount of work from all parties to bring growth and prosperity to Coventry and Warwickshire and very positive strides have been made, but this is a significant setback not only to this scheme but to the wider region.

“The site is strategically well positioned, we know there is a need for employment land, we have fielded an encouraging level of enquiries and would have opened up much of the site for public access.”

David Keir, the chairman of joint venture partners Roxhill, said that economic and property developments in the 28 month planning process had only strengthened its chances.

He said: “The level of take-up in the commercial property market has increased during that time and Coventry and Warwickshire is rapidly running out of sites to attract investment.

“When we first formulated Gateway, it was suggested that there was not proven need because of sites such as Ryton, but the take-up since then has been extensive and the area is very short of locations that will not only attract inward investment but also allow companies to expand and remain in the area.

“I have absolutely no doubt at all that there is a pressing and urgent need for Gateway and I believe that we have proved that and provided a scheme which would have served Coventry and Warwickshire extremely well for decades to come at a crucial stage in its recovery.”

Richard Dickson, the Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Kenilworth and Southam, said: “ This Coalition government decision announced this morning to refuse the Gateway development is a huge vindication of the National Planning Policy Framework and shows that any possible development on Green Belt has to show conclusively that there are outweighing economic benefits.

“It’s also a real testament to the power of local community action, especially all the work done by the late Bertie Mackay.