Feature: can a '˜Creative Quarter' unlock Leamington's potential?
Plans are soon to be drawn up which could lead to new life being breathed into a part of Leamington town centre where it is most needed.
Last week, Warwick District Council announced the appointment of development partner Complex Development Projects (CDP)to work with it on a master-plan for a ten year project to turn the town centre area just south of the River Leam into a ‘Creative Quarter’.
During the process in which the authority was seeking a partner it produced a brochure outlining the potential there is to build on the success of the industry in and around the area and to revamp that section of the town for the good of Leamington as a whole.
Brian Harrabin, a director for CDP, said: “The Old Town area needs major regeneration and the focus on creative industries will help to unlock the cultural and commercial potential of this area which is very much under-developed.
“The first thing we will be doing is talking to local businesses and the community to gain an in-depth understanding of what’s happening at the moment and what people’s aspirations are for the future.
“Creative areas are organic and are ultimately made by people, not buildings.
“But you need the right environment to allow them to thrive.
“Each place is unique and we will be doing a lot of listening before we come up with any proposals.
“We have a proven track record of working with communities to breathe new life into run-down areas of cities and towns and we will start consulting straight away with stakeholders to enable us to feed views and comments into the masterplan and identifying priority projects.
“There is definitely real potential for growth in Old Town, creating a quarter that is very different to Leamington’s current offer and bringing a positive impact to the local economy over the next decade.”
Due to its location near to the motorway network and mainline railway station the Creative Quarter would provide a revamped ‘Southern Gateway’ for the town.
Landmarks within the area earmarked for improvement and development include the Pump Room Gardens, All Saints’ church, the Royal Mail Sorting Office and former post office, Spencer Yard, and Bath Place.
Council assets within this area are the Pump Room, North Hall, West Wing, the Old Dole Office and Bath Place surface car park.
In its brochure the council said it would consider including elements of the Pump Room, Leamington Library and the Regency Assembly Rooms into any overall proposal.
The other assets could also be integrated into the plan or used for other development opportunities.
Warwick District Council’s brief for prospective development partners was to “create a new town centre quarter as an iconic destination for creative and digital industries”.
In its Creative Quarter brief the council states that Leamington offers
“a unique shopping experience with a fabulous mix of independent retailers and outstanding selection of bars and restaurants”.
It adds that the town is also home to a major national digital games industry hub.
A recent report by the global innovation foundation NESTA and Creative England identified the town as one of 47 ‘creative clusters’ in the UK and the only one in the West Midlands.
There are more than 1,500 creative businesses in Leamington employing more than 7,000 people and software and digital companies account for half of this.
The games development industry is worth £1.7bn to the UK economy
and with this in mind the council has stated that “there is currently clear market demand for a new digital hub of up to 40,000 sq ft within this new quarter”.