Plans for two major development schemes in Leamington involving the relocation of Warwick District Council’s headquarters to the town centre have been unveiled.
The council, working through its partnership with Public Sector Plc – a specialist public sector property investment and facilitation company – is aiming to create a new council headquarters, a multi-storey car park and around 40 private apartments in a £50 million project in the Covent Garden area of the town.
Once completed, the council’s present site on Milverton Hill would be redeveloped for housing, meaning the new Council headquarters should cost the council nothing.
Plans for the two schemes have been presented to the council’s Development Review Forum and will be on public exhibition early next month, while planning applications are expected to be submitted by the end of June.
Development of the Covent Garden site would see a new modern, larger and more user-friendly car park replacing the current multi-storey which is suffering from alkali-silica reaction – often known as ‘concrete cancer’ – which means it is not cost-effective to be repaired.
Under the plans, designed by architects Corstorphine & Wright, which has its headquarters in Warwick, the number of car parking spaces at Covent Garden would increase and there would be more than 60 charge points for electric vehicles.
The new council headquarters – which would be less than half the size of its current base – would save more than £300,000 a year in operating costs, while the overall scheme would create a new, attractive gateway to the town centre.
It would include a new council chamber and a one-stop shop for the public, and bring services into the town centre.
The move would see 350 jobs moved into the retail core adding almost a £1 million of spending to the town centre economy, while the two schemes would create more than 250 full-time jobs during construction.
Warwick District Council leader, Cllr Andrew Mobbs, said the plans had been drawn up to solve several major problems, and at the same time bring a major economic and regeneration boost to the town.
He said: “This is a complex project that will bring significant benefits to the town. The Covent Garden site is in need of major investment.
The multi-storey car park is an eyesore that doesn’t do justice to our wonderful town centre, isn’t fit for purpose and has major structural problems so we intend to take it down and replace it with a new, modern, state-of-the-art car park to support the town centre.
“At the same time, the council is saddled with an out-dated headquarters which is not only far too large for what is needed, but is costly to run and in need of major repairs so we intend to replace it with a smaller office that will cost us £300,000 a year less to run - money that we can then ensure goes towards preserving vital and high-quality services for our residents.
“This plan will solve both issues, and at the same time produce a welcome boost to the town centre economy. It will have the added benefit that the new council headquarters building can be delivered at no cost to Warwick District Council tax payers.”
The council has worked with local stakeholder bodies and will be consulting with a number of interested parties before the plans are submitted. The planning application for Covent Garden would be detailed, but the Riverside House plan would be submitted on an outline basis with a further detailed application to follow.
Cllr Mobbs said: “We fully understand that any development of this scale will inevitably cause a degree of disruption.
“We will be working on drawing up a parking displacement plan with the Chamber of Trade and the Business Improvement District teams to ensure that the impact on the town centre is as little as possible during construction.
“However, let me be clear, this is a wonderful opportunity to bring real benefits to the town centre and improve it for the future.
“Great attention has also been paid to the environmental aspects of the two plans.
“We are hoping that the new WDC offices would get a BREEAM very good rating, with sustainability built into its design and environmental enhancements at both sites.”
The council has formed a partnership with Public Sector plc which is working with similar proven partnerships with more than 20 local authorities, including Dudley and Daventry in the Midlands, to help them deliver the project and realise maximum added economic value from their property assets.
Cllr Mobbs added: “These plans are driven by the desire to bring improvements to the town centre, economic efficiencies to council operations and provide increased trade to local business.”
The plans will be on show at the Royal Priors Shopping, The Parade, on June 3 between 10am and 2pm and will then be posted on the www.warwickdc.gov.uk/relocation page after.