Tensions boil over as land plan progresses

Clear the air public meeting planned over St Mary's Lands debate

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St Mary's Lands masterplan.

A PUBLIC meeting will be held next week in an effort to diffuse increasing tensions over plans for the future of a historic swathe of land.

What is being described as a question and answer session about the St Mary’s Lands Masterplan will take place in the ballroom of the town council offices in Warwick on Monday, 25th September, at 7pm.

Among the panel facing questions will be Cllr Noel Butler, a member of Warwick District Council’s executive member and the St Mary’s Lands working party, and representatives from Plincke, the project management team.

It follows a rowdy meeting last Wednesday in which members of the Friends of St Mary’s Lands clashed with Warwick town councillors about the plan for the site.

Various people have given estimations about how many people were there, ranging from 50 to 100.

The Friends rallied people to turn out to the meeting because the masterplan was on the agenda, and they remain angry at revived plans for a hotel on the site, which they say is one of several changes they were not aware of in the final document despite having been involved in drawing it up over the past two years.

 

They also accused the town council of not doing enough to protect St Mary’s Lands from further development since control was handed to the district council in the 1970s, and the district council of going back on its assurances back then to use the land in the same way, citing subsequent developments such as Sainsbury’s, Saltisford, and the Pigwells. Last week the Herald reported how the district council had suggested it may have to sell the land to get around legal loopholes to push through the hotel plan.

Friends’ chairman and a former Mayor of Warwick, Ann Mellor, told Wednesday’s meeting: “Warwick Common has always been held in deep affection by generation after generation of Warwick families, and people feel strongly that these lands morally belong to them and Warwick District Council are simply the custodians.”

In a statement, Warwick Town Council leader, Cllr Moira-Ann Grainger, said: “The town council is saddened by the reaction of the Friends of St Mary’s Lands who feel that they have not been adequately consulted with or had their issues discussed and consequently have made a number of statements which are factually incorrect and misleading.

“Warwick Town Council will continue to be active members of the working party as we now move toward the delivery stage, which will involve seeking funding for some of the proposals, looking at business plans, assisting member groups to bring forward the correct planning applications etc and generally helping facilitate this fantastic project.

“We strongly urge the Friends of St Mary’s Lands to continue to take an active part in this process.”

Cllr Butler said no questions would be off limits at next Monday’s meeting, adding: “Some of the information being shared by local groups has not been accurate and will only lead to confusion around the project, when in fact this is an exciting opportunity to redevelop and promote St Mary’s Lands.

“We will share the facts, clarify for the public any areas of concern, and answer their questions.”