MASSIVE plans to expand Jaguar Land Rover’s operations at Gaydon — expected to create nearly 2,000 extra jobs — are to be considered by Stratford-on-Avon District Council this week.
The proposals are said to be capable of generating ‘financial benefits’ worth more than £1.2billion, and involve increasing the total floor space at the Gaydon Test Centre from 110,000 square metres to 168,000 square metres — a 51 per cent expansion.
The wide-ranging proposals for the site are contained in four separate and highly-detailed planning applications that also include an enhanced entrance to the British Motor Museum and JLR, including a new carmaker’s visitor entrance building, enormously increased car-parking areas, and new vehicle and pedestrian bridges.
It is expected to create an additional 1,700 jobs and the replacement of the current Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) building an extra 120 jobs.
Around 6,000 staff are already employed by JLR in Gaydon.
The timing of the planning applications, which demonstrate JLR’s commitment to its Gaydon operations, have come at an especially sensitive time because of tensions between the company and local councils in the area over the scheme for a 3,000-home new town at Gaydon and Lighthorne Heath (GLH).
Outline planning permission for the first 2,000 of the new homes was given by Stratford District Council’s east area planning committee only last week.
This is the same committee that will be considering the JLR expansion proposals on Wednesday, 8th June.
But recent letters to both Stratford District Council and Warwickshire County Council from consultants acting on behalf of JLR have expressed deep concerns by the company about highways issues relating to GLH.
The consultants have also made no bones about JLR feeling that its concerns are not being addressed and that it is being kept out of the loop.
One of the letters from the consultants, Gerald Eve, dated 5th May this year — less than three weeks before last week’s crucial planning committee meeting — has become the trigger for a complaint that committee members were not fully informed before they gave the GLH scheme the go ahead.
The Gerald Eve letter pointed out that JLR wanted discussions with the two councils and the developers before a final decision was taken on the GLH project.
Although a large part of the letter was read out to councillors by a planning official, a critical paragraph outlining the company’s request for further discussions omitted. At the same meeting an official from the county council also indicated that no request had been received from JLR seeking a meeting.
This led campaigners against the GLH scheme to lodge a formal complaint to Stratford district Council’s monitoring officer, Phil Grafton, that the councillors had been misled and that the decision should be declared null and void.
Mr Grafton sent a lengthy response to the complainants in which he rejected calls for the decision to be declared null and void.
In his letter Mr Grafton said he had received several complaints regarding the planning committee meeting.
Mr Grafton said that, as well as the above, the complaint also centred on the fact that if the committee had been aware of the fact that JLR wanted a meeting it would have been likely to have deferred its decision, and that a named member of the committee had predetermined the application and sought to canvass support for it behind the scenes.
But having considered all the information presented to him, Mr Grafton wrote: “At no stage have SDC officers misled the committee, whether in the committee report or during the meeting.”
There were no grounds, he said, to declare the decision null and void.