Objections to housing plans at council headquarters

How Warwick District Council's new offices could look as part of a new £50million complex on the current site of Covent Garden car park on Tavistock Street, Leamington.

WARWICK District Council is facing criticism after it emerged that two of its own house building schemes do not include any affordable housing.

Warwick and Leamington’s MP Matt Western is among the chief objectors to the demolition of the council’s current headquarters to make way for 170 homes, a scheme that will help fund the building of a new HQ.

The council claims that neither development would be viable with the provision of affordable housing.

Both applications are recommended for approval at a meeting next week.

The council’s own policy states that developments of more than 11 homes must include 40 per cent of housing that will be made available for rent or shared ownership to people on its housing register.

But it has made attempts to use a loophole in that policy that offers exemptions if developers can prove that by doing do would make their schemes unviable.

In documents that will be presented to the district council’s own planning said that the development of Riverside House in Leamington would subsidise new council offices and a new multi-storey car park on the Covent Garden site further into the town centre, adding that without that income the scheme would be unviable.

Although a separate report that backs up that claim will not be published due to ‘commercial sensitivity’.

Also speaking out against the proposals are several of the district council’s own elected representatives, Leamington Town Council, BID Leamington, which manages the town centre, Leamington Chamber of Trade, businesses, and numerous residents.

The report says: “Objectors have raised concerns about the setting of an undesirable precedent that will make it harder for the council to require developers to provide affordable housing on other sites.

“However, the circumstances in this case are unique and will not be replicated on any other scheme. As a result there is no danger of a precedent being set.

“In any case, each planning application must be determined on its own merits; decisions on planning applications do not work on the basis of precedent.”

Mr Western, who has previously called on the district council to share premises in Warwick with the county council, said the district council should not be able to rule on its own planning application, even though it was submitted through a development partner, and criticised its failure to satisfy its own housing policy.

“Many residents will be aware that councils have shrunk considerably in recent years due to central government funding cuts, despite the rising need for services, he said.”

“Warwick District and Warwickshire County Council are no exceptions, with the latter experiencing almost 50 per cent cuts since 2010.

“In such a challenging environment, it is surprising that the district council is proposing to build a new purpose-built office on Covent Garden Car Park. What seems particularly incredible is the plan to sell off its Riverside House site purely for 100 per cent private housing, with no social, affordable or council housing on the site.

“How does this square with its responsibility to oversee and enforce planning and the provision of such low-cost and rental housing in all housing developments? How will private developers of other sites see this in terms of precedent?

“In the grand scheme of things, by pursuing these proposals it appears to be ignoring the likely restructuring of local councils with fewer tiers of authority and is only presenting one option to solve these problems.

“We are facing a housing crisis. The lack of affordable housing proposed for the site is a fundamental concern, as there is already a significant housing shortage nationwide, with over 1.2 million people on council house waiting lists and over 2,400 in Warwick District alone.”

The Riverside House application includes a mix of 2.5 and six storey buildings that are expected to house one and two bedroom apartments, while the proposed new site of the council’s headquarters also includes 44 apartments and offices, and the rebuilding of Covent Garden car park.

Both applications will be considered at a meeting on Tuesday, 9th January, when they are recommended for approval.

  • Mac Howarth

    It’s bad enough that house builders are using the “viability” clause to get out of ensuring affordable housing is included, but for a council to use that excuse is beyond a joke. If councillors pass these plans then they should either be sacked or resign.

    • Realistic Expectations

      Is this some kind of sick joke by Warwick District Council, malfeasance or hypocrisy at its worst? As Mac Howarth says the Councillors involved should be held to account and not worm their way out of this