AMBITIOUS plans to turn Leamington’s Spencer Yard into a hub for creative businesses have been approved by Warwick District Council (WDC).
The project aims to breathe new life into the Old Town area and boost the town centre economy.
Regeneration experts Complex Development Projects (CDP) have put forward the plans to restore and convert three largely unused buildings to provide workspace for the digital creative sector.
The company is working in partnership with WDC on a ten-year Creative Quarter regeneration initiative in Old Town.
The Spencer Yard development will be the first project to be delivered under the partnership and is set to provide creative business space within the grade II listed United Reformed Church, the former nursery and the former dole office that surround Spencer Yard.
The United Reformed Church is a landmark building on Spencer Street and was built in 1838 to house a congregation of 1,200 people. The building’s original features will be restored with the full internal height retained as an atrium for the new offices.
The basement school room and crypts will be transformed to create individual work pods and studio spaces with a communal reception and social space. A new social space at the rear of the building on the ground floor will open up into the yard, improving accessibility and activity in the area.
The adjoining former nursery will be refurbished with an extension over the courtyard to provide more usable flexible office space with a rooftop terrace overlooking the church.
The former dole office will have a new glazed entrance and decorative panelling retaining its industrial character to respect its history as a workshop used for developing camouflage during the Second World War.
Sustainability has been at the heart of the designs, removing much of the car parking to make way for new covered cycle stores and public realm improvements to encourage pedestrian activity. Showering and changing facilities will also be provided in the buildings.
CO2 emissions are proposed to be reduced through a combination of enhanced building fabric standards, low energy LED lighting, low carbon heating via air source heat pumps and on-site electricity generation through roof mounted photovoltaic panels.
WDC leader Coun Andrew Day said: “We can’t wait to get started. The proposed plans for these buildings are both edgy and stunning and will provide a catalyst for the regeneration of the whole area as a home for our thriving creative and digital industries. This is just the tonic we need as we emerge from the pandemic and something we can all look forward to.”
Katie Burn, senior development executive at CDP, said they were delighted to get the go-ahead to start the first phase of development in the Creative Quarter.
She added: “Spencer Yard is already home to a number of creative businesses and we want to add to that to create a vibrant and desirable destination.
“The scheme has been designed to build upon the national and international importance of the creative and digital industries in Leamington which will also boost the local economy post-Covid. It is a great opportunity to regenerate and breathe new life into the Old Town as well as encourage inward investment.
“This development will not only restore several key buildings in the Old Town particularly the United Reformed Church which has been rapidly deteriorating, but will also create a new gateway into the town and improve the routes and environment from the railway station to the town centre.
“We are continuing to work with our partners at WDC to develop ideas for the next phase of the Creative Quarter, including a mix of uses such as artist studios and workshop/maker spaces, residential uses and areas for independent retailers to thrive.”