THE GOVERNMENT will not be reviewing Warwick District Council’s plans to build new headquarters.
The Ministry for Homes, Communities and Local Government had written to the council formally placing the development of the planned HQ at Covent Garden car park in Leamington town centre on hold, together with the proposed development of the council’s existing Riverside House HQ for housing.
The move came after Labour Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western – who has been highly critical of the Conservative-run council’s plans from the start – wrote to Secretary of State Sajid Javid back in January requesting he make a judgement on the planning decisions.
But Mr Javid has now announced he will not intervene meaning planning consent for both applications can now be formally granted.
Council leader Andrew Mobbs said: “This is great news. We can now formally issue planning consent on the two applications and move forward with our HQ relocation plans. I am excited about now being able to deliver the benefits of this project.
“We will be highlighting these benefits at a public exhibition which will take place in May after the local elections. This will enable both the public and the business community to better understand the reasons behind this project and the massive benefits that it will deliver for the town including the new modern car park to welcome visitors. It will also address the reasons why suggested alternatives to the overall project have been rejected.”
But Mr Western accused the government of a u-turn and making the wrong decision.
He said: “Having received Sajid Javid’s letter last week, it seemed as though the government was actually listening to common sense and recognised that it should intervene.
“One can only imagine that there has been intense lobbying behind the scenes by the council leadership for such a dramatic u-turn. The decision by the government to not call in this decision is the clearly the wrong one.
“The government failed to call in the decision at Northamptonshire County Council to build themselves new £53million offices which then had to be sold off earlier this year – just four short months after they moved in when they declared themselves bankrupt.”
“This is a spectacular example of hands-off management by a government that doesn’t care. It is happy to slash public services – from children’s services to road maintenance – while allowing its Conservative councils to build themselves shiny new offices while people go homeless.
“The Secretary of State has fundamentally abdicated responsibility for this decision and is therefore sanctioning a project which delivers zero per cent affordable housing, when the guidelines of Warwick District Council clearly state it should be 40 per cent. The public will judge them.”
The government’s decision comes just a week after Coun Mobbs accused Mr Western of ‘mischief-making” over the plans.
Mr Western has arranged a public meeting at Leamington Town Hall on Monday April 16 to debate the relocation plans, but Coun Mobbs said he and chief executive Chris Elliott would not attend as they had not been invited before it was publicly announced – something the MP refuted.