Confusion reigns at Kenilworth Neighbourhood Plan meeting

Cllr Michael Coker addressing the audience
Cllr Michael Coker addressing the audience

Confusion reigned among attendees of a busy public meeting on the Kenilworth Neighbourhood Plan yesterday (Tuesday July 25).

The plan aims to ‘mitigate’ the effects Warwick District’s Local Plan, which will bring thousands of new homes to Kenilworth and the surrounding area.

Representatives from Warwickshire County Council

Representatives from Warwickshire County Council

The meeting, held in St Francis of Assisi Church Hall, was very well attended. Some were unable to get a seat.

A panel of representatives from Warwickshire County Council’s highways department, Warwick District Council and Kenilworth Town Council were there to address the audience and answer their questions.

Issues raised included traffic increases, green issues, and how the town centre would stay connected to new developments.

But as the meeting went on, certain audience members became frustrated their questions were not being answered in clear ways.

The church hall filled up very quickly before the meeting

The church hall filled up very quickly before the meeting

Many wanted to know in great detail exactly what was being planned to be built in certain areas, but the panel often could not answer, saying much of the detail would only be known when developers actually submitted planning applications.

One major topic on the agenda was sports provision at Castle Farm, and the possible move of Kenilworth Wardens to the site.

An audience member explained how John O’Gaunt Road would become a feeder road for Castle Farm, and said it was already a rat run. He asked how the council would deal with it.

Ben Simm of Warwickshire County Council responded by saying: “Unfortunately I can’t give you answer to that at the moment,” which was met with disapproving murmurs from the audience. He went on to explain developers had to make sure any impact on the road network was mitigated in some way.

And when challenged by Kenilworth Town FC committee members about what would happen to their club, Cllr Michael Coker on behalf of the town council said: “As far as Castle Farm is concerned, the actual plans have yet to be agreed. We can argue about what might happen for the rest of the evening.”

Another big cause of concern was the ‘spine road’ from Leamington Road to Birches Lane included on map 5.3 of the Neighbourhood Plan to serve the 1,400 houses planned to the east of Kenilworth.

One audience member said it did not look like an ‘indicative’ spine road as it stopped a third of the way through the development.

Cllr George Illingworth replied: “I have a confession to make. There’s an error in the plan because the map you refer to is given the designation of a policy map and it should not be described as such. That is simply a concept map.

“We’ve actually shot ourselves in the foot slightly because that was a working document. Because we labelled it wrongly it’s been misinterpreted. It isn’t even indicative, it’s one step before that.”

A bit later, Mr Simm said to a different attendee asking why the spine road is not on any maps: “We are not the land owners. It is down to the developers to identify where the spine road goes because they want to maximise development within their site.”

Towards the end of the evening, one audience member said he had ‘great misgivings’ about the plan and was frustrated over the lack of detail. He added: “What I’m hearing is a disjointed proposal, and that’s what concerns me. I’m not seeing a plan, I’m seeing lots of disjointed proposals coming forward.

“If we can’t understand at this stage what the proposals are likely to be, how can we sign up to anything?”

At the end of the meeting, Cllr Coker said they will take all of the audience’s comments into account to help amend the Neighbourhood Plan.

The consultation on the Neighbourhood Plan ends on Tuesday August 8.