‘Tough decision ahead’ after Warwick housing appeals granted

MHLC-29-08-13 Housing Aug83'Development of land for houses, south of Warwick at Gallows Hill and Europa Way. ENGNNL00120130829102330
MHLC-29-08-13 Housing Aug83'Development of land for houses, south of Warwick at Gallows Hill and Europa Way. ENGNNL00120130829102330
  • WDC has no Local Plan after its draft was rejected for failing to meet housing numbers required by the government - a major reason the Gallows Hill and Asps appeals were upheld
  • The two major housing developments will now see up to 1,350 houses build on the outskirts of Warwick and Leamington
  • Council leaders now need to decide to accept and include the housing in its Local Plan or appeal the decision and risk having hundreds of extra builds
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Up to 1,350 homes will be built off Europa Way after decisions to refuse two major housing plans were overturned by the Government to help meet the district’s housing shortages.

Warwick District Council (WDC) may now challenge the decision in the High Court after being left “deeply disappointed” by the Secretary of State’s shock 
ruling.

The Secretary of State’s decisions have serious consequences for Warwick and its surroundings including Castle Park

Andrew Mobbs

But council chief executive Chris Elliott warned they are between “a rock and a very hard place” as even a review is likely to reach the same decision unless the pending Local Plan is finalised - and could simply mean hundreds of extra houses.

The Asps Farm site off Banbury Road now has permission for up to 900 homes, a primary school and park and ride with 500 spaces.

A second application at Gallows Hill joins the Asps site and outlines up to 450 homes and a country park.

Andrew Mobbs, leader of the council, said he was “deeply disappointed” in the decision which will have serious consequences for housing in the district.

He said: “The Secretary of State’s decisions have serious consequences for Warwick and its surroundings including Castle Park which is not only highly valued locally but of national significance.

“We are considering whether there are grounds to challenge the Asps decision and if possible, will do all we can to have this revisited.”

Both applications were rejected by the council in 2014 following widespread objections over their impact on traffic and open space.

Overruling the Asps decision on Friday, a report read: “The Secretary of State considers that the lack of an adequate housing land supply in the district is a key concern.

“There is clearly a substantial benefit in the provision of up to 900 homes, 40 per cent of which would be affordable, on a site that can be developed without significant delay.

“He also agrees that the park and ride facility would be a substantial benefit to reduce vehicular traffic and would help alleviate town centre parking 
congestion.”

But James Mackay, from the Warwick Society, said there is simply not the infrastructure or localised demand to support a park and ride in the area.

Describing the decision as “irredeemably bleak”, he said: “We have spent a lot of time, money and energy fighting this.

“We were disappointed that the Gallows Hill application had been allowed, and devastated to learn the inspector overlooked the decision for the Asps.”

Mr Mackay, who worked with campaign group Save Warwick to fight plans, said: “Traffic congestion in the town is hopeless and it will get worse. We undoubtedly need more houses but this will not meet that need.”

Warwick and Leamington MP Chris White will express his “disappointment and serious concern” to the minister after echoing reaction to the news.

The Conservative MP, who is vocally against the number of houses planned in Warwick, said: “I wholeheartedly agree that this is great disappointment and very distressing news.

“Warwick District Council has to redouble its efforts. The Local Plan is a process that has been going for some time and we need to continue that, but to ensure there is a strong consensus to take it forward.”

Cllr John Holland (Lab,) said: “Warwick’s traffic has been worsening for a long time. It is vital we have a traffic management plan. We have an Air Quality Action Plan but need to take action on it.”

If the council chooses to appeal the minister’s decision it may be granted a second review on the Asps -but until a Local Plan is agreed, the outcome is unlikely to change.

And if it appeals and loses, the houses cannot be counted towards more than 13,000 homes required in the district by 2031 and will simply add to the housing numbers.

The draft Local Plan will go before full council on February 24 - a month later than expected following the Asps and Gallows Hill decisions.

WDC’s decision to appeal must be made by that meeting.