‘Disaster’ or reality? Almost 800 new homes approved for land near Warwick and Leamington

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Disaster...or merely a consequence of living in the 21st century. These were the opposing views put forward during the debate on up to 785 new homes being built on Warwick farmland.

For James Mackay, chairman of the Warwick Society and representative of a conservation forum comprised of a number of different groups, approval of the plans at Lower Heathcote Farm, off Harbury Lane, will be “disastrous” for Warwick, Leamington, the county as a whole and its people.

But Mr Mackay won the backing of only three district planners - including his namesake, councillor Bertie MacKay (Ind, Stoneleigh) - when he addressed a meeting on Tuesday to argue that the application from Gallagher Estates was completely unsustainable.

Mr Mackay said: “These proposals will take valuable agricultural land, alter the green setting of our area, damage our heritage, increase the use of cars and harm the health of the population as a result of increased air pollution.” But district councillor Jerry Weber (Lab, Clarendon, Leamington) said: “We have to accept this development. I don’t like it, but we are living in the 21st century and have a housing need.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Alan Boad (Leamington Crown) agreed.

Cllr Boad said: ”Time is marching on and we have 4,000 people on the housing waiting list.

“Someone, somewhere is never going to agree that we have a five year land supply but I believe our professional staff (council officers) have done a good job and we need to get real and start moving.”

Warwick Independent councillor Linda Bromley - who broke from the Conservatives over the Local Plan - said: “Sustainable development should be about better lives for ourselves, not worse lives for future generations.”

Arguing for deferrment Cllr Bromley added: “This is a major decision - we do need our Local Plan to succeed, not fail on inspection by a Planning Inspector - what happens if Warwickshire County Council cannot susbidise public transport?”

She was supported by fellow Conservative party defecter, ward councillor Anne Mellor (Ind, Warwick South), who had earlier addressed the committee on how cars contributed to the highest early death rate in the area - not from accidents but as a result of diesel pollution.

But former tory leader Cllr Michael Doody (Con, Radford Semele) said: “The damage to the health of 4,000 not having a permanent roof over their heads is worse than the emissions from cars.

“I agree the traffic sounds horrendous but the county council say it is manageable. And people in Warwick and Stratford still live ten years longer than those in Nuneaton, Bedworth and north Warwickshire.

The planning committee vote was carried by seven votes with only Cllr MacKay, Cllr Bromley and Cllr Glenn Williams (Con, Warwick North) voting against.