Gypsy and traveller sites ‘preferred options’ list for Warwick district is published

The Warwickshire Exhibition Centre in Radford Semele is among the council's 'preferred options' for Gypsy and traveller sites.
The Warwickshire Exhibition Centre in Radford Semele is among the council's 'preferred options' for Gypsy and traveller sites.

Officials have selected the plots of land in Warwick district they want to become dedicated Gypsy and traveller sites - and all of them are in the south of the district.

While Warwick and Leamington MP Chris White has handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street against the weight of new housing planned for the land surrounding the south of Leamington and Warwick, the council’s planning officers seem intent on focusing on the same area to site Gypsies and travellers.

Senior councillors are being asked - when they meet on Wednesday (February 12) - to approve a list of eight ‘preferred sites’, as well as another five sites which have been identified as having the potential to becoming suitable sites if certain improvements are made.

Councillors on the executive committee are also being asked to approve the use of the council’s compulsory purchase powers in the event that there are not enough sites agreed on.

Included in the preferred sites is a hotly contested patch of land off the Fosse Way in Radford Semele - where the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre is sited. The centre owners have previously told this paper that they would be forced to sell their business if Gypsies and/or travellers were to move on to the land.

Also earmarked is the site currently occupied by Leamington Football Club off Harbury Lane. Officers have stated that the club “could be amenable” to selling the land if it is able to relocate as part of a wider scheme through the Local Plan.

The list has been compiled following a public consultation which took place last summer, in which more than 3,500 people took part. The council also commissioned Salford University to produce a Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment, which found that there is a need in the district for 31 permanent pitches over a 15-year period, 25 of which should be provided over the first five years, as well as six to eight ‘transit’ pitches for temporary sites.

In her report the executive committee, senior planner Lorna Coldicott said: “Government guidlines state that areas which are heavily constrained by green belt, such as Warwick district, should remove land from the green belt should there be special circumstances.

“It is the green belt, however, that creates the greatest public reaction if threatened by development.

“The vast majority of the land that is outside the green belt is to the south of the district.”

The eight preferred sites have been identified as: near to the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre in Radford Semele off the Fosse Way; at the Leamington Football Club at Harbury Lane in Bishops Tachbrook; at Tachbrook Hill Farm in Bishops Tachbrook; north of Westham Lane in Barford; east of Europa Way in Leamington; off Birmingham Road in Budbrooke; at Brookside Willows in Banbury Road near Warwick; and off the Barford by-pass.

The report acknowledges that the owner of Warwickshire Exhibition Centre is unwilling to sell the land and has stated that compulsory purchase powers would have to be used should the site be required.

If the executive committee approves the officers’ lists at Wednesday’s meeting, which takes place at Leamington town hall from 6pm, another public consultation will run between February 28 and April 11.

There will also be drop-in sessions and exhibitions organised for people to find out more about potential sites and register their opinions.