Call on: 01926 882006
Approved plans for two flat blocks in south Leamington with no affordable housing will ‘not go ahead’, Warwick District Council has confirmed.
The council has been forced to overturn the controversial decision taken by the planning committee earlier this month.
It gave the green light to an application for two new purpose-built accommodation blocks with 90 bed spaces in Court Street.
The Liberal Democrat chair of the committee Alan Boad used his casting vote to block deferral and instead grant approval by three votes to two.
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western has criticised the decision for going against its own housing policy and national planning legislation.
He also raised concerns about the flats damaging businesses and environmental charity Action 21.
But he says that last week he was assured by council leader Andrew Day the plans would not proceed.
He later received an email from the council’s portfolio holder for housing and assets, Councillor Jan Matecki.
It states: “I can confirm that even though the developer has obtained planning permission for the site, I and WDC will not be agreeing for the scheme to go ahead.”
Mr Western says Liberal Democrat councillor Mr Boad was wrong to approve the application – even though the council’s own policy requires two fifths of homes in large developments to be affordable.
“We know the Conservative councillors are not serious about building social housing and truly affordable homes for people in the district – they have a miserable record,” Mr Western said.
“But the Liberal Democrats have now also shown their true colours – as it is unconscionable to approve such a major development when it will price out people on low incomes.
“This is an embarrassing U-turn for the council and, unfortunately, it is not the first time we’ve seen a volte face over developments without affordable housing.
“The ill-fated Riverside House council offices plan also went against the council’s own policy for the number of affordable homes – and has cost the taxpayer a great deal despite its failure.
“We must have social rent, council, well insulated and net-zero housing to tackle the housing crisis.
“If we don’t, it is only highly profitable developers – and not their tenants – who reap the benefits.”
Plans in 2016 for housing on the same site were eventually shelved, despite 40% of the proposed homes being affordable.
The proposed blocks would be built over the current site of Action 21’s shop, which recycles second-hand goods including bicycles, as well as several other long-standing businesses and would require them to find alternative locations.
The charity’s chair of trustees Belinda Pyke fears it will be very difficult to find a new home if it loses the site in Court Street.
A failed merger between Warwick and Stratford councils has cost district taxpayers nearly £160,000.
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western says the Conservative leaderships of the district councils have spurned the money despite years of council tax rises and a cost-of-living crisis.
But Warwick District Council, in response to Mr Western’s Freedom of Information request, has insisted the long-term savings gained from combining services will leave it in a ‘net-beneficial position.’
A combined sum of £320,000 was spent by the two councils on the merger before it broke down – including nearly £160,000 by Warwick District Council.
Councillors backed plans in December to merge services with neighbouring Stratford District Council ahead of the creation of a South Warwickshire authority by 2024.
The decision came after the councils’ costly public consultation which conveyed no clear-cut support for the proposal.
Mr Western launched his own petition calling for a referendum to enable the public to have the final say on any local government restructuring in the region. It gained nearly 1,800 signatures.
The council insists cost savings – including from combining waste services, having a joint Local Plan for housing and development, and instating a joint legal team – will leave it more than £1m better off over the next several years.
It also conceded that only £10,000 in savings have so far been achieved.
Mr Western says the loss of at least £157,559 at this time is a huge blow to the public – while it remains to be seen whether savings will be realised.
He also says he’s concerned the breakdown of the merger will pave the way for Warwickshire County Council to form a unitary authority.
“I’ve opposed this ill-fated merger from the start and, though no doubt savings will be made, in this difficult moment our taxpayers need stability, security and wise investment,” said Mr Western.
“Residents have endured rising council tax for more than a decade and national tax rises will also hit them hard.
“A lot of the services the council says will result in savings involve billing the public anyway, like the 123+ bin collection service.
“These are additional income streams not mentioned by the Conservatives in their 2019 manifesto.
“Other stealth taxes have been announced like the rise in car parking and parking permits costs, as well as rent rises, and service charge increases from April.
“Meanwhile price hikes for buses, trains, shopping, petrol, gas and electricity are crippling families.
“This was a massive gamble taken by the council to win a local Conservative Party power game – taking precedent over the prosperity of residents.
“Any changes should have been put to the people in a referendum.”
Warwick District Council leader Andrew Day took questions from councillors last week about the failure of the merger – with many in favour of it blaming Stratford’s leadership for its breakdown.
“Irreconcilable differences” and concerns over Warwick District Council’s wholly owned housing company Milverton Homes were cited as reasons for Stratford pulling out of the deal.
Mr Western says the liability for any losses associated with Milverton Homes may have put Stratford off committing to the merger.
As part of the total cost, Warwick District Council paid £22,000 for a joint report into the merger by consultancy firm Deloitte, £31,750 for the public consultation and around £12,000 for a report on a new shared office.
A request to cancel the planned merger will now be submitted to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Residents with family hiding from the Taliban have questioned the difference in generosity between Ukrainian and Afghan refugee resettlement schemes.
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to raise his constituents’ concerns over the Government’s ‘double standards.’
They compare the 27,000 Ukrainian refugees that have already taken up residence in the UK and the ‘begrudging’ commitment to resettle only 7,500 Afghans this year.
Barely two months after Russia’s invasion, another 86,000 Ukrainian refugees have been granted visas to live in the UK – while more than 200,000 Brits have signed up to the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
It launched about six weeks ago and allows people to offer accommodation to those fleeing the war-torn nation.
Though the Ukraine schemes have been plagued with problems, those who contacted Mr Western perceive that much greater efforts have been made to resettle Ukrainians than Afghans.
This is despite the UK’s involvement in the 20-year military intervention that ended with the Taliban unexpectedly storming to power last August after western troops withdrew.
In stark contrast to those for Ukrainians, the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) took five months to become operational, is open to a maximum of 20,000 refugees and is not yet open to anyone outside the UK.
Only 7,000 people have been resettled under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) which is mainly intended for those who assisted the British military with its operations in the country.
In total, more than 18,000 Afghans had been evacuated to the UK by early March – but many thousands have been forced to live in temporary hotel accommodation and await visas.
In the letter to Ms Patel, Mr Western wrote: “Many of the people I am trying to assist were involved with civic society in Afghanistan prior to the Taliban taking power – and are in danger as a result.
“They and their relatives have seen the UK Government’s response to the war in Ukraine, and they cannot help but feel they were not offered the same.
“Their experience was quite different, with strict criteria determining who could and who could not be evacuated – despite their own families’ willingness and ability to house and support them.
“I therefore urge you and your colleagues to capitalise on the British public’s obvious openness to accepting those fleeing war zones, to intensify efforts to create a route for relatives to join their families in the UK.”
As we reported, Mr Western’s office was supporting more than 20 families from Warwick and Leamington who wanted to accommodate their relatives stranded in Afghanistan.
Whitnash resident Shabnam Nishat has been fighting to get her mother safely to the UK ever since.
She was a municipal politician in Afghanistan and worked with the UN and international charities on women’s rights and child poverty.
She says the Taliban is hunting her mother, has beaten her brother within an inch of his life and her father died of a stroke without access to medical care.
“My mother calls me in the night saying that she can’t sleep because she fears someone is coming to kill her,” she said.
“Life in Afghanistan is particularly horrible for women like my mother.
“Her old colleague was recently taken by the Taliban, and no one has heard from her since.
“But when the Ukraine war started – they forget all about my country and my family.
“We desperately need help, but the Government does not care.
“We are not white or European, but we need help.
“People are all the same. We must help everyone.”
A major bus operator has threatened not to serve a planned 200-home ‘mega cul-de-sac’ estate in south Leamington.
Developer AC Lloyd is seeking approval for the final details of the controversial development off Chesterton Gardens estate in Sydenham, Whitnash.
But Stagecoach – which operates many of the district’s buses – has now lodged an objection to the plans along with nearly 70 others.
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western claims residents could be left stranded and isolated without regular and reliable bus services – and would be forced into their cars.
The initial proposals were approved by the independent Planning Inspectorate last August when it upheld the developer’s appeal against Warwick District Council’s (WDC) rejection of the plans.
A supporting application has now been lodged which, if given the green light, would pave the way for up to 500 homes to be built on the site.
The developer’s latest application submitted last month seeks final approval for ‘road infrastructure, public open space and landscaping.’
But in an official objection, Commercial Director for Stagecoach Midlands Patrick Stringer said: “Accordingly, we re-emphasise that we could not look to extend our service 67 into the application site as currently proposed.
“There is no real provision within the proposed or immediately adjoining development to effectively support a commercially sustainable bus service.”
He added that the plans are out of keeping with WDC’s Local Plan for housing up to 2029, and do not meet expectations of ‘proper and timely delivery of infrastructure to support development, and the support of measures to properly facilitate sustainable modes (of transport).’
Mr Stringer then outlines the firm’s demands including reconsideration of the number of bus stops, services, and the directions from which they travel into the estate.
Most objections to the scheme are from residents, but they also include Warwickshire County Council’s Highways Authority, its Ecological Service and Leamington Spa Town Council.
Mr Western – who has spearheaded the campaign against the development since 2015 – says the objections are a major blow to WDC and AC Lloyd.
“These fresh objections are yet more evidence the proposed development is unsuitable and unsustainable,” he said.
“With no bus services, residents on the estate will have to walk 30 minutes or more to buy shopping from Morrisons and even further to get into Leamington.
“Residents and my Labour colleagues are rightly calling for firm plans to build a second access which would ease the strain on Sydenham’s limited road capacity.
“But now bus services are under threat, it will push even more cars on to the narrow roads and make the estate seem even more inescapable.
“We’ve seen elsewhere in the district the problems of ‘island’ or cul-de-sac communities stranded with inadequate infrastructure.
“If regular and dependable bus services cannot be guaranteed, this damaging development must not go ahead.”
The original plans were twice rejected by councillors on WDC planning committee early last year.
This was primarily due to the lack of a second access road and widespread opposition from residents.
Mr Western also says the development is not needed because of calculations that show, at the current trajectory of applications granted and sites earmarked for development, almost 4,000 surplus homes could be built in Warwick district by 2029.
He also says the Office for National Statistics housing need calculations for the district are likely too high, as conceded by the Office for Statistics Regulation.
Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash have been ‘wasted’ on the delayed and under-capacity Leamington Covid testing mega-laboratory.
An investigation by The Independent newspaper has found it processed thousands of incorrect test results and is subject to major health and safety concerns.
The probe was assisted by Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western who supplied contacts, information and asked Parliamentary questions.
The Rosalind Franklin Laboratory – the centrepiece of the Government’s Test and Trace network – formally opened six months late in July last year.
The laboratory in Juno Drive, off Queensway, is still only working at about 20% per cent capacity with doubts persisting over whether it will ever reach full working order.
The newspaper makes multiple serious allegations including suggestions of ‘spiralling costs’, cover ups and that a worker nearly died on site.
Sources cited in the investigation claim the project could be hundreds of millions of pounds overbudget with an initial £588million allocated to it. A senior source claims that by November more than £1.1billion had been spent on the laboratory.
The articles alleges that the site is now ‘under review’ and efforts were made to ‘pull the plug’ on the project.
It references construction delays, inadequate training, sample contamination, rat infestations, Covid outbreaks and staff misconduct.
As we reported, Mr Western has long been investigating the laboratory after he accused the government of ignoring his concerns about its opening date, the costs to the taxpayer and its association with multiple private companies.
He was told last summer that four laboratory lines of the 12 intended to become operational were to be scrapped.
The government had boasted the laboratory would be able to process 300,000 tests per day – which was then revised down to 100,000.
But the laboratory is believed to be processing no more than 30,000 per day, insiders suggested. Though it was getting through a much lower figure before October last year
Mr Western said: “It is such a relief the serious issues with the mega-laboratory have finally come to the surface.
“For months my team and I have been investigating the concerns of the workforce and the community.
“We were made aware of government-awarded contracts overrunning, staff being mistreated by recruitment companies and widespread operational challenges – resulting in severe delays to the project.
“Of course, I want the laboratory to be an asset for the Warwick and Leamington community, for it to provide valuable jobs and for the persisting challenges to be overcome.
“But this involves openness, transparency, and willingness to engage with the public, the media and elected officials.
“Unfortunately, senior figures and the DHSC have behaved in the opposite fashion – while staff are coerced into silence.
“The contamination, and false positives that were processed, are extremely serious allegations – and must be investigated.
“And the extent of the waste of taxpayers’ money – unfortunately characteristic of this government – must be confirmed by the Department for Health.
“I call on local partners to work together to salvage a scheme that, eventually, could put Leamington on the map – for the right reasons.”
Internal mails obtained last summer revealed 31 lab support technicians, days before they were due to start work, were informed they would be paid for the foreseeable future to remain at home due to delays – which the newspaper claims cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds.
At that point hundreds of staff had been waiting to start work but were unable to due to delays.
It is believed hundreds could still be cut from the 1,600-strong workforce, extinguishing hopes of 2,000 new jobs to the area which were initially promised by the government.
It is the only remaining functioning Test and Trace diagnostics laboratory across the whole network.
Villagers have secured an MP’s support in their 18-year-long battle against ‘nightmare’ traffic through Hampton-on-the-Hill.
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western says residents in the once peaceful village told him they have for years endured noisy, polluting queues of cars and lorries passing by their doorsteps.
Since 2004, the villagers have been calling on regional councils to install speed bumps in Hampton Road.
They have also demanded a haul route to prevent construction vehicles from using the road when travelling to housing developments in nearby Hampton Magna and Chase Meadow.
The works mean the vehicles regularly travel up and down the small road which has tight pinch points and chicanes – which only makes the traffic worse, residents say.
They claim the vibration from the traffic and heavy vehicles has caused structural damage to the street and its houses.
Some residents have even been forced to move homes.
Mr Western said: “Warwickshire County Council and Warwick District Council must act to alleviate the concerns of the residents who have waited far too long for traffic calming measures to be implemented.
“But a wider reconsideration is needed as figures show 4,000 more homes than the 16,700 legally required are set to be built in Warwick district.
“A recalculation of the housing and the cancellation of needless developments need would solve problems like this in many of Warwick and Leamington’s leafier, peripheral communities.
“A haul route must at the very least be included in a planning application for the imminent expansion of the developments.”
The haul route would lead off Hampton Road before it reaches the village – and be paid for by the developer, residents hope.
The route was previously included as part of the planning application for the Hampton Magna development before it was omitted during an appeal in 2019.
Village resident of 25 years and member of Hampton-On-The-Hill Residents’ Association, Peter Gogerly, told us: “Residents have consistently complained about speeding traffic which has become a nightmare for the village.
“Three separate surveys were carried out in 2015, 2018 and 2020 and all recorded over 40% of traffic exceeding the speed limit.
“Over the last two years heavy construction traffic has come through our village causing damage to the older buildings.
“Occupants have had to move out of one to B&B accommodation due to the unsafe condition of their home.
“The residents’ association wants to see a ‘Haul Route’ immediately built and funded by the two developers. It is not too late.
“And we also want effective traffic calming measures put in place to slow traffic – such as ‘speed humps’ used to good effect elsewhere in Warwick and Leamington.”
Residents have hit out at regional councils and developers for leaving them ‘stuck’ on an inaccessible Warwick housing estate.
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western met several of the families from The Priors development on Europa Way near the Shires retail park.
At the meeting, they shared their anger about the complete lack of safe pedestrian routes into Leamington and say they have even been forced to pay for taxis to take kids to nursery or go to the shops.
Mr Western says he has contacted the developer of the estate, Linden Homes, and has spoken with regional councils to express the demands of the group.
The Priors is part of a larger development called Myton Green and Linden Homes is one of several developers building at the site.
Mr Western has also questioned the builder of the neighbouring estate Redrow and Catesby Estates which is responsible for the infrastructure, including footpaths and cycleways, as well as any recreational areas.
Residents complain that it is impossible to leave the estate other than by car and there are also no bus routes.
As a result, they’re seeking immediate access to safe pedestrian routes into Leamington, permanent street lighting to be immediately installed and gravel to be laid on a muddy path that leads into town, as pictured – which they also want widened to accommodate pushchairs.
Mr Western has slammed Warwickshire County Council and the developers for seemingly passing the buck in responding to residents’ demands.
Residents say they would not have moved to the estate had they known it would be half built and plagued with inadequacies.
Mother of one Lily Hawtin – who has lived on the estate for 7 months – said: “It’s been awful. A neighbour of mine said she feels like we’re stuck in Alcatraz prison!
“I can’t get into Leamington without travelling down a dangerous, muddy path – which is without any lighting and is pitch black in the dark.
“The mud when the weather is bad makes it really unsafe and I’ve nearly slipped travelling on it.
“I don’t drive and often I’m forced to pay for an Uber to get my daughter to nursery in town – which is completely unaffordable.
“When we first moved in, we were assured that there was a safe pedestrian entry and exit to the estate.
“This was a lie.
“My neighbour currently cannot send her son to school due to the lack of pedestrian access.
“This is a disgrace that the lack of planning from the developer is affecting her son’s education.
“My daughter starts school in September, and I am under constant stress thinking I could be in the same situation.
“I have been made to feel completely alone in this.
“I have contacted the developer, Warwick District Council, Warwickshire County Council and I have received no help whatsoever – and, in some cases, I have been completely ignored.
“A safe route of entry and exit to the estate should have been the top priority.
“But for the developer, unfortunately, it’s building more houses.”
Mr Western said: “This just shows the complete disregard for the families that move into these poorly built and inaccessible housing estates.
“The infrastructure is just not in place to be convenient or even to be conducive for a good quality of life.
“As far as I’m concerned, the commitments Linden Homes and Redrow made to future residents to ensure they received planning approval have been broken – and families let down.
“And the council needs to act.
“All parties must work together to immediately put in place what the families are asking for – as it really is the bare minimum.
“I’d go as far as suggesting that young families who have had to pay for taxis to get to the shops or to school should be reimbursed by these highly profitable companies who have failed them.”
At the time when we faced such a crisis. A time when all depended on one another the most. It now seems abundantly clear the Prime Minister betrayed the trust of our nation.
We must wait a little longer to hear if he broke the law but it is now known that many in his company at the infamous Downing Street parties have started to be fined by the Metropolitan Police.
The Prime Minister could soon be found guilty of criminality. It looks as though he broke the laws he himself created.
And I’m afraid to say he’s a liar. He lies repeatedly and with impunity. He lies to all of us. He lied about lockdown parties to Parliament, to the press and to the public.
That is the most extraordinary truth about all this. Laws that you and I obeyed for the health and security of this country. But he didn’t.
As I’ve said the Prime Minister leads a government that is supposed to be law making not law breaking.
In the press we’ve heard Conservative ministers dismiss ‘Partygate’ as ‘fluff’ and ‘fundamentally trivial’ – or suggest that members of the public have ‘moved on.’
Conservative ministers are lining up to try to defend the indefensible on live television – taking us for fools.
Remember, residents and some businesses in Warwick and Leamington were fined hundreds of pounds and, in certain cases, thousands. For them, a government that wrote the laws should face tougher sanctions than they did. And they are right.
It is an insult to everyone who followed the rules.
But there will be more fines to come. There must be.
It is so important to restore trust between the government, our institutions and the people.
I’d like to know if the people of Warwick and Leamington really have ‘moved on.’ Please email me telling me your thoughts (my email is below).
Turning to the cost-of-living crisis, last Friday the new higher energy price cap came into force.
It will result in a 54% average increase in energy bills for UK households (a £600 rise for most).
The rise was completely avoidable. The French government has forced nationally owned energy firms to sacrifice billions of pounds in profit to set a 4% cap on energy price rises and protect consumers.
Here, the Chancellor prioritised the profits of the firms that operate in our country, over its people. And most of these companies are foreign owned!
It is already tough for many people and I’m afraid the Chancellor’s failure to do more means people are going to seriously struggle.
You can see a list of a few helpful services by going to https://www.facebook.com/100058292851332/posts/402771731675919/?d=n
And as always, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help or support – or want your case being raised.
Please also make use of this independent and accurate benefits calculator to see what you’re entitled to: https://www.entitledto.co.uk/
An MP claims ‘Leamington has been paralysed’ due to roadworks and has taken residents’ concerns to parliament.
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western has bemoaned the disruption caused by Network Rail and Warwickshire County Council’s Princes Drive works.
An effective one-way system has been in place since January due to a lane closure and diversion on the road.
It has resulted in gridlocked traffic which, at times, stretches all the way up to the town centre and into neighbouring Warwick.
The restoration of the railway and accompanying roadworks are not set to be completed until the end of March.
And they will be followed by more disruptive repairs and diversions in the town.
Mr Western says he has received floods of emails about the ‘nightmare’ drivers and business are facing.
In a question to transport minister Trudy Harrison MP in the House of Commons, he said: “For over two months Warwick and Leamington has been literally gridlocked while the Conservative-led council and Network Rail have been painting a bridge.
“Drivers are fuming. Businesses have lost between 25 and 75% of their business.
“Ahead of the Commonwealth Games and additional works being done to our towns, would the minister agree to meet with me to ensure there is no repeat of this event?”
The minister said she would ‘look into’ the matter and write to Mr Western.
Mr Western then wrote on Facebook that more disruption lies ahead with additional works in Princes Drive up to Myton Road scheduled for April – to be followed by diversions due to construction on the Rugby Road railway bridge between April 14 and 19.
He continued: “Warwick and Leamington have been paralysed by congestion and suffocated by pollution.
“How can all these works have come at once and been so poorly timed?
“Why were works not completed during the pandemic and lockdowns when fewer motorists were on the roads?”
Mr Western says he has written to the county council and is awaiting a response.
A protest group calling itself ‘Toxic Leam’ previously called on Mr Western to press the county council into ending the diversion at weekends when construction work is paused.
In his post he urged council chiefs to respond to residents’ concerns and work for an immediate solution.
Regional authorities have been urged to prioritise building a new school in Leamington on the site earmarked for 150 ‘needless’ new homes.
Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western and a campaign group of nearly 160 disgruntled parents have received the backing of an ex-council planner and architect, Ray Bullen.
They have called on Warwickshire County Council (WCC) and Warwick District Council (WDC) to immediately start building the new school on the more accessible, flat site next to Harbury Lane and the junction of Oakley Wood Road which is currently set aside for the new homes.
Mr Bullen’s analysis found that, at the current trajectory of applications granted and sites earmarked for development, almost 4,000 more homes than needed could be built in Warwick district by 2029.
Consequently, campaigners are calling on WDC to block AC Lloyd’s development of 150 extra homes on the site near the Oakley Grove estate, claiming the housing need has been met elsewhere.
They say this would allow WCC to use the more accessible, flat site by the main road to build the school – while it would also salvage the long-promised country park plan on the rest of the land.
Residents of the new estate were promised a nearby school they could send their kids to as a condition for the homes receiving planning permission from WDC.
But WCC recently announced the school will not be ready for pupils until 2024 – a year later than initially planned.
This is in part due to a disagreement with the landowner over the transfer of the more distant, sloping site AC Lloyd secured for the school.
WDC’s Local Plan for future housing and development outlines the need for 16,776 homes by 2029 to satisfy statutory requirements. But Mr Bullen, suggests 20,320 new dwellings will be delivered in the same time frame.
“I’ve been campaigning for the school to be built on an appropriate site while opposing the surplus homes since 2017,” Mr Bullen said.
“If the school was designed now on the flat site, it could be ready to take reception and Year 7 students by 2023, as promised to families on the estate.”
Mr Western said: “Once again, these are the wrong homes in the wrong places and, as Ray’s research shows, they just aren’t needed.
“The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) calculations for the district’s housing need are also likely to have been overstated, as the Office for Statistics Regulation found.
“We absolutely must have a temporary school to cater to both Year 7 students and reception starters if the school can’t be open by 2023.
“But a much-needed permanent school could be open in time if the council built it on the site earmarked for the homes.”
Campaigner and mother-of-two Jenny Bevan said: “It’s time the county council showed what ‘Child Friendly Warwickshire’ really means to children and families, by putting their needs above the profits of a developer.
“Through no fault of their own, families have been put in an impossible situation regarding their children’s education and it’s so important the councils make the right decision to build the school on the closer, flat land and finally put children first.”
She refers to the WCC initiative Child Friendly Warwickshire which includes the tagline: ‘What can you do today, to help their tomorrow?’