Tonight, Warwick District Council rejected the application by 6 votes to 4 to build Clarendon Arcade, despite the recommendation from their officers that it should go ahead. Objecting to the scheme, I pointed to online shopping leading to loss of town centre shops plus the Royal Priors’ concern that this Arcade would pull trade away from the rest ofLeamington. The committee was moved by the local resident to spoke passionately about the impact of a 5 metre wall one metre from her garden. Overall, I think this proposal was rejected because it was too big, intruded on neighbours and is not in keeping with the area. The chairman, councillor Illingworth, summed it up by saying he wanted to approve the scheme to developLeamington, but couldn’t.
Brilliant news, but of course the developers will be back…
Today, the Courier printed this letter from me explaining that the plan to build Clarendon Arcade is based on ridiculous projections:
Numerous letters in the Courier have been from local residents saying there is no need for Clarendon Arcade, a proposed shopping precinct three times bigger than the Chandos St car park. So, why does the council think we need this arcade when there are so many empty shops?
The answer is buried in a Retail and Leisure Study by Strategic Perspecti>es LLP that the council commissioned. Published in 2009, it tried to predict whetherLeamingtonwould need more shops by 2016. It assumed that population would rise by 10.3%, demand for comparison (luxury) goods would rise each year, beginning slowly then at 3% per year by 2016. Surprisingly, it also assumed that there would be very little impact from online shopping, changing by only 1.7% over these 7 years. In addition, it assumed that there were no large development sites withinLeamingtonso it ignored potential areas like the Ford Site.
In short, it assumed that there would be more people, all spending more money and so concluded that we need more shops!? It may have been possible to accept these assumptions at the time; but with other developments happening withinLeamington and continued economic problems, the council’s insistence that we need Clarendon Arcade is simply not credible.
Today, I was involved in an election debate on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire with John Barrott (Labour), Michael Doody (Conservative) and Bernard Kirton (Independent): http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00g4wys/Annie_Othen_26_04_2011/ .
Due to start at 10am, 2 of them lost their way, so we started late. This made everything rushed and it impossible to rebuff rather strange allegations e.g. Bernard said I should focus on the District Council issues, then started talking about falling crime (which has far more to do with police that the council). However, I’m delighted that they all tried to responded to comments that I made such as our aims are to improve health and prosperity without spending our way out of recession.
Today I was on a ‘Question Time’ panel at the Warwick District UN association meeting http://www.una.org.uk/about.html.
Topics included nuclear and other disarmaments, renewable energies, addressing basic development needs, and how the UN can help in conflicts such as currently inLibyaand chronically in Israel/Palestinian.
Of course there are lots of technical details, but I’m convinced that the key to solving these huge problems is living within our means and equity i.e. reducing the gap between rich and poor… here in theUK, we should start by closing this gap within our shores.
This debate organised by Friends of the Earth was held today at the Dormer Place Conference Centre. Chris White, MP, said that the government simply had to be the greenest ever given the threat of climate change. Matthew Rhodes, director of Encraft, felt the government was trying to be green, but currently going backwards as the Green Investment Bank would have too little money and that low carbon activities must be seen as our economic future. David Powell, Friends of the Earth, also gave the government a mixed verdict: great abandoned the third runway at Heathrow and are introducing the Green Deal; but there are massive funding cuts for Green institutions, warm front funding has been abolished and councils need a bigger role in making the Energy Bill succeed.
My view? Some hesitant steps in the right direction, but far too slow, and not even addressing the fundamental issues; David Powell summed it up as a need for transformational change… but what this might be wasn’t even hinted at!
Warwickshire Race Equality Partnership (WREP http://www.wrep.org.uk ) held a BME consultation forum yesterday in the Sikh Cultural Community Centre, Queensway. With a 23% cut to the Police and 27% cut to library services, the ‘consultation’ is all about coping with cuts.
As the council is stopping funding of day care centres for the elderly, community groups will probably have to close. There was concern that this would disproportionately disadvantage minority ethnic groups: many in these communities rely on the centres for advice.
More positively, it was great to hear about the ‘virtual ward’ which manages to keep high risk people out of hospital.
The Politics Show, shown today and at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00zny47/The_Politics_Show_West_Midlands_20_03_2011/ was my first time on a TV panel. The 20 minute slot covered 3 topics. The Green Deal is the government’s watered down version of our Green New Deal; people are loaned money to insulate their houses and only payback out of the savings on their bills. It’s a great idea but is underfunded and lacking incentives.
The second topic was next week’s budget: proclaimed as pro-growth, but unemployment is projected to rise even higher and the worst public sectors cuts are still to come. The final topic was a strange idea of a permanent Conservative: Lib Dem coalition; but it allowed me to argue for proportional representation.
I was pleased the other panellists and BBC staff were so friendly, but there was lots of hanging around, make-up adjusted, told off for ruffling the carpet… and then a few seconds to make a point, when there were dozens I wanted to say: sound-bite politics in action!