History will judge Bath Place decision
We learned last week that in Warwick district, democracy counts for very little, if anything.
Roughly 1,800 signatures and over 300 objections, including that of Chris White MP, were summarily brushed aside and the planning committee was convinced by its officers to grant planning permission to convert the Old Library into luxury flats by TAG Exclusive Properties.
A building that was built with philanthropic intent in 1899 and “transferred” almost exactly 100 years later for the sum of £97,100 is now to be sold and carved up into “fine homes” thereby excluding the possibility of its continued community use for the entire town.
It will net millions for the developers and perhaps someday, we shall learn what Warwickshire College received.
It essentially ensured the sale of what originally belonged to Leamington as a whole and which, over the past three years, has hosted pretty much every kind of social enterprise, community/educational activity and cultural pursuit that one could imagine.
A motion was made that private use was the “only way” and that “something must be done” to preserve such a “treasured” building. After years of neglect, one wonders where this noble impulse was hiding for so long...
It should be acknowledged that Cllr Brookes questioned how the committee could decide on such an application when the district council itself stood to gain so directly from it and proceeded to point out discrepancies between the planning report and the district’s own policy on sustainable communities and facilities and the NPPF guidelines on heritage assets.
In the end, Cllr Brookes was the lone dissenting voice among the Committee who were obviously entranced by the glossy brochure, pleading from the college and oblique guidance from the officers. The vote was cast 9-1 in favour of the application.
I would like to thank everyone who joined us in the campaign to preserve the Old Library for community use, especially Liz Drake (B.A.(Hons) DipTP MRTPI) who put in an extraordinary amount of pro-bono time, effort and knowledge towards the cause. Her experience with the planning system was essential to our case and we still believe her analysis to be entirely correct.
I am so deeply sorry that we were not able to convince the committee of the need to keep this public building in community use as it was intended.
This was a decision that local history will long remember...time will reveal in what light. - Clayton Denwood, site supervisor, Bath Place Community Venture.