Plans for student flats in Leamington refused

Plans that would see the demolition of a scrap yard and surrounding buildings in Leamington to provide accommodation for 200 students have been refused.
The Mercia Metals site on Wise Street. Photo from Google Street View.The Mercia Metals site on Wise Street. Photo from Google Street View.
The Mercia Metals site on Wise Street. Photo from Google Street View.

The application proposed to build a four-story building on land on Wise Street, and would have also run along the Grand Union Canal.

The site for the development is currently made up of a scrap metal yard called ‘Mercia Metals’.

The plans would demolish the scrap yard and the scrap yard’s office buildings as well as the adjacent buildings, which currently house Simclick Floors.

The proposals would accommodate 200 students by providing a mix of apartments, studio apartments and penthouses. These would total 48 units.

According to the meeting’s agenda the plans received 133 letters of support and 34 letters of objection. This included an objection from Leamington Town Council.

Despite being recommended for approval, Warwick District Council’s Planning Committee refused to grant planning permission at their meeting on Tuesday (January 9).

It was refused for a number of reasons, including because the plans breach Policy H6 in the Local Plan in regards to the concentration of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) within a 100m radius of the site.

It was also refused because the application “does not provide an adequate management plan, is of poor design and will have a detrimental impact on the character of the canal side setting.”

Kristie Naimo, ward Labour Councillor for the Brunswick ward, spoke against the application, at the meeting.

She said: “The Council are in the process of designating the canal as a conservation area so that important canal side sites are protected and enhanced through appropriate means.

“These will hopefully determine the kinds of development we want here. Let’s give our officers time to develop these policies in order to properly plan our communities rather than responding to developers whims.

“Warwick District Council is in the process of developing a student housing strategy - this has been committed to by the Executive following the recommendation of the Task and Finish group looking at Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) which said that we should: ‘facilitate the development of Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) distributed across suitable District locations’. Meaning to spread around the region and so it is not all concentrated in one area such as South Leamington.

“I do not believe that the so called ‘regeneration benefits’ outweigh the overall negatives impacts of yet another student block in South Leamington area.”

A spokesperson from South Leamington Area Residents (SoLAR) said: “SoLAR is delighted by the decision to refuse this application.

“Well done to the Planning Committee for sticking to the Council’s policy of preventing the over-concentration of student accommodation in this part of town.

“We’re completely amazed that planning officers wanted to support the application, as this would’ve driven a coach and horses through their own policy.

“What’s at stake here is a mixed and balanced community in South Leamington.

“We’ve already lost hundreds of family homes to student HMO conversions and seen the construction of huge student accommodation blocks looming over our streets.

“No-one voted for Leamington becoming a giant hall of residence for Warwick University and last night’s decision is hopefully the tide beginning to turn.

“Now there’s a chance for the scrap yard site to be used for housing local people.

“What’s needed now is for the Council to finally produce a student housing strategy to properly support a mixed and balanced community, students included.

“Nearly eight months after saying this would be produced urgently, it’s nowhere to be seen.

“The same goes for a proper strategy to develop the canal-side - instead of producing warehouse-style student blocks it can become a fantastic amenity for the town and visitors alike.”