Royalty and rejection

Reporter Robert Collins looks back on two of Leamington’s biggest stories from 2011

• “YOUR majesty, your majesty” chanted schoolchildren as the Queen went walkabout in Leamington in April.

The monarch was officially in town to open the justice centre, but that was just a backdrop for the hundreds who turned out to present bouquets, whisper a compliment or even catch a glimpse of the Queen.

Inside the immaculate centre, everyone from police chiefs to the lowliest clerks had been shuffling in freshly pressed uniforms and polished shoes for hours. If Chris White MP had ever had any doubts about the £14 million edifice the last lot had paid for, he wasn’t going to mention it then.

Ahead of the royal party, a small press pack strained to catch any unfortunate remark that might tumble from the Duke of Edinburgh’s lips as reporters were hustled from the room.

Prince Philip duly obliged, asking one sixth-former whose painting was hung outside the courts if she’d had a car accident.

Plaques unveiled, hands shaken and speeches made, the Queen lingered. Parties of children handed over bouquets, some delighted royalists managed to blurt out a few words to her Majesty and everyone went home happy.

Oh, and if you’ve ever wondered what happens to all the flowers - they were sent to Myton Hospice.

• IT looked like a classic case of people power defeating faceless local government and private sector greed - but it’s not over yet.

Applause rang out when Warwick District Council’s planning committee voted to reject the Clarendon Arcade scheme in November.

The £90 million, 21,00sq ft shopping centre has divided residents and shopkeepers and been the catalyst for hundreds of letters to the Courier since it was conceived in 2007, when Warwick District Council brought in developer Wilson Bowden after retail consultants said a new arcade was essential for Leamington to compete with Solihull and Coventry.

Objectors say there’s no need, while conservation groups point to the damage the “red brick monstrosity” will do to the town’s historic grid pattern.

And while doubters point to the number of empty shops in the town as proof of lack of demand, supporters - among them the Chamber of Trade - say modern chains want large, newly built premises and that small independents will benefit.

All the while the identity of the centre’s ‘anchor’ store, said to be key to its success, remains a mystery.

It’s unlikely there’ll be a compromise over the centre; officials at Warwick District Council say the town can’t survive without it. We haven’t heard the last of the Clarendon Arcade.