THE GOVERNMENT has pulled the plug on Coventry Gateway.
The £450 million development – entirely funded by private investment – was expected to directly create up to 10,000 jobs for the region and was to have included a new technology hub on land north of Coventry Airport and a major manufacturing and logistics hub to the south.
The scheme had received the backing and approval of Coventry City Council and Warwick District Council and was backed by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
But the decision was called in for review by the government following widescale public protests and concerns about the Greenbelt.
The proposal received around 1,000 objections, including from residents and parish councils in Warwickshire villages and environment campaigners, and Kenilworth and Southam Conservative MP Jeremy Wright, who is also the government’s attorney general.
And today (Friday) Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Eric Pickles officially threw out the plans.
Sir Peter Rigby, one of the partners in the development, said he was ‘surprised’ by Mr Pickles’ decision.
Sir Peter, whose international Rigby Group business is based in Warwickshire, said: “We had no indication which way the minister would go, but having won support from the two planning authorities and with the backing of the business community, several local MPs and the LEP – not to mention being at the heart of Warwick District Council’s local plan – we were obviously disappointed to see this turned down.
“There is a tremendous amount of work from all parties to bring growth and prosperity to Coventry and Warwickshire and very positive strides have been made, but this is a significant setback not only to this scheme but to the wider region.”
Sir Peter had claimed Gateway would bring £250million of investment and up to 14,000 jobs.
That figure included 10,000 jobs around the airport, with a further 4,000 jobs ‘unlocked’ at nearbly Whitley Business Park by supporting infrastructure.
Much of that infrastrcuture, including changes to roads around the A45/A46 Whitley junction, is already going ahead without approval for the Gateway.
Independent reports have challenged the scheme’s jobs estimates, claiming it was more likely to attract around 6,000 jobs at best.
The decision will be a victory for campaigners who have claimed the scheme contravenes government rules on Greenbelt.
They argued the ‘very special circumstances’ required for the release of Greenbelt did not exist, not least because they claim more suitable sites have already been allocated for large employment schemes, including Ansty Park.
Local planning permission was granted on the condition Mr Pickles would not intervene in what was Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s flagship jobs project when Sir Peter was its chairman.