A DECISION on plans for “up to 14,000 jobs” on green belt land around Coventry Airport has hit further delays following a public inquiry.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles “called in” a planning application for the Gateway advanced manufacturing and warehouse distribution parks project in July last year – after it was eventually approved by Coventry City Council and Warwick District Council planning committees.
That led to a public inquiry in Leamington in April into what is billed as the most important job creation scheme in Coventry and Warwickshire.
But a decision over whether the scheme will finally get the go-ahead has now been put back until at least the new year.
Airport tycoon owner Sir Peter Rigby has claimed the Coventry and Warwickshire Gateway would attract £250million investment and up to 14,000 jobs.
But the hugely controversial scheme also received around 1,000 objections, including from residents and parish councils in Warwickshire villages and environment campaigners.
Independent reports have challenged the scheme’s jobs estimates, claiming it was more likely to attract around 6,000 jobs at best.
Coventry North West MP Geoffrey Robinson this week challenged Mr Pickles in Parliament over the hold-ups.
In a Parliamentary question to Mr Pickles this week he said: “Is the Secretary of State aware that localism is not much help when the most important project in Coventry, the Gateway project, is called in and then the decision is delayed?
“An answer was expected in December, but it has been delayed to January and then to the end of January. Will he tell us when he will make a decision?”
Conservative minister Mr Pickles replied: “As the honourable gentleman knows, we do not call in many applications for consideration. Last year, we called in only about eight.
“The one he has mentioned has some degree of complexity, and he will understand that I cannot comment about the individual application until all the facts are before me.”
Speaking to The Observer this week Mr Robinson said: “While Eric Pickles delays the Coventry Gateway Project more and more, this puts Coventry at an increasing disadvantage in attracting future investment and jobs into the city.
“There seems to be no sense of urgency from Eric Pickles about how important this is for Coventry.”
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.