A GOVERNMENT decision expected yesterday on controversial plans for “up to 10,000 jobs” on Greenbelt land around Coventry Airport has been put back further, we can reveal.
The government would not be drawn on the reasons behind the further delays to the Coventry and Warwickshire Gateway project – billed as the sub-region’s most important job-creation scheme.
Hold-ups by communities secretary Eric Pickles MP have for months frustrated city MPs including Geoffrey Robinson and Jim Cunningham.
No new date has been given, prompting some to fear the highly divisive scheme, which met widespread public opposition, could be kicked into touch until after the general election, to avoid any political fall-out.
A government spokeswoman at Mr Pickles’ Department for Communities and Local Government told the Coventry Observer: “This a very complex case and the department is still carefully considering it.
“A decision will be issued as soon as possible.”
A government source accepted the “target date” was yesterday, but added: “Target dates can and do change.”
Mr Robinson raised the delays with ministers in the Commons last November, and business leaders from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership expressed their frustration.
The manufacturing and distribution scheme was granted planning permission by Coventry City Council and Warwickshire District Council in 2012 and 2013.
But those decisions were called in for review by the government following widescale public protests and concerns about the Greenbelt.
Airport tycoon owner Sir Peter Rigby, the man behind the Gateway, has claimed it 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.
But much of that infrastrcuture, including changes to roads around the A45/A46 Whitley junction, is already going ahead without approval for the Gateway.
The Gateway 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.
Independent reports have challenged the scheme’s jobs estimates, claiming it was more likely to attract around 6,000 jobs at best.
Campaigners say the scheme contravenes government rules on Greenbelt.
They argue the “very special circumstances” required for the release of Greenbelt do 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.