It was perhaps predictable that the City Council’s Planning Committee gave approval last week for the destruction of a significant amount of Coventry’s post-war heritage, contrary to the recommendation of the national 20th Century Society. The City Centre South scheme will replace unique 20th century buildings with a swathe of high-rise “anywhere buildings”.
The decision raises a number of questions that need answering:
- Why did the Planning Committee approve a scheme that the developer had demonstrated was at best marginally profitable and depends upon a £95.5m public subsidy?
- Why did the Planning Committee ignore its own policy of requiring a 25% element of affordable housing?
- Why did the Committee prefer to believe the unsubstantiated assurances of its Cabinet Member for Regeneration that affordable housing would be provided when the developer himself provided written assurances that it couldn’t be afforded?
- Will this breach of the Council’s own Local Plan policy set a precedent for other developers in the city to build housing without an affordable element?
- Why did Andy Street, the West Midlands Mayor, ignore his own policy that any scheme supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority should include at least 20% affordable housing?
- Who will be paying for the extra school places and health provision that would normally be paid for by the developer?
- Why is the city council so confident that 1300 people will want to live in high rise flats in the city centre? How long before they become student housing?
- Why was the former Deputy Chief Executive (Place) at the Committee meeting to present the case for the developer? Why wasn’t the developer there himself?
- Why was there virtually no public consultation on a scheme that will affect the city for generations?
- Where will the small independent retailers that currently occupy the City Arcade, Shelton Square, Hertford Street, Market Way and Bull Yard be relocated to? Will they receive a subsidy to occupy the new retail space?
- Where will the Grade II listed William Mitchell sculpture be relocated to? What about all the other public art?
- Why is there no new public art in the scheme? Developers are normally required to spend 1% of the cost of a scheme on public art. Why will it be zero in this scheme?
- How will the new Pavilion Building be serviced? – it is surrounded by pedestrian areas. Is it a good enough answer to say that it works okay In Covent Garden?
- Will there be enough car parking places?
No doubt all these questions will be answered in due course, but unfortunately it will probably be too late to do anything about it then!