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Coventry Gateway plan approved by councillors

By Matthew Bates Thursday 13 December 2012 Updated: 17/12 10:30

AMBITIOUS plans to create thousands of jobs in a new technology hub around Coventry Airport have been supported by the city's planning committee.

Councillors said the Coventry Gateway plan needed to be approved because of its promises for up to 14,000 jobs and new investment in the region.

They gave outline planning permission for plans within Coventry's boundary their unanimous approval, while all but one gave the full application their support. Warwick District Council will vote next week as much of the £250 million scheme falls within its jurisdiction.

If councillors go the same way then the scheme could be called in by communities minister Eric Pickles, who would have the final say.

Dozens of locals from areas surrounding Gateway attended a hearing this afternoon (Thursday) and heard 788 objections had been made, including 92 from city residents. Just one positive letter was received but crucially Jaguar Land Rover showed their support for the scheme. The firm is set to benefit from road changes around its Whitley base which developers say would 'unlock' 4,000 jobs.

Planning chief Tracy Darke even claimed Gateway had the potential to create 18,000 jobs at that site and in Baginton.

She said there were special circumstances for building on green belt land around the airport because of the jobs it would bring - especially for people in the north of the city and Nuneaton.

John Holmes and Steven Johnstone - both representing developers - said Coventry was falling behind and needed Gateway.

Mr Holmes said: "Historically Coventry was known as a centre of engineering excellence.

"But evidence of severe decline continues the disintegration of a proud heritage.

"Gateway will act as a remedy."

He claimed the buildings surrounding the airport would be 'iconic structures'.

The duo laid out six key reasons for the development to go ahead - high demand, lack of alternative sites, economic benefits, improvement of derelict land, highway infrastructure and the planned 105 hectare countryside park which would take up almost half of the site.

They added £2.5m would be used to create connecting cycle routes.

In Coventry, main issues surrounded road changes to Festival Island, which would change from two lanes to one, and a new bridge over the bypass built with slip roads either side to gain access to the Whitley site.

Mr Johnstone added the £30m plan for the roundabout was crucial to coincide with a separate £110m Highways Agency improvment of Tollbar Island, which is in the pipeline.

A resident of Leaf Lane, which joins Festival Island, claimed a new slip road created off the A444 would leave him unable to open doors and windows because of the noise, and petitions handed in by Cheylesmore Conservative councillors Kevin Foster and Hazel Noonan fought the proposals.

Coun Foster added Baginton was in danger of becoming a part of built-up Coventry.

Green belt land is also set to be encroached on in the city but nowhere near the same degree as that in Baginton.

The nearby electric railway museum, model car club and Trinity Guild Rugby Club would have to relocate, with the Lunt Fort attraction given £100,000 mitigation for lost views over the countryside.

Following the vote, committee chair Coun Kevin Maton added green belt land surrounding Coventry was becoming a barrier to growth and agreed Gateway had special circumstances to warrant building in the countryside.

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