I have specific reasons for my antagonism to the plans: the development will present Wilde’s with a five storey wall a few metres from the rear entrance, cutting access for our customers, our deliveries and our waste collections. Nor is this merely about inconvenience; the plans also cut off our fire escape route.
Almost every home- and business-owner in the affected area has similar problems with the plans. Our concerns were raised at the very beginning of the so-called consultations, and promises were made that the plans would be refined. But each subsequent version has been published without any attempt to address the issues.
The fact is, the details cannot be changed without undermining the nature of the development itself, which is not concerned with Leamington Spa, but with the creation of a self-contained bubble of commodity fetishism: it could be virtually anywhere.
The last thing on the minds of the sole and preferred bidder, Wilson Bowden, is the character of Leamington Spa itself.
The Clarendon Arcade will remove three streets from our original Georgian grid. The development will tower over the frontages of the north end of the Parade, including Wilde’s, and destroy any quality of life for residents of Clarendon Avenue and for the occupants of the retirement home in Chandos Street.
Importantly, it will destroy a principal attraction of the town: the number and diversity of independent businesses, which makes Leamington fundamentally different from Coventry and Solihull, the towns with which we are apparently in competition.
The council has previous, and it is not encouraging. The Regency Arcade is now empty; Livery Street has seen more closures than openings. Even the Royal Priors management has expressed concern that there will not be sufficient national chain retailers to fill their space and the new Arcade.
In years to come, when BBC location finders are searching for a modern wilderness of faded fascias and shuttered shops, of ‘Closing Down Sale’ posters and ‘Retail Space to Let’ signs, they will know where to come.
The elegant Regency town of Royal Leamington Spa.
Today’s listening: Taking a break from the Dead’s ’72 tour in favour of Miles, Birth of the Cool.