A vibrant inspirational new home for creative industries in Leamington is set to open this week (October 12) as part of a major transformation of the town centre.
The Fold is situated in the refurbished Grade II listed United Reformed Church on Spencer Street which contains a green screen studio, foley suite and sound suite with attached VO room, multiple meeting rooms, networking and co-working spaces, and a members’ club along with office space for leading independent marketing group Cogent.
The state-of-the-art sound and visual production facilities are nestled in the coves and tunnels of the church crypts while stunning open-plan workspaces, thoughtfully designed meeting rooms and relaxation areas encourage collaboration on the ground floor.
The Fold will also be the first Midlands base for the SAE Institute, who are working in partnership with Cogent to provide two-year degree courses in creative media.
The Fold is one of three formerly derelict buildings in Spencer Yard that have being restored and brought back to creative industry use by regeneration specialists Complex Development Projects (CDP).
CDP acquired the buildings from Warwick District Council as part of their 10-year Creative Quarter partnership which plans to transform the Old Town into a destination for creative businesses.
The scheme has received a grant from the Future High Streets Fund as part of the Government’s plan to renew and reshape town centres – making them a more attractive place to live, work and visit. The financial package also includes a loan from West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) arranged by Frontier Development Capital.
Ian Gathard, CEO of the Cogent Group, said The Fold would be accessible to everyone that wants to work in a creative, collaborative environment, whatever their background.
He said: “We wanted to create a properly accessible creative community for people regardless of their background or education who might have struggled to get a foothold in the industry in the past.
“I love the fact that CDP’s development team has been able to retain the wonderful interiors of this historical building maintaining its history and making it applicable to the modern world.”
Steffan Davies, Managing Director at SAE Europe, said this would be its fourth campus in the UK following on from London, Liverpool and Glasgow.
“The USP of SAE has always been to provide students with practical experience and we were attracted to Leamington because of its reputation for being the home of so many leading gaming businesses,” he said.
“We also provide our students with an education that is aligned with the industry, so being co-located with Cogent at The Fold is perfect for our students to engage with this.
“We have our first cohort of students already enrolled in Leamington and this will be a fantastic opportunity to make the most of this wonderful new hub to gain first-hand experience in this incredibly diverse sector.”
Ian Harrabin, of CDP, said that the scheme was an exemplar of best practice in how a historic building can not only be brought back into use, but also by introducing modern additions, can be brought up to date as an inspiring place to work. “We are very pleased to be working with Cogent, whose innovative use will really bring the building back to life,” he said.
“The official opening of The Fold will be a wonderful chance to bring our talented design team and contractor together with the creative end users to celebrate what we have achieved together. None of this would have been possible without the close partnership with the Council, Future High Streets funding from the Government, and the loan from WMCA. This is partnership working at its best.
“This is only the first chapter of our major transformation of the Old Town and we hope it will be the catalyst for attracting even more creative businesses and freelancers to the Midlands.”
Coventry’s first podcast studio has been launched as FarGo Village welcomes two new businesses on site as well as the expansion of an existing favourite.
The city’s creative quarter just outside the city centre has a strong reputation for providing opportunities for small businesses to grow and this spring, it has celebrated three significant milestones.
Two new names are present on site with Twentytwo Productions podcast studio and 3D Printing Forge being welcomed to FarGo Village – while Just Dropped In has significantly increased the size of its record shop.
Twentytwo Productions is a new venture from Twentytwo Digital, a full-service creative design and digital agency that is based in the Coventry Canal Warehouse.
The new venue will become Coventry’s first purpose-built podcast that will be accessible for those just looking to record all the way through to a fully-managed podcast production.
Twentytwo Productions’ Podcasting Lead is Coventry resident Taylor Pattinson, creator and host of the Waffle Shop podcast which has achieved in excess of 500,000 downloads.
“It is going to be one of the most creative spaces in Coventry,” Taylor said. “I’ve only ever recorded from my bedroom because when I’ve looked at going elsewhere for a studio, you’ve either got Leamington or Birmingham.
“This is a purpose-built podcast studio, Coventry’s first, and it’s really exciting to have that title.”
Twentytwo Digital’s head of marketing Emily Williams explained why they chose FarGo Village to launch the Twentytwo Productions podcast studio which will be officially launched with a special event on May 12.
Emily said: “FarGo has always been a space within Coventry that has always interested us. We’re a bunch of creatives, FarGo is a very creative space. We wanted the studio to be within a space where there’s other creative things going on so our clients can benefit from the other businesses at FarGo and vice versa.”
Just Dropped In started life as an independent record shop selling new and used vinyl out of a shipping container at FarGo Village in October 2018.
As its reputation for selling Indie, Psych, Rock, Dub and Electronic music grew, so did its premises and nine months later, business owner Alun Roberts upgraded to a bigger unit increasing the range and depth of Vinyl sold.
Now, Just Dropped In has taken its biggest step to the vacated space next door to double the record shop’s square footage.
The increased space will also allow Just Dropped In to build upon its already strong reputation as a live music venue that supports new music and artists as well as an even wider choice of new and second hand vinyl and cassettes.
Alun added: “A bigger unit means we can host more people for gigs, whether we keep stock out or strip it back and fill it up with people, it just increases the potential for what we can do and the kind of thing we can host.
“Coventry is a music city, there’s no doubt about it and the way people have supported the shop, especially since the pandemic, has really blown me away.
“We’ve actually come out of Covid stronger as a business and there’s a real sense of community about what we do and that is really important to me.”
3D Printing Forge is a new business launched by Estonian Argo Hobenael, who first moved to England in 2006 before settling in Coventry two years ago.
What started as a hobby designing and printing 3D objects alongside his full-time job has grown into a passion-project business, with the aim of creating an on-demand service to make 3D printing more accessible.
Argo said: “We create completely customised items. For me it is a hobby but not everyone wants to go through the hassle of getting their printer, there’s a lot that goes into it.
“People can send me CAD files of models, parts, decorative or functional parts, I’ll print it and post it back to them.
“I want to make the process more accessible. If someone wants a part, I can make that happen. I also offer a design service, if someone has an idea but doesn’t necessarily have the CAD skills or design experience, I can help with that and make it happen.”
While 3D Printing Forge’s FarGo site isn’t a walk-in shop, with orders and enquiries coming through its website, Argo hopes one day to open the doors to customers if he goes full-time with the business.
He said: “It’s a cool community at FarGo Village. It’s a very nice mixture of very different businesses. It’s a perfect place to start a new business. They’ve got a small office available which is exactly what you need at the beginning.”
Holly Hewitt, FarGo Village General and Venue Manager, said: “We are excited to welcome new creative projects to our community here at FarGo Village. There are already connections being made.
“It’s incredibly encouraging that some of our existing businesses are expanding into larger spaces on site and shows that hard-working creative, independent businesses are valued, used and have the support locally to grow.”
Photo caption (6): Argo Hobenael (3D Printing Forge), Taylor Pattinson (Twentytwo Digital) and Alun Roberts (Just Dropped In) at FarGo Village.
Photo caption (11): Argo Hobenael at 3D Printing Forge’s new location in FarGo Village.
Photo caption (16): Taylor Pattinson inside Twentytwo Productions’ new podcast studio in FarGo Village.
Photo caption (18): Alun Roberts inside the new bigger Just Dropped In shop in FarGo Village.
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is to provide £3m for the regeneration of Leamington Spa’s historic ‘Old Town’ to deliver modern workspaces for the area’s booming digital creative sector.
The funding to developer Complex Development Projects (CDP) will enable the company to restore and convert three rundown buildings off Spencer Street, including the Grade II listed United Reformed Church.
The Neo-Classical style church, which dates back to 1838, has stood empty and unused for decades and will be fully restored along with two neighbouring buildings, the Crown building and a former nursery.
With WMCA funding now available, all three buildings will be converted into more than 18,000 sqft of modern office space for the town’s growing digital creative sector, which has earned Leamington the nickname Silicon Spa.
The £45.5m Spencer Yard scheme, which is expected to create more than 140 jobs, is being delivered by CDP as the first phase of a 10-year partnership regeneration programme with Warwick District Council which has secured part funding for the project through a successful bid to the government’s Future High Street Fund.
The funding, which is coming from the WMCA’s Collective Investment Fund (CIF), is the latest under the combined authority’s nationally acclaimed housing and regeneration programme which, in partnership with industry, is regenerating hundreds of acres of run-down urban plots and derelict industrial sites, often referred to as brownfield, to deliver new homes, jobs and commercial spaces for the region.
Investments are also being made by the WMCA to help breathe new life into the region’s town centres and high streets, helping to drive the region’s economic recovery while relieving pressure to build in the green belt.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said: “Spencer Yard is another wonderful example of how the WMCA is helping to unlock scores of sites that were previously considered too difficult to deliver.
“Thanks to the substantial funding we’ve secured from Government for our ‘brownfield first’ approach to development, we’ve been able to restore historic buildings like Leamington’s United Reform Church – repurposing the space to meet the needs of cutting-edge 21st century industries while preserving it for future generations to enjoy.
“Digital is the golden thread that increasingly runs right through all aspects of the modern working world and is central to building the high skilled, high wage economy of the future.
“We will continue to work with Warwick District Council – and indeed other local authorities – to regenerate derelict sites and drive economic growth in the months and years ahead.”
Leamington and the surrounding area is a prime location for the tech and creative sector in the West Midlands, which research shows is the most established destination for the industry outside London.
The West Midlands has the largest number of companies in 10 out of the 13 tech and creative sector specialisms, including digital transformation; gaming; immersive tech; process automation and software development.
The partnership between Warwick District Council and CDP has been struck to deliver the Creative Quarter initiative which will see the Old Town regenerated as a destination for creative businesses. Multiple projects are planned to transform the area and take advantage of the town’s strong reputation for creative digital enterprise.
Cllr Andrew Day, leader of Warwick District Council, said: “This is another vote of confidence in the future of Leamington Spa.
“Along with the Future High Streets funding, significant investment has been marshalled to transform this underutilised area to establish a vibrant and innovative hub for our creative and digital industries.
“Once these amazing buildings have been reimagined and revealed, heads will be turned across the country, helping to attract further exciting businesses, innovators and start-up companies into our wonderful town.”
Ian Harrabin, managing director of CDP, said: “The funding provided by WMCA has been instrumental in enabling this project to be delivered in this difficult financial climate.
“Digital creative companies are attracted to Leamington because of the character and vitality of its town centre and the quality of life that helps them attract the best employees.
“But there is very little space available, and this project is the first of several to help satisfy this demand. It is great that we have not only been able to save important heritage but also to give it an economic life that will secure its future.”
Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio holder for housing and land and leader of Walsall Council, added: “Spencer Yard is just one of dozens of disused urban plots and former industrial sites we are helping to transform to provide energy efficient and affordable homes for local people and modern commercial premises so our businesses can grow and prosper, creating thousands of new jobs. It’s why the WMCA has rightly earned a reputation as a national leader in brownfield regeneration.
“It is also a good example of how the WMCA is using the money it has secured from Government to support the regeneration of our town and city centres by helping to drive forward development on locally agreed priority sites.
“We have continued to invest in these regeneration projects throughout the pandemic and this has helped to provide market confidence while laying the building blocks we need for future economic growth.”
Access to the WMCA funding was provided by the Property Team at Frontier Development Capital Ltd (FDC).
FDC works closely with property developers to arrange investments from the WMCA’s Collective Investment Fund (CIF) and Revolving Investment Fund (RIF).
Preliminary work is underway on the next projects for the partnership revitalising Leamington’s Creative Quarter.
Warwick District Council and their partners Complex Development Projects (CDP) have received planning permission for initial work on the former Stoneleigh Arms pub in Clemens Street within the Old Town. The pub, which closed in the 1990s, is now derelict and completely inaccessible with much of the ground floor having collapsed into the basement.
CDP plans to remove the rear of the building in order to gain safe access to clear the interior, retaining the façade and side gables. The Old School, to the rear of the Stoneleigh Arms, is also derelict and CDP plans to clean up the insides of the building and board up the roof to begin survey work.
The £60,000 project is taking place as part of a funding package with a grant from the Future High Streets Fund as part of the Government’s plan to renew and reshape town centres – making them a more attractive place to live, work and visit.
The initial enabling work will allow CDP and their team to begin working up plans for the long-term future reuse of the buildings.
A consultation exercise has recently been completed by CDP to ask local residents and businesses what they would like to see in the Creative Quarter, with a particular focus on Old Town. The results of this work will be reflected in the scheme that the partnership brings forward, and further public engagement is planned for next year.
CDP is Warwick District Council’s Regeneration Partner in an overall 10-year Creative Quarter Initiative, and this is among several projects which are set to regenerate this part of Leamington town centre.
Cllr Andrew Day, the Leader of Warwick District Council, said: “It’s great to see a further step being taken in the regeneration of Old Town; unlocking the potential of these previously derelict buildings and transforming them into exciting and vibrant new homes for our creative and digital industries.”
Katie Burn, Senior Development Executive at CDP, said it was important to start these enabling works at the two derelict buildings in the south of the town. She said: “Stoneleigh Arms and the Old School have been boarded up for many years and have been a blight on the streetscape. Making both buildings safe to enter will enable us to really understand them to start reimagining what this area could become.
“We are excited to be making a start on the next phase of the Creative Quarter, following the commencement of works at Spencer Yard earlier this year. We will continue to work closely with our partners at Warwick District Council and other stakeholders to link all of the Creative Quarter projects together, including the planned revitalisation of the Town Hall.”
Photo credit: Leamington History Group archive
Notes to editors
Towns Fund – Future High Streets Fund
The Future High Streets Fund aims to renew and reshape town centres and high streets in a way that improves experience, drives growth and ensures future sustainability.
In total, 72 places will share up to £831 million from the Future High Streets Fund to help them recover from the pandemic by improving transport links, building new homes and transforming underused spaces.
Some Midlands Engine key facts:
- The Midlands Engine is home to over 10.3m people and has a £238bn economy, generating over 12% of the UK’s Gross Value Added. The Midland Engine Partnership aims to close the productivity gap to match or exceed the national average by 2030.
- The Midlands is home to 835,000 businesses, and in 2019, the Midlands accounted for a 22% share of all of England’s goods exports.
The new urban park in Coventry has won its second major award after being praised for its innovation.
The Linear Park, which opened this spring, is a 700-metre environmental corridor from Belgrade Plaza in the city centre, passing under the ring road to Naul’s Mill Park and connecting to communities to the north.
Radford Brook has been brought back to the surface in a natural valley of wildflowers, while over 1,000 trees and saplings have been planted to help to screen the park from the impact of the ring road.
The park also includes a children’s play area, a climbing wall and a ‘Zen Arch’ structure that crosses the brook.
Following on from receiving the Community & Schools Development prize in the BALI National Landscape Awards, regeneration specialists Complex Development Projects (CDP) has now received a 2022 West Midlands National Park Award as part of the second annual WMNP International Lecture and Awards.
Katie Burn, of CDP, said winning a West Midlands National Park Award is a mark of recognition that the Linear Park has gone beyond what might be considered as ‘standard’ approaches to landscape and the connections people have with everyday places.
She said: “The judges were impressed that the Linear Park has addressed an issue that almost every city in the UK and most large towns will have in the form of ring roads and often elevated roadways.
“The panel thought this was an excellent project demonstrating an inventive and sensitive way to deal with the issues caused by the UK’s legacy of elevated highways that separates and disconnects communities.
“We were also delighted to receive praise that the Linear Park has brought a sense of transformation and renewal to an unexpected place.
“To receive this accolade just months after winning an honour at the largest landscape awards in Europe underlines the impact the Linear Park is having and is a real coup to everyone involved in the project.”
West Midlands National Park Awards are given to projects that impress the international judges in the way that they push boundaries and respond to their particular contexts and circumstances.
One of the judges remarked: “When you see the before and after photos that this project has brought about, it’s a real lesson for other towns and cities who have the blight of these kinds of legacy infrastructures in place.”
CDP worked with the UK’s leading grounds maintenance and Coventry-headquartered landscape creation specialists Idverde UK, to create the Linear Park and the design was led by landscape architects Barton Wilmore.
The regeneration has been in partnership with Coventry City Council and supported by West Midlands Combined Authority which has invested over £2 million in the landscaping project.
The WMNP Awards programme, launched in 2021, is designed to recognise, celebrate, and share best practices, policy and research and to guide and inspire work that deals with challenges faced by the region that includes the climate emergency, regeneration, environment, transport, identity, infrastructure, employment, skills well-being and understanding how to achieve a resilient green recovery.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said “Our region is helping to lead the way when it comes to tackling the climate emergency – thanks to our #WM2041 net zero commitment and focus on sustainable forms of economic growth.
“The West Midlands National Park endeavour is an important contributor to our overall vision of environmental excellence. These WMNP Project Awards demonstrate our desire to move from words to action – showcasing outstanding ways to reimagine landscape. Congratulations to all award winners and the West Midlands National Park team.”
West Midlands National Park 2022 award winners are:
- City of Nature, Birmingham City Council – also receives the WMNP Judges’ Award
- Gramer Haor, Bangladesh, Co.LAB, Birmingham City University and Shahjala University of Science and Technology, Bangladesh – also receives the WMNP International Award
- Naturally Connected Communities, RSPB
- Planting Our Futures, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
- Black Country GeoPark, a joint partnership with Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton Councils
- Waterways for All, Canal & River Trust
- Cultural Infrastructure Map, West Midlands Combined Authority
- Making Space for Nature, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
- Linear Park Coventry, Complex Development Projects Ltd
- Blossom Together in Birmingham, The National Trust
- Purple Horizons, Walsall Council, Lichfield District Council & Natural England
- Armed Forces Garden, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council with The Royal British Legion
CDP is working in partnership with Warwick District Council on the development of the Creative Quarter in Leamington ‘Old Town’ (loosely defined as the area between the River Leam and the Grand Union Canal).
The Partnership has recently secured Future High Streets funding for the regeneration of the Stoneleigh Arms and Old School buildings (among other exciting projects) and hopes to present some initial ideas to you soon on the potential opportunities this could allow.
However, in order to inform how these plans evolve, we wanted to touch base to understand what is working well in Old Town, what not so well, where there are opportunities to improve and challenges to be faced.
This feedback will help us to create a vibrant new destination to complement some of the amazing independent businesses already in the area. Comments provided here will be shared with Warwick District Council and our Architecture partners.
Please do share the form with your colleagues, friends and family to reach a wide and diverse audience.
This consultation is now closed
An award-winning Coventry-born fashion designer has launched a new and bigger shop in the city’s Creative Quarter.
The acclaimed Ashley Raynor and her popular childrenswear brand Wear Milo’s has moved from a small unit at FarGo Village to larger premises at the haven for independent creative businesses.
Wear Milo’s specialises in childrenswear, from infants all the way up to children aged 12, and has now also added adult sizes and a variety of home furnishings to its impressive portfolio of bright and funky clothing ranges tailored to the younger members of families.
When making a trip to Wear Milo’s, visitors are thrown into an enchanted forest setting, with the newest tenants at FarGo Village looking to fit in with its innovative and independent business neighbours by creating a unique and fun shopping space that people of all ages can enjoy.
Visitors step into a multi-use space that also gives an insight into the working studio behind the garments, with customers seeing the journey their purchase goes on, right from the various materials being cut and sewing machines pulling it all together up to when it enters their hands at the till point.
The business is the brainchild of Ashley Raynor, a local girl who has made an impression both here in the UK and across the Atlantic, having had her fashion collections exhibited at New York Fashion Week and in Vogue Magazine– supplemented by pop-up stands showcasing her work at John Lewis department stores across the UK.
Ashley, who was named in the global top 20 emerging designers to watch by SwatchOn in 2020, is also a Director of Coventry Fashion Hub and wants to help the next generation looking to get into the industry to make their mark in the city, instead of looking to London for career opportunities.
Ashley, Owner of Wear Milo’s, said: “I’m really pleased to have brought Wear Milo’s back to Coventry and to FarGo Village in particular.
“The opening of our new base gives us a great platform to expand our operations in the region, collaborate with exciting local creators and designers on future collections and ultimately build on the experiences we’ve had with leading UK clothing retailers to gain even greater access to the high street.
“We’re enjoying seeing people in person again and can’t wait to welcome more Coventrians and other members of the public through our doors. Looking ahead, we’ve got some exciting ideas lined up and look forward to sharing them with everyone in due course.”
Jo Truslove, Project Marketing Manager at Complex Development Projects, said: “Ashley and Wear Milo’s were with us during the early days of our then up-and-coming complex – basing themselves out of a shipping container originally!
“We’re delighted to have welcomed them back to FarGo, this time in one of our largest unit spaces, which reflects the growth of the business in recent times.”
To discover more about Wear Milo’s and purchase items online, visit www.wearmilos.com.
Keep up to date with the journey of Ashley and Wear Milo’s by following them on Facebook and Instagram.
A £1.1 million project to convert a former pub in Coventry city centre into a ground-breaking 5G digital space for the Belgrade Theatre will officially open in March.
Regeneration specialist Complex Development Projects (CDP) was given planning permission in spring last year to convert the premises of the un-used Jaguar Pub on Corporation Street into an immersive digital space for the nearby Belgrade Theatre with two apartments for visiting performers.
The legacy project from Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture involves creating a shared working space where visitors can borrow or plug in their own computers to access Wi-Fi to develop their own streaming content.
Up to 100 people will also be able to watch short films, stand-up comedy, poetry and music in the venue which is accessible to emerging creative talent and community organisations across Coventry.
The project is a partnership with Coventry City Council who have provided funding through the Cultural Capital Investment Fund as part of UK City of Culture. It has been delivered by CDP for the Belgrade Theatre on a pro bono basis to support the theatre. CDP acquired the long leasehold property in 2017 and have funded and delivered the conversion whilst the grant funding has been put in place.
Ian Harrabin, Managing Director of CDP, said the idea for the project was formed in the early days when Coventry was bidding for the UK City of Culture title.
He said: “The Belgrade was looking for ways to expand their engagement with young people and improve their sustainability and we came up with the idea of repurposing the much-loved Jaguar pub to keep it as a venue for the community. The project is a shining example of how businesses can help the city’s creative sector, pairing our regeneration expertise with the Belgrade’s imaginative proposals for this new use.”
Vera Ding, General Manager at the Belgrade Theatre, said: “The Jag will help us to reach new audiences, providing a safe space in the city centre for young people to come together to engage in creative digital programmes, events and workshops by making the most of 5G.
“The look and feel of the whole ground-breaking space is edgy, functional and industrial with some smaller touches to make it a welcoming space as well as making it accessible to all sections of the community.”
Cllr David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities at Coventry City Council, said: “This is a great example of the Council working in partnership to deliver a flagship project for the young people of the city. Many people will have fond memories of The Jag in its heyday as a pub and this imaginative reuse will keep it open to the community and give it a fresh purpose.
“It is really important that young people, have the chance to develop skills that will improve their job prospects and I’m really looking forward to seeing the project fully operational.”
Marion Plant, chair of the Productivity and Skills Business Group at Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) added: “The Government’s Getting Building Fund and Local Growth Fund both focused on improving infrastructure to boost the local economy, and re-purposing this much-loved building is a fantastic way to introduce it to a new generation but in a totally different way.
“Improving skills is a high priority for CWLEP in our Strategic Reset Framework and this digital space will help more young people develop their talents for their future careers and acquire the skills which employers need.”
The £1.1 million project has been funded by Coventry City Council’s Cultural Capital Investment Programme as part of the Belgrade Theatre Capital Project through Coventry City Council, Arts Council England and the Government’s Getting Building Fund and Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), the Wolfson Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Foyle Foundation, The 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust, and The Higgs Charity.
Work has begun on the first project in the regeneration programme to turn Leamington’s Old Town into a magnet for creative industries, building on the town’s growing Silicon Spa reputation.
Regeneration specialists Complex Development Projects (CDP) has started work on the restoration of the Grade II listed United Reformed Church which will be converted to provide modern office space for creative/digital businesses. The character of the main chapel will be retained with a triple-height central atrium, with the crypts transformed into break-out spaces and office pods.
Two further buildings facing Spencer Yard are also part of the project. The adjoining former nursery will be refurbished with a ground floor extension at the rear of its premises to provide more usable flexible office space with a rooftop terrace overlooking the church. A top floor extension will be added to the Dole Office which will provide space for smaller businesses.
The works are being undertaken as part of a funding package with a grant from the Future High Streets Fund as part of the Government’s plan to renew and reshape town centres – making them a more attractive place to live, work and visit.
CDP is Warwick District Council’s Regeneration Partner in the overall 10-year Creative Quarter Initiative and is working up several projects with the Council to galvanise creative activity in Old Town.
Sustainability is key to the project with Spencer Yard set to become more pedestrian-friendly with less car parking and there will be more landscaping, lighting and a covered cycle storage area while air source heat pumps and solar panels are also being added to the buildings.
Minister for Levelling Up, the Union and Constitution, Neil O’Brien MP said: “It’s fantastic that restoration work is beginning to transform historic Spencer Yard.
“Leamington is already a thriving hub for creative and digital industries and this project will draw more companies and investment into the town.
“We are investing in impressive local projects like this which provide opportunity, boost local economies, and help communities build back better as we level up the nation.”
Cllr Andrew Day, the Leader of Warwick District Council, said: “This is a watershed moment, and we are excited at the prospect of seeing the long-awaited transformation of an underutilised area into a vibrant and innovative hub for our creative and digital industries. However, this is just the start of an ambitious Creative Quarter vision which will bring our town the massive boost and far-reaching recognition it deserves!”
Katie Burn, Senior Development Executive at CDP, said Spencer Yard was already a creative area with current occupiers including Heartbreak Productions, Motionhouse and the Loft Theatre.
“Our consultation showed there was a shortage of space for the digital creative sector to expand or locate within the town and it’s a key industry in Leamington with ten per cent of the UK’s gaming sector working in the area,” she said.
“It is great to be finally starting construction work after many months of preparation. The initial works to the chapel will provide a new roof and will take place under a temporary roof to protect the fine interiors during the winter months.
“Demand is strong from occupiers and we are already talking to businesses that will bring jobs to the town and boost the local economy.”
John Cooke (Warwick District Council), Katie Burn (CDP), Ian Harrabin (CDP), Cllr Andrew Day, Mark Brightburn, Philip Clarke, and Martin O’Neill (all from Warwick District Council).
Revised plans to create a new sustainable community on the edge of Coventry city centre have been submitted for planning approval.
Leading Birmingham architects Glenn Howells Architects and BPN were brought in to undertake a total redesign of the project in consultation with local residents following concerns expressed at a Coventry City Council planning committee on previous proposals in January.
The fresh proposals will create a new community of 700 homes called Abbotts Park on the 5.5-acre former industrial site. The mix of home types ranges from three-bedroom townhouses to one and two-bedroom apartments with 20 per cent affordable housing provided for those on lower incomes.
Sustainability is at the heart of the scheme, with new links to the city centre encouraging residents not to own cars. There will be a minimum of 15 spaces for a shared car club and 25% of all car parking spaces will be for electric vehicle charging.
The new buildings are also being designed with increased carbon efficiency to levels that are 40 per cent above the requirements of building regulations.
The new Linear Park with the recreated Radford Brook and over 1,000 trees and saplings planted, runs through the centre of the scheme and connects under the ring road to Belgrade Plaza. The park, which is nearing completion and due to open in February 2022, also includes a children’s play area, a climbing wall and a feature ‘Zen Arch’ structure that crosses the brook.
A small village centre with a convenience store, café and other facilities will give the new development a community heart and plans also include a new orchard and wildlife area project with the pupils of nearby St Osburg’s Primary School.
Kathryn Ventham of planning consultants, Barton Willmore, said: “We listened to feedback from local residents and the Council’s Planning Committee and went back to the drawing board with new architects that are some of the best in the region.
“The team has been working closely with planning officers for the past nine months to make sure all of the concerns are taken on board. The result is a much better scheme which we hope will be welcomed by the Planning Committee early next year.
“The project raises the bar on sustainability and provides the quality of the environment that is much-needed if we are to attract people to live in a way that is kinder to the planet, where they can walk to work in the city centre.
“The improvements to the city centre in recent years have made an astounding transformation and it is now a place where many people want to live. It’s always difficult being the first to pioneer a change in the way we do things, but this is a change that Coventry needs to make if we are to minimise the loss of the Green Belt and tackle air quality.”
Rob King, Associate at Glenn Howells Architects, said: “Working collaboratively with BPN Architects and Robert Colborne Landscape we have reimagined the plans for new homes at Abbotts Park that will see sustainability and landscape-led spaces at its heart.
“Our proposals take inspiration from the surrounding materials of the Naul’s Mill conservation area to provide a collection of well-proportioned residential buildings.
“In what will be a great step forward to regenerate the former Abbotts Lane Gasworks, our designs will limit the routes for vehicles and prioritise pedestrian movements to help transform this industrial site into a vibrant new neighbourhood.
“The creation of a new community orchard, green residential courtyards and linear rain gardens will increase biodiversity across the site and provide safe spaces for social interaction, families and doorstep play.”
A new sustainable community set in high-quality landscaping could be created on the edge of Coventry city centre under new plans which have just been released.
Abbotts Park, the 5.5-acre derelict former gasworks site on Abbotts Lane, is planned to provide 700 homes with a mix of three-bedroom townhouses and one and two-bedroom apartments with the new Radford Brook Linear Park as the centrepiece to the development.
Complex Development Projects has undertaken a wholesale re-design of the scheme after a previous application to build on the land was rejected by Coventry City Council at the start of the year.
The company has taken on board concerns over access and parking and has re-designed the scheme to be more family orientated.
The number of homes has been reduced to 700 and there will be a mix of low to mid-rise homes to meet the needs of Coventry’s housing market, while the allocation of parking has been increased and includes electric vehicle charging, shared car clubs and a residents’ permit scheme to remove any impact on surrounding streets.
Unusually, CDP has created the Linear Park feature upfront, including recreating the Radford Brook in a natural valley reversing over 200 years of industrial development.
Work on the Linear Park will be completed in December and create a direct landscaped link from the city centre under the ring road to Naul’s Mill Park. Features include a climbing wall, amphitheatre, feature ‘Zen’ arch structure, children’s play area and over 1,000 trees.
The announced proposals on land on either side of the Linear Park make landscaping a key feature with the green theme running throughout the development.
The proposals prioritise pedestrian movement along green routes creating a green connection between the surrounding community and the Belgrade Theatre under a raised section of the ring road.
Abbotts Park is planned to have a small village centre with a convenience store, café and other facilities to give the new development a community heart distinct from the city centre only a short walk away.
Ian Harrabin, Managing Director of CDP, said: “We went back to the drawing board after feedback from the public and Planning Committee. The result is a much better scheme, based on sustainable principles that reduce our impact on climate change.
“The re-use of this derelict industrial site, in a central location where people can walk to work and use public transport, saves a large area of green fields from future development and reduces reliance on the car. This has to be the future if we are to live in balance with our environment.
“We have made sure to prioritise pedestrians, green spaces and tree planting but still creating a density that saves a huge amount of land from suburban development. In this location, you won’t need a car, but we have recognised that some of the residents will still want a parking space.
“We have moved the parking access far away from St Osburg’s Primary School and a new orchard and wildlife area will be created opposite the school which will engage pupils in the natural environment.
“The plans can now be viewed on our website. We welcome feedback on these new proposals before submitting them formally in time for consideration by the planning committee early in the New Year.”
For more information and to participate in the online consultation, visit the project page HERE
One of Coventry’s ancient watercourses which used to power a medieval fulling mill on the edge of the city centre is flowing again for the first time in over a century thanks to a major new naturalisation project.
The recreation of the Radford Brook is part of a £6m land reclamation project by Complex Development Projects (CDP) and funded by West Midlands Combined Authority, to create a new 700m Linear Park from Belgrade Plaza to Naul’s Mill Park as the centrepiece for a major new housing development.
Around 400 metres of underground pipework has been installed to bring the culverted brook under two roads to re-emerge in the former depot and gas works site where thousands of new trees and plants will create a green corridor for wildlife.
The former mill pond in Naul’s Mill Park converted into a model boating lake in Edwardian times, has also been naturalised to create a new wildlife haven and improve the water quality in the heart of the city.
The foundations have been laid for two new feature bridges over the brook, which powered the 12th-century Naul’s Mill built for the cleaning of cloth which was the source of the city’s medieval wealth.
The Linear Park is expected to be completed and opened to the public in October this year, and Naul’s Mill Park will host the Beneath the Trees event on August 28 which is part of UK City of Culture.
Katie Burn, senior development executive at CDP, said Radford Brook will be the focal point of a proposed new high-quality residential district for the city.
She said: “This new water feature is already bringing wildlife back to a site that had been a contaminated gasworks for 200 years.
“Coventry’s gasworks was founded in 1821 and turned what must have been an idyllic setting of the stone mill and brook into a fenced-off industrial wasteland. We wanted to turn the clock back to bring a wildlife corridor right into the city centre for people to enjoy.
“We have already finished work on the large pond with natural planting around the edge that will grow over the coming months to provide a habitat for newts, fish and wetland birds.
“The Linear Park will be transformational for this part of the city, providing a direct green link from the city centre under the raised ring road and out to the suburbs.”
The work is being carried out by Coventry-based landscape contractors Idverde.
Cllr Patricia Hetherton, Cabinet Member for City Services at Coventry City Council, said: “The transformation is already astounding and I can’t wait to see the project completed with the new bridges in place and the plants fully grown. We have seen a great public response to the water features installed as part of the public realm improvements in the Upper Precinct and this will have similar appeal with a piece of countryside recreated right on the edge of the city centre.”
Please take a look at the video to see the brook in all its glory!