It’s local election time again and no election in the Barwell area will ever be complete without mention of the long time derelict and abandoned Top Range Motors building that continues to haunt the centre of the village.
Candidates, seemingly no matter what party they represent claim they are the ones to save the building and finally put it to better use, but what’s the truth behind why there’s been no action for well over 10 years since it ceased trading and went onto become a local eyesore?
The most recent official planning application goes all the way back to 2008 when a developer proposed turning the land into apartments and retail shop with car parking. Planning permission was refused by the Borough Council citing concerns over the safety of the surrounding roads and the lack of space for pedestrian access amongst other issues. These concerns were shared by Barwell Parish Council and a number of residents who wrote the the council to voice their concerns.
Why has no progress been made?
Since then numerous promises have been made by Conservative councillors representing Barwell, including on their 2019 election leaflet which promised “Good news” to constituents in relation to the building.
Fast forward to 2021 and a Conservative candidate for the County Council has mentioned it in their election campaign again, even though the County council have very little control over planning decisions.
With Conservative councillors representing Barwell at Borough level and the fact that the Borough Council was controlled by the Conservatives from 2015-2019 would suggest that they would have had an opportunity to act on this by now. Whilst the Lib Dems who controlled the council either side of this rarely seem to look outside of their Hinckley bubble.
Councillors need to take responsibility
The failed planning application in 2008 highlighted a number of obstacles that a developer faces in converting the land into residential buildings. Aside from the hoops that a developer would have to jump through to gain planning permission, people who live in the area are likely to object to more houses in the centre of the village that are likely to put more strain on our roads, schools and local services which are already struggling to cope.
So with a developer being unlikely to take on the land then the onus falls on the Council to take matters into their own hands.
The Borough Council has the power to use a compulsory purchase order to bring private buildings into council ownership where doing so would be in the interest of the local area.
Labour have campaigned for a number of years for the Council to take action on this.
Rick Middleton (Labour candidate for Earl Shilton) said:
The response I have had in the past from councillors is that the costs are too high to bring this area into council ownership but I think this is more a question of priority. Our villages do not get the funding they need in comparison to the town of Hinckley which has seen investment over recent years.
Jim Buck (Labour candidate for Mallory (Barwell & nearby villages)) said:
The derelict Top Range Motors building has become an eyesore and is a symbol of how councillors have failed the people of Barwell. Local people take pride in their area, we see that with great work of volunteer groups such as the Yarnbombers and Barwell Bloomers working to make their community a nicer place to live, it’s a shame the council do not seem to share that same passion.
Labour would be a strong voice for Earl Shilton and Barwell when it comes to the distribution of funds to allow us to take more care of our villages.