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'Blackmail' claim over Regent plan; RESIDENTS' ASSOCIATION SAYS pounds 30m DECISION MUST NOT BE RUSHED.

DEVELOPERS behind a revised plan to breathe life into Leamington's Regent Hotel with a pounds 30 million leisure and retail complex have been accused of "blackmailing" planners into making a hasty decision on the scheme.

The Central Leamington Resi-dents' Association claims "veiled threats" made by Regent Estates that it would push through with an appeal on an original scheme if a quick decision was not made on a revised plan meant that planners were being pushed into accepting it.

But chairman Robin Brabban said the issue was too important for the town to be rushed through.

"It is too important a building and the whole site is too important for people to be rushed into a snap decision or be blackmailed," he said.

As the Leamington Evening Telegraph exclusively revealed last week, Regent Estates, which owns the Regent Hotel on the Parade, has submitted a revised proposal for the Grade II listed building and the key site behind it.

It keeps the department store, car park, and eight-screen cinema of the original application along with a cafe-bar and retail units on the ground floor of the converted hotel but retains the use of the rest of the building as a hotel.

It followed a report from English Heritage which suggested it would not support the total change of use of the hotel.

But the residentsd' asociation, which wants to see the Regent restored as a hotel, said it was not happy with the changes.

"It is yet more hype. There is no evidence that this apparent compromise has been agreed to by English Heritage," said Mr Brabban today.

"The fact that they are leaving the original application on the table and there is a veiled threat that they will resort to it if they do not have a rapid resolution to the new one, I think is not an intelligent way to deal with it."It is a very important issue in the long term and cannot be sorted out quickly."

Last night, the Leamington Society, which has also opposed the plans, met to discuss the new proposals.

Chairman Francis Arnold said they were still looking for a solution which would keep the hotel as a hotel.

"We have no argument with the need for commercial dev-elopment. We must attract business and customers but we should be able to achieve that as well as the restoration of the hotel," he said.

"It is too important to get wrong."
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Author:Wilde, James
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Sep 22, 1999
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