Coventry plea for super casino in the wake of Peugeot closure

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The Independent Online

Coventry City Council is writing to the Government to plead its case for a super casino after Peugeot's decision to close its Ryton car plant with the loss of 2,300 jobs.

Despite assurances by Peugeot's parent company, PSA, last year that production would continue until 2010, the French car giant announced last week that it was pulling out of the area because of soaring costs.

The move is a heavy blow to Coventry, and the City Council leader, Ken Taylor, has confirmed that he will be writing to the Casino Advisory Panel about the area's worsening circumstances.

"It raises the profile of Coventry, though maybe not in the best way," Mr Taylor said. "It also raises the importance of getting our casino. I'm not suggesting that all the jobs will match but there are going to be people who will find jobs at the casino and the supporting services.

"We will be writing to [the panel], saying we hope you realise we now have a greater need than prior to this. We need the jobs. We will be saying, 'Come on guys, see where we are. Here's a genuine opportunity for us'."

Coventry, like various other towns and regions, has applied for permission to build the one regional casino, also known as the "super" casino. It is already building a small casino with US operator Isle of Capri, but is keen to extend it.

The panel is sifting through the applications and will reveal its final decision, based on numerous criteria - including regeneration, and economic and social benefits - in December.

Coventry is already facing stiff competition from around the country, with seaside resort Blackpool one of the front-runners.

"Many areas will be able to show why they are a special, needy case," said one casino expert. "In a perverse way, the closure of Ryton could help. But the ultimate decision will be as much political as economic or social and I don't think the Government is particularly under fire for the Peugeot closure. And Blackpool is one of the poorest cities in the UK."

Jean-Marc Nicolle, the director of group strategy for PSA, told The Independent on Sunday at the annual Geneva Motor Show in March last year: "Production will be guaranteed to last at Ryton until 2010."

Unions have reacted with anger at what has proved to be an empty promise. Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said: "Peugeot's plans for Ryton have been developed in an atmosphere of mystery and deception.

"Workers at Ryton are demanding that their Peugeot bosses in Paris come clean and tell us why they're threatening Coventry jobs."