A community group which looks after one of Leamington's major parks has raised concerns about a planning application made as part of the lawn bowls events for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The Friends of Victoria Park have said that, if approved, the application made by the games committee, would "threaten easy access" to the public green space for three peak summer months next year.
The application seeks permission for the temporary use of an area of the park so that many temporary structures can be erected in preparation for hosting the lawn bowls events.
David Adams, chairman of the Friends of Victoria Park, said: “Holding the Commonwealth Games lawn bowls and para bowls is a great coup for Leamington and we fully recognise that this will require some short-term inconvenience to users of Victoria Park and residents in the near vicinity.”
“But this planning application is complete overkill.
"It gives Birmingham 2022 carte blanche to take up to three months - from the beginning of June to the end of August - to install and then decommission a bowls zone for the sake of just nine days of competition.
"The plan allows for the closure of all entrances to Victoria Park except via the Princes Drive entrance to Riverside Walk and requisitions the use of all nearby car parks for Games-related vehicles.
“We already knew that the tennis courts would be closed but this application – that appeared without warning - would prevent many hundreds of families, dog walkers, and exercisers from easily accessing the public areas of the Park and community amenities like the play area, paddling pool, skatepark and outdoor gym.
“This is all because Birmingham 2022 have come forward with a plan that fails to give detailed timings and assurances about the key activities involved in the construction of the bowls zone.
"But a Birmingham 2022 official is on record as saying that turnkey suppliers, who determine the exact timings for individual activities, ‘may be appointed prior to planning application process completion’.
"In other words, delaying the planning application will not delay preparations for the games."
Mr Adams said the friends group wants the application to be redrafted and resubmitted with commitments given on the dates that affect park users and Leamington residents.
Members are asking people to submit their objections to the application and to visit the group's website www.friendsofvictoriapark.co.uk and Facebook page to see what action they can take.
More than 50 objections have been submitted to the application and the friends group wants to more than double that number.
Mr Adams said: "We’re in active dialogue with Warwick District Council officers who are sympathetic to our concerns but who are having to play catch up in providing solutions to a plethora of local issues like parking and road safety.
“We want Birmingham 2022 and our council to take account of local interests and ensure that summer 2022 is remembered for both a great Commonwealth Games bowls event and a hugely enjoyable summer in Leamington’s premier recreational park.”
Ian Reid, Chief Executive of Birmingham 2022, said:
“Victoria Park will not be closed to Royal Leamington Spa residents or the town’s visitors at any time during the summer of 2022, in fact we are very keen to ensure that access to the park is maintained for anyone who wishes to use it.
“How the park is accessed may change for a limited period of time, and there will of course be restrictions in and around the specific area where the bowling greens are located, but we’ll continue to work hard to ensure that any changes are minimised and well communicated.
“Thanks to the support of Warwick District Council, we have been meeting with stakeholders, including representatives from the Friends of Victoria Park, for the last 18 months and we have taken on board their valuable feedback. As a result of engagement conversations, we changed our initial thinking to ensure that even more areas of the park can continue to be available to local people throughout next summer.
“We have been in further liaison with stakeholders regarding the planning application and will continue to engage with local residents and businesses in the run up to Birmingham 2022. We will of course provide detailed timings and more information closer to the Games, which right now is still more than 12 months away.
“Preparing for a major multi-sport event like the Commonwealth Games, which will see more than one million spectators attending events across the region, bringing a huge and timely boost for local tourism and businesses, is very complex. As you would expect, it takes time to put in place the necessary infrastructure to accommodate everyone attending the event safely and to ensure that this fantastic venue is showcased in the best possible way, so we’ll continue to work with our partners and suppliers to achieve those aims but we’ll do so in a way which minimises impact on residents and park users as far as possible, whilst still delivering the Games and facilities required of an event of this profile and size.
“Because Victoria Park is hosting the lawn bowls and Para lawn bowls competition for the Games, Warwick District Council has been able to acquire funding opportunities to upgrade facilities in Victoria Park and make public realm enhancements, which is great news for everyone that uses this park.”