Kenilworth councillors express 'huge disappointment' with plan not to reopen leisure facilities in town until proposed building works are completed

Castle Farm Recreation Centre in Kenilworth.Castle Farm Recreation Centre in Kenilworth.
Castle Farm Recreation Centre in Kenilworth.
Kenilworth town councillors have expressed huge disappointment with Warwick District Council’s plan not to reopen the leisure facilities in Abbey Fields and at Castle Farm until proposed building works have been completed at the two sites.

The District Council’s plan will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s executive on Thursday February 11 .

The planning applications for both of the sites have yet to be fully submitted for consideration by the Town Council and District Council planning committees.

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The proposals for both the swimming pools and the leisure centre are expected to attract considerable interest from residents with concerns about the loss of the outdoor pool at Abbey Fields and parking and traffic concerns.

Abbey Fields Leisure Centre in Kenilworth.Abbey Fields Leisure Centre in Kenilworth.
Abbey Fields Leisure Centre in Kenilworth.

Town councillors were told about the plan not to re-open either the swimming pool or the leisure centre on Monday (February 1).

Responding to the district council executive’s plans, Cllr John Dearing and Cllr Kate Dickson – leaders of the town council’s Green and Liberal Democrat groups respectively and representing 15 out of 17 members of the authority – said: “both the indoor and outdoor Abbey Fields swimming pools and the Castle Farm Recreation Centre are public facilities which are very popular amongst both Kenilworth residents and visitors to the town.”

“The planning applications have not yet even been fully submitted, let alone validated or presented to committees for consideration, so there is absolutely no certainty that it will be possible to start demolition work in September 2021 as the District Council proposes.

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"The pools and the leisure centre are vital to the physical and mental wellbeing of local residents and are also important in attracting tourists to the town. In recent months people have been prevented by the government’s COVID restrictions from using these facilities.

"When, hopefully, these constraints are lifted later this year, residents will still continue – as a result of the district council’s plans – to be unable to do so.

"Instead, residents will be expected to travel by road to leisure venues in either Warwick or Leamington; they can’t use the train because the Kenilworth train service is currently suspended.

"We’re also concerned about the extra burden that will be placed on all the community groups that use Castle Farm leisure centre during the prolonged closure.

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"This includes local scouts and guides groups, as well as the many users of the petanque area.

"We appreciate that, if planning permission is eventually granted, the sites will have to close during the building work.

"However, a more user-focused closure timetable would be a much better way of doing things, for example by closing each site one month before the confirmed start date of demolition."

In response, a district council spokeswoman said: "Warwick District Council, in consultation with Everyone Active, recommends that Abbey Fields Swimming Pool and Castle Farm Recreation Centre will remain closed after the current lockdown restrictions are lifted, which is not expected before Easter.

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"This recommendation is based on the cost to the taxpayer of reopening, for a very limited period, before demolition of the buildings scheduled to begin as early as September this year.

"Everyone Active will be doing all they can to accommodate as many of their customers as possible at the leisure centres in St Nicholas Park, Warwick and Newbold Comyn, Leamington Spa.

"The Council will work with partner organisations, including Kenilworth School and Meadow Community Sports Centre in Kenilworth, to offer a variety of activities for families and youngsters during the period of closure until the new facilities are open.

"The Scouts and Guides currently based at Castle Farm may return to the building when Government restrictions are lifted, but the Council is working with them to find suitable locations for their meetings during the demolition and reconstruction phases, before they move into their new home in the new building."

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