Plans to build a brand-new leisure centre at the current Castle Farm Recreation Centre site in Kenilworth have been given the green light despite concerns from nearby residents.
Following approval by Warwick District Council’s planning committee yesterday evening (Wednesday September 15), work is set to start next year to replace the existing recreation centre with a multi-million-pound dry sports facility featuring a sports hall, 80 station gym and fitness studios as well as a new headquarters for scouts and guides in the town.
But residents had raised concerns over parking, traffic, the loss of Green Belt and the removal of public access to green open recreational space.
However, Warwick District Council’s portfolio holder for culture, tourism and leisure, Cllr Liam Bartlett, said: “This really is great news for the people of Kenilworth and the whole district, and we are delighted that we can now move forward with our plans to make this substantial investment which will bring some of the best leisure facilities in the country to the town.”
Gareth Wagg, the contract manager for Everyone Active which manages leisure centres on behalf of the district council, added: “We are really excited that Castle Farm Recreation Centre will be transformed into a state-of-the-art leisure centre.
"The new facilities will enable us to introduce a wider variety of fitness classes and training programmes, mirroring those already on offer at St Nicholas Park and Newbold Comyn, which are extremely popular.
"We would like to assure all our customers and members that they will be able to use the other Everyone Active managed centres across the region, during the period when the Kenilworth facilities are closed.”
Before the planning meeting, The Castle Farm Kenilworth Neighbour Group had said: "Despite the admission that, 'The proposed development represents inappropriate development in the Green Belt, which should be offered significant weight' Warwick District Council (WDC) presses on.
"There are hundreds of comments on the planning portal along with Kenilworth Town Council's objections logged.
"A working party that represent many of the local residents have girded their loins for the fight and submitted detailed technical objections.
"Residents have been trying hard to get WDC to listen to concerns for several years.
"Meetings and consultations have been held and still residents are convinced that the plans are flawed and particularly the traffic access and parking studies are based on incorrect information.
"There are also concerns that increasing the footprint of the current leisure centre to three times its current size along with providing only 40 per cent of the parking required (as defined by WDC'S Parking Standards SPD 2018) to serve a facility of its proposed larger size.
"This will mean the loss of Green Belt and the removal of public access to green open recreational space.
The group also has concerns that the move and expansion of Kenilworth Wardens Cricket Club to a field neighbouring the leisure centre will cause further traffic issues.
It has said: "Residents feel that because both of these are large scale developments, and will be sharing the same roads and access, adding considerably to increased traffic, they should be jointly considered.
"Promises were made that leisure centre 'improvement' plans and Wardens plans would be jointly considered due to the relevance of the impact of the facility development on the neighbouring area.
"Despite talk of mitigation there is still no other access proposed than through a 1960s residential estate with narrow roads some only 4.5 metres wide, that already have schools and nurseries in place with children playing, skating and cycling.
"Fears for highway safety are paramount among residents.
"There is no public transport and cycle access is poor to this site.
"Considering the high volume of car use in Warwickshire and the current use to access the leisure centre, the provision seems wholly inadequate for the size of the development plans.
“The majority of people understood the need to revamp the sports facilities.
"“However, there are still major concerns about the extent of development and the impact this will have, particularly retaining access to current public land and sufficient parking on site to minimise the impact on neighbouring roads.
“The location of access roads is the key concern."