Campaign group calls for 'urgent review' into Abbey Fields leisure project

By James Smith

26th Jul 2023 | Local News

Work at Abbey Fields is currently halted as Warwick District Council draws up new designs for the leisure centre (image via WDC)
Work at Abbey Fields is currently halted as Warwick District Council draws up new designs for the leisure centre (image via WDC)

Local campaigners have called for an urgent review into the new swimming pools in Abbey Fields.

Members of the Kenilworth Lido Campaign group have called for answers on the project, as work to build Kenilworth's two new swimming pools continues to be delayed.

The group - which has long since opposed the demolition of the town's lido - is calling for Warwick District Council (WDC) to complete an "open and genuine" review into the scheme before progressing.

The leisure project has been described as "problematic, archaeologically damaging and significantly over-budget," with campaigners asking why money is still being poured into a "largely unworkable plan".

"We believe WDC should take a full and transparent review of this development and reconsider the plan to construct a large brick building housing two indoor pools in this beautiful setting and instead replace the historic and much-loved outdoor pool in Abbey Fields with a new, 21st-century Lido," a group spokesperson said.

"A provision for public outdoor swimming must be provided for residents of Warwick district and this is an opportunity to reinstate the only safe public outdoor swimming facility in the district.

"We can no longer ignore the facts: this is surely the time to draw a line and look at whether continuing to put money into the current outdated project is the best option for the residents of Kenilworth and Warwick district.

"We need the new plan to be cheaper, greener, more exciting and more visually appealing.

"A unique attraction that will offer health and well-being benefits across the district, bring people to the town and complement the beautiful setting in Abbey Fields."

A statement from the local authority earlier this month said work on the new designs for the leisure centre continues, as the council needs to incorporate the recent archaeological discoveries.

Meanwhile a report presented to WDC's cabinet at the start of July showed an extra £279,000 had to be paid to AR Demolition - the firm behind the demolition - in March for the works.

A separate report also included a warning that while the increased costs would be taken from the budget for the project, "there will come a point towards the end of the project, when there will not be sufficient budget to complete the development".

The council has already had to splash out an extra £8.3 million across the Castle Farm and Abbey Fields leisure projects due to rising costs.

Fresh plans for the leisure centre are expected to be brought to councillors as soon as the "best solution and new timescales" for the construction work have been agreed.

Portfolio holder for place, Cllr Chris King said earlier this month: "Throughout this project we've been mindful of the historic significance of Abbey Fields and the need to carefully balance the future needs of our local community, whilst ensuring that the integrity of the scheduled monument is retained.

"Our position on this hasn't changed and in the coming weeks we will work with our contractual partners and Historic England to reach the best possible outcome."

Meanwhile the Kenilworth Lido Campaign group added: "A Lido would cost less financially and environmentally, than building and running two indoor pools.

"The cost of materials is less and construction costs are lower. No building to heat, light and maintain brings down ongoing bills as well as reduces the carbon footprint. The challenges of managing humidity are also removed.

"Developing technology offers improved carbon and energy efficiency and we must increase and improve understanding of alternative and developing technologies."

     

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