Abbey Fields outdoor pool set to disappear after council plans revealed

Abbey Fields' historic outdoor pool is set to disappear under new proposals for Kenilworth's leisure centres despite a prominent campaign to keep and restore it.

Friday, 21st December 2018, 12:01 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 10:32 am
The outdoor pool at Abbey Fields is set to go under new plans revealed today (Friday)

Warwick District Council aims to improve the facilities in the Fields and Castle Farm as part of ‘Phase 2’ of its changes to district leisure centres.

But as part of those plans which were revealed today (Friday), Abbey Fields’ outdoor pool, which has existed in some form since 1896, would be replaced with an indoor ‘training’ pool designed for swimming lessons.

The new pool would have a outdoor terrace area where swimmers could relax in warm weather.

But campaign group ‘Restore Kenilworth Lido’ had hoped the outdoor pool could be converted into a 25-metre lido which they say would attract many more people.

In a previous interview, group leader Jane Green said: “If it goes, Kenilworth would be a lot poorer and it would lose a wonderful historical asset that has been loved for many generations.”

Rose Winship, head of cultural services at Warwick District Council, said the group’s ideas were considered in a public consultation on the plans in November.

But she said around a third of respondents wanted to keep the outdoor pool as it is, another third preferred the indoor pool, and the final third had no preference.

She also said groups such as Swim England also preferred an indoor pool.

And Padraig Herlihy, programme manager at Warwick District Council, said only around a quarter of respondents expressed a separate preference for a new lido.

Restore Kenilworth Lido had argued the council was not being ambitious, and claimed higher footfall as well as potential grants from Sport England and HS2 could make a new lido viable.

But Mr Herhily said a feasibility study conducted by consultants SLC found an indoor pool could reduce operating costs by £62,000 a year, whereas Restore Kenilworth Lido’s idea would save £14,000 a year.

The plans at Abbey Fields would also include an upgrade of the changing rooms, reception and cafe, as well as a refurbishment of the pavilion by the play area. The tennis courts would also be resurfaced.

And Castle Farm’s building would be replaced with a six-court sports hall, an 80-station gym and dance studios.

The council is also aiming to give the Scout groups who use Castle Farm a new home. It would not be part of the new building.

The plans could cost between £19 million and £24 million, but the council aims to reduce this through grants and contributions from housing developers.

Culture portfolio holder Cllr Michael Coker said: “We believe our innovative plans will offer Kenilworth some of the best facilities in the country and at the same time respect the views of local people.”

The council’s executive will decide whether to take the plans forward on Wednesday January 9.