Kenilworth outdoor pool closure defended by town councillors at packed meeting

Abbey Fields' outdoor pool is set to close
Abbey Fields' outdoor pool is set to close

Several town councillors defended the controversial decision to close Kenilworth's outdoor pool at a packed meeting last night (Thursday).

The decision to close the outdoor pool in Abbey Fields and replace it with an indoor training pool was made by Warwick District Council's executive on Wednesday January 9, despite calls to delay the decision.

It was part of a decision to improve leisure centres in Kenilworth, which included enhancing Castle Farm.

Campaigners from 'Restore Kenilworth Lido' had tried to persuade the district council to replace the pool with a 25m outdoor lido, which they said would bring more tourists into the town.

The campaigners also claimed a consultation in November had not considered their plans properly, and had called on the district council to delay their decision on the pool.

And at a town council meeting on Thursday January 17, which many campaigners attended, Cllr Kate Dickson (Lib Dem, Abbey) put forward a motion asking the town council to call on the district council to hold another consultation on the plans.

However, her motion was rejected, with only Cllr Richard Dickson (Lib Dem, St John's) supporting it.

Introducing the motion, Cllr Kate Dickson said a new lido could bring 'historical, health and tourism' benefits to Kenilworth, and could be a unique selling point for the town in Warwick district. She also said the consultation could have been improved.

And Cllr Richard Dickson added: "If you have any doubt whatsoever [about the executive's decision] you must support this motion. I don't understand why we are wanting to sell ourselves short."

But Cllr Pat Cain (Con, St John's) said: "We've heard a lot said about the benefits of swimming. I'm a swimmer. I've had an email this week telling me I don't understand swimming - I swim three times a week.

"I know the benefits of swimming. They're very similar whether you swim outdoors or indoors.

"In my view, after looking at this very carefully, the consultation was conducted in a right and proper way."

Town mayor Mike Hitchins (Con, Park Hill) claimed several town councillors had received aggressive emails from certain residents about the issue.

He said: "I'm absolutely appalled - and I mean really appalled - at the disgusting, threatening, harassing emails that have been sent to members of this council. It's really, really wound me up."

Kenilworth Town Council leader Cllr John Cooke (Con, St John's) said the project to improve Abbey Fields and Castle Farm's leisure centres would cost around £20 million - more than the combined cost of improving Warwick and Leamington's centres.

He added: "We might well be pushing our luck to ask for more money to be spent [on a new lido]."

Cllr Michael Coker (Con, Abbey), also the portfolio holder for leisure at Warwick District Council, defended the consultation process and insisted the decision was the correct one.

Addressing attendees directly, he said: "This is local money, for local facilities, for local people.

"This is not something I've done lightly. It's in the very best interests for the town. If you don't agree, I'm sorry.

"If anything else is put forward, let me make it very clear that I will listen to that, as will we all, if there is a huge difference.

"Nothing we have been presented with [by campaigners] has held water. I'm sorry to say that. I'm not saying it to be offensive - it's just factual."

The motion was then defeated by two votes to seven. Cllr Mobbs and Coker abstained.