Abbey Fields – Chairman’s Letter November 2019

Threats to Abbey Fields: Please Make Your Voice Heard

“Abbey Fields is like no other park. Its future is being decided now and it’s essential that you get involved.”

“Tell the Council how YOU use Abbey Fields and help shape its future!”

“Can we afford to get it wrong? Make sure Warwick District Council get plans for Abbey Fields right. Stress on the public purse means they may not make the right long-term decisions.”

Letter from your Chairman

Wednesday 6 November 2019

Dear Members,

You may have seen that Warwick District Council is currently consulting residents on major initiatives which will have a direct impact on Abbey Fields. The “For Our Future” public consultation is taking place from 4 November until 9 December. 

You may also be aware that our existing house building programme for the next 5-10 years will increase our town’s population by c.5,000 with the addition of at least as many cars and resultant impact on congestion and air pollution. This is combined with the uncompromising attack on green spaces evidenced by HS2.

Abbey Fields is unique.

  • It is the environmental Jewel in Kenilworth’s crown hosting a wide variety of trees, flora, fauna, insect life and wildlife and to evidence this has recently been designated a Warwickshire Local Wildlife Site.
  • Abbey Fields is the #1 attraction for “Things To Do In Kenilworth”, according to TripAdvisor.
  • Abbey Fields hosts the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey founded in 1119.
  • Abbey Fields enjoys Scheduled Monument Status.
  • Abbey Fields is overlooked by the historic Kenilworth Castle.
  • Abbey Fields is protected by Historic England.

We have been liaising with Warwick District Council, Warwickshire County Council and Kenilworth Town Council to understand the plans in depth, in order to clarify to you, our members, and to the wider public, how our Abbey Fields could be negatively impacted.

Your Committee is about to launch an awareness campaign to highlight threats clearly to all residents, to encourage everyone to make their voice heard, before irreparable damage is made to our wonderful Abbey Fields.

How do we protect Abbey Fields?

Please read the detailed information below, and reply to the For Our Future consultation as soon as possible, make your views heard, write to your Councillors and attend the drop in sessions.

Your Committee is also working hard to understand how the current Cycle Strategy for Kenilworth and Warwick District Council’s 10 Year Strategy for Abbey Fields could impact Abbey Fields.

Although in this era of Climate Emergency (which was declared this year by our Councils) we welcome more inclusive, green methods of active travel in Kenilworth generally, we believe that a cycle track splitting Abbey Fields in two could be  proposed along the very natural Finham Brook wildlife corridor adding further permanent pathways and sacrificing more green space. Currently, cycling is not permitted anywhere in Abbey Fields. We believe that serious consideration should be given to an alternative cycle path on the perimeter of Abbey Fields along Forrest Road, Abbey Hill and round to Bridge St together with a lowering of the speed limit to 20mph for car users on the roads around Abbey Fields. A cycle path around the whole perimeter of Abbey Fields should also be considered!

Please let us know what you think and we will continue to update you when we have more information.

Important points about the refurbishment of the Swimming Pool:

Overall, the new development of Abbey Fields Swimming Pool is viewed as a way to rectify the existing building which is largely seen as ugly and unsympathetic to the surroundings. As you would expect following the success of the Pool developments at Warwick and Newbold Common, Warwick District Council (WDC) is seeking to construct another contemporary design which we believe, whilst carbon neutral in its operations, does not take into account the special and unique environmental surroundings in which the building sits in Abbey Fields.

Our concerns are the external materials planned and the lack of sympathy to the pool’s important environmental surroundings and wildlife. The amount of glass planned is predicted to add to the light pollution and have a significant impact on the immediate local wildlife and further afield. The Pool will have an open glass fronted terrace that will allow light to spill out across the lake at night and during the Winter months.  A further glass terrace will be built adjacent to Finham Brook taking no account, once again of the wildlife corridor that has been undisturbed for 30 years. What impact will this have on the bird life, insects and bats that inhabit this area?

In the absence of factual information about what wildlife actually inhabits Abbey Fields, we will be reliant on WDC’s own Ecology report which should be available very soon. This will hopefully identify specific wildlife issues that need to be considered further.

In summary, the view of the Committee is that the building should:

  1. Seek to minimise light & noise pollution and the subsequent impact on the local wildlife;
  2. Use subtle, sympathetic materials in keeping with the surrounding environment EG: National Trust cladding v Bricks, Green v Tiled roof;
  3. Minimise the impact on the special wildlife corridor that is Finham Brook by re-siting the proposed location of the café from Finham Brook to its current and preferred location overlooking the children’s Play Area;
  4. And most importantly develop an access plan for the increased footfall planned that does not compromise on increasing the space allotted to car parking.

Some thoughts for your consideration:

“Warwick District Council is considering borrowing between £13 million and £14 million to fund Abbey Fields and Castle Farm centre developments.
Please tell them what you think and make sure they don’t make a costly and permanent mistake that’ll affect future generations.”

“We have a chance to build a stunning and environmentally sympathetic swimming pool in Abbey Fields. WDC want to use bricks to cut costs, tell them you want a building that will stand the test of time and be sympathetic to the amazing natural surroundings of Abbey Fields.”

“Abbey Fields is a great place for the people to relax and enjoy a unique natural environment in the heart of Kenilworth. Tell Warwick District Council that you don’t want more cars, more parking and traffic in or near this green space.”

 “The new café in Abbey Fields is in the wrong place. The wildlife corridor along Finham Brook will be destroyed! Also, It will mean parents will not be able to keep an eye on their children at play. Tell Warwick District Council you want the café to be for park users too (as is now)!”

“The open glass sundeck will allow the spillage of light right across Abbey Fields lake at night and during the Winter Months. Do swimmers really need a view that will destroy the peace and serenity that exists across the lake today? Tell Warwick District Council you would prefer a discreet viewing gallery across the lake!”

Thank you for your time reading this letter. Please make your voice heard, and if you feel you can help us, don’t hesitate to contact us.