New Abbey Fields cycle route proposals, 2022.
The three Councils involved, Kenilworth Town Council, Warwick District Council, and Warwick County Council, have been slow to make any progress on providing a cycle-path through the Abbey Fields, despite it receiving overwhelming support from the public, Kenilworth Town Survey Analysis, in June 2013, and the expense (incurred by WCC) of involving Sustrans who produced their thorough report, Abbey Fields Cycle Path Feasibility Study, in 2016. Public support was again shown in the 2019 WDC Consultation about the future of the Abbey Fields, Abbey Fields for our Future, question 11, with 80.1 per cent in favour.
With much of Kenilworth’s ‘Old Guard’ being replaced at the Local Elections in May 2019, new impetus was gained with the formation of the Town Council’s Cycling Strategy Group, led by Andrew Milton.
The Kenilworth Town Council Cycling Strategy document of December 2019 (when it was adopted by the Council) states:
‘3.1.1 Route 1 – Abbey Fields connection of Sustrans Route 52. The desire to create a cycle route through Abbey Fields enjoys considerable support locally. With the planned Leisure Developments at Abbey Fields and Castle Farm the idea has added importance as part of a potential green travel plan to service the new facilities. Whilst the issue has proved contentious with some people, removing restrictions on cycle access to this area of the town is seen as vital to facilitate East-West travel and form better connectivity. By adopting this strategy, the Town Council is taking a clear position that it supports the provision of safe cycling routes within Abbey Fields which respect the particular environment and history of the area.’
‘Write to the District Council outlining its support for safe cycling in Abbey Fields and ask WDC to come forward with a plan that includes cycling in this area.’
Warwick District Council responded by investigating a route themselves, with no apparent reference to the remit WDC were involved in giving them; it appears that the most discussed issue of the whole debate, minimising interaction between cyclists and pedestrians, is now being ignored as WDC seem to be looking at a cycle path entirely sharing existing (modified where necessary) paths.
Kenilworth Town Council Cycling Delivery Group Report – 24th February 2022:
“Following the members briefing from WDC on the Abbey Fields Cycleway the proposed paper to the WDC cabinet was withdrawn. Councillors subsequently met with Graham Folkes-Skinner from WDC on site to review the route and understand constraints and options. WDC are continuing to work WCC and are engaging with Historic England to engage them in the conversation and create a more suitable proposal.”
(Note: Graham Folkes-Skinner is the Sustainable Travel Project Officer at Warwick District Council)
Details of the proposals began to emerge in early April:
The Kenilworth Town Council Cycling Group reported on 7th April 2022:
“Abbey Fields Cycle Route
We have now had two site visits with WDC, the second one being with WCC. WDC’s preferred route
still appears to be to use as much existing infrastructure as possible. Further widening and safety
measures are being investigated around the swimming pool area. WDC are also seeking to engage
with Historic England to understand their views about the potential route.”
Subsequently, the views of one Councillor were reported by Kenilworth NubNews on 12th April 2022:
“A Kenilworth councillor has said he is gravely concerned about the district council’s attitude towards cycle paths in Abbey Fields. Kenilworth Town Council members have now had two visits to the park with Warwick District Council and Warwickshire Council Council. And despite KTC members saying a separate cycle path should be made, it appears that the district council wants to widen the current footpaths for cycling and pedestrians.
“I am very concerned in relation to the Abbey Fields cycle route because I see that WDC prefer to use as much of the existing infrastructure as possible,” said Cllr Michael Coker at last week’s KTC meeting.
“This has been a matter of great concern over many years in the town. I have no objection, and I would be happy to support, a route across the Abbey Fields. But I am concerned that the officer concerned at WDC said that he was in favour of using existing pedestrian routes.”
And Cllr Coker warned the council, which has recently been given the all clear to turn Clarke’s Avenue footbridge into a cycle path, would face a backlash from residents if a joint cycle-pedestrian route was built.
“The cycling group made it very clear that this was not acceptable and that we were very concerned. I think there is a very grave danger, if we do not make it very plain that it has to be separate and that cyclists and pedestrians are kept separate, that we will find then that the opposition which is not present yet, will start to move with great ferocity. I am really concerned and I think we should push back on this.”
WDC is currently working on the Abbey Fields Management Plan having consulted with the town council.
However, the plan is yet to be made public.”
Is this (below) the Warwick District Council plan (red for the route, blue for the cycle-park) that they are working on? It fits the few details we know taken from the Town Council minutes and Councillor’s statements – it uses the ‘existing pedestrian routes’. Also of course, the route around the swimming pool can be incorporated in the WDC pool-rebuild plans.
So at the moment, we are all waiting for the Abbey Fields Management Plan (which is two and a half years late) and for WDC to make any official statement about their Cycle Path proposals. Hopefully, Historic England’s views on the subject will also be made public.
Added on 22nd February 2023:
The Agenda for the Town Council meeting on 23rd February 2023 includes Enclosure 6 – Cycling Delivery Group , which states:
Abbey Fields cycle route:
A paper is due to go to Warwick District Council’s Cabinet on March 8th regarding a proposed route through Abbey Fields and the consultation process.
An except from the Warwick District Council Forward Plan, March 2023:
Abbey Fields Cycle Route Proposals (Ref 1,344)
To look into the different options for a cycle path through or around Abbey Fields Park in Kenilworth and to recommend an option for further consultation.
The documents relating to the cabinet meeting on March 8th were posted online on 27th February: they can be seen here….. 2023 Cycling Documents
In these articles I take a look at other proposed schemes and the involvement of some ‘Stakeholders’: