Car Parking in the Abbey Fields 

(Published in the Kenilworth Weekly News, November 2011)

 

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A post-war view of the area upon which car parking was later allowed. (Not included when the article was published)

 

            In a deviation from my regular local history articles, I have been given the opportunity to explain more fully the major points of my opposition to the construction of a new pay-and-display car park in the Bridge Street Corner of the Abbey fields. 

            Firstly, to give a better indication of the situation, it is wrong to refer to the area as “the Abbey Fields Car Park”; it is in fact “an area of the Abbey Fields on which cars are parked”.

             Central to my concerns is the oft-quoted Covenant that covers the entire area of the fields that are to be “forever used as public walks and pleasure grounds”. Quite clearly, the parking of cars falls outside of this, and so Warwick District Council have had to find a way round it. What they have decided is that the parking of cars “assists” the use of the fields’ amenities and thus does not break the Covenant.

             Clearly, “to assist” and “to use” are not the same and at best, this interpretation is flawed. However if for a minute we accept that Warwick District Council are on safe ground in allowing the area to “assist” visitors to enjoy the fields, then they have created for themselves a major problem; by their own reasoning, all other users have no right to park there. All shoppers, residents, business and other visitors, and even churchgoers must be banned. The Council however intend to encourage their own interpretation of the Covenant to be broken – and take money off us to boot. 

            I am sure it will be argued that “if” the Covenant has been broken then it was broken a long time ago and the new plans are just a continuation of old ones. Quite apart from the obvious comment “two wrongs do not make a right”, this raises my greatest fear. If an old decision is being used as a precedent for the new one, then the decision to build a car park can be used as a precedent elsewhere in the fields in the future; once the Covenant is broken and ignored then nowhere in the fields is safe. 

            We will be told that there are no plans for another car park, but then a few months ago there were no plans for this one. The Warwick District Council know that the car park they intend to build will hold far fewer cars than currently park there; so how long will it be before they decide to extend it onto another area of our parkland, and then another, and another……? 

            In the last decade or so, three schemes that can easily be argued fit the term “use as pleasure grounds” - namely the re-location of the play equipment, the provision of a skate park, and the continuation of the Connect2 cycle way across the fields to the castle - have all been rejected in part due to the potential disturbance of archaeological remains. The same criteria is not being applied in the Bridge Street corner; why? 

            Unlike the rest of the fields, it was not possible to discover any archaeological remains when the Kenilworth History Society carried out the resistively survey 5 or 6 years ago. This was due to the compacted stone that has been spread across the site. It is thus possible to say that less is known about this area of the fields than any other, the proposals will bury its secrets forever. 

            If the proposed car park is given a name more in keeping with the rest of the town’s car parks, say Bridge Street West or High Street South, it is easier to understand what is really happening here. It is nothing more, nothing less, than the WDC wishing to build a pay-and-display car park for the whole of northern Kenilworth on parkland that is specifically protected from such action. If the proposal were for an area of the fields, say, off Abbey Hill or Forrest Road, there would be an outcry. These proposals are no different; all the fields are protected by the same clauses, all the fields are vulnerable once those clauses are ignored. The entire future of the fields, our Abbey Fields, is at stake. 

            Finally, I continue to be astonished that it appears not one single Kenilworth Town Councillor has raised the slightest reservation about the proposals. 

              I sincerely hope somebody takes the opportunity to reply and prove that I have it all wrong.

 (Footnote:     Nobody took the challenge to dispute any of the above)