Leamington’s Victoria Park is the ‘best option’ for bowls parking, say council officials

Members of the Friends of Victoria Park with Leamington councillor Bill Gifford before they handed in their petition last year.
Members of the Friends of Victoria Park with Leamington councillor Bill Gifford before they handed in their petition last year.

Senior councillors are being encouraged to opt to use Victoria Park in Leamington as a car park during national bowls championships - despite widespread opposition to preserve the park for public use.

Warwick District Council’s executive committee will on Wednesday (February 12) make a decision on where to site a car park for those involved in the championships for 28 days every summer from this year.

The council has made an agreement with Bowls England - as part of negotiations to bring the mens championships to Leamington - to provide 350 onsite car parking spaces for the duration of the competition.

But the move has angered people who live nearby, who formed the Friends of Victoria Park campaign group last year and handed in a 1,500-signature petition to the council against the plan. They have been successful in persuading the council prevent players from parking their caravans in the park.

In a report inviting councillors on the executive committee to approve a decision to use Victoria Park - as opposed to other options of Covent Garden car park in the town centre and at Warwickshire College in Warwick New Road - the council’s head of culture Rose Winship said: “There is no option that would satisfy both Bowls England and the Friends group. But the recommended option would take up about 55 per cent of the area used for parking in recent years. Cars would be parked in a much more orderly way.”

Ms Winship also said that using the park would be the most cost-effective option for the council - although the council’s own estimations suggest it would spend £22,498 on providing parking at Victoria Park, compared to £21,800 at Covent Garden. Ms Winship reasoned that, should the parking be sited some distance away from the bowling green, the players would choose to park somewhere closer and the estimated profits made from parking charges would not be made.

David Adams of the Friends group said: “Covent Garden seems to us to be ideal because it will mean the players will be parking in the centre of town, so they would use the Leamington businesses and restaurants.”

Mr Adams has obtained council documents that show the championships have been estimated to cost the council £540,000. But a council spokeswoman said the costs include paying for ongoing repairs and maintenance that would have been carried out anyway.

Cllr Stephen Cross, responsible for policy on culture, said: “The officers’ report presents a fair and impartial analysis of the three sites. Their recommendation provides a balance between fulfilling the offer made to Bowls England in 2012 and recognising the concerns raised by the Friends. The executive committee recognises the wider economic benefit of the extended national championships and is committed to bringing those benefits to fruition in the coming years.”