The Shakespeare Line Promotion Group (SLPG) is urging the district council to commission a study into the economic benefits of re-opening the Honeybourne Railway Line, following concerns from the county council about potential traffic from the Long Marston Garden Village site.
Earlier this year Warwickshire County Council along with Gloucestershire and Worcestershire County Councils said that they could not further assess the planning application for the garden village without more information about the impact on the local highways network.
With the cost of the South Western Relief Road (SWRR), which has been proposed to mitigate traffic from the site, spiralling from an initial £40million to around £130million, SLPG argue that a study should now be commissioned to examine how re-opening the line could benefit the area.
After considering a report into the costs of re-opening the line earlier this year, Stratford District Council decided not to examine the idea any further, having been put off by the £110million price tag.
SLPG, argue however that more examination is needed as the council failed to take into account any of the economic benefits re-opening the line could bring.
The group has not requested that the line be re-opened, but wants the council to ask the developer to fund further assessment of the project with an economic impact study.
Speaking to the Herald, the Secretary of SLPG Fraser Pithie said.” As Local Planning Authority, we believe SDC is on the cusp of dereliction in its duty. It’s sad, and we are disappointed that SDC is letting down local people and their communities as well as local businesses and the local economy.
“We have spent time at several meetings but received no real engagement, and our correspondence is ignored, it’s disgraceful. There’s little to no appreciation of the role that the railway and train service plays in Stratford’s economy, let alone its potential to support the town even more or help to deliver sustainable transport. Frankly, we are exasperated with Stratford on Avon District Council.
“SLPG’s Committee feels the matter has now reached a breaking point with the District Council prepared to continue to consider a SWRR at the cost of £130m with no benefits case.
“How can it be right that the District Council refuse to use their powers as the Local Planning Authority to require an Economic Impact Study into re-opening the railway line between Stratford upon Avon and Honeybourne when three County Councils have told SDC that the Long Marston Garden Village housing scheme, which is linked to the SWRR, does not have a sustainable transport strategy.
“Its a case of double standards, SDC dismissed a rail scheme at a lower cost when they could easily get the level of benefits through an EIS, yet they continue to pursue a more expensive £130m scheme for a SWRR with no benefits case, you couldn’t make it up!”
A spokesperson for Stratford District Council said: “The Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire County Councils, as transport authorities, are continuing to liaise with and advise the applicants on the provision of public transport to serve the new Garden Village settlement at Long Marston Airfield.
“At this point in time, the preferred form of public transport provision has not been specified by the local authorities. It is important to bear in mind that reopening the railway is not an alternative to a relief road, as it would not provide for the range of journeys that the new settlement would create.
“The cost and delivery of public transport has to be appropriate to the scale of development at the new settlement. It would not be appropriate or reasonable to seek a level of contribution that would make the development unviable.
“The District Council has not dismissed the prospect of the railway line being reopened at some point in the future, but this will be dependent on the North Cotswold Line being upgraded and the rail industry identifying it as having a strategic as well as a local purpose.”