Stratford District Council has refused to say whether it will make improvements to the town’s neglected Windsor Street Car Park after agreeing to keep hold of the facility until December 2024.
The state of the car park has long been highlighted by residents, arguing that the shabby facility gives a bad first impression to those visiting the town.
The lift in the car park has been out of action for many years while there have previously been complaints that poorly maintained lighting makes it an uncomfortable place to be during the darker winter months.
The issue is that the site has been tied up in the Stratford Gateway Project, a plan to redevelop a large area of land between Windsor Street and Arden Street, in which the car park sits.
The Gateway project has seen the district council reluctant to make improvements to the car park, as that area may be redeveloped at some time in the future.
However the Gateway has suffered from a series of setbacks, most recently earlier this year when Orbit Housing confirmed they had withdrawn their involvement in the scheme.
With the Gateway Project apparently not going anywhere fast, the district council has agreed to extend the current land option agreement on the car park until December 2024, though this could even extend to 2027 in some circumstances.
Cllr Tony Jefferson, leader of Stratford District Council, declined to be drawn on whether this would mean money may now be spent improving the car park.
He said: “The Leader’s Decision on the Gateway is essentially a holding operation. Obviously the COVID-19 crisis has meant that a number of initiatives have had to be deferred. We also recognise that the economic situation has changed significantly. As of now we are still unclear about the situation the economy will be in by the end of this year. We are also in the process of lobbying government regarding the District Council’s financial position.
“Until some of these issues are clarified then the action we have taken seems the most appropriate.”
Cllr Susan Juned, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group at Stratford District Council, said: “The Lib Dems have repeatedly pressed the Conservatives about lack of progress on this scheme (the Gateway).
“The Windsor Street car park has steadily deteriorated since the council first agreed on an option to sell the site in December 2013. The car park is used by pensioners with concessionary parking in the winter, but the lift hasn’t worked for years. This is the closest car park to the Shakespeare birthplace. It’s used by tourists and visitors but the state of the site lets the town down badly.
“Six and a half years after this started and there’s no apparent progress. We need to see that all options are being pursued and we’ll continue to challenge and make sure that this is being regularly reviewed.”
Another interesting detail to emerge from the report is that Stratford District Council is considering moving its headquarters to within the Gateway site.
Last year the Herald revealed that the council was exploring long-term options to relocate from Elizabeth House and the argument for moving to the Gateway site is that it would help connect the forthcoming development of the Canal Quarter with Stratford’s historic centre.
Cllr Juned added: “New council office schemes have been suggested before but have always fallen through. I think there are a number of tests any proposal should pass before any scheme is given the go-ahead. The offices would need to be modern and more efficient than the current Elizabeth House and I would hope there would be cost savings for council taxpayers – not higher taxes. They must be accessible for residents and meet modern green and design standards. It’s important too that Elizabeth house is put to an acceptable use. It’s an elegant building that should be preserved.”