A huge £2.3million project to revitalise derelict land on Stratford’s riverside is being developed by Stratford District Council as a way of helping the town recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month the council submitted a funding bid, believed to be for around £2million, to the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Project, to create a riverside green corridor.
Such a corridor would over a large section of currently derelict land, behind Stratford’s Fisherman’s Car Park on Warwick Road, right the way along to an area to the rear of the leisure centre.
According to the bid, the scheme aims to ‘revitalise our river frontage, creating a new high quality public realm, opening up new routes into the town, reducing congestion, improving air quality and setting the town up to play a key part in the economic regeneration of the region in the post COVID-19 world.’
The finer details of the project have yet to be revealed, though council leader Cllr Tony Jefferson says that cycle paths, footpaths and additional boating links to the river would likely form part of the plans.
While much of the funding would come from the CWLEP if the bid is successful, the district council would contribute around £300,000 through developer Section 106 funding.
Cllr Tony Jefferson, leader of Stratford District Council, said: “The reality is we had only 48 hours notice to submit a bid for this funding from the CWLEP and I think our officers did a fantastic job in putting this together. This has all been done at extreme speed.
“At the moment people want to visit large open spaces, not enclosed places, we need to plan for what people want right now. If we are successful in the bid we would want to progress this scheme as fast as possible and in an ideal world I would like to see this benefit the town for at least a chunk of next year’s tourist season. It’s a huge area of land, altogether it is bigger than the current Rec.
“We’ve been working with the Town Trust on this who are right behind this, it’s a hugely ambitious scheme, but I think it demonstrates our commitment to do everything we can to help the town recover and prosper.
“A network of cycle paths, footpaths and boat links could be part of this, I don’t see any reason why people couldn’t get onto a boat at the Fisherman’s car park and take it all the way into town.
“We would be looking to expand that car park too.
“We know that Stratford will take a long time to recover from this pandemic, it will be a long term hit, but a project like this would add to our local attractions.”
Cllr Jefferson also revealed that the council was also potentially looking to expand the Rec ground up to Severn Meadows Road, though this would require the purchase of an area of private land, known as the Onion Field.
He added that he anticipated a decision on the funding bids would be made sooner rather than later.
The opposition Liberal Democrat Group have welcomed the idea of improving the riverside area, but say had the ruling conservative group listened to their suggestion to commission a report into future uses of the land, raised in 2018 and 2019, the authority would have been in a better position to submit a ‘shovel-ready’ scheme to the CWLEP.
Liberal Democrat councillor Kate Rolfe said: “The invitation to bid for schemes requires that they take place within the next 18 months – clearly part of the government’s efforts to kick-start the economy.
“The Leader’s decision said that a proposal has been drawn up in response to the letter received on the 11th, ‘working at pace and in consultation with partners’. It wouldn’t have had to be at pace had they thought about this before, when we suggested it.”
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Susan Juned added: “Whilst we welcome this, ‘it’s a great shame that
our previous suggestions for looking at such a scheme were voted down by the Conservatives.”
Back in 2018 the Herald revealed that Stratford Cycling Club were in very early discussions with Stratford District Council about potentially building a closed road cycle track within this area of land.
It is not known whether such a project would form part of the council’s vision for the area.
In addition to the funding bid for the riverside corridor, the council has also submitted a funding bid to the CWLEP for Phase 2 of the Henley Street regeneration project.
If successful this money would fund public realm enhancements up the junction with Windsor Street.