Astonishing plans to transform Stratford Recreation Ground and double its size came to light last week.
The Recreation Ground Landscape Masterplan was revealed in council documents ahead of last week’s Cabinet meeting, and details a huge swathe of changes and additions, designed to boost domestic tourism in Stratford.
While there are a number of alterations planned to the existing site, it is the intention to expand the park right up to Severn Meadows Road that is most striking.
It is in this new extended section that a series of new ponds are proposed, along with two new car parks, a community orchard, community garden and an events space/camping field.
Accesses to the new car parks would come via an entrance on Shipston Road, known as the ‘Dry Arch’ which may require widening, and from another access off Severn Meadows Road.
Much of this new section, currently in private ownership, would be wooded, with the Rec’s footpath network extended into this area.
Other improvements include redeveloping the mini golf course, a new activity area with sports equipment and musical instruments, expanding the range of outdoor gym equipment on offer, a cycle training area for youngsters and access entrances to the two new car parks to the south of the site.
A new splash pad would also be added adjacent to the existing swimming pool.
According to the document, the motivation for making the changes to the Rec include reducing congestion around the Swan’s Nest end of the site, providing more colour and seasonal interest and increase levels of biodiversity.
Cllr Tony Jefferson, leader of Stratford District Council, said: “This is an extremely exciting project and it is designed to make Stratford more attractive, especially for domestic tourists. This plan is indicative and there are details concerning the roads that may need further work and this is all part of a broader project to improve the riverside.”
However it remains to be seen whether those who have grown up enjoying the Rec as it is today will be happy to see such radical changes to the site.
Responding to this, Cllr Jefferson said: “The world moves on and this whole thing is about making the area better, Stratford relies upon tourism, it pumps half a billion pounds into the economy each year.”
He added that the expansion of the Rec up to Severn Meadows Road would likely come towards the end of the project in 2022/23.
The masterplan has been given a cautious welcome by the Stratford Town Transport Group, with a spokesperson saying: “From a transport perspective it is likely to be beneficial to introduce new facilities and features in southern area of recreation ground (with associated parking) in order to reduce congestion and overcrowding currently experienced in northern zones. This is consistent with INF Project 2 in the Neighbourhood Development Plan but as yet we have not yet seen the associated modelling.”
A decision was expected to be made on whether to approve the masterplan during the cabinet meeting, but the item was deferred.
The report says work on the improvements could start as early as November, with the whole project completed by the end of the 2022/23 financial year, provided members approve the plan when it returns to Cabinet.
However there does appear to be one significant obstacle in that the owner of the land where the Rec expansion is proposed, is not interested in selling.
The council has declined to comment on how it could overcome this hurdle.
While the report states that £332,000 in developer funding is available to spend on the Rec, given the scale of changes proposed, it seems unlikely such a sum would cover it and the authority has provided no further information about where further money could come from.
The masterplan for the Rec could be just part of the transformation of Stratford’s waterfront, as the council is currently bidding for £2million of funding from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership to create a ‘Riverside Corridor’ on land from the Fisherman’s Car Part to the rear of Stratford Leisure Centre.