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£2million Riverside Project approved for Stratford

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PLANS have been approved that will open up a riverside area on the outskirts of Stratford to more people.

The River Avon by the Lench Meadows.
The River Avon by the Lench Meadows.

The Riverside Project will develop Lench Meadows and the adjacent Fisherman’s car park, land which is between the River Avon and the Warwick Road.

Under the plan an extra area of car park will be created to house a mobile catering van, access off the main road will be improved and extra paths and cycleways will be created, including new bridges providing better access for people in wheelchairs.

A toilet block will also be built, while work will be carried out to manage the biodiversity of the area, something that has not happened for decades.

The joint application from Stratford District Council and Stratford Town Trust was voted through at yesterday’s (Wednesday) planning committee of the council with a number of councillors speaking in favour.

Cllr Matt Jennings (Con, Henley) said: “This is going to create green roots into town, reduce congestion and improve air quality. The pandemic I think has changed people’s attitudes to green space and introduced a lot of people who otherwise would not have gone into the countryside to look at nature.

“For me the key issue here is the disabled access.”

Fisherman's car park
Fisherman's car park

Cllr Jennings read out a number of comments from disabled groups praising the improved access while Cllr Tony Dixon (Con, Tanworth) referred to the report from planning officers recommending approval.

He quoted: “The Lench Meadows are designated as a local wildlife site but without active ecological management, this area has declined in value and a key driver of the current proposals is to restore the value of the land.”

Cllr Dixon added: “We have heard this evening of fears concerning the fact that there could be disturbance of a tip. Our papers don’t indicate that there are any dangers – we don’t have any evidence that anything inappropriate was deposited in the tip. On the basis that I can see no reason not to approve it I will move that we grant.”

More than 100 objections to the plans were received and earlier in the meeting, resident Liz Willetts warned that part of the site had been a council tip between 1950 and 1971 and that it contained hazardous materials such as broken glass and batteries.

She said: “There’s a whole list of business that would have been tipping quite noxious things because they were allowed to.”

Cllr David Curtis (Lib Dem, Shottery) questioned how town centre congestion would be eased, saying: “The car park is pretty much used to capacity so I’m not sure how making it more attractive to park there is going to reduce congestion.”

The town trust and the council have said the area will be turned into a Local Nature Reserve, but opponents of the scheme say the plans will attract too many people and drive out wildlife.

Further worries about the project involve the potential for contamination from the area of land once used as a tip. While council reports suggest there is no risk, critics say not enough bore holes were tested at the land and there is no record of what was buried there by local manufacturers.

Plans for the original extension of Fisherman’s car park were dropped from the latest scheme following an objection from the Environment Agency.

Six councillors voted in favour of the plans while two abstained.

There could, however, potential be another twist in the long-running saga as the Secretary of State has received two requests to consider a call-in of the application.

This could see the Riverside Project application decided by the Secretary of State, if it is considered that the planning issues involved in the scheme are of more than local importance.

The project is expected to cost about £2m, with £1.5m coming from a grant from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

See next week’s Herald for reaction.

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