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Government money could transform Stratford

A bid to transform Stratford town centre is being given a shot in the arm with news that Warwickshire County Council is applying for significant funding for the scheme.

A vision for the future of Stratford Town Centre from Stratford's Neighbourhood Development Plan (47815670)
A vision for the future of Stratford Town Centre from Stratford's Neighbourhood Development Plan (47815670)

If successful the money from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund would pay for radical changes to Bridge Street and High Street, based on design work commissioned by Stratford Town Council earlier this year.

The changes include wider pavements on Bridge Street and High Street, permanently pedestrianising High Street between 11am and 4pm and creating a new central walkway on Bridge Street.

While a pedestrianised system may be the future for High Street, Bridge Street would remain open to two-way traffic under this scheme.

The current temporary 20mph speed limit in the town centre would also be made permanent.

Many of these principles were set out in Stratford’s Neighbourhood Development Plan, designed to create a better balance between pedestrians cyclists and vehicles, but the town council gave the idea a boost earlier this year by beginning design work.

Keen to keep the momentum going, the county council has moved quickly to get a funding bid in for the first round of the Levelling Up Fund.

The council was not able to say exactly how much money they would be bidding for, but it is believed to be in excess of £1million.

However the Stratford Town Council is keen to stress that consultation would be held with the public before any work is actually done, should the money be secured.

Sarah Summers, Stratford-upon-Avon Town Clerk and a member of the Town Centre Strategic Partnership, said: “We are keen to see Stratford-upon-Avon benefit from government levelling-up funding and we want to bid for money in the first round. We need to apply for funding right now but that certainly does not mean the changes planned for Bridge Street and High Street have been finalised.

“A full public consultation will take place before anything is agreed, with the final design being influenced by what the public tell us.

“We’re confident the changes to Bridge Street and High Street, informed from the public’s views, will improve Stratford-upon-Avon town centre for residents, visitors and businesses, while still respecting our town’s unique history and character.”

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council, said: “The County Council is delighted to be working with Stratford-upon-Avon Town Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and other partners on this bid.

“It is important that this is a dynamic application that is guided by the wishes and needs of the town centre community and the people that visit it. So while partners are initially scoping schemes, there will remain a good deal of flexibility.

“However, whatever proposals are decided upon will align with two of the County’s priorities for Stratford and will sit alongside the vision of all of our partners; increased use of pedestrian and cycling facilities to encourage more active travel, reduce congestion and improve air quality as well as work that will enhance the town as a place, making it more attractive to visitors and businesses.”

Colin Stewart, chair of the Stratford Town Transport Group, said: “Schemes such as this have provided much needed economic benefits, and a better environment in many towns and cities across the world.

“The Town Transport Group is therefore pleased to support the proposal which could see a more attractive town centre with wider pavements and more space for all.”

There has been criticism levelled at local politicians over recent months that Stratford has missed out on considerable funding, whilst nearby towns such as Leamington have been awarded huge sums.

£10million was secured to invest in Leamington Town Centre through the Future High Streets Fund, though it later transpired that Stratford did not even apply for the fund.

Although Stratford District Council went on to win £1.5million in funding from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership for the Riverside Corridor Scheme, that project has faced considerable opposition and many have suggested the cash would have been better spent boosting the town centre.

Last week it emerged that Stratford District Council is considering submitting its own bid to the Levelling Up Fund to try and resurrect the Gateway Project, a scheme which appears to have been stuck in the long grass for a number of years.

A spokesperson for Stratford District Council said: "Stratford-on-Avon District Council is continuing to explore options to bring forward redevelopment of the Stratford Gateway site. Whilst there are no detailed proposals which can be shared at the current time we remain committed to improving this area of the town. Stratford District has been identified as medium priority for the levelling up fund, we are minded to submit a bid and we are currently investigating which option will give us the best prospect for success.’

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