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New attractions to revamp Rec and Waterside to be considered

A host of new attractions could be arriving at Stratford’s Waterside and Recreation Ground as part of a major refresh of the area, being considered by the district council.

The Recreation Ground (48887645)
The Recreation Ground (48887645)

An ice rink, drive-in cinema, revamped mini-golf course and mobile refreshment vendors are just some of the proposed attractions which could be given the green-light by Cabinet members this afternoon (Monday).

The council has decided to review it’s offering on Bancroft Gardens, Waterside and the Rec because a number of existing concessions already in place are due to end this Autumn, which gives the authority the opportunity to mix things up a bit.

Other changes proposed include year-round vending and tables and chairs opposite the Encore, with alcohol licences permitted to encourage a café culture, and deckchair hire throughout Bancroft Gardens.

An electric water ferry between the Riverbank and the Fisherman’s Car Park and the prospect of a ‘large scale attraction for all ages’ located in the Rec Ground overflow car park during the May half term, are also on the cards.

There have long been complaints that Stratford simply doesn’t have enough to offer young people and a number of these ideas could well go some way to addressing this.

The concept of a drive-in cinema was unveiled by the district council last summer to a generally positive public, though in the end it was not possible to bring it in before the end of the season.

If the Cabinet agrees to the new attractions, council officers will be given permission to begin a procurement process and to grant agreements to operators and traders.

Aside from the mini-golf course, which would be offered a 20-year lease, the council would look to offer five-year-leases to most of the other concessions.

The proposal is for the new concessions to be granted by spring next year, though there is a chance the ice rink could arrive this winter.

Council leader Tony Jefferson has previously spoken of his desire to make more of Stratford’s riverside area creating outdoor spaces which will particularly appeal to visitors following the pandemic.

The council’s Riverside Corridor Scheme is big part of this, though its proposed changes to the northern river area have been met with opposition.

Cllr Tony Jefferson said: “We are focused on making Stratford more attractive, if we can bring in more people they will go onto the high street and hopefully help it survive and thrive. Like the with the Riverside Project this is about creating a safe, welcoming outdoor space that people can enjoy. Given how many people are visiting the Rec at the moment, we want to do everything we can to encourage them to stay longer and spend money.

“Part of the money we are getting for the Riverside Project is for the southern areas of the river too, so it’s important we look at how we can refresh it.

“The idea of an ice rink is very interesting and I know it has been discussed before. It would be a winter family activity running from 1st November to 31st January and would also tie in with the period the Victorian Market is in town. Attractions like this would appeal to young people and teenagers. We are looking into what is possible, it may be that we can’t do everything, but we will be consulting so people will have the opportunity to have their say on all this.”

Cllr Ian Shenton, who helped put the proposals together in his previous portfolio, said: “These things are ambitious and it’s all about making the most of our outdoor assets. The ice rink and the drive-in cinema are the most interesting aspects for me, we tried to get the cinema last summer and I wanted to get the ice rink during the winter but sadly it didn’t happen. Warwick had an ice rink during the winter and it was incredibly popular.

“We want to make the area more interesting for locals, but I’d probably accept that not everyone will want to see these things. In terms of the large-scale attraction during the May half term, we’re not quite sure on what it could be yet, but we want to avoid creating a Disney-on-Avon, it would be good to have something attractive.

“The idea of having food and drink areas near the Encore is something we will have to think very hard about, we don’t want to undermine existing businesses, so we’d need to tread carefully.

“Because of the pandemic people want to be outdoors more, they feel safer. We want to make the most of our outdoor spaces.”

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