Riverside project continues to divide Stratford
Stratford’s Riverside Corridor project continues to cause divisions as two influential organisations came out on different sides of the argument.
The Stratford Society has said it cannot support the plans in their current form, criticising them as ‘too ambitious’ and saying they should be scaled back.
However tourism organisation Shakespeare’s England has decided to throw its support behind the project last week, saying it would revitalise the river frontage and inject funds into the local economy.
Arguing against the scheme, a submission from the Stratford Society drew attention to the proposed expansion of the Fisherman’s car park to 500 spaces, saying it would was not justified on transportation grounds.
Although not entirely negative to the project, society members suggested Stratford’s priorities should be helping the town centre by improving the Park and Ride and bringing in more pedestrianisation.
The society added that the land on the riverside, known as Lench Meadows, should be designated as a Local Nature Reserve and that management of the area should be limited to just enough to help wildlife thrive.
However, Shakespeare’s England has come to a different conclusion.
Major Richard Carney, chairman of Shakespeare’s England, said: “The Stratford riverside green corridor scheme will revitalise the river frontage in Stratford, provide high-quality public space for all, create new green routes into town, reduce congestion, improve air quality and inject some desperately needed funds into the local economy.”
He added: “We have to be ready to kick-start the economy when we open back up from this year-long disruption caused by the pandemic. The opening up of this green space will enable Stratford to become a greener and more accessible riverside destination for all to experience and enjoy.
“As chairman of Shakespeare’s England, and also as director of operations for IXL Events Ltd and Dallas Burston Polo Club located in the area, I personally welcome this initiative, and I am sure this way of accessing Stratford will be welcomed by all visitors, rather than queuing in a car and causing congestions.”
Major Carney also outlined environmental benefits the project could bring.
Despite Shakespeare’s England’s enthusiasm for the scheme, there remains some significant public opposition, particularly against the car park expansion plans.
This strength of feeling does seem to be having some impact on Stratford District Council, with deputy chief executive Tony Perks admitting last week that the car park plans were likely to be scaled back and it would probably be smaller than 500 spaces.
For their part Stratford District Council has never said creating a 500-space car park is set in stone, and has said that whatever happens, the area would be developed sensitively and would not be a vast expanse of concrete.
The project has already secured £1.5m in funding from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, with the district council expected to contribute around £500,000 in addition to this.
Both landowners, the district council and Stratford Town Trust, argue the project will reduce congestion and pollution in the town centre and draw in visitors to aid Stratford’s recovery from the pandemic.
A public consultation has already been run on the concept while the finer details will be ironed out before a planning application is submitted.
An online petition against the project has been signed by 2,108 so far.