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Enlarging riverside car park proves controversial

Stratford District Council has been forced to defend plans to enlarge the town’s Fisherman’s Car Park, as part of a larger project to create a new riverside country park.

The Fisherman's Car Park (43714439)
The Fisherman's Car Park (43714439)

The Riverside Corridor project, which has already received £1.5million in funding from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and will be topped up with an extra £500,000 from the district council, has proved controversial with some.

The council and Stratford Town Trust, which own the land, believe the project will help the town recover from the pandemic by drawing visitors and bring environmental benefits such as reducing air pollution and congestion.

The plan is to create new paths running through the land along with gym equipment, an adventure playground, a viewing platform, river ferry link, toilets, visitor centre, reading room and a riverside bathing channel.

However the two organisations have presented the land as being derelict, a picture which has riled some residents who say it is a haven for wildlife without constant human interference and should be kept largely as it is.

The most controversial aspect of the plan is a proposal to enlarge the Fisherman’s Car Park on Warwick Road to a cater for up to 500 cars, an idea which has been hard to square with environmental campaigners.

During a meeting of the Stratford Society on Monday, Tony Perks, deputy chief executive at Stratford District Council, admitted the car park plans had drawn the most comments during a current public consultation so far.

Mr Perks said: “I want to meet the issue of the car park head on because it has been raised the most and a lot of people are saying, why do you want to concrete over a beautiful area of land. Part of this whole scheme is de-trafficking the centre of Stratford, we have put in plans for a nominal 500-space car park, but it doesn’t have to be that large. Our vision is for people to come into Stratford, park in a pleasant car park on the edge of town and walk in or take a river taxi, this would free up spaces in the town centre for people, residents who need to come into the town centre for a particular purpose.”

Mr Perks added that in the long term the council would like to see car parking spaces reduced in the centre of town, but he couldn’t promise that this would happen as soon as an enlarged Fisherman’s car park was completed.

During the meeting it was explained that the car park would not have a concrete surface.

Stephen Norrie of Stratford Climate Action suggested that the underused leisure centre car park could be better promoted as an alternative to enlarging the Fisherman’s site, while away from car parking some questioned whether it was actually safe to include riverside bathing within the scheme.

This week a report produced by Warwickshire County Council examining the wildlife on the site (known as Lench Meadows) concluded that it should be designated a Local Nature Reserve.

It says the site is: “A mosaic of habitats that is unusual in the county, particularly so close to a major town”, and notes a number of rare species.

However it does say the land needs to be better managed to protect habitats and that it could be made better use of as an educational resource by schools and colleges.

Opponent of the scheme, Richard Price, has criticised the decision to launch a public consultation into the Riverside Corridor project before a thorough assessment of wildlife was completed.

Mr Price said: “I think it is ridiculous that they published their plans for this land before they had received this report. They’ve clearly just conducted a desktop appraisal and done one site visit, you’re going to think it’s a wasteland if you only visit once, but it’s actually teeming with wildlife.

“No evidence has been presented to show this project will increase footfall in Stratford and putting in an enormous car park is not going to enhance environmental habitats one bit. Scrub land like this is tremendously important for carbon capture, all this area really needs is the paths cleared up a bit.”

Mr Price also said that development of the site went against Stratford’s Neighbourhood Plan, which seeks to safeguard areas alongside the river.

To view the plans for the Riverside Corridor Project visit www.stratfordriverside.com.

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