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Stratford riverside project: A 'tourist-driven vanity project'

NATURE is still not the winner with the latest designs for the riverside project, say opponents to the scheme as they appealed for the town trust and the council to further simplify the plans.

Richard Price, of the Friends of Fisherman’s Walk group, told the Herald the new concepts were a travesty and described the design as “a tourist-driven vanity project that disregards the consultation results”, particularly around the car park extension.

He added: “This shows the breathtaking arrogance and obstinacy of the project promoters, fobbing off the views of a huge number of local residents and organisations as well as national organisations.

The Riverside area and Fishermans Car Park from above. Photo: Craig Allen. (47186861)
The Riverside area and Fishermans Car Park from above. Photo: Craig Allen. (47186861)

“The plans for the car park extension were unanimously thrown back at them – nobody wants to see an extension as there is no evidence that it’s needed.”

The group, which has about 500 members on Facebook alone, also questions why the area, as a green space, is not protected by the neighbourhood plan which was adopted after a vote by Stratford residents three years ago.

“Extensively what they need to do is calm down,” said Richard. “They’ve got this enormous list of things on these plans. The focus for recreation facilities in Stratford has always been the Rec and people flock there and it is ideally set out for that.

“In the northern end, as per the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust survey, the area has been neglected for at least four decades and the wildlife has taken it over. What we now have is the council and the town trust saying, ‘We’re going to take this back and we want humans to be able to come and use it’.

“I think, frankly, that is unfair and untenable as this is an area that will lend itself to a local nature reserve with a very light-touch management where people can go and walk amongst nature without overly intrusive things being dumped in the middle of it.”

He added: “We want to see a nature reserve, but how can you have a nature reserve with picnic circles, trim trails and all of those things? All of those things, as nice as they are, it is all human intrusion. That’s the fundamental part of this.”

The group’s view was backed by David Mills, founder of the British Wildlife Centre, who concluded that the original proposals would cause a huge upsurge in footfall and make it impossible to balance the activity of humans with wildlife, which would inevitably be pushed out.

That is a major problem, says Richard, that still remains.

“Our independent ecologist and naturalists have told us the size of the land is simply too small to accommodate a rise in footfall and vehicular traffic whilst increasing biodiversity. They have also noted that bird life is already being lost thanks to works already undertaken.”

The concerns go on – the impact of installing wider cycle/walking paths, creating picnic circles on the new floodplain meadow, the amount of money (£108k) already spent on the designs and surveys and the fact that part of the land was once the town tip.

Richard added: “I keep getting told by councillors that this will improve the offer in Stratford, but I think the best way you can do that is by having a bloody good wildlife reserve that is accessible on the edge of town.”

Time is ticking on getting the project delivered within the time frame agreed for the CWLEP funding.

In a letter to the Herald, another opponent to the scheme, Debs Campton, wrote: “How to spend the monies on a local wildlife site and still make it even faintly resemble a local nature reserve and all by March 2022? Mission impossible. Hence the nonsense of this revised plan, a tourist leisure park as the Rec advances northwards, with a host of recreational opportunities on land and river.

“Canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, wild swimming, boating and the much-derided water taxis and jetties, all on our relatively narrow and fragile river space.

“On land, humans also reign supreme – a car park extension, human intrusion to every area with paths and trails for cycling, walking through, round and criss-crossing the meadows and providing picnic opportunities galore.”

She added: “The richly biodiverse flora, fauna, avian life and biodiversity corridors are to be sacrificed for a pot of gold which cannot deliver on its vacuous promises. A downright scandal.”

Read more:

New concepts for Stratford's riverside to be considered by council

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