Big transport changes needed to save Stratford town centre
Radical changes to the town centre are needed to cure Stratford’s transport woes and dramatically cut carbon emissions, according to a new report.
The huge shake-up of Stratford’s transport network is being proposed by Stratford Climate Action, The Stratford Cycle Forum and the Shakespeare Line Promotion Group, within a new jointly produced Transport Plan.
The plan includes specific proposals to re-open the Stratford to Honeybourne railway line, give cyclists and pedestrians priority in much of the town centre and axe the controversial South Western Relief Road, ideas which have all divided opinion in recent years.
Other suggestions include re-allocating road space to discourage single occupancy car use in favour of public transport, improving cycle infrastructure, a new pedestrian cycle bridge parallel to Clopton Bridge and directing vehicles to out of town car parks.
The groups are hopeful that both Warwickshire County Council and Stratford District Council will take the ideas on board.
Currently only around 16 per cent of commuters in Stratford cycle, walk or use public transport, but the groups behind this plan want to bring this up to 40 per cent by 2030.
Steven Norrie, chair of Stratford Climate Action, said: “54 per cent of our emissions in the district come from road transport, it’s the greatest issue we face and simply switching to electric cars is not going to be enough, we’re going to need to take vehicles off the road.
“What we want to do is get the conversation going by presenting an alternative vision for Stratford, quite simply the only way of making a difference is having less cars and more walking, cycling and bus use.
“This would also need people to change their behaviour, we want to reduce cars coming into the town centre so maybe the council could adopt some kind of incentive scheme to get residents to do that.
“The proposal to drop the South Western Relief Road is based on a large body of work that concludes that building more roads leads to more car use, if you build it they will come.
“In terms of pedetrianisation, there are examples of towns that have seen an increase in business in the town centre following pedestrianisation and I really think we should have a debate about this.”
Fraser Pithie, from the Shakespeare Line Promotion Group, added: “I hope that SDC and WCC will earnestly examine and support these proposals. There may be differences in opinion that exist but I think there is a common consensus that we can’t go on as we are and that something radical needs to change. We certainly think this plan is worthy of consideration.”
Stratford transport campaigner Michael Brockington, said: “I’m sure that we have got to move in this direction, but can we persuade people to get out of their cars? I certainly think the railway line is an important element of this and people should be reassured that should the line re-open, the Greenway would remain, we wouldn’t lose it.”
However projects such as re-opening the Honeybourne Line are clearly not favoured by everyone.
Tom Baxter, chair of the Stratford Greenway Group, said: “Train usage has actually dropped tremendously during the pandemic and I believe re-opening the Honeybourne line will have a tremendous impact on the environment, trees would have to come down and it’s so close to some properties. There are also huge obstacles, for example how is it going to get over the Evesham Place roundabout. To be honest I think it is quite crafty of the Shakespeare Line Promotion Group to include this with the other proposals put forward by the environmental and cycle groups.”
Giving its initial reaction to the transport plan, a spokesperson from Warwickshire County Council said: “The County Council is grateful to the Stratford Climate Action, Stratford Cycle Forum and Shakespeare Line Promotion Group, known jointly as Connecting Stratford, for sharing their ideas on how the transport network in the town should develop.
"The Stratford-upon-Avon Area Transport Strategy, which was developed by the District and County Councils with input from the public and a wide base of stakeholders, sets out the councils' current shared transport strategy for the town. This strategy will be reviewed as part of the process of refreshing the Warwickshire Local Transport Plan 2011-26 (LTP), a process which is underway following the recent launch of a consultation to establish the key themes which should underly the plan.
"An LTP sets out the transport needs, challenges, priorities and objectives for the county; it also sets policies which shape future transport schemes and developments. We welcome the views of Connecting Stratford and will carefully consider their suggestions alongside all other feedback, as we work towards creating a LTP which reflects the broad views of the local community and wider stakeholders. "
Cllr Tony Jefferson, leader of Stratford District Council, said: “Response from Cllr Tony Jefferson, Leader: ‘If this document is formally submitted it would need through consideration, especially by Warwickshire County Council as the lead authority for Highways. However a lot more needs to be taken into account than just the points highlighted in the report.”