ANGLERS have criticised plans to expand Stratford’s Fisherman’s car park as part of a controversial scheme to create a country park.
The plans, known as The Riverside Project, are being developed by Stratford District Council and Stratford Town Trust. It aims to connect the riverside at Fisherman’s car park off Warwick Road, to Lucy’s Mill.
Part of the design includes expanding the car park by 500 spaces and transforming the riverside at its front into a watersports and swimming area.
The council says the project aims to improve air quality, reduce congestion, create economic opportunities and wellbeing benefits.
But Leamington Angling Association’s secretary Anthony Simmons believes the car park expansion is unnecessary and would change the character of the car park he says provides safe and easy access for the club’s older and disabled members.
He said: “Why expand this car park when there is a perfectly good, under used car park right next to the riverside area? The car park at the rear of the leisure centre just needs to be linked with a few pathways and the job is done.
“Angling has been shown, especially in recent times, to be highly beneficial for mental health and relaxation so the peace and tranquillity needed for this should not be sacrificed in the search for extra council revenue from car parking.”
The plans also include increased watersport activities and stops for river taxis, to attract tourists to the area.
Mr Simmons added the river was crowded enough already with boaters and other traffic.
He said: “Anyone who experienced the huge increase in river users of all kinds last summer would be forgiven for thinking that reducing the number of rowing boats, inflatables, kayaks, motor boats, paddle boards and commercial vessels might be a better option. The idea of introducing ‘water taxis’ needs a lot more thought, not to mention a safety risk assessment. Some sections of the river are already very shallow in summer and boats ‘ground’ on the gravel banks. These gravels are very important for various fish species as they provide the necessary spawning areas.”
Campaigning environmentalists have meanwhile launched a petition to fight the car park expansion plans through fear the scheme would destroy the surrounding meadows and rich wildlife habitat.
Stratford District Council has responded to the backlash, saying the project was an opportunity to enhance the green space rather than destroy it. Deputy leader Daren Pemberton said the project would be carried out sensitively while enhancing the valuable ecology of the riverside corridor.
He added the scheme was far from complete and the authority and town trust were open minded about the design’s development.
A consultation is running until January 31. Visit www.stratfordriverside.com for more details.