ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners say plans to create a country park in Stratford ‘resemble a theme park’.
The Riverside Project scheme is being developed by Stratford District Council (SDC) and Stratford Town Trust (STT).
The project, which was awarded a £1.5million grant from Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, aims to create a green corridor by connecting 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 campaigners, who have launched a petition against the plans for the car park, argue the scheme will destroy the surrounding meadows and wildlife habitat.
They say the site provides a rich environment and habitat for grassland, birds and mammals.
A spokesperson said: “SDC and STT propose this tourism development scheme to regenerate the tourist industry post pandemic. A scheme to create an overblown country park, resembling a theme park, which will effectively destroy this important strategic wildlife area and highly valued local recreational asset.
“At a time of greater awareness and appreciation of the natural environment, the need to safeguard it for future generations, the threat of climate change and its role in nourishing our physical, mental health and wellbeing. In addition, the environmental impact of disturbing and building on a former landfill site and the prospect of extensive land remediation has not been addressed.”
SDC deputy leader Daren Pemberton responded the project was an exiting opportunity to enhance the green space rather than destroy it.
“Far from looking to destroy the green space, the project seeks to sensitively provide the facilities that people need whilst enhancing the valuable ecology of the riverside corridor and making this available for people to enjoy.
“We are currently consulting on a concept scheme and would value any feedback and would encourage people to take a look at what’s being proposed and make their thoughts known via the formal consultation process.
“The design of the scheme is far from complete and we are open minded about how the design should develop.
“I am convinced with careful thought we can produce a great space for residents and visitors that enhances the economy, infrastructure and the ecology of Stratford so we are prepared to meet the challenges of the post covid world.”
Wildlife protection body Warwickshire Wildlife Trust says it is important to protect the natural landscape and that the project needs the right management in place.
Spokesman Ian Jelley told the Observer: “We have shared detailed information on why the site is important for wildlife and believe any future plans should celebrate, protect and enhance the existing nature of the site.
“It is heart-warming to see the strength of feeling within the local community for protecting nature on our doorstep. We all have a role to play in nature’s recovery and are happy to work with the local authority to ensure the natural environment is placed at the heart of the revised vision.
“We believe that the site can be enhanced for nature, while also enabling people to get closer to nature in their daily lives.”
A consultation is running until January 31. Visit www.stratfordriverside.com for more details.