CONTROVERSY-dogged Lench Meadows has been officially designated a Local Nature Reserve.
Members of Stratford District Council’s Cabinet agreed to support its designation as a nature reserve – meaning it will be managed for wildlife for the long-term future – at a meeting on Monday (September 4).
But the route to get to this point has proved no picnic.
The £2million Riverside Project, which involved the development of Lench Meadows and the adjacent Fisherman’s car park, was given the go-ahead by Stratford District Council in November 2021.
The joint project by SDC and Stratford Town Trust involved rejuvenating the area to attract more visitors as well as providing a local nature reserve for existing wildlife.
The plans included the creation of extra paths and cycleways, and new bridges to provide better access for people in wheelchairs.
But earlier this year campaigners claimed Lench Meadows posed a public safety hazard and called for environmental experts to intervene.
Their concern was that work at Lench Meadows had disturbed an old council tip on part of the site.
The tip was in operation between 1950 and 1971 and according to reports contained hazardous materials such as broken glass and batteries.
Council reports of the time stated there was no risk of potential contamination of the land.
But campaigners said there was evidence of broken glass, domestic and medical waste and asbestos on the site.
Lench Meadows was declared “safe for all” after the Environment Agency intervened in June.
Specialist testing was carried out on the site by Hydrock, a land contamination specialist.
The report revealed that there was a minimal risk to the public but several recommendations were made including removing near surface inappropriate materials and carrying out an airborne monitoring assessment for asbestos.
SDC said it has since met all the recommendations but The Friends of Lench Meadows claimed broken glass still remained.
SDC leader Coun Susan Juned said: “Designating the site as a Local Nature Reserve will provide multiple benefits. Local nature reserves protect and support habitats and wildlife and contribute to the overall green infrastructure network in an area.
“Increasing access to good quality areas of green space also benefits the local community. This is a valued natural space which will now have a secure future for both residents and wildlife.”
She added: “The designation of Lench Meadows also aligns with the current council plan by enhancing and protecting the natural assets of the district and responding to the climate emergency declared by increasing climate change adaptation and increasing carbon sequestration.”