CONTROVERSY still remains around plans for a country park in Stratford despite pared back proposals.
Stratford District Council’s Cabinet voted unanimously in favour of the updated design concepts which were altered following a public consultation.
The plans, known as The Riverside Project, are being developed by Stratford District Council (SDC) and Stratford Town Trust, to connect the riverside at Fisherman’s car park off Warwick Road, to Lucy’s Mill.
The scheme includes the creation of a designated nature reserve, expansion of the car park, a watersports and swimming area, circular walks, and a cycle ‘road simulated’ play circuit and adventure play area.
Originally, plans to increase the Fisherman’s car park by 500 spaces faced severe backlash, with residents concerned over the impact on nearby wildlife habitat. The revised plans include the reduction to 75 ‘sensitive’ spaces, with the idea to create a designated nature reserve with help from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust which says the habitats need managing to encourage biodiversity.
Concerns around inclusivity and accessibility also prompted designs for a jetty to allow safe access to electric river taxis, as well as wheelchair accessible, additional fishing pegs and a toilet block sited in the car park.
There was also claims the project did not address carbon neutral targets set by the district in 2019. Project leaders responded signage, and walking and cycle paths aimed to encourage people off the road, and that a link road would be explored from Warwick Road to the leisure centre.
Stratford Town Trust chief executive Sara Aspley said: “We are pleased that the new scheme is pared down from the original concept proposals, particularly in the reduction of additional car parking spaces. The revised concept design supports our priorities of reducing social isolation and providing opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of young people. Warwickshire Wildlife Trust recognises that there is now greater emphasis on natural habitats and we look forward to working with them and other specialist organisations to create and deliver a sympathetic management plan for the ecology alongside accessibility, giving people more opportunities to get closer to nature.”
But The Friends of Fisherman’s Car Park, set up to campaign against the plans, felt residents were still not being listened to.
Group spokesman Richard Price said: “The revised plans still show a substantial car park extension which will double the size of the current parking and will push deep into an area designated a Local Wildlife Site and Local Green Space in the Neighbourhood Plan which was adopted only three years ago.
“Despite the fact that absolutely no evidence of need has been shown for the proposed car park extension and an extension of any size was unanimously opposed during the consultation, the council persist in their desire to create it. The cabinet meeting was even told that there is a massively underused car park a mere 400 yards away at Stratford Leisure Centre yet they effectively chose to ignore this, choosing only to undertake a feasibility study into a slip road off the Warwick Road into it – a study that should have been undertaken at the very start of the project planning.
“The sheer amount of recreational activities and picnic sites included, along with the car park extension, mean that it is difficult to to see how that designation can possibly be compatible with the amount of human intrusion these would bring.
“The group is resolved to continue fighting the more invasive elements of the plans using whatever means are at their disposal and to ensure that the vast array of wildlife on the site is not compromised by these oppressive proposals.”