AMBITIOUS plans to transform Stratford town centre have been scuppered once again.
Council chiefs have expressed disappointment after their bid to secure millions of pounds from the government’s levelling up fund was overlooked for a second time.
The bid for £13.6million was put in by Warwickshire County Council – with support from strategic partners – in August 2022 after an unsuccessful attempt the year before.
The cash would have been used to revamp three streets in the town centre – Bridge Street, High Street and Union Street – to make them more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists and reduce vehicle traffic.
The multi-million pound plans included the creation of a central walkway on Bridge Street and narrowing the road, closing High Street to through traffic between 11am and 4pm and widening the pavement, and restricting on-street parking to blue-badge holders only on Union Street and High Street when they are open to traffic.
The plans were drawn up by consultants PJA after being instructed by Stratford Town Council and WCC in association with the Stratford Strategic Partnership, of which Stratford District Council is also a member.
At the time of submission, SDC deputy leader Daren Pemberton said the plans would provide a much-needed boost to the town.
The town missed out on a grant during the first round of the Levelling Up Fund in autumn 2021 but received positive feedback from the Department for Transport which assessed the original bid.
Since the original funding bid was submitted, WCC and its partners had continued to work on the project.
WCC has not yet released the reasons why its second bid was unsuccessful.
The £4.8 billion Government Levelling Up Fund contributes to levelling up communities across the UK by investing in infrastructure that improves everyday life including regenerating town centre and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets.
A total of 111 areas have been awarded a share of £2.1 billion from round two of the fund.
A spokesperson for WCC told the Observer:”It’s disappointing not to have received better news on the bid to the Levelling Up Fund which would have enabled us to deliver the ambitious proposals developed by the Town Centre Strategic Partnership for improving the heart of Stratford. We will continue to work with the partnership to explore opportunities for improving Stratford town centre for businesses, residents and visitors alike.”
Sara Aspley, Chair of the Stratford Town Centre Strategic Partnership, added: “It is disappointing not to have been successful in securing levelling up funding, but we know we were up against many highly competitive bids from all over the country. Despite its relative prosperity Stratford, like many places, has challenges, one of which has been the gradual decline of the town centre.
“We are awaiting further feedback from government on the bid which will inform decisions on whether a funding bid for the Stratford town centre proposals is submitted to the third round of the Levelling Up Fund.”