TOURISM body Shakespeare’s England is backing controversial plans for a country park in Stratford.
The scheme, known as The Riverside Project, is being developed by Stratford District Council and Stratford Town Trust.
It 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.
While the council says it will improve air quality, reduce congestion and create wellbeing benefits, environmental campaigners fear the plans will damage the car park’s surrounding meadows and wildlife habitat.
But Shakespeare’s England says the park would give the local economy a boost and encourage more visitors.
Chairman Richard Carney said: “The Stratford Riverside Green Corridor Scheme will revitalise the river frontage in Stratford-upon-Avon, provide a high-quality public space for all, new green routes into town, reduce congestion, improve air quality and inject some desperately needed funds into the local economy.
“The project creates new leisure and economic opportunities into the area. Through connecting the riverside from the north to the south at Lucy’s Mill, it opens up a green corridor into Stratford town and makes a walkway or greenway that is aesthetically pleasing and accessible to all.
“The river has always been a pivotal point for visitors which leads them directly the recreational centre of the town, and not only does this initiative encourage more footfall into town it eases the congestion from cars, buses and coaches that currently have an impact on air pollution.”
He pointed out opening up the riverside would encourage people out of cars with help from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust which has said the project needs to be carefully managed, to avoid disrupting wildlife.
Mr Carney added: “We have to be ready to kick-start the economy when we open back up from this year-long disruption caused by the pandemic. The opening up of this green space will enable Stratford to become a greener and more accessible riverside destination for all to experience and enjoy.
“I personally welcome this initiative, and I am sure this way of accessing Stratford will be welcomed by all visitors, rather than queuing in a car and causing congestions to the roads into the town.”