The Riverside Vision
The Stratford Riverside Project is a partnership between Stratford on Avon District Council and Stratford Town Trust. £1.5 m of grant funding has been secured from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership via the government's Getting Building Fund giving Stratford a special opportunity to create new leisure and economic opportunities, reduce congestion, and improve air quality.
Working closely with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, a key pillar of the project is to protect, restore and enhance the area's rich biodiversity. By connecting the riverside from the north at Fisherman's Car Park to the south at Lucy's Mill, Stratford will have a natural green leisure corridor that will help improve the health and quality of life today and for future
generations. You can read a statement from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and Middlemarch Environmental click on the button below.
The initial concept designs were made available for public consultation between 23 November 2020 and 31 March 2021. We received 515 responses directly from the public. Key stakeholders, local groups, organisations and businesses were invited to feedback separately. A robust methodology applied to ensure that all responses were fairly considered. The analysis was undertaken by the Performance, Consultation and Insight Unit from Stratford-on-Avon District Council. Full details of how this was carried out along with the responses are included in the consultation analysis report.
A Revised Design
A new design has been developed and will be presented to Stratford District Council’s Cabinet meeting on the 17th May. This revised design takes on board public feedback, particularly in relation to protecting wildlife, increased accessibility, and a significant reduction in the number of proposed parking spaces at Fisherman’s car park.
Cllr Daren Pemberton Deputy Leader of Stratford District Council said: “We’d like to thank the public for their positive engagement and feedback responses. The public consultation exercise has been a key step in enabling us and our partners, Stratford Town Trust, to refine our thinking to ensure the Riverside project delivers significant benefits for Stratford and District residents while respecting and enhancing this valuable asset.”
There will also be improved wayfinding and welcome at the site and new signage encouraging vehicles on the gyratory to park at the Leisure Centre. The plans also demonstrate how habitats can be restored to increase biodiversity.
Ian Jelley, Director of Living Landscapes at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust said: “The new concept design places greater emphasis on the important natural habitats found on the site. It describes that the species-rich flood meadow and ponds on the site will be restored, helping to create a wetland mosaic that improves the overall diversity of the site for wildlife. Consideration has gone into identifying existing paths that have been used by people over the years, and how improving those can be done in a way that allows people to get closer to nature in a sympathetic way. This site has not been managed for wildlife for a number of years and as a result, the overall diversity of species is in decline. The new vision sets out how habitats could be restored as part of a wider plan for the site and the key to its success will be establishing effective management into the future. That management should prioritize the wildlife interest and ensure that public access is maintained in a sympathetic way.”
Sara Aspley, Chief Executive of Stratford Town Trust 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.”
The creation of a major new accessible public open space will deliver significant well-being benefits to both residents and visitors. The space could offer quality time in an outside natural environment and help deliver mental and physical health benefits to all. This area is a blank canvas for a special place that celebrates, nature, fitness, well-being and creativity.
Ian Jelley, Director of Living Landscapes at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust said: ''WWT and its environmental consultancy Middlemarch Environmental, have been advising SDC and STT on how to recognise, protect and enhance the most valuable areas for wildlife on the site. Lack of management in recent years has led to the emergence of dominant species that are outcompeting other plants and reducing the overall, diversity for nature. We believe it will be possible to improve the site for wildlife and also improve public access, enabling people to get closer to nature in their daily lives."
The project will help stimulate the local economy, generate jobs and support existing businesses. Creating new open spaces will help deliver more visitors to the RSC and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and increase dwell time within the town. There are also opportunities to create new small businesses around the new leisure and recreation spaces. In a post Covid-19 economy these stimuli will be important.
The riverside in front of Fisherman's Car Park offers possibilities as a watersports and swimming area (as it was in the 1920s and 30s) along with pick up points for electric boat taxis going into town. The car park could be extended into the shrubland to the left of this picture to provide more parking and toilets. Any parking revenues generated could be used to help maintain and improve the land.
The southern area of riverside up to Lucy's Mill Bridge could have improved pedestrian and cycle crossing access, river taxi pick up and drop off points, plus picnic and barbecue areas, event and performance space and areas for children to play safely. During the Covid-19 lockdowns, Stratford became an important riverside leisure destination for many people attracted by its open spaces. Enhancing the town's 'green appeal' will further improve its allure to visitors.
The economic benefits from a revitalised southern riverside could be considerable.
Accessibility For All
Pathways, bridges and walkways could be made wider and more accessible for more people. There's currently little access into large parts of the north riverside for walkers which presents opportunities to connect up multiple pathways and create circular leisure walking routes.
Dr Nick Steggall, Associate Director at Middlemarch Environmental said: "Due to the lack of traditional meadow managing techniques, the habitats on the site are becoming dominated with vigorous grass species which are outperforming the traditional meadow flora, reducing the diversity of the site. A key recommendation of the Local Wildlife Site survey in 2020 is that 'Urgent work should include restoring the northern river meadow to an MG4 flood meadow (a national priority habitat)'. The future objective is to maintain the mosaic of habitats and identify if additional ecological enhancements can be undertaken."
New to the Recreation Ground
A new natural play area made from Robinia hardwood timber for children aged between 7-14 years, including:
Cantilevered Basket Swing
Climbing Log Apparatus
Sensory Totem Poles
Managing the Flood Plain
We know the riverside floods and the photos on the right were taken as recently as December last year. Because of this it's unlikely that there will be any large, permanent structures built. We are consulting with the Environment Agency to manage the flood plain and potentially reduce or better control the amount of floodwater on Warwick Road Lands and Fisherman's Car Park. Reclaiming some of this space from flooding through better flood-management and restoring and improving drainage is an important part of the project.
The Recreation Ground
The 'Rec' - as Stratfordians call it - has multiple opportunities for cycling training, natural play areas, formal sports provisions, gym apparatus, pitches and new sports club facilities along with community orchards and gardens. This area could become the heart of Stratford's leisure, sports and recreational facilities. The surrounding car parking area with its established power supply could also provide a significant amount of electric car chargers.
Stratford's Colourful Riverside
Stratford has always used its river as a place for leisure and recreation. In the early 19th century the riverside was much more well-used than it is now with a formal regatta, boat racing, and a lido. In the 1930s 'The Old Bathing Place' - the area in front of Fisherman's Car Park - was much more developed with diving boards, water chute, changing huts and a swimmer's safety boom.
If you have any photos or memories they could help uncover riverside's past and help create a public exhibition.
electric Car charging Hub
Stratford would benefit from an electric charging hub to encourage EV use and help improve air quality in the town. There is potential to site an EV hub in the Leisure Centre car park and near the Recreation Ground.
Electric Bike and Scooter Hire
Zero-emission electric bike and scooter hire could give visitors and residents a clean enjoyable way of entering the town through riverside without sitting in traffic jams.
Park & Boat...
Electric river taxis could make journeys in and out of Stratford a special event as well as helping to reduce congestion and improve air quality. River taxis could do regular runs from Fisherman's Car Park to Bancroft Gardens and back again.