Frequently asked questions
What are you going to do about flooding?
The Warwick Road Lands and Fisherman's Car Park are in a floodplain but there are no current plans for buildings or complex structures to be built. All paths, walkways and any ammenities will be designed to withstand any flooding risk and all news trees will be selected for their ability to withstand water damage. Existing drains and ditches will be cleared and upgraded.
What about the local residents and fishermen that use the riverside now?
Residents and fishermen who already use the Fisherman's Car Park, the river frontage and the Warwick Road Lands are encouraged to continue using the space for recreation hobbies and sport. The cornerstone of the project is to greatly enhance the appeal and accesibility of the area to as many people as possible and to increase leisure and healthy-living opportunties for all.
What are the main benefits of revitalising the riverside?
There are many benefits - an economic boost for the town, creation of jobs and new businesses, more leisure and well-being spaces for residents and vistors, less car use within the town centre so less congestion and pollution. But perhaps most of all this is an exciting community project that will give Stratford something special to build in 2021, 2022 and beyond.
Carparks - why are you concreting over a field? Haven’t we got enough carparks?
The plan details a carpark adjacent to the current one at Fisherman’s. The amount of spaces will be determined by a provable, evidence-based need combined with the results of the consultation. Any carpark will be delivered in as green a way as possible and already the designers, listeing to consultation feedback have submitted an updated design. We emphatically won’t be making this a vista of tarmac or concrete. At this stage we have no idea how many cars is the right number and what a layout might look like. Currently there are less than 50 spaces at Fisherman’s and only one disabled space. The layout is not efficient and over the last ten months the car park has been regularly over capacity with people then choosing to park illegally and dangerously around the space and on the Warwick Road.
The entrance and exit from Fisherman’s carpark onto the Warwick road is hazardous, particularly if you wish to turn right. Extending this carpark will enable more people to park safely and use the river/riverside; will enable the introduction of electric charging points and will allow a safer entrance and exit. We appreciate that this is not an easy fix and will be working with WCC to achieve this.
The plan shows minimal parking at the Seven meadows Road end of the scheme. This is purely indicative and is contingent upon SDC acquiring the “Onion Field”.
In both cases if we are able to bring cars off the road at the perimeter we can reduce congestion and improve airquality within the town, leaving town centre parking more available for residents .
71 additional spaces will be created adjacent to the existing car park, including additional Blue Badge parking. Allocated spaces will be made of permeable paving filled with gravel, sympathetic to the surrounding area and screened where appropriate. A rollover mound sown with wildflowers will prevent vehicles accessing the site beyond the car park. Currently there are less than 50 spaces at Fisherman’s and only one disabled space. The layout is not efficient and over the car park has been regularly over capacity with people then choosing to park illegally and dangerously around the space and on the Warwick Road. The entrance and exit from Fisherman’s carpark onto the Warwick road is hazardous, particularly if you wish to turn right. Extending this carpark will enable more people to park safely and use the river/riverside and will allow a safer entrance and exit.
We appreciate that this is not an easy fix and will be working with WCC to achieve this.The plan shows minimal parking at the Seven meadows Road end of the scheme. This is purely indicative and is contingent upon SDC acquiring the “Onion Field”. In both cases if we are able to bring cars off the road at the perimeter we can reduce congestion and improve air quality within the town, leaving town centre parking more available for residents.
Quentin Willson Chair of Stratford Town Trust said: ‘Stratford District Council have not agreed when and how parking charges will be implemented at this stage. The Trust will be pushing for Stratford residents to have some form of parking concession at Fisherman’s Car Park, possibly using a permit system and will be lobbying Stratford District Council to make sure the town’s residents are carefully considered.’
Charis Smith, Inclusivity, Stratford-upon-Avon Avon said: ‘I love the thoughtful placement of new blue badge spaces where people can view from their car. That will make life easier for so many people and offer a way into nature that isn’t scary or overwhelming.’
Why can’t you just use the money to help the businesses?
The Getting Building fund is aimed at regeneration and new ideas rather than crisis management – there are other LA and government schemes to support that. Even if we could give the money directly to business, with 384 of them the amount for each would be ineffective.
Town centres are in decline across the UK and with our reliance on hospitality we’ve been hit really hard ITV News Report . Businesses have already closed and blaming it on “high” rents is misleading. Businesses who have adapted and been able to flex their operation look to be in better shape – MOR bakery is a great example of this. Visitor numbers are not expected to recover until 2025 and with the RSC and SBT likely to remain closed until mid-2021, at the earliest the town needs to take this flexible approach and provide other reasons for people to visit the town, stay longer and spend money in our local businesses
What do the environmental experts say?
Ian Jelley, Director of Living Landscapes at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust said: ‘Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and its environmental consultancy Middlemarch Environmental have been advising Stratford District Council and Stratford Town Trust on how to recognise, protect and enhance the most valuable areas for wildlife on the site. Ecological studies carried out by Middlemarch Environmental over the coming weeks and months will inform the next phase of the project’s development. We believe it will be possible to improve the site for wildlife and improve public access, enabling people to get closer to nature in their daily lives.
‘The Local Wildlife Site survey our team undertook last year revealed that effective site management is crucial for nature conservation. Lack of management in recent years has led to the emergence of some dominant plant species that are outcompeting other plants and reducing the overall diversity for nature. An example of this is the former flood meadow which was almost certainly an example of the nationally endangered type of wet meadow, with rare plants present when it was being managed as a hay meadow. Unfortunately due to the lack of management for 25 years the field has deteriorated into the common grassland comprising of much commoner species typically associated with unmanaged grassland. The variety of plant species influences the other insects, mammals and birds associated with the site. The more types of native plant there are, the more other wildlife there is. If left unmanaged into the future, the site would continue to decline and species would be lost as the overall habitats would continue to change over time.
‘We welcome the response from local people to the consultation and are pleased so many are passionate about wildlife on their doorstep. With our input, and the feedback from the general public we are pleased to see that both Stratford Town Trust and Stratford District Council are considering how to ensure that the natural environment is placed at the heart of the evolving vision for the site.’
Dr Nick Steggall, Associate Director at Middlemarch Environmental
said: “Middlemarch Environmental, the consultancy arm of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, have been undertaking baseline ecological surveys of the habitat types present. In addition, we have been undertaking a review of the historic ecological data, to gain an understanding of how the site has altered in recent times.
The mosaic of habitat types present on the site are those generally associated with a riparian habitat on the edge of a town. Unfortunately, due to the lack of traditional meadow management techniques, the habitats on site are becoming dominated with the vigorous grass species which are outcompeting the traditional meadow flora. Large areas are being colonised by scrub and ruderal species such as willowherb, thistle and nettle, which is further reducing the floral diversity of the site. This is substantiated by the historic Local Wildlife Site (LWS) surveys for Lench Meadows LWS, the latest of which was completed in 2020. This notes that the site has been neglected from its management and that ruderal and scrub species are becoming dominant, often entirely replacing the grasses.
With regards to the flood meadow, this historical data states that “this former flood meadow was almost certainly and an example of the nationally endangered MG4 NVC (Meadow Foxtail – Great Burnet) community when it was being managed as a hay meadow.” Unfortunately, Great Burnet was not found by the LWS surveyors in the 2020 surveys and the report goes on to state “It has unfortunately had to endure 25 years of neglect, so the field has deteriorated into the common MG1 grassland, typical of unmanaged swards.” A key recommendation of the LWS report is “Urgent work should include restoring the northern river meadow to an MG4 flood meadow (a national priority habitat) with an annual cut and the introduction of green hay from a suitable SSSI donor meadow.”
Using this data, the design team has identified the significance of this habitat and working in collaboration with the design team, Stratford District Council and Stratford Town Trust, this ecological feature will be retained and enhanced. To kickstart the meadow restoration, the area has been subject to a traditional spring hay cut, removing any arisings and allowing open spaces for meadow flora to grow. Due to the narrow timeframe between the floodplain soil drying out enough to permit mowing machines into the area and the start of April when the ground nesting birds are nesting, a nesting bird survey was undertaken prior to the cut commencing. An ecologist inspected this area before the hay cut was taken to ensure no animals were harmed by the reinstatement of the meadow management methods.
The meadow will be monitored this year to see if any of the seeds from the former rare habitat remain in the seedbank and to see if they germinate, or if additional help to restore the meadow is required through the direct application of supplementary seeding.
The future objective is to maintain the mosaic of habitats present on the site and to identify if additional ecological enhancements can be undertaken. A full management plan will be complied to avoid the deterioration of the habitats occurring in the future. We will also seek to achieve Local Nature Reserve designation.”
Sara Aspley, Chief Executive from Stratford Town Trust said: ‘We’ve listened carefully to a wide range of views from the public and key local stakeholders as part of the consultation on the initial concept design. The feedback has clearly highlighted the value of a revitalised green space for the residents of the town and the benefits of providing Stratford with another valuable asset to aid post Covid-19 recovery.’
Tony Perks, Deputy Chief Executive at Stratford District Council said: ‘In progressing into the next stage of design development, which will evaluate and respond to feedback with a revised plan, the project team have through Tandem Projects, engaged the design services of Design with Nature. Responding to the focus and needs of this project, Design with Nature are a Landscape Institute Registered Practice, with a specific focus on ecologically informed and focussed design solutions.’
Can the area become a Local Nature Reserve?
The key concerns Stratford Town Trust and Stratford-on-Avon District Council have responded to have been around preserving nature and protecting biodiversity in The Lench Meadows. Subsequently, both parties are working together to seek Local Nature Reserve (LNR) designation so that the site can benefit from a long-term management plan.
Sara Aspley, Chief Executive at Stratford Town Trust said: ‘It is a local authority’s responsibility to designate an area as a Local Nature Reserve. However, as partner land holders Stratford Town Trust must fulfil the commitments of our charitable objectives attached to our endowed estate – we believe that an LNR designation achieves this. Together with Stratford District Council are working through a range of factors to help us gain LNR status for a minimum of 21 years and we will update you on progress as soon as we can.’
Jenny Loynds, of Stratford Climate Action said: ‘Stratford Climate Action support the creation of a Local Nature Reserve at Lench Meadows. We are keen to see a long-term Management Plan, based on the 2020 WCC Survey, put in place to protect and enhance the ecological value of this beautiful site.’
How can the scheme have a positive effect on nature and protect existing habitats?
To ensure that the scheme is sensitive to the natural environment, environmental studies have been underway for several months. Findings so far indicate that there are many direct benefits from implementing the scheme and here we reveal some of the initial discoveries and ecological enhancements proposed by Middlemarch Environmental in conjunction with Design by Nature:
The emergent vegetation is starting to colonise these ponds. If the ponds are left without any form of rotational management, then the decaying emergent vegetation will eventually fill the ponds and the ponds will be naturally lost.
- Northern Flood (Hay) Meadow
The spring cut of the meadow has reduced the level of tall ruderal plants which were colonising this area. This area will be enhanced by the addition of seed to replace those species which were historically present and have now been lost or which are still present but in low numbers. The meadow will then be subject to meadow management with cuts being undertaken from August.
- Reedbed and Boardwalk
The reedbed area will be created with a range of reedbed types including drier margins, areas which will remain wet and deeper open water areas. This range of habitats will provide the variety required for multiple wetland bird species. The board walk is intended to direct the visitors along a single route with ditches installed either side to deter casual access and ensure that the wildlife is left undisturbed.
- Flora and Fauna
Tall ruderal species provide a resource for a range of species. It is not the intention to remove this habitat from the site but where present, it will be subject to selective management on a rotational basis to ensure that the mosaic of habitats is retained and that one habitat does not dominate. Rotational management will also be undertaken to the woodland areas. This will focus on those areas where the ground flora is poor due to the dominance of nettle and ruderal species. Management for the woodland areas will include selective thinning and small woodland glades being created to allow light to reach the ground flora. Blocks of Hazel (subsequently managed on a coppice rotation) will be planted to help control the nettle understorey and woodland ground flora species will be sown (or introduced as plugs / pot grown stock) to enhance the botanical diversity of these areas.
How many of the paths will be new and why?
The majority of paths are being reinstated on existing desire lines to make them walkable year-round. This means that there will be a modest network of agreed and existing pathways that are mown to allow access all year round. There are two new fully accessible pathway additions: a single circular path and a boardwalk across the reinstated reed beds to allow access to nature for all. Also, a replacement footbridge on the riverside path will mean for the first time, everyone will be able to continue on into town.
Tony Perks, Deputy Chief Executive at Stratford-on-Avon District Council said: ‘Materials chosen for new surfaces will be sympathetic to the surrounding area, for example bound gravel for the pathway and hard wood for the boardwalk. All hard surface pathways account for only 1.5 % of land. Reinstatement of pre-existing pathways is one of the recommendations from WCC Citation Site Survey and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust tell us that when paths are visible and obvious, people stick to them, therefore reducing the intrusion on sensitive habitats and wildlife, including nesting birds.’
Why make the riverside more inclusive and accessible?
One of the main aims of the scheme is to bring people closer to nature and enabling everyone the opportunity to benefit from this. New features to improve accessibility include a circular pathway and an accessible boardwalk that is wide enough for wheelchairs, pushchairs and accessible bikes.
Edd Terrey, of Heart of England Mencap said: ‘We want to ensure that people with a Learning Disability or anyone with additional needs who live in Stratford have the same access to its great parks and open spaces as everyone else. This scheme will provide organisations like Heart of England Mencap who support people in the town with a Learning Disability or with mobility issues to enjoy the great outdoors and provide a foundation to build back their lives after the past 15 months. Health inequalities for people with Learning Disabilities were already widening before Covid and in a post-Covid world, we expect these to widen even further. We very much welcome the project and feel it will be a great asset to the town and a beacon of the towns desire to support every one of its inhabitants.’
Caroline Smith, of Inclusivity, Stratford-upon-Avon said: ‘The improvements open up natural areas that were previously inaccessible, enhancing the opportunities for, arguably, those in most need, to safely access a beautiful natural setting. The provision of the accessible toilet at the Lench Meadows is a game-changer for so many people.
‘Furthermore, by opening up safe and accessible routes to the leisure centre, visitors have a means of approach to the 'changing places toilet', that eliminates crossings in front of traffic, and reduces surface level changes and other obstacles that currently present difficulties. As a result, The Lench Meadows and Northern Riverside, will become somewhere, a significant number of previously excluded people can now enjoy. This is a very positive step forward in our aim to ensure everyone can enjoy what our lovely town has to offer.
‘I am particularly heartened to see the increase in accessible fishing pegs which will be located in quiet areas. Inclusion is more than physical accessibility, for many people with mental health, autism and sensory processing difficulties, to name just some, the less intrusion from noise and the physical closeness of people, the more likely they are to visit and maybe, try a new sport.’