Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Warwickshire County Council



  The Culture, Media and Sports Committee has requested a memorandum from Warwickshire Country Council submitting evidence on its views of the proposed redevelopment plans of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford Upon Avon. We have been closely involved with the proposals for some time, and the County Council's views are set out below.


  2.1  The County Council has been working in partnership with Stratford Upon Avon District Council and the RSC for the past four years. In 1999 the County and District Councils saw a need to examine the development opportunities in the Waterfront area in light of the RSC proposals, and commissioned a jointly funded Stratford Theatre Area Feasibility Study (STAFS), to review the highway issues and the wider public realm. The study was run concurrently with the RSC Theatre Redevelopment feasibility study, and as some elements under scrutiny were the same, for example, the parking and highway network, the consultants involved share information. Thus the result was two separate but dovetailing studies, their elements picked up and reflected in the needs of the other. The STAFS study accompanies this memorandum, sent to you by post.

  2.2  The results of the RSC feasibility study therefore did not present any surprises and indeed our own study reflected nearly all the elements of their "wish list", for example the full or partial pedestrianisation of Waterside and a new pedestrian bridge across the river to improve access to the theatres.


  3.1  Warwickshire County Council has recently started to implement the medium term transport strategy for the town, as set out in the Local Transport Plan and the District's Local Plan Review. Indeed, the RSC has contributed to the implementation of an important component of the strategy; the Urban Traffic Management Control system.

  3.2  Following the recommendations from the STAFS report, and through our Transport Planning Unit, the County and District Councils will work together to implement a full transport strategy, which is likely to include some of the proposals made in the STAFS study. We will look for opportunities to integrate the wider needs of the town with the needs of the RSC, for example in the parking proposals. To that end we are actively examining locations for Park and Ride sites that would be of benefit to the town and to the RSC. Other RSC proposals, such as the pedestrian bridge are clearly consistent with our requirements to promote sustainable transport.

  3.3  The creation of a "theatre village" would be greatly helped by the full or partial closure of Waterside. Extensive public consultation would be required before a decision could be made, but the closure could be accommodated through a traffic management plan, and the envisaged positive impact to the waterfront environment would be welcome. Particularly we would look to improve the experience for pedestrians, and full or partial pedestrianisation can only assist with this objective.

  3.4  Full public consultation on the enhanced transport strategy will take place in the autumn this year.


  4.1  The County Council contributed to the RSC's Theatre Redevelopment Feasibility Study, which included an Economic Impact Assessment. The findings, concurring with our own knowledge of the town's economic environment, showed that the RSC contributes significantly to the economic prosperity of not only the town, but the county, sub-region and region as a whole.

  4.2  The impact assessment estimated that the presence of the RSC in the town brings a total of £31.75 million into the South Warwickshire area. £18 million of this is through RSC self-generated income and grants and the remainder, some £13.75 million, is as a result of the wider visitor expenditure. We estimate that between two and a half and three million visitors are attracted to Stratford-upon-Avon every year, and nearly four million visitors to the wider Stratford District area.

  4.3  Stratford now faces stiff new economic competition from other towns and shopping centres. In the past, perhaps, it has been over-reliant on the draw of the "Shakespeare experience" whilst other towns embraced infrastructural improvement. However, it is increasingly becoming a more customer focused market town, seeking out economic opportunity. This will be assisted with the recent appointment of a Town Centre consultant funded from both the private and public sources, including the County Council and the RSC, bringing Stratford on line with other Warwickshire market towns.

  4.4  We have also played a significant part in the creation of a Town Centre Partnership, drawing members from across the sectors, including the RSC. There is a sense in the town that the development proposed by the RSC could provide a window of opportunity and a stimulus for other, very long awaited redevelopment, specifically in the highway and public realm infrastructure.

  4.5  The County Council views the RSC proposals primarily as an economic opportunity to maintain the Town's position in an increasingly competitive environment. It also sees it as a catalyst for other much needed improvements, particularly to the highway and transport network. We anticipate that this will being economic benefit to the region as a whole. In January 2002, the County Council's Cabinet resolved "that the Cabinet endorses the continued involvement of Warwickshire County Council in the Waterfront development in Stratford-upon-Avon". The minutes of the Cabinet meeting are attached.


  5.1  The STAFS study process included two invited stakeholder workshops. The workshops allowed us to gauge some level of public reaction to the proposals, and also enabled stakeholders to prioritise the different elements within the study. The results were very interesting, highlighting a clear desire to resolve some of the more congested roads and junctions, and to improve the pedestrian experience from the car parks to the Waterfront area.

  5.2  Since the study has been completed, the County and District Councils, together with the RSC have set up the Waterfront Task Force, drawing high level members from across the authorities, commerce groups and public and private sectors. Its remit is to champion the need for development and to act as an intermediary and advisor to the local authorities. The minutes from the first meeting are attached. [not printed]

  5.3  There has been some press coverage of design solutions suggested by our consultants. We have been keen to state that the proposals are just a starting point and that no designs have been agreed upon. When consulting, the County Council has developed productive ways of engaging the public in highway and strategic transport issues. We hope to consult later in 2002, in partnership with Stratford-on-Avon District Council and the Waterfront Task Force to achieve consensus and provide a way forward.


  6.1  The County Council cannot take a view on specific design issues, nor on the merits or otherwise of the proposed demolition of the RST, Stratford-on-Avon District Council, the determining authority in this instance, is assisting the RSC with their PPG15 Planning and the Historic Environment assessment and has the relevant expertise to deal with this matter.


  7.1  The economic influence the RSC has upon the town of Stratford and the wider area is very significant. The prosperity of the RSC relates directly to the prosperity of the town, and the development proposals bring with them the potential for wider infrastructure development to benefit the region as a whole.

  7.2  An opportunity exists for the various authorities to work together and in consultation with the public to create a vision for the town; to develop and implement a bold transport strategy and to capitalise on the town centre initiatives to allow Stratford to hold its place in an increasingly competitive environment. The RSC proposals can be a catalyst for this partnership working and produce environmental improvements that could be of sustainable, lasting benefit.

Appendices (not printed)
Stratford Theatre Area Study
Warwickshire County Council Cabinet minutes, 10 January 2002
The Waterfront Task Force minutes, 6.12.01 meeting.

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