At our most recent meeting of The Cabinet, members of the Council were presented with the final draft of the Stratford-upon-Avon Area Transport Strategy.
The document is the culmination of over four years of work launched by Nadhim Zahawi MP through a series of public meetings before being followed up by the then Portfolio Holder for Housing and Infrastructure and latterly (post public consultation) myself.
I should stress that this document will form part of the Warwickshire County Council Local Transport Plan and is “owned” by the County Council. The District Council has been involved in the production of the plan as it directly affects the town, but it does not form part of the suite of policy documents to which we are responsible.
As this is a document that will not be formally adopted by the Council, it was within my gift as Portfolio Holder to endorse the Strategy without the need to bring it before The Cabinet and Council. However, I felt that would be entirely the wrong thing to do and that it was vital for our Council to consider and debate the Strategy in full before any endorsement is sent to the County Council.
Much has been said about the plan and the Herald recently reported that The Cabinet had refused to endorse it. That is absolutely not the case. The Cabinet quite simply chose to pass a recommendation to Full Council, to consider endorsing the Strategy. That was always the intention.
That is not to say it was all plain sailing. Both Councils have received some very strong representation over some of the policies contained within the Strategy, many of which were responded to in the consultation document that accompanies it.
Many have since criticised the level of detail the Strategy provides and that without further detail they would not be supportive. This Strategy is designed to provide principles and a framework for future transport infrastructure, the details and delivery of that come later.
Ultimately, we now need to decide if we are prepared to endorse the document. In doing so the Council will be providing both me as the portfolio holder and the County Council as the Highways Authority, the necessary leverage to seek and obtain funding from both private and public sources.
If we don’t endorse and the County Council don’t adopt the Strategy, any strength that we would have had will disappear. It would be next to impossible to then obtain funding for these projects without some accompanying housing developments – something that would increase congestion further still and is in no one’s interests.
It is imperative that the Council move to endorse this plan and enable my colleagues and I to seek appropriate funding to relieve the stress on our transport infrastructure.
Over fifty years ago, the County Council produced a plan (with full funding!) to build a relief road and second river crossing to the east of the town. The then Stratford-on-Avon Rural District Council turned down the proposal and since then we have provided nothing to support the increase in population and vehicle reliance. Now is the time for us to do so, it may be our only chance for another fifty years.