Cold water poured on major leisure tourism project that would link Stratford and Warwick

The Gran Union Canal from Budbrooke Road in Warwick. Image by Google Street View.
The Gran Union Canal from Budbrooke Road in Warwick. Image by Google Street View.

Councillors have thrown cold water on a major project that would have linked up  Stratford and Warwick.

The proposals would have seen an extension of the existing Avon Navigation Scheme on the River Avon from Alveston, north of Stratford to the Grand Union Canal in Warwick.

The Avon Navigation Trust (ANT) put forward the plans, which would have see the River Avon opened up to leisure boats.

An assessment was carried out on behalf of Warwick District and Stratford District Councils and the Avon Navigation Trust to establish the potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the scheme.

Over the last week the scheme failed to get backing from both councils after a study found that the scheme would cost millions.

The final report said that while the plan would bring benefits to the region in terms of improved tourism opportunities, the scheme would cost up to £29.6 million and that there were environmental costs as well as opposition to the plan that would have led to raising water levels along stretches on the Avon.

During Stratford District Council’s Cabinet meeting on Monday a number of people spoke out against the plans including the chairman of Hampton Lucy Parish Council, the owner of a Grade II listed property on the river and an assistant director of the National Trust - the Avon cuts through the grounds of one of its properties, Charlecote Park.

Cllr Mark Cargill, deputy leader of Stratford District Council, said he was disappointed with the report.

He explained: “I think it failed to explore the arguments - both for and against - as well as it could have done and there were a number of errors contained within it.

“The business case is quite weak and not compelling and there is a huge potential cost in opening the navigation up and my argument would be - who’s going to pay for it?

“Although it would be nice to open up the navigation for tourism and health and wellbeing, it would cost a heck of a lot of money and it is potentially not a justifiable cost at this point.

“There will be an impact on residents, landowners and business users and from an environmental point of view there would be potential harm and that would outweigh any business case presented to us so for that I cannot support this.

“I would like to draw a line under this element of the proposal – it would be unfair that residents, landowners and businesses should have a cloud hanging over them in the potential for the scheme to be resurrected in the future.”

Despite this both councils did back efforts to improve public access via a footpath along the River Avon between the two towns.

Councillor Noel Butler, Warwick District Council’s portfolio holder for business, said: “Any project which has the potential to increase visitor numbers to our district is always worth exploring.

“Unfortunately, in this case the environmental and capital costs outweighed the benefits.

“We will however continue to work with Stratford District Council to improve public access along the river corridor between our two towns.”

A spokesperson from the Avon Navigation Trust said: “Avon Navigation Trust welcomes the careful consideration given by councillors to the high level assessment into the economic feasibility of the navigation extension and the resulting report, jointly commissioned with our partners Warwick District Council and Stratford District Council.

“The Trust also welcomes the fresh focus this has brought onto the Avon, which is enjoyed by thousands of visitors and local people in Stratford and we would be pleased to support suggestions to open up public access from there via a footpath/cycle path along the river corridor between the town and Warwick."