It seems to me that those of us who either live in the Town of Stratford upon Avon or who visit regularly take it for granted. We are too comfortable with the quality environment, the wonderful mix of shops, restaurants and bars. We assume that the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and its historic houses will always be here and available and that The Royal Shakespeare Theatres and their wonderful company of players just happen.
Of course, all of what goes into making Stratford hasn’t just happened. Decisions have been made and plans implemented to result in the heritage we have.
Not all of what is Stratford upon Avon now is of the same quality. Design, construction, service and management of facilities is of variable quality.
Yet, The Town continues to attract huge numbers of visitors and there seems to always be sufficient demand by incomers to ensure that national housing dips pass us by. Stratford is an economic wealth generator for a wide area around the Midlands. Yet, are we protecting and enhancing this historic and economic prosperity centre adequately?
The Stratford Society is actively demanding greater attention to quality in design. High quality development which recognizes that blending the historic with the new demands great attention to detail and development of a scale which recognize the importance of heritage and avoids the damage which has been already been caused; even in the more recent past. We must avoid large monodesign developments so loved by national builders. We demand mixed high quality design in proportion to the scale of the historic town. Even in the more recent past, housing developments have simply been too large and of generally poor design; a national centre for our historic heritage deserves better.
It is important to avoid surrounding all the gateways to the town with concrete and tarmac.
Zoning must be sympathetic to the whole nature of a national heritage centre and there is surely a sufficiency of national retail outlets. The Historic Spine of the town is only now being recognized for its vital role in preserving the link between the past, present and future. Many shop fronts are ugly and signage is still behind the best that both the United Kingdom and Europe can show. We must improve this now and ensure that freeholders, leaseholders and planners recognize the vital role that the aesthetic appearance of our town has in the prosperity of all.
We must deal with the nonsense of delivery vehicles blocking our town centre during the daytime peak pedestrian times; no other heritage centre allow this. Heavy vehicles must be kept outside the town centre; they damage building foundations; their emissions foul the air we breathe and our medieval street layout does not accommodate them.
What is needed is a renaissance to the centre of the town recognizing the culture and heritage which Shakespeare has left as a legacy. The modern English language is identified with William Shakespeare. Stratford upon Avon is the custodian of this heritage.
We must ensure that the town continues in its development recognizing the special responsibilities this places on us to be sympathetic to this heritage which ensures the town prospers. To ensure that this heritage is handed to our successors in a better state than we inherited we must take urgent steps to prevent the overdevelopment of the whole town. The strategy of the local authority responsible for planning has ignored the heritage of the town for too long. The relationship of the town and its surrounding villages must be considered as a whole - without the town being given care the whole will suffer.
The Stratford Society must now rise to the challenge. We must persuade our local and national decision makers that the town of Stratford upon Avon is a national treasure. The language which unites all countries came out of the works of a Stratford man. Peoples from all over the world come to our town to better understand the man in order to understand one another through a shared language. We have a responsibility to the past, present and future to ensure that the town is a beacon to this heritage and future opportunity. There is much to be done.
Dr Kevin Bond - Chairman of the Stratford Society