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You are here Past Speakers 2012/13       
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Extracts from the presentation by Mark Haselden, Chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group

After the business of the AGM, 13th May 2013, Mark Haselden gave a presentation on the progress of the Neighbourhood Plan, which has been drawn up by local people to define the character and heritage of the town and the ways in which provision can be made in a sustainable way for future housing needs and a strong local economy.

The current options were a new settlement around Gaydon, a major expansion of Stratford with new infrastructure, or a combination of the two. The NP favoured looking at brownfield development first and had identified a regeneration area to include the canal, Mason’s Road, the old football stadium, DCS site and possibly Western Road. Phased regeneration could be done in conjunction with a business park on the A46 as suggested in SDC’s draft Core Strategy. Consultation had shown a strong desire to protect the countryside.

Compared with other historic towns and larger tourist destinations such as Bath and York, there was a perception that Stratford had been in gradual decline for the past 15 years. Two specialists in regeneration have been recruited to the working groups one of whom is John Scampion of the Stratford Society, who is a former chief executive of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and has extensive knowledge of town centre shopping and commercial development.

Problems facing the town were identified as:
  • Further out-of-town development
  • The possibility of a large anchor store withdrawing
  • Internet shopping
  • Polarisation of retail to larger towns with a greater choice of shops
  • Downturn in consumer spending
  • Poor transport interchanges
  • High car parking charges
  • Too much vehicle traffic in the town centre
  • Lack of concern among District planners about preserving the character of the town centre
  • A lack of cohesive management
  • The derelict appearance of Town Square

Among other priorities, Working Groups are considering ways of:

  • Ensuring the town centre is a flourishing shopping and commercial centre
  • Protecting town centre heritage
  • Managing tourism
  • Improving access and traffic flow
  • Assessing the benefits of pedestrian priority or shared space in the town centre.
  • Adapting parking policies to favour retail
  • Facilitating residential development in the town centre in place of some empty shops.

Final Stages of the Plan:

  • A final draft will be submitted to interested groups, including the Stratford Society.
  • The Steering Group will liaise with the SDC Core Strategy team and there will be additional workshops if appropriate.
  • The final plan will be submitted for inspection and referendum.

Public Consultation :

There will be Open Days at the Town Hall on Sunday 30th June from 11am to 5pm and on Monday 1st July from 1pm to 8pm at the Town Hall. There will be a DVD presentation and members of the NP groups will be present to answer questions. Further comments and ideas will be invited.

Members Meeting Monday 15 April 2013 - 7.30 pm The Falcon

Forest in the making

Carole Longden, Business Development Manager, of the Heart of England Forest Project was guest speaker at the Stratford Society’s meeting on Monday evening, 15 th April 2013.

Carole entertained members with a stunning video of the Heart of England Forest and also invited members to take part in a ‘guess the twig’ competition.

The Heart of England Forest is the vision of Felix Dennis, local landowner, entrepreneur and poet. Carole told members that since the charity was established in 2003 :

  • The forest is currently in 3 main areas, namely Dorsington, Great Alne and Broad Marston as shown on the map attached
  • 1,048,034 trees have been planted to date over an area of 2360 acres.
  • 48 acres of conifer in Coughton Park Wood have been restored to broadleaf
  • 14 million more trees to plant
  • 30,000 acre vision
  • Up to 15 people employed at peak times
  • This will mean a £200 million plus investment

The Heart of England Forest Project is a partnership initiative between Felix Dennis, and The Heart of England Forest Ltd., a registered charity and the aim of the partnership is to plant and preserve a large native broadleaf forest in the heart of England.

Not only are Corporate sponsorships encouraged to sponsor perhaps a whole wood but also individual sponsors are welcomed who can sponsor an individual tree as a celebration or memorial.

To date there have been no signs of ash dieback identified and the Project are working closely with Oxford University who study the various fungi in the forest.

Various species of wild life are flourishing and dormice have been introduced in to the forest. Kingfishers, kestrels. barn owls and lots of other bird can also be found.

Members Meeting - Monday 18 March 2013 6.15pm Falcon

Places and Spaces - Designing for people

Lucy Musgrave

was the guest speaker

Lucy runs her own practice, Publica, and will draw some lessons from the creative work she does with developers and with community groups to create and improve public spaces and to address how places change. She will present a number of current projects in sensitive historic environments.  


Look at the way people use places and spaces before you decide how to develop an area. That was the message from public realm consultant Lucy Musgrave to Stratford’s planners when she spoke recently to members of the Stratford Society about ‘Designing for People’.

“If you want to maintain an area’s individuality and character, always start by looking at the way an area is used,” she advised.

“ This is the way to identify the distinctiveness that makes a place unique. It provides strategies for long-term thinking and therefore value, which is important to landowners as well as developers.”

As founder of the consultancy Publica, Ms Musgrave has a team of urban designers, planners, landscape architects, film makers, artists and socio-economic researchers who develop master plans for developers and major landowners.

These include the Howard de Walden, Grosvenor and Portman estates, Transport for London, tenant associations and neighbourhood planners.

“In order to set the right brief for urban designers, architects, highway engineers and landscape architects, we spend a great deal of time on site – watching, learning, drawing, talking and listening, visiting at different times of day or late at night,” she explained.

“We are always looking for the lived experience as a reality check, rather than an imagined experience. We look at what exists, what’s missing and what has to be made from scratch. The mix is difficult to manufacture and it is very easy to destroy.

These basic principles, she went on, apply not only to grand formal spaces, but also to small, intimate ones and to market towns like Stratford, with which she has had family connections for many years. Some of the criteria to be considered – “apart from having forward-thinking developers and planners” – were the texture and variation of materials that make public spaces open and welcoming.

When new spaces are created, they too often feel a bit sterile, or corporate, she said. They are overly prescriptive and over-designed, which is alienating. More informal layouts softened by handsome specimen trees providing focal points would allow for greater flexibility between day and night-time uses.

“I try to think of all the different types of spaces I work on as you would think about an urban garden – you have to factor in time to grow, places to play, benches in front of shops to create ‘dwell time’ and others that can be moved to follow the path of the sun.

“Add flexibility, care, maintenance and appropriate management and you have a celebration of our shared civic lives – and you achieve it by showing a respect for the DNA of each individual place and giving it a continuity which will be appreciated for many years to come.”

Monday, 18 February at The Falcon Hotel at 6.15pm

Cars versus Pedestrians – Sharing our streets

David Ubaka, architect and urban designer and until recently Head of Urban Design for Transport for London is the guest speaker.

Get rid of so-called ‘safety’ railings on kerbsides, widen the pavements and make cyclists use the roads and not the pavements. That was the message to Warwickshire County Council when transport expert David Ubaka spoke to a packed Stratford Society meeting on ‘Cars versus Pedestrians’ last week.

As an architect, urban designer and former Head of Urban Design for Transport for London, Mr Ubaka has wide experience of how to balance the needs of vehicles and pedestrians on congested streets and he showed how the hot topic of traffic congestion could be improved by some simple changes.

“Stratford has too much clutter, unnecessary guardrails, an excess of on street parking and footways that are too narrow and in some areas in poor condition,” he said. “Waterside shows what could be achieved if the public realm is improved and traffic calmed.


“Traffic calming schemes have many benefits”, he went on, giving the example of The Cut in Waterloo which is the home of the Old and New Vic. It had been a depressed street with little foot fall where half the shops were empty. Modest alterations had included widening and improving the pavements to reduce the width of the car lanes, but with carefully designed parking places, planting a few trees and introducing heavy benches to double as bollards to keep traffic off pedestrian space. The result was a vibrant space with full occupancy of the shops.

Railings at the kerb side, he said, narrowed walking space and encouraged vehicles to go faster. Despite Highway’s opposition on safety grounds, it had been proved in many towns that vehicles and pedestrians moved more easily particularly across junctions where numerous traffic lights, bollards and railings had been removed.

“Many unsatisfactory highway layouts have evolved because some highway engineers apply guidelines as mandatory regulation and thus do not adapt sufficiently to the needs of the particular place. The importance of a very thorough survey of all implications of any plan cannot be too highly stressed, extending far beyond the immediate few yards of road under consideration as traffic responds by taking alternative routes. Narrowing vehicle lanes leads to slower vehicle speeds which by improving traffic flow can result in faster journey times and more relaxed driving.

“Not all schemes need to be of great expense. Some works can be done with little more than the maintenance budget backed up with the possibility of savings from reduced maintenance in the future. This emanates from the reduced speeds and fewer accidents which are hallmarks of good design. Underlying all projects is the importance of confident, robust decision takers to make moves which are often not popular at first, but are appreciated when people see the benefits in practice when the work is completed.”

Monday, 11 February at The Falcon Hotel at 3.00pm

Putting Us in the Picture

Mairi Macdonald retired in 2010 as Head of Local Collections at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and has an extensive knowledge of its archives. She will look at the history of Stratford through pictures, from the Romans until the end of WW ll.

Nigel Hugill - Monday 19th November at 6.15pm at the Falcon Hotel

Royal Shakespeare Company – What’s in it for Us?

Nigel Hugill, Chairman of the Royal Shakespeare Company

will be guest speaker

Nigel will look back at the contribution of the World Shakespeare Festival to the Cultural Olympiad and assess its civic value. As Executive Chairman of Urban and Civic, a major brownfield development company, and Chair of the urban think tank, Centre for Cities, he will also consider the relationship between the town and the RSC and the contribution cultural organisations can make to towns such as Stratford.

Roger Pringle - Monday 12th November at 3pm at the Falcon Hotel

charles dickens Shakespeare's Mutual Friend

In the bicentenary year of Charles Dickens's birth,

Roger Pringle, former Director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust,

will talk about the several visits which the novelist paid to Stratford,

his involvement in helping to secure the Birthplace for the nation, and how his experience of the town featured in his writing.


Les Sparks - Managing Historic Towns – How Civic Societies can help

Monday 15 October 2012 6.15pm

At the meeting on Monday 15 October, the Stratford Society welcomed Les Sparks, Chairman of MADE’s Design Review Panel, to deliver a talk entitled “Managing Historic Towns – How Civic Societies can help”

Mr Sparks had enjoyed a very interesting career spanning over 45 years and involving such historic places as Bath, Birmingham, and Ironbridge. MADE is an organisation dedicated to improving the quality of our towns, cities and villages in the West Midlands, and it was pleasing to know that Stratford District Council was now a subscriber to its design review service. Mr Sparks reflected how the world had changed over the past 25 years and how civic societies now had a role to play in managing our historic towns.

Bath in particular had experienced development pressures in 1987. Over a million visitors went through the Roman Baths Museum. Open top buses had started taking visitors round the city, and this had presented particular problems for residents because of the frequency of journeys and the noise of commentary. However, tourists spent money in the city, therefore there was pressure to build more shops. Coach tours and car parking also created a problem, at the same time as raising a significant amount of money, which naturally introduced conflicting pressures. A significant benefit for Bath was the large number of people able to live within the city centre.

Mr Sparks said how a three day conference for representatives of the country’s principal historic towns and cities had been organised in Bath in 1987 from which had emerged the English Historic Towns Forum. This body had originally comprised a limited number of local authorities to enable conversations between similar cities to find solutions to their common difficulties, and develop management principles for historic towns. This body had grown UK wide into the Historic Towns Forum (HTF), with HRH Price of Wales as Patron; civic societies (including the Stratford Society), the private sector and corporate membership now eclipses Local Government which has only 25% representation.

Local Authority power had diminished over time with 25% of conservation staff leaving in the last few years. English Heritage had set up the Historic Environment: Local Authority Capacity project (HELAC) to explore ways of managing historic towns with diminishing Council resources. This funded a study in Cheltenham that examined the potential for the civic society and private companies to augment the resources of an over-stretched conservation team.

Particularly sophisticated arrangements for the management of historic towns have been developed for World Heritage Sites (WHS). This was a process that could be applicable to many towns. Mr Sparks described the arrangements in place for formulating Management Plans for two WHS’s, Bath and Ironbridge.

Stratford had at one time been on the UK tentative list for submission to UNESCO for inscription as a World Heritage Site, but Mr Sparks pointed out that such attribution could result in conflicts between Local Authorities and UNESCO, as in the current case of Liverpool.

Finally, he referred to the importance of Public Realm Guides in historic towns, describing their use in Bath and Ironbridge and the subjects they addressed.

Following a lively question and answer session with Members, Dr Bond thanked Mr Sparks warmly for his most interesting and enlightening talk.

Cllr Keith Lloyd, the Mayor of Stratford upon Avon followed by

an illustrated talk by Clive Henderson, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Association

17th September 2012

At the meeting on Monday 17 September, the Stratford Society was given an address by the Cllr Keith Lloyd, the Mayor of Stratford upon Avon. This was followed by an illustrated talk by Clive Henderson, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Association.  

Cllr Lloyd said how he would like to outline his vision for the town during his time as Mayor. He explained how he had been born in North Wales and had been steeped in Council politics from his father’s close involvement in local affairs. He had first been appointed a Councillor in 2003, when he won the place by one vote. The Mayor was the civic head of this famous town, which Cllr Lloyd appreciated was a great honour for a man from a small town in Wales. While he recognised that any significant power was limited as the scope of the Town Council was actually that of a parish council, he promised that he would leave no stone unturned in bringing national recognition for Stratford.

Cllr Lloyd said he was particularly concerned about traffic problems in the town. Congestion urgently needed to be addressed without changing the nature of the town therefore he could not support pedestrianisation schemes or road closures. He said there had been the expectation that the M40 link from Birmingham to Oxford would ease congestion, but this had not proved to be the case and an effective by-pass for the town was urgently needed, in addition to a bus station - rather than the second train station that was currently proposed. Young people need encouragement to become responsible citizens and sought leadership by example, and Cllr Lloyd said that he supported local societies and individuals who offered their services to pull together for the sake of the whole.  

He concluded by saying that he had recently attended the AGM of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, when he had been successful in voicing concerns about the new theatre that had been voiced by some Stratford Society members.  

Mr Clive Henderson, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Association, then presented to the meeting a most informative talk entitled “Water – Stratford’s Life Blood”. He showed a series of slides to illustrate the history of the Stratford upon Avon Canal and usage,and the role of the Stratford upon Avon Canal Society in its restoration from its foundation in the late 1950s. The canal had long been an important part of Stratford’s history as a thriving inland port because of the town’s connection to the major towns of England, but its importance had diminished as train carrying had taken over.

There were several pictures of the old Kendalls factory and lock, and perfect examples of barrel roof houses that had been constructed because of the available, and cheaper, material that was to hand. These houses were unique to Stratford and it is still possible to be able to rent a holiday let in Lowsonford today, from the Landmark Trust. There were also several examples of “split bridges” which enabled horse drawn boats to continue along the canal, while the horse could remain on the tow path with the tow rope passing through the split in the centre of the bridge. It was interesting to know that the aqueduct at Bearley was the longest in England. However, these had deteriorated because traffic on the waterway had declined.

The main mover behind the reconstruction and restoration of the canal had been David Hutchings, who had been tireless in his determination to stop the deterioration of the waterway. The catalyst for deciding to restore the waterway was the judgement by the Council not to restore the bridge at Wilmcote, and in 1956 the Stratford upon Avon Canal Society was formed. The plan to abandon the bridge was challenged by the new Society, a meeting was held, and the resulting objections were sent to Warwickshire County Council. Michael Fox bought a licence to give him “right of passage” along the canal, resulting in the decision for restoration of the canal between Lapworth and Stratford with help from the National Trust.  

It was very interesting to be shown how there had been a second basin in Stratford, sited in front of the RST where the Bancroft Gardens are now, the two basins being linked by a waterway.  

Work on the canal was undertaken by volunteers, and materials bought with money raised by donations. 13 miles of canal was saved at a cost of around £60,000, relinking Stratford to the biggest stretch of waterways in the country. A number of volunteers came from the Army, through David Hutchings’s contacts, and the lock gates were made in Henley in Arden [with Winson Green prison, in Birmingham]. The old steel bridge at the river entrance was constructed at Wormwood Scrubs jail in London but erected with assistance by Winson Green prisoners who had worked on the restoration. In 1964 the first boat in 45 years passed through the canal into the Basin in Stratford and the canal was re-opened by Her Majesty the Queen Mother.   These narrow waterways are unique in the country, and their worth is well recognised. In fact it is intended that stone steps should be erected alongside the river by Holy Trinity Church in memory of David Hutchings and donations were being sought to enable this to happen.  

For further information email

Ian Prosser thanked Mr Henderson warmly for his interesting talk and said that in all the years he had been a member of the Stratford Society he had never learnt the history of Stratford’s canal. Cllr Lloyd was also thanked for giving time in his busy schedule to address the Society.

Useful links:

The Inland Waterways Association

The Stratford on Avon Canal Society