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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 August 2006, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Bridge creates troubled water
By Arryn Moy
BBC News, Stratford-upon-Avon

The River Avon in Stratford
The new bridge would be in the distance behind the theatre

It is a view of Middle England that has been snapped on millions of cameras from around Britain and the globe.

But protesters claim a new bridge over the River Avon would forever change a famous vista associated with William Shakespeare's home town.

Five designs for a new bridge in front of one of England's most famous scenes at Stratford-upon-Avon have been revealed.

Some say it will help regenerate the town, but others claim it could affect the landscape around the Grade II-listed Royal Shakespeare and Swan theatres, adding it is neither needed nor wanted.

It is a subject that has filled the pages of south Warwickshire newspapers.

Tramway Bridge: used to see horse-drawn carriages pulled from Shipston (no vehicles now)
Clopton Bridge: a nightmare for any driver who has to use the main crossing for vehicles
Chain Ferry: it makes the short crossing from the theatres to the Recreation Ground
Lucy's Mill Bridge: a footbridge crossing away from the town centre

James Philpotts, of the local pressure group Stratford Voice, said: "I would say the letters page in the local papers are four-to-one against this but the county council are not listening.

"We are minded to move to a parish poll where all 22,000 residents in Stratford will have a say. I do not think there are many people in Stratford who want this scheme."

The 2m bridge is set to built by 2009 and the project is being led by Warwickshire County Council.

Stratford's MP John Maples is not a keen supporter of the idea, although he would not say he was against it.

He said: "I don't think we should have it if Stratford people do not want it. There are good things and bad things about it

"I think the people of Stratford have got to be persuaded yet."

Team E - one five designs

He said the county council had "not handled the consultations very well" so far and it still had work to do.

The council has said it is a "landmark development" which is expected to make the town more attractive to visitors, tourists and residents.

Councillor Chris Saint, economic development portfolio holder, said: "The views of the public are vital.

"Now it is their turn to give us comments on the five proposals. It's a timely opportunity to have a say on a significant proposal."

The bridge scheme is part of a wider 7m regeneration of the tourist town called World Class Stratford which is being funded by the regional development agency, Advantage West Midlands.

August 27 and 28: Bancroft Gardens
September 3 and 4: Henley Street
September 14 and 15: Morrisons car park

The controversy over the bridge follows a bruising consultation over plans to see the Royal Shakespeare Theatre knocked down and rebuilt. That was scaled back to a major rebuild exercise after a public outcry.

Vikki Heywood, Royal Shakespeare Company executive director, said: "We know from our own consultation on the transformation of the RSC's theatres that the people of Stratford have great ambitions for the future of the town.

"We cannot develop our theatres in isolation. That's why the plans for World Class Stratford and the development of the waterfront in particular are so exciting."

In pictures: Stratford's new bridge
16 Aug 06 |  In Pictures
New 2m footbridge 'not wanted'
15 Mar 06 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Competition to design town bridge
10 Mar 06 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Major redevelopment in Stratford
10 Jan 05 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
RSC unveils Stratford revamp plan
22 Sep 04 |  Entertainment


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