Take a look at these numbers – what do you think?

100? (definitely no) – 500? (still a no) – 1000? (still no) – 2000? (we don’t know if this is accurate – so still no) – 5000? (this figure can’t be justified – so no) – the answer is … No??

How many Stratford and District Residents (and Visitors) – does it take saying ‘We cannot cross Lucy’s Mill Bridge’ for a decision to be made about making it accessible to everyone?

In this post, you’ll find three letters, two from Warwickshire County Council and one reply from us, the Friends of Lucy’s Mill Bridge. These letters may give you an idea about why that question hasn’t been answered (yet) or what the costs could be if some ‘dream plans’ were to come to fruition.

The Friends of Lucy’s Mill Bridge haven’t published anything for several months. We apologise if you were waiting for news but we’ve been waiting for responses to the work that we’ve done. (With SO much help from all sorts of people – from residents through to local councillors – we thank you all!)

Last Summer we published an 11 part Consultation and Evidence Pack. You were able to read it as were Councillors at every level of Local, District and County. It went to the bodies who promote or are part of all the tourism in and around Stratford. It went to local trusts and those who fund business development.

The response was nearly all hugely positive. The response we waited for was from Warwickshire County Council, the owners of Lucy’s Mill Bridge.

As some background, this will give you an idea of how funding for projects works and why some of the content of these letters was included in them –

Any group, whether volunteers or paid professionals (and members of The Friends of Lucy’s Mill group do include top professional people in their fields, people who have volunteered their services), has a format of consultation and evidence gathering they have to follow.

This work can often be key to obtaining grants or other funding. It is now ever more important in finding direct funding – things like crowdfunding or donations.

Charities and Community-owned projects can apply for grants of anything from a few pounds to £1M+. Trusts (like our own Stratford Town Trust) can give grants to individuals, people in real immediate need. A grant is funding the recipient doesn’t pay back – its a gift but its always given after a process of showing need and then the impact the funding will have, and is often given because there are no other possible sources of support, including when and where Statutory Funding is not available.

Local and regional government receives grants from the Treasury – the above ‘Statutory Funding’. They do so for planned projects and on-going work, as well as ‘special projects’, something new or innovative or sometimes aspirational ideas. Local government also ask developers to contribute to their work, to fund some or all of infrastructure needs.

In the case of new roads, there is always a projection of need. For improvements of established roads (including things like new traffic lights or changes to junctions), it’s the developers who use data (supplied by WCC) to model what the changes will improve (or otherwise …) then put the results back into the consultation. So, this can be a mix of solving present problems (congestion) or trying to increase capacity where new (more) vehicles are going to use a road or a junction.

In the case of special projects, like World Class Stratford (which was considered in the mid-00s – over a decade ago), a quango call Advantage West Midlands was to have funded the proposed World-Class Footbridge, to be built where the river ferry is situated. It was a project to regenerate the local economy and to improve the well-being of Stratford residents and was to be connected to a new cycle route across the Rec from the old bridge on the Tramway. The new bridge would have been shared space for cyclists and pedestrians.

That was part of how local cycle networks could develop. The bridge would also allow the closest significant car parking access (from the Rec) to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It was planned before the Rec became used, on a few occasions a year, for major tourism and community events when several thousand people can want to cross the river, even just for a couple of hours.

So, what are these three letters all about and why could they help make a decision happen about Lucy’s Mill Bridge becoming a bridge everyone can use?

Before we get to that, there is one clear statement that is behind why The Friends of Lucy’s Mill Bridge was formed (our ‘Mission’), a statement that lies behind all the consultation we’ve done and the engagement we’ve had with residents and visitors. Lucy’s Mill Bridge is here, part of Stratford’s infrastructure, and has been for hundreds of years.

We are trying to make it a Bridge for Everyone. It is a bridge used by 000s of people a week but it cannot be used by anyone who has a mobility device (you’ll find the actual number of District residents this is later on in this post). It is practical to say that there are hundreds (if not more – again 000s) of residents and visitors who through age or infirmity may still be able to walk on flat paths and pavements but for whom trying to climb and then descend the steep steps – is impossible.

There are families who risk dropping pushchairs or their children’s little bikes, every time they do cross the bridge – notably for lone parents or guardians where it is so difficult and leaving the very young on the bridge whilst then carrying up (and down) pushchairs should not be a decision they have to make – and there are cyclists who also take a risk when they have to carry their bikes up and down the steps.

Our ‘mission’ is for everyone to be able to use Lucy’s Mill Bridge but, as you will read in the letters below, the infrastructure for cyclists (and some references to shared space – for cyclists and pedestrians) comes up again and again; that new infrastructure is a priority. You’ll now be able to consider the WCC responses and a number of very high level ‘looks’ at trial cycling projects that have been built and then used for over a decade – from across the UK.

We’ve tried to be as thorough as possible so that you can consider what could take some time to find the finance for, and what may need some major changes to the layout and use of local areas, and then compare this with something simpler – making a present bridge usable by everyone. That is people with a disability, people with less mobility, families with young children – and yes cyclists. We hope you find enough that you can have an informed idea of what you would like to see happen, and how quickly things should go forward.

There will also be a separate feature (coming soon) covering the content of one other letter from WCC (from 2017), going through specific points raised by WCC and why there is a consistent and rational counter-argument – or actual evidence – that issues raised can be put aside. The three letters below are the responses made to the 11 section Consultation and Evidence Pack we produced last Summer – from WCC – and our responses to them.

Letter No1 – WCC letter to FOLMB – Dated 13th November 2018

This is the initial response to our Presentation submitted in June 2017.

So, looking at how and where cycling is mentioned in this letter – Every town in the UK could benefit from improved if not dedicated cycle routes and networks. As we all look to a more sustainable future, using a bike to go to work, to school or to shop (and the retail trend towards shops being experiences which prompt a purchase delivered to a home address means someone to cycle to buy just about anything). And of course, there is recreational cycling.

Through 2005 to 2011, there were two major trials of what special projects could do. They were the Cycling City and Towns (CCT) and Cycling Demonstration Towns (CDT) initiatives, working with 17 medium and medium-large towns (and one city – Bristol). The results report, produced in 2017, is at:

Stratford is though, a small town, like several hundred other towns that could be considered if funding does become available to build perhaps scaled-back versions of the work done in the 00s.

This all goes with the work done on establishing the National Cycle Network, of which some routes do come to Stratford.

On the NCN web site (link below), you can get an idea of what impact cycling can have. It not only can save money and reduce CO2 emissions; it has health benefits, just as walking does.

Taking into account the work that was done to prepare ‘World Class Stratford’ (in the mid 00s), the the quoted Local Transport Plan (2011-2026) on P2 of this letter, which would have been added to by the above CCT and CDT report, we’ve never seen any projections of potential use and cost per user – for any new cycling network/infrastructure (even small stretches of route) for Stratford and nothing seems to be mentioned in this or any other letter we’ve received.

We do understand that the concept of a cycling bridge, to the East of the Clopton Bridge, has been looked at but no feasibility study was done (yet). Bearing in mind the growing population of Tiddington and its surrounds, and that Wellesbourne is not so far away, then having a dedicated route into the town, for people who are travelling at least 1.5km (by bike), would be significant evidence for a feasibility study for very regular use (by people going to work or say shopping).

Letter No 2 – FOLMB response to WCC – sent on 28th November 2018

This is our response to the WCC letter dated 13th November 2018 (No 1 above).

You’ll read that we’ve covered all the points about the present bridge structure; how ramps would respect and augment this (that the design materials and style are yet to be decided) and the use of land. You can also get to know how each of the other bridges (The Tramway and Clopton bridges) doesn’t comply with the regulations for new bridges – for safe use by pedestrians and cyclists – but that they don’t have to.

If you look at the actual Local Transport Strategic Plan for Warwickshire notably from P 30 onwards, you’ll find this proposal –

Where appropriate and feasible, provide routes that segregate cyclists from other road users as well as one specifically about a dedicated river crossing for cyclists. Would this be the possible Cycle Bridge to the East of the Clopton Bridge or would/could there be another bridge somewhere close to where the World Class Stratford Bridge was proposed (at the ferry crossing just before The Other Place)?

If you’ve taken a look at the detail of the report about the CDT and CCT initiatives, remember how much was done, in larger towns than Stratford, and what the costs were, and what improvements (impact) were made – that the evidence was positive but not conclusive. Some routes were, and continue to be well used. Some don’t. The Marketing and PR needed to get people onto bikes needs to be continuous, for the foreseeable future.

We finished our response by again asking for clarification on how and if ownership of Lucy’ Mill Bridge could be changed. Our premise was simple – that if WCC could not foreseeably access funding to build the ramps, a change of ownership would open up a number of other ways of finding potential funding support, to make it a bridge for everyone.

Letter No 3 – WCC response to The Friends – dated 5th March 2019

This letter repeats two parts of the WCC response. The first is that feasibility studies need to be done, notably about the potential for a new bridge and for the whole of a new cycling initiative and that Lucy’s Mill Bridge may not be considered as part of such an overall project (that new infrastructure would negate the need to make any changes to it).

The second is, to put it practically, that WCC wants to retain ownership of Lucy’s Mill Bridge.

There are some key questions that our Consultation and Engagement Pack and the responses to it have raised. What do you think?

1) How much would it cost to build a part (or all) of the proposed new infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists? Why has there been no work done (that has been publicised) to give even an indicative figure? If a new bridge could cost £4M+ (The World Class Stratford proposal) and dedicated cycle networks several million, when funding did become available (if this happens in even the next decade), would an application be based on the maximum grant size (or say plus developer contributions) and then the feasibility studies done then?

What work has been done to project the potential impact such a new infrastructure would have?

2) Is there a key difference between the potential of new projects and making Lucy’s Mill Bridge accessible to all? After all, thousands of people already can and do use Lucy’s Mill Bridge (numbers acknowledged by statutory bodies) but many are discriminated against?

Just the surveying done indicated that maybe 10-20 or more people (visitors – disabled Stratford residents already know they cannot use Lucy’s Mill) a week, people with a disability, arrive at Lucy’s Mill Bridge and cannot cross. Over a year this could be 500+ people whose ‘£’ is just the same as everyone else. They are likely to be all visitors to the Stratford, people who leave having experienced a lack of access that everyone else has. Whether it is a new bridge, or that ramps can be put on Lucy’s Mill Bridge, what is the potential cost – loss of visitor spend – from this group?

There are OVER 3000 people who live in Stratford District who are in receipt of a lower or higher rate mobility Disability Living Allowances. None of these people can use the bridge.

3) Lucy’s Mill Bridge is 900m from The Tramway Bridge. It will be another 100m to reach the new marina when that is built (which will be another tourism asset to Stratford being one of the largest inland marinas in the region, if not the Country). The return walk (to the town centre) is 700m, passing through much of ‘Old Stratford’, if not to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, along the Historic Spine of our town, something that already has had significant investment into it.

How many visitors, plus how many residents who either make use of this walk or use it with friends, have pushchairs or young families say with children’s bikes? Is a possible 1.6km walk too far to be considered by most (no more than an hours’ worth of time which takes in both a beautiful river vista, historic churches and major tourist attractions)?

What should be a priority? Coping with mass tourism which happens on a handful of occasions a year (festivals etc – but where an alternative route (via Lucy’s Mill Bridge) is not available to all), the potential that more cycling could give (on a regular basis), or that a pedestrian route is open to all, on each and every day of the year, a route that is already used by thousands of people (but not everyone)?

4) If Lucy’s Mill Bridge were used by everyone, would this diminish the case for either or both a new bridge or for significant changes to cycling infrastructure? Would the chance of central funding be less?

5) In Health and Social benefit terms, for someone in their later years, being able to be active (in some form) is key to both their longevity and their quality of life.

If it costs over £50 000 a year to live-in care facilities, for those who have more limited mobility but can still walk, what could the savings be to them if they had more open space (and a very beautiful area at that) available to them and this activity contributed to longer independence and less medical need? What are the open space options for say residents who live on the West of Stratford, those who are retired, those living in and around the Old Town area? On the north side of the river, is this just the gardens between Holy Trinity and The RST?

What health benefits would there be, for these residents, for a walk of 1.6km compared with that of say a few 100m? Yes, it would be more of a commitment but with friends, it would be part of helping with the isolation that many older people have when they lose a partner. If they didn’t want to go too far, a coffee at the new marina cafe would be a regular occasion. What are the savings to our local NHS that this sort of activity could give?

6) What other reasons are there that Lucy’s Mill Bridge could not be owned by another body, including another statutory organisation, with the right planning for on-going maintenance in place?

The Friends of Lucy’s Mill Bridge has always recognised and supported that cyclists do use the bridge, and that ramps would make it easier for people with bikes to do so, so adding cyclists to the long list of residents and visitors who cannot use the bridge, as it stands. That some may choose to try and ride across the bridge is the same situation as happens, at present, on The Tramway Bridge and the footbridge attached to The Clopton Bridge. Both these bridges and access to them have been risk-assessed and neither has any direct surveillance (at the moment).

The way and the speed and the intrusion that new policing methods will have and change has to be considered across all parts of the present and possible new infrastructure, ie that with a new cycling dedicated bridge, cyclists could (and will) take such new opportunities and think that they are available on other bridges, simply because those routes are more convenient.

If you take any of the illustrations of people who could and would WANT TO USE Lucy’s Mill Bridge were it fully accessible, you can make your own decision about the title of this post. Please let us know what you think, and do the same for your County, District and Town Councillors.

How many Stratford and District Residents (and Visitors) – does it take saying ‘We cannot cross Lucy’s Mill Bridge’ for a decision to be made about making it accessible to everyone?

 

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