Plans to develop St. Mary's Lands approved by Full Council
The exciting masterplan proposals for the development of St. Mary’s Lands in Warwick have been approved by Full Council following Executive sign off in June, and an extensive programme of community consultation over the past 2 years. The Friends of St Mary’s Lands (Friends) have been closely involved in the production of the masterplan, commenting on the final document before it went to the council’s Executive Committee for approval in June.
The masterplan represents a balanced response to the opportunities and threats posed at St. Mary’s Lands. It recognises there may be a need to invest in developments that support the wider economy, such as a hotel and expansion of the caravan park, but where any such need exists, it cannot be at the detriment to the greenspace. Any such development must respond to the sense of place and the multi-purpose sporting, recreational and leisure use of this important public open space. The need to plan for the replacement of dated facilities, such as the Golf Centre, Corp of Drums, Warwick Racing Football Club, and facilities at the Racecourse affords the opportunity to significantly address the poor quality and often ad-hoc decisions of the past with an approach that is more in keeping with the Conservation Area. Common ground has been found on these issues across the range of interests represented by the St. Mary’s Lands Working Party and the masterplan captures this broad consensus.
Our vision is a future for St. Mary’s Lands where the natural and cultural heritage is protected and enhanced – where a vibrant range of community uses, economic regeneration and environmental enhancement thrive together in this inspiring natural setting.
- To manage, enhance and promote the landscape character of St. Mary's Lands, including increasing its biodiversity
- To manage, enhance and promote St. Mary's Lands as a green space distinctly different to the more formal parks and open spaces in Warwick, ensuring access is maintained and enhanced to a large area of more natural open space within walking distance of the town centre
- To promote St. Mary's Lands as a visitor destination, where any such increase in visitor numbers are compatible with preserving and protecting the site's landscape quality, biodiversity and sense of place
- To support the many organisations that contribute to the broader community needs or local economy, where such support does not lead to a loss of landscape quality, biodiversity or sense of place.This masterplan is not against change, indeed it recognises that change is often an essential ingredient in sustaining a relevance to the community the open space serves.
This masterplan is not against change; indeed it recognises that change is often an essential ingredient in sustaining a relevance to the community the open space serves.
Councillor Noel Butler, Executive member of Warwick District Council and a member of St. Mary's Lands Working party, commented: "This is a really exciting opportunity to regenerate the facilities for the local community and develop a unique visitor attraction for locals and tourists to enjoy, which will boost the local economy. It has been a fully inclusive consultation process where we have sought out and listened to the views of the local community and their own requirements. Having worked so closely with the Friends of St Mary’s Lands during the development of the masterplan, we will continue to consider reasonable proposals for the improvement of St Mary’s Lands.”
Key issues outlined by the Friends
Issues outlined by the Friends of St. Mary's Lands in their recent press release are addressed below.
The cycle route
Friends voted unanimously against this proposal. The proposed alternative route is considered to be the safer option, as it takes the cycle track away from areas where cars would be parking and manoeuvring. There are no changes that involve crossing a busy highway.
Additional parking opposite Bread and Meat Close (Saltisford Brook Car Park)
Friends voted unanimously against this proposal. The entrance to St Marys Lands is in need of improvement and as part of this the masterplan has proposed to replace the parking spaces that would be taken up with the cycle route and a small number of additional spaces. This proposal was supported via the consultation process last year and detailed proposals are now being checked to ensure that these meet safety standards. Two meetings have taken place with residents of Bread and Meat Close to discuss the parking scheme. The residents’ main concern has been the safety of the parking arrangements and as a result the scheme is being audited for road safety. This has resulted in some changes and a reduction in overall parking numbers to 22 spaces. The detailed scheme, if deemed to be safe by the independent traffic audit, will then be discussed further with residents of Bread and Meat Close.
The hotel location received a positive response at the public consultation, when respondents were asked if the proposed location was a good suggestion. When the public were asked: "Is there a need for more hotel rooms in Warwick to support the local economy?" it was not supported, but only very marginally.
The Council has since commissioned an economic review of the hotel market in Warwick and the surrounding area and this supports the need for additional beds in the town.
Friends voted unanimously against the proposal for an online competition to change the name of St. Mary's Lands. The competition is not to change the name, but to invite suggestions for a new name; however, retaining it can be one of the options. The Friends previously supported this proposal.
Friends also request that the padlocked gate at the end of St. Mary's No. 4 car park be removed as it is preventing pedestrian access through to Jubilee Wood. This has been noted.
Further development of St. Mary's Lands
Friends voted unanimously against further development of St. Mary's Lands. In essence the masterplan gives greater reassurance that by limiting any new development to already developed areas of the site, there will not be a loss of green space in the future. The document places a strong emphasis on protecting the green space, enhancing biodiversity and supporting the local economy.
Warwick Town Council
The meeting noted that Warwick Town Council has not yet discussed the Masterplan proposals. The contents of the masterplan have been discussed and presented to the Town Council in the development of the scheme and received a very high level of support.