I want to make Stratford a town that works for everyone.
In Stratford, we put a lot of time and money into making our historic town attractive to tourists. For the most part, I wouldn't want that to change, but sometimes these changes come at the expense of local residents, people like you and me, who have decided to live and work in Stratford. I want to elevate the position of local residents throughout the Stratford-upon-Avon area and make it a town that truly works for everyone.
The topics described below are the areas of improvement I'm particularly passionate about and form my key pledges to you, the local Stratford resident. These are just my ideas though; I want to hear from you. If you have ideas on how you'd like to improve Stratford or have a venture in a particular area, I'd love to hear from you, to help wherever I can and to support you moving forward. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook Messenger.
Improved Night Life
The one complaint I hear time and time again is that Stratford's nightlife is rubbish. I firmly believe you can always get a stellar pint or a decent glass of wine any night of the week, but I have to admit that the town dries up gone 11pm. Young people now are forced out of the town and head into Birmingham or Leamington Spa for a decent evening's entertainment.
This wasn't always the case. 10+ years ago Stratford had a rich nightlife with multiple clubs, later opening venues and a more diverse evening offering, and not just for tourists visiting the town.
I can't promise going back to the golden era of Stratford nightlife, but I will work hard to encourage venue owners and promoters to seriously consider setting up new ventures in Stratford. I will also work with existing venues, working out some of the issues they have had with noise complaints historically.
I'm not suggesting that the town centre becomes a trance rave on the weekends; local residents have the right to a relatively noise-free evening. But it's also not right that a handful of people get to dictate what happens in the town. As the nightlife in Stratford diminishes, more and more young people will vacate the town, and we'll be left with a retirement village popular with tourists.
Better Cycling Facilities
Anyone who has tried to drive through the town centre during rush hour knows that the best way into town is on a bike, but the facilities are not always up to scratch. The bikes lanes are sketchy at best, and not at all consistent: one minute you're on the road annoying motorists and risking your life, and the next you're forced onto the pavement and the pedestrians don't want you there either.
Investing in cycling facilities (in all shapes and sizes) is a win-win. Firstly, it helps those who rely on a bike as their only means of transport get around easier; this includes young people who want to get to work or go around town. Secondly, it encourages those to cycle who would normally drive, reducing the number of cars on the road, and alleviating the traffic build-up on the Birmingham Road and Alcester Road. Thirdly, less traffic on the road means less pollution. Stratford is currently under an Air Quality Management Area, for failing to meet national targets, so every little helps when it comes to pollution.
We have many keen cyclists in Stratford and the surrounding area. I don't claim to be a cycling expert, but I am willing to engage with cycling enthusiasts and leaders to help make Stratford a better place for cyclists.
Helping Rough Sleepers
It is an unfortunate reality that we have those in Stratford without a permanent roof over their head. Numbers have been steadily rising over the last few years, and historically it was almost unspoken of. More recently, the District Council have been doing good work through the Link Project, and I've been staggered by the excellent work done by Ann Johnson. She has done something truly astounding with something very little.
We need more, however. It's time the Council invested properly in these services. We need better facilities, a larger dedicated team that helps people get back on their feet, and the full suite of services required to help re-home those who need additional support. With most of our rough sleepers, finding accommodation is the least of their issues.
I want Stratford to shout about all that we do for our rough sleepers, and for us to be an example to the other towns and districts. After all, we owe it to the people who have chosen to call our town their home, even when they don't have a home to live in.