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‘Hands off Westbridge Park’ message at meeting

 

Scout leader Chris Barlow made his point at the meeting with his Cubs’ Hands Off Westbridge Park poster. Rob Kenney is on the left

The borough council’s vision for a new leisure centre with swimming pool at Westbridge Park will not be realised unless a supermarket is part of any future development. That was the message from council leader Mike Heenan at a special meeting of Stone Town Council’s General Purposes Committee held at Alleyne’s High School on Tuesday 20th November.

Hundreds of people packed the main hall at the Oulton Road school to hear a presentation from Cllr Heenan, the borough council’s head of planning and regeneration Ted Manders and Adam Hill, the council’s head of leisure. Borough council deputy leader and leisure portfolio holder Cllr Mike Smith and planning and regeneration portfolio lead Cllr Frances Beatty were also present.

It was standing room only, with people crowded at the back of the hall and in the corridor running alongside it. There must have been over 300 local people who turned out – and all made it very clear over the course of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting that they don’t want a supermarket on Westbridge Park.

However, borough council leader Cllr Mike Heenan told them: “The only way to build a large enough leisure centre is to go in with a food operator. Whether we like it or not there are supermarkets circling Stone at the moment. They want to move into Stone.”

Ted Manders, the borough council’s head of planning and regeneration, earlier told the meeting that there had been interest from “all main food retailers to come to Stone”. Cllr Heenan said that the borough council was ready to put a “big amount” of capital funding into new leisure facilities in Stone – but that that alone would not be enough.

Borough council leader Cllr Mike Heenan

Cllr Heenan and the borough council officers were keen to state that there was no firm proposal for a supermarket and that no firm offers had been received from any. He urged people in Stone to take part in the upcoming consultation on the borough council’s leisure strategy for the town that will get under way in the New Year.

The leisure strategy sets out the borough council’s vision for leisure in Stone. You can see the full strategy HERE. In essence, it states that the ideal solution for the town would be a brand new leisure centre on Westbridge Park with 25m swimming pool, as well as new play areas. It is this document that the people of Stone will be consulted on in the New Year. Adam Hill, the borough council’s head of leisure, said that existing facilities were coming to the end of their useful lives and were inefficient and expensive to operate.

Ted Manders, the borough council’s head of planning and regeneration, said that there are a number of alternative sites for a new leisure centre, including at Tilling Drive. He also revealed that local doctors had expressed an interest in a new health centre close to the town centre, with Westbridge Park identified as a possible location.

He talked about the Stafford Borough Local Plan and its implications for Stone, including on housing (800 new homes over the next 2o years) and employment land. It was the Local Plan that identified Westbridge Park as a site for mixed-use development.

The Local Plan – which guides development across the borough over the next 20 years – goes before Stafford Borough Council on Tuesday 27th November for approval before it is submitted to Government inspectors for public examination next summer. The document has been changed ahead of the council meeting on Tuesday to add a new paragraph into the section on Stone, which states that “there will be a need for new supermarket provision in Stone by 2015″.

Local town councillors had their say and asked questions of Stafford Borough Council’s representatives before the meeting of Stone Town Council was officially ended and questions were accepted from members of the public. Concerns were raised about Westbridge Park being on a flood plain, the impact of a supermarket on traders in the town centre, what had happened to the wooden play area at Westbridge Park (it was unsafe and was removed – it hasn’t been replaced because of the upcoming leisure consultation said Adam Hill) and many other issues. Every member of the public who spoke was against the idea of a supermarket, apart from one member of the public who said that if there had to be a supermarket on Westbridge Park then it should be Waitrose

The ‘Hands off Westbridge Park’ poster by Aston and Little Stoke Cubs

Towards the end of the meeting, local Scout leader Chris Barlow made his point by handing over a poster that had been made by his young Cubs that showed their reasons for Keeping Westbridge Park Green. Titled ‘Hands off Westbridge: Our Park’ the cubs had put their reasons for wanting to keep the park green in a number of cut-out hands.

The choice for local people set out at the meeting was very clear: the price to pay for the borough council’s vision for leisure and recreation facilities on Westbridge Park is a supermarket on the site as part of the development. That will be the choice that people in Stone will have to make in the leisure strategy consultation in the New Year. And if the evidence of the public reaction at the meeting is anything to go by, it will be a resounding no.

Earlier in the meeting, town councillor Rob Kenney – who started the Keep Westbridge Park Green campaign – called on the town council to “fight any proposal from the borough council or any developer for a supermarket or any retail development”. An amendment was tabled, asking councillors to defer this decision until after the facts had been heard. This amendment was carried and Cllr Philip Jones, the chair of the General Purposes Committee, told the meeting it would be considered at a future meeting. Eleven town councillors voted for the amendment (to delay the vote), six voted against and there was one abstention.

Were you at the meeting? Please leave your thoughts below. I’ve tried to cover as many points as I can but it would be fantastic to hear what you have to say

134 Comments

  1. Chris Tibbitts

    I was at the meeting Jamie. I think you should point out that a supermarket could be sited somewhere else in the town centre to help finance the replacement leisure centre, we just need to decide where… One place could be the old buildings near the boat yard that were ear marked for development some 30 years ago and have lay derelict since for example… Fact is, we really need better leisure facilities (especially seeing as it came out that Allaynes pool may not be available much longer) plus the independent inquiry found that there is actually not enough supermarket floor space in Stone, especially not considering 800 new homes are coming… We want a new leisure centre and pool, we just need somewhere in the town centre to put a supermarket which is a brilliantly helpful way to help to pay for it (Whilst creating jobs and reducing queues and traffic congestion at Morrissons). Right now we have a chance to help decide where a supermarket could go. If planning goes to appeal then we wont get a choice, we will be told where its going and that could be on the park. Its coming, like it or not, local Government have studied it and we need one. They are also bringing in laws to stop us dragging out appeals so its coming sooner than you think. So, lets work with them and use the money for the good of the town. The population is growing and we would rather people spent their grocery money in Stone than Stafford, surely. There were very few young families at the meeting, nearly all grey haired elder residents, resistant to change in my opinion, sorry! I think a state of the art leisure centre would add value to the town, clean up the “grey” part of the park, create more jobs and help to draw people in who might use the high street as well. Afterall, its not like its a power station or rubbish dump… It will be a nice looking, green powered leisure centre and pool! Finally, Stafford council have said that they have the largest amount of money ever available to invest in leisure in stone, (but its not quite enough to give us what we need) – combine this with a (medium sized?) supermarkets financial contribution and we get a gift from the Gods in a recession… In this Olympic year, please, lets work something out, create a fantastic facility for ourselves and future generations and not create so much negativity that the money is used elsewhere.

    • Westy

      Sorry Chris but you a wrong about a supermarket could be sited elsewhere in Town to help finance a leisure building. The finance can only come from the sale of land that is owned by the Borough Council.

      • Chris Tibbitts

        They said they have other sites available. They also said that they had not disclosed how big the supermarket would be, so, what if it did go on where the old tennis courts are for example amd what if it was only the size of a Tesco Express (similar size to a house) and that meant we could have amazing facilities! Come on, we cannot stand in the way of progress, so why dont people start to work with it rather than futile opposition. The muddy football pitches probably wont even be touched!

        • JTay

          The simple fact is without a supermarket to fund a lesuire centre we wont get a leisure centre!

          • Harry Brunt (Town Councillor)

            That Stone does not want a supermarket or any other such development on Westbridge Park was made very clear at the recent Town Council Meeting at Alleynes School but to redevelop the existing ‘Blue Blot on the Landscape’ Leisure Centre and if possible add a swimming pool where the Tennis Courts are would be very desirable to many residents and local schools would the have a guaranteed facility for Key Stage Two Swimming lessons in the event of Alleynes facilities becoming unavailable due to changes in the Joint Usage Agreement or changes in the school’s management system (Academy Status).
            How could this be funded in the absence of selling off all or parts of Westbridge Park or some other area to create a capital gain?
            By funding or part funding from the Borough Council through their various means and even if necessary by Private Finance Initiative Funding. The rebuilding of the Fire Station in Stone is to use this method of funding so why not Stafford Borough Council doing the same? I raised this at the meeting but it got a mixed reception as I know it is not a popular way of funding but it is a way and better than selling off our green parkland.
            One other point is the one suggested by a young lady at the meeting of safeguarding the green lung of Westbridge Park by getting it declared as a Village Green. How is this achieved anyone?

          • RichardS

            Sorry Harry but I think Village Green status is a bit of a red herring. It needs to be proved that the land has been used by the public for community purposes for at least twenty years without permission of the landowner. All events that happen on the park only do so after the organisers have submitted a very lengthy and complex application form.I think persuing this line of enquiry be a waste of time, effort and money.

          • mark

            I agree Richard S. Village green status seems to be a popular NIMBY tactic to try and prevent developments on green spaces, however the likelihood of success is highly unlikely.

          • Harry Brunt. Village green status means frequent, casual use of the owned space is used by local people for community purposes (anything that offers open involvement) for at least 20 years prior. It also has some disclaimer that means the Food Festival, being an authorised event, wouldn’t count towards that 20 years.

            Westbridge park may still qualify purely on the fact that it is used regularly as a sports field, meeting space, parade ground, playground etc without even involving the many large community events that go on throughout the year. Its worth looking into, but any discussion of it here is likely to be blandly criticized by “Mark” who almost appears to be posting on the developers behalf.

          • mark

            Edward, i am not acting on behalf of developers. I, like you, live in Stone and care about what happens to Westbridge. However, I do know what i am talking about, as such rather than be dismissive of my posts read them carefully.
            Do you research on village green status applications, and if you can find one that has been successful for an area of a similar to westbridge i will eat my hat, your hat, everyones hat!!!!!!!!!!!! Happy researching.

          • Edward, I find your comments towards Mark uneccessary and inappropiate and not the way to behave on an open forum. Mark has not blandly criticesed people’s discussions just merely pointed out the opposing view through citing planning policy and evidence or in the case of village green status a case study to refer to.
            Just because Mark, myself and others have put forward a different argument to yourself and urged you to wait until you see the BC proposals does not mean we favour the development. Your accusation that Mark appears to be posting on the developers behalf is a childish comment and uncalled for.

          • mark

            Ben, thank you for defending me. However, i don’t need my posts justified to Edward. I speak from a position of personal experience and professional knowledge accrued over 20 years of experience. I’m afraid, I am all to familiar with the comments made by Edward, however I can sleep easy knowing that i provide an honest opinion, which is sometimes makes me unpopular. Its much better to be disliked than give false hope or recommend people waste their time and money pursuing futile arguments.

        • RichardS

          A supermarket the size of a house on the site of the tennis courts?!!!!!
          Chris, you’ve just lost your credibility.

          • JTay

            Agreed with RichardS. Chris you seem to be coming out at times with great things to say but you tell me how a Supermarket the size of a house would do what you were saying and help us for the next 20 years!

          • Chris Tibbitts

            Depends how big your house is! :-) The entire Westbridge Park only had one house on it when it was privately owned, before it was a tip. 1400sq.m. house/plot is not that huge.

          • The fact remains, until the BC have finished there consulatation process and produced some proposals this is all just conjecture. No one knows how big the supermarket could be or even if a Supermarket will be sited there yet.

          • Chris Tibbitts

            Look at the new Tesco express on the road from Stafford to Stone. It only takes up as much space as the houses either side of it. In fact, wasn’t one knocked down to build it? Ok, maybe it covers the old garden too… There are only about 20 parking spaces. You are so negative Richard Stevens! Besides, you are mostly concerned with the F&D festival and if you focussed your efforts on negotiating with the SBC and our town council over using the other football pitch (whether we are gifted teh park after development or not) you would have more than enough room to continue and grow. We could have all our new facilites and the F&D festival would not be harmed. Your comments last week about how the F&D festival was finished if there was any development didn’t do much for your credibility either Richard!

      • mark

        The land does not need to be owned by the bc, however there needs to be a link between a supermarket and leisure facility.

    • John

      Well said. At last a balanced, realistic view as opposed to the kneejerk reactions so far.

    • Jill Hood

      It seems our town is to be penalised for being successful with the threat of a new supermarket. The figures fed through to the borough council from a previous survey compiled even before Aldi was built are flawed, how can it find that Morrison’s is overtrading. We have a unique town with many independent shops and businesses which a supermarket will guarantee the loss of forever. Many will lose their jobs, but yes, the big boys will brag that they have provided employment for the local unemployed. Traffic congestion can be reduced by getting rid of the unneccessary splinter island which causes all the problems on Christchurch Way. If a supermarket is built on the park there will be huge problems with traffic flow on Stafford Street the town will be gridlocked. We need a sports facility and a FREE facility for the very young and teenagers at Westbridge Park, we shouldn’t be told if we don’t agree to a supermarket then we can’t have that facility. In this Olympic year we should be creating more open green spaces and making sure we keep the ones we already have, where everyone can enjoy them without having to pay for that right.

      • Chris Tibbitts

        Hi Jill. How would you pay for these big open spaces, where would they be and who would use them? I went past the park earlier and couldnt see anyone on it in the dark and rain. The gym was being well used though and so was the new development that is the canoe centre… We live in a predominently cold, wet country. nice modern facilities would keep us on a par with the rest of Europe, draw in people to Stone and increase house prices. I have been to 6 different countries in the last two years and all of them had better facilities in towns the size of Stone. Besides, I honestly dont think they would have to build on much of the grass at all anyway, the delipidated run down glass covered and littered areas around the current gym are huge., Doing them up, replacing the gym, adding a swimmi pool and building a supermarket is a win win situation for everyone, even the Steeple Chase people would get chnaging rooms and showers etc to use! The alternative is no funding, deterioration of the current “facilities” to the point of the, becoming unuseable and a focal point for anti social behaviour. Them everyone will say “why didnt we take the money we were offered and do something about it?”. I dont think anyone is going to get anything for free in the current financial climate.

        • JTay

          Chris you wonder why you didnt see anyone in the dark and rain!! What the hell! Why would you want to go in the dark and rain! And for starters we dont need house prices to rise! And the steeple chase people wouldnt as it is a private event! Or chris the option is the council get of their arses look at the damage at the other places and listen to the people of stone! WE DONT WANT A SUPERMARKET end of!

          • JTay. A new supermarket in Stone by 2015 is inevitable, retail assesments have been carried out and expressed a need and do you honestly believe that 4 large supermarket operators would consider investing millions in a town where there was not a need.
            STONE WILL GET A NEW SUPERMARKET END OF!
            What damage to other places,?? Stafford has 3 of the largest supermarket operators and numerous COOPs, yet has a vacancy rate of only 8 % far less than the national average. Where is your evidence??

          • Chirs Tibbitts

            Exactly – the park in its vurrent format is underused and not really fitting of most peoples lifestyles nowadays. We need a pool, a modern gym, rooms for classes, kids play areas, etc. Increasing house prices are much better than falling ones for an area, ask any home onwner! Lots of people now saying they want a new leisure centre and there is no other viable funding option, so they are kind of saying, ok, we will have to have a food outlet to pay for it. The new plans show that it would all mostly fir on the existing tarmaced area so teh park can stay mostly green and there will be plenty of open space for nobody to continue using.

        • cpashto70

          Chris.
          I don’t think anyone is wanting to stand in the way of progress and improvement of facilities. I just reckon people have become wise to the tactics of government and the real intentions. Reading between the lines I gather that Stone is skint and needs cash from a Superstore – as opossed to a supermarket – just to sustain itself in its current form. When or if this supermarket is built on Westbridge Park, on or around 2015, the people of Stone will be asking in 2020…”Where are our new leisure facilities we were promised?”
          The answer will be along the lines of “The cash has been sidelined for the payment of long accrued debts and what is left is needed to fund the improvements to road access to and from the new store”.
          Which, incidentally, will require 1000′s of square metres of parking space, therefore taking up whatever bit of useable green space left.
          If we could see into the future and know for sure the supermarket would take up 25% of the unused areas of the park, and the new facilities would be as good as required, then maybe most residents would be much more accepting. Government however, doesn’t work along those lines and trust in local/regonal/national government these days is…well…look at recent bi-elections and the Police Commissioners elections. Apathy, unpopular, and untrustworthy are just a few words come to mind.

          • mark

            Your comments are incorrect. Firstly, the government has no role to play in the redevelopment of westrbridge. However, you are correct that the country is skint and, therefore, if we want improved facilities it needs to be funded by the private sector. It is possible through legal agreements, such as a s106 agreement to ensure that leisure facilities MUST be provided as part of the supermarket.

          • cpashto70

            Hi Mark
            Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I meant “local government” as opposed to “national government”. However, national government policy includes more mixed used development in English boroughs, and this is mentioned in a round about way in The Plan. The crux of the matter is not about the leisure centre development, but the building of an unwarranted supermarket and homes on the green space. Maybe if the supermarket chain and council actually provided the public with a model or schematic or visual plan of what it all will look like, then attitudes could change. Even better if the leisure centre was built first, prior to any other development. No chance of either though, in my opinion.
            Happy Christmas!

          • Mark

            I agree that it would have been better if the BC could have been more specific about the proposed size of the supermarket and provide some layouts because (i suspect) this would have removed some peoples concern that all WBP is going to be lost etc. Im sure we wil find out what is being proposed soon enough and i suspect most people will be relieved to see a sympathetic development which retains most of WBP.

          • Chirs Tibbitts

            The leaflet that SBC sent out says taht teh new facilites will be built first, tehn teh old facility demolished, then supermarket built. They are bineg very fair.

      • mark

        Jill, westbridge park is an under utilised area of greenspace with poor play and leisure facillities. The redevelopment of westbridge will improve these facilities and will provide quality open space. Therefore, I fail to see your pont.

        There is a need for a supermarket, ask the stone residents where they currently shop. Do you honestly believe they all shop at morrissons. There is a need for a supermarket, if you puruse your argument that there is no need for a supermarket, you will lose at appeal at the developer will have a strong case to seek costs against the council.

      • mark

        Jill. Stone is not being penalised for being successful. Stone is being earmarked for a supermaket because a significant number of stone residents shop in supermarkets outside of stone, as such a need has been identified.

        In respect of your final point re: olympic legacy. Surely quality, well maintained open space is better than a vast area of poorly maintained open space with a dilapidated playground. Furthermore, your post fails to acknowledge that the supermarket is proposing to fund a new, modern leisure centre, which hopefully should attract more people to use it and offer better faciliites.

  2. Allan Skerratt

    Allan Skerratt

    I too was at last nights meeting at Alleynes school. Firstly I counted rows and seats and there were many more than 300 people there. The petition against the development of the park shows at least 30% of the people who live in Stone are against it and I suspect that number would be higher if the petition had been better publicized. I have never been involved in local government but I was shocked by the attitude of the some of the councillors.

    The Borough councillors continually patronised the public gathering particularly Ted Manders who was heckled when he said , ‘I dont want to patronise you’. It was this attitude of: ‘we know what best for you plebs’,that came from Cllr Heenan and the borough councillors that was particularly nauseating.

    The town councillors particularly Mike Williamson and his tory group fail to understand the concept of ‘representing the voters’. Williamson seems more interested in following a National Tory party economic agenda rather than speaking for his electorate. Tory councillors should remember that the Tory chancellor and Tory Prime Minister are about to deliver the first ever triple dip recession in history. I have to say I have a lot of respect for the contribution of Cllr Geoff Collier.

    Residents of Stone should be encouraged to tell their councillors that they do not want Westbridge park built on AT ALL. There are plenty of sites where a supermarkets could be built, for instance Stone business park.. Town councillors who vote for building on Westbridge park should be kicked out at the first voting opportunity. The people of Stone should start a campaign to force Town councillors to represent accurately the views of the townspeople not their own political interests. I shall be devoting my time to making sure that Westbridge park is not stolen from the people of Stone.

    Allan Skerratt

    • Councillor Jill Hood

      Allan, we did our best to publicise the petition. A little bit of Stone, The Newsletter, Sentinel, Radio BBC Stoke, facebook and twitter we thought this was enough, we also stood with a number of residents in the market square and promoted the Keep Westbridge Park Green petition and spoke to hundreds of people. I hope you’ll have many more ideas to push the message out there? We first realised we were on to the right path when a conservative town and borough councillor went to 4 Stone businesses to tell them that the petition was completely wrong and it must be removed from their premises, the business owners approached me and told me personally . If you would like this information you can ask them yourself please email me. Sadly one business believed what was said and destroyed many signatures given in supported of the petition, when I visited the premises I saw 3 full sheets, so 60 signatures were lost from people who thought their objections had been lodged . Since the beginning of our campaign we’ve had many offers of professional help and are very grateful as it’s essential we stop any development other than facilities for the young and a sports complex in the exact same area. No blade of grass must be built on. It’s puzzling that the conservative town councillors say they’re against any development on Westbridge Park but all bar 2 voted YES last night on two occasions, I agree with you that Geoff Collier commanded respect though I wonder what will happen to him, I wish he’d had the courage to vote as he spoke instead of refusing , he’s an honourable person and speaks as he feels but there will be stormy seas ahead for him as he failed to toe the party line.The situation often arises where town councillors who are borough councillors vote one way in town council, then at the borough toe the party line and vote with their party the opposite way. In my short experience as a borough councillor I’m disappointed at this behaviour and would like them to represent the people of Stone and not their party! This is an issue where all town councillors must support the wishes of the people who voted us in. Not many members of the public attend council meetings, if they did it could possibly influence their vote.People would see how their ward councillor’s work for them! We will fight this to the bitter end and hopefully the town council will act as one body and not allow politics to enter into it.

    • Chris Tibbitts

      Did everone who signed the petition live in Stone? Are you sure everyone there last night was against development? Nobody on my estate knew about the meeting until the night before let alone the petition. I think there are some sweeping statements going around here especially seeing as we only found out their outline plans last night. I have spoken to and read comments from several people with young families today who would kove a leisure centre and pool, perhaps even if it did mean loosing some of the outskirts of the park or a small percentage of the muddy grass. Sorry, but its true! Maybe there are actualy people in Stone who feel a free £8,000,000 leisure centre and pool would get more use, especially on dark wet nights.

      • Allan Skerratt

        Chris Tibbitts In answer to your questions I have no idea who signed the petition. BUT the online petition which I signed you had to put your address Am I sure everyone there was against the developement ? No I cant say I do BUT those in favour of it did not really make much of a contribution did they? Can you remember one member of the audience in favour of building a supermarket. If there were any of them there There is full borough council meeting next Tuesday 7pm in Stafford where they will vote on Westbridge park to become ‘Mixed use’ Just curious where have you read comments on from families who would like a leisure centre. I would like to read those comments Allan Skerratt Subject: [alittlebitofstone] Re: ‘ Hands off Westbridge Park’ message at meeting

        • Chris Tibbitts

          Look on Facebook Allan. There are people commenting on there in the last 24 hours who want a supermarket and a new leisure centre. It was impossible to get a word in last night and besides, people were spouting about sruff that they dont know a lot about, i would rather heR the facts first. Most people i have spoken to didnt know anything about all this. A couple of people on Facebook have commented that it would be nice to set up a campaign to allow people to say “yes, we would lime development”, – controversial i know, but most young families would get more enjoy,ent out of a leisure centre tha. A peice of grass. Considering that there would still be masses of grass left i dont see what anyone has got to loose!

  3. Allan Skerratt

    Wesley

    The sports hall is a sweetener from the supermarket chain. We allow them to build a supermarket they build us a sportshall. Have you ever heard of Pavlov its the same concept. BUT no land need to be sold. If you tell the supermarket chain they can build a supermarket on Stone business park IF they refurbish the spots facilities on Westbridge park nothing needs to be sold. Stone business park has by the way great roads and infrastructure and access onto the A34.

    • mark

      Allan what you are suggesting in your post is not allowed because their no direct link between an application at Stone Business Park and WBP. In order for s106 monies to be paid by a developer it must meet the following tests: –

      * necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms
      * directly related to the development
      * fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the development

      What you are suggesting would constitute buying a consent. Furthermore, a supermarket at SBP would not be in accordance with planning policy. It would constitute an out of town development, which are discouraged. Planning policy, through the sequential tests seeks to encourage supermarkets in the town centre, then edge of centre and then out of town. As such, the development of a supermarket at WBP is sequentially preferable to building at SBP.

      • Mark
        thanks for the detail but at the end of the day if a large majority of people do not want a supermarket on Westbridge park then it may have to go somewhere else. All these fantastically well educated and qualified pl;anners can find another spot for a supermarket.

        • mark

          Allan,
          I’m afraid it doesnt work like that. A supermarket at WBP is supported by planning policy following the mixed use allocation, its also the second most sequential preferable location for a new supermarket. In order for the scheme to be refused by the Cllrs they would need to be confident that there are sequentially more preferable sites. These sites would also need to be available, achievable and viable. In order to be available, achieavable and viable the site(s) would need to be available at the right price, in the right location and right size etc etc.
          Allan, can you think of any better sites? Stone Business Park and Tilling Drive is not sequentially preferable because these are out of town locations. Im well aware that Aldi has been approved in out of town location, however it should be remembered that this was a brownfield site and, therefore, preferable to greenfield sites.
          Im afraid opposition to a scheme is not a justifiable reason for refusing a planning application.

        • Allan, I think you are missing the point. If these supermarkets and developers do decide to go elsewhere there will then not be a link with WBP and therefore there will not be the improvement in leisure provision.
          Stone residents need to decide what they want,
          Do you want a supermarket on SBP and no improvement on leisure provision and a further degradation of the high street
          A supermarket in an outlying village, leading to no improvement in Stone and more residents leaving Stone to do there shopping
          Or a slightly smaller park, a much better leisure provision, a new supermarket.
          Clearly the BC can build a supermarket wherever they want, but as you have stated they want this supermarket on WBP just as much as the supermarket (I suspect) to take advantage of the Section 106 agreement.

          • mark

            I agree with everything you have said apart from your last point. Planning policy dictates that a new supermarket must be located on the the most sequentially site, as such if it came to a head to head between SBP and WBP, WBP would win. This winning margin has now been increased because the BC have now earmarked WBP for a mixed use development, as such a new supermarket on WBP would be sequentially preferable and accord with planning policy. A supermaket at SBP would not accord with planning policy because SBP is allocated for B1, B2 and B8. These uses are office, light and general indusrty.
            Final point, (a spanner in the works) its not simply possible to say that a site is sequentially preferable to another just because its closer to the high street for example. Because this site must also be available, achievable and viable.

  4. Philip Jones

    Thank you, Jamie, for a full, fair and balanced report. I know of no member of Stone Town Council who wants a supermarket on Westbridge Park. But the Town Council rightly is fully committed to listening to all the people of Stone and allowing them the time and space to consider what options are on offer from Stafford Borough and not to rush to a judgement on a matter which will undoubtedly affect our town for many years to come.

    Philip Jones
    Councillor

  5. Martin

    Would registering Westbridge park a village green not solve the problem?

    • Yes if it was successful.

      There’s no reason not to try, and I suggest if you’re interested in pursuing it you get in touch with the KeepWestbridgeParkGreen group.

      According to contributor “Mark” there are some unspecified reasons why it might not be successful, but there’s no harm in trying.

      • mark

        Edward,

        I have been involved in a number of planning applications where objectors have tried (and failed) to get village green status. I’ve also been an objector and tried to get village green status. As such, I know how difficult it is, and as such I think it is extremely unlikely that this would be successful at Westbridge. In fact, i would say it is impossible!

        FYI I have attached a recent decision on a village green status application.

        Village green status for Rydens Way rejected

        By John Ellul
        December 16, 2011

        AN application to register part of Rydens Way in Old Woking as a village green has been rejected by a planning inspector.

        Families in the area had hoped to protect part of the land, which has been a public open space for more than 70 years, from the development which is scheduled to take place on another part of the site.

        Earlier this year angry residents were shocked to discover a borough council ‘arms-length’ company had struck a deal to buy the land, and the 42 homes to be built on it, without running the matter past the Woking Borough Council executive or consulting neighbours.

        In April 2009, the council’s planning committee listened to residents who were keen to preserve the land and turned down an application from the William Lacey Group to build homes on the strip of land in Old Woking.

        Planning inspectors overturned the decision however and the developers subsequently offered the completed properties to the council’s housing arm, Woking Borough Homes (WBH), with a price of £9.45m eventually agreed in August.

        The Rydens Way Action Group (RWAG) had hoped the village green application (VGA) would safeguard at least part of the site, although development of the Old Woking end of the site was never in doubt.

        In its capacity as the Commons Registration Authority, Surrey County Council held an inquiry into whether this section of Rydens Way could be classed as a village green on October 3 and 6 of this year.

        In a report compiled on November 23, and sent to affected parties at the start of this month, planning inspector William Webster decided the application was too similar to a previous unsuccessful VGA filed in 2008, meaning the law prevents the county council from taking the application further.

        In his 60-page statement, he acknowledged the disappointment his decision would cause, noting: “I fully understand and sympathise with the local residents in the Rydens Way area who obviously place a very high value on their ability to use the application land for general recreation.

        “I have no doubt that many local residents will have regarded the registration of the application land as a TVG (town or village green) as a worthwhile curb on the development of such land and will no doubt be very disappointed by the view which I have taken in this matter.”

        He added: “The earlier decision cannot, in my view, be re-opened and, in these circumstances, I am compelled to advise the registration authority that the current application should be summarily rejected.”

        Borough and county councillor Will Forster, who represents Kingfield, Westfield, and Barnsbury, said residents would be “very disappointed” with the latest setback.

        He said: “Residents plan to lodge a judicial review so it could go on for another year, but regardless of this application, the council will be able to build no matter what at the Old Woking end.

        “There are also concerns that development could take away car parking spaces.”

      • mark

        Edward, I could go through the reasons, however there are too many to list. The reality is, it is very difficult to convince an independent inspector that an area of open space should be granted village green status. Have you tried pursing an application for village green status? I would be happy to provide keepwestbridgeparkgreen the planning legislation and relevant case law about this in order that they can make an informed decision. However, i don’t want to give false hope or waste peoples time and money. Please let me know.

      • Ofcourse this is an option, but I would suggest its a futile exercise. For Keepwestbridgepark green group to argue that this park is a village green would be extremely difficult because among other inhibitory factors which Mark has eluded too it is under-used and utilised.

  6. Allan Skerratt

    Philip Jones
    I have lived in or around Stone since 1966 when I started Alleynes. I have lived in St Michael’s ward for 22 years. I have never been visited by any of my ward couincillors including yourself to canvas my views on anything. A survey in which 120 people said they wanted a supermarket seems to have been trumped by a petition of 4000 signatures. of people who want Westbridge park left alone. The consultation has been held by the the petition democracy seems to have passed you by. Tell your political masters you are representing the wishes of your electorate not those of slippery Dave.

  7. Pauline

    I was at the meeting last night and I am just wondering if there is a hidden agenda – even if everything was demolished on Westbridge Park would there be room for a supermarket and parking etc.? Thats without a Leisure centre, Health centre, play area. Are we going to be told that ‘they’ have listened to us and saved Westbridge and site a new supermarket elsewhere – which was where it was planned to site it anyway – or am I being too suspicious………?!

    • A little too suspicious if you don’t mind me saying ;-)

      The developers commissioned a report to justify a new supermarket. That report specified need for a certain size of unit, which fits on Westbridge park (tennis courts over to the skate park) comfortably, leaving the remaining football field size for development – NOTE, the actual planned layout has not been shared, I’m just trying to give you an idea of the sizes involved.

      The retail demand report from GVA Grimley (company named by contributor “Mark”) is the main basis for the whole planning application. (Note that this was the report where allegedly only 92 people answered questions regarding the supermarkets). If they wanted another site out of town, they would have specified a larger size that does not fit comfortably onto westbridge. GVA are very good at their job, and if the developer told them it wanted an out of town site, the results would have indicated it as a preferred option.

      • mark

        Edward, the retail need assessment was commissioned by Stafford BC and they were required to undertake this work as part of the new local plan process. The report was produced by White Young Green.

        All councils are required to produce a new local plan and this must be based on a robust understanding of their needs, as such councils instruct consultants to prepare a plethora of reports; housing needs survey, retail needs survey, leisure needs survey etc. The findings of these reports then inform the local plan. if the evidence concluded no demand for a supermarket, the council could not include a new supermarket in their local plan. And the council can not fabricate evidence to create a need for a new supermarket if one does not exist.

        I understand that WYG only interviewed about 100 people, which some contributors have claimed is not representative and therefore flawed. I agree that a sample size of 100 people for a population of 15-20k people does not appear to be adequate, however WYG only need to undertake interviews to enhance their evidence base, it does form the main basis of their evidence base or need.

        A retail need can be identified through our own shopping habits and what we tell the supermarket operators, e.g. through our club card applications and on line shopping deliveries. This information is used by operators to locate where their shoppers live and to identify new markets etc. Furthermore, it should be noted that the WYG report is based on zero growth forecasts, as such a need was established without any regard to the 800 new homes proposed in Stone. If this had been considered the need would actually be higher.

        Edward – I believe what you are referring to is the retail needs assessment that developers instruct as part of a planning application. I agree that there is some “artistic licence” shown, however they have to be robust and based on fact because they will be thoroughly examined. Furthermore, in this case, it will be very easy for an operator to make an argument for a retail need because one has already been establisged by an independent as part of the local plan process.

        • Furthermore as stated by the National Planning Policy Framework a sequential test must be carried out as part of the planning process for a retail and leisure development. This sequential test states that where possible retail and leisure provisions should be located within towns or edge of towns (300m of the centre) if no site is available or if the available sites are not adequate in the terms of size etc. This is to discourage the amount of out of town developments that are taking place. As these developments have been found to having a negative effect on Primary Shopping areas such as high streets because they take customers away from these areas. Therefore even if GVA Grimleys or WYG did state that an out of town development site was preferred it does not matter, because the developer needs to show that they have followed planning policy and provide evidence that they need an out of town site. Furthermore developers are very good at making best use of sites and therefore if they did want a larger store but were limited by the footprint etc they would simply build a 2 storey unit – look at the new Tesco supermarket at Lichfield and the ASDA and Tamworth for evidence of this.

          • mark

            Correct. If people want to fight this supermarket they need to find a more sequentially preferable site and this needs to be available, achievable and viable. Furthermore, this needs to be proven with evidence. I can’t think of any other site in Stone. Can anyone else?

  8. RichardS

    A few thoughts on last
    night’s meeting.

    What a fantastic turnout!
    The school hall was full to capacity with some late comers having to stand in
    the corridor looking through the windows. And everyone unanimous in favour of
    keeping Westbridge Park green.

    The issues however became
    confused as a result of some very clever wording by the politicians who spoke.
    We heard about the Borough Council’s Leisure Strategy proposals and how Stone
    could get a new sports centre and improved sports facilities and a new children’s’
    play area etc etc and how ‘the people of Stone would be fully consulted’. Sadly,
    this ‘full consultation’ will not be applied to the proposal to zone Westbridge Park as suitable for mixed use development i.e. a supermarket. That
    document goes before the Council’s Cabinet for approval next week and then will
    be rubber stamped by the full council. The only opportunity anyone will have to
    object to the supermarket proposal will be by appearing at the Public Inquiry
    in front of a Planning Inspector next year.

    My other concern however is
    that the meeting will have shattered anybody’s hopes that the future of Stone
    is safe in the hands of our elected representatives. Instead of presenting a
    united front to represent the overwhelming view of their electorate, our
    elected representatives engaged in a display of puerile party political bickering
    and made us listen to mealy mouthed excuses for not voting to support a motion
    to keep the park green.

    So what happens next? My
    worry is that most people will think that last night’s meeting has served it’s
    purpose.- ‘That’ll show Stafford how we feel’ was a comment I overheard on the way
    out. Maybe but it won’t change anything!

    The campaign to prevent Westbridge Park being sold by the Borough Council to a supermarket only really
    started last night. We must use the meeting as the launch pad for a strong and
    effective campaign to fight this proposal in front of the Inspector. There were
    some very cogent arguments made by members of the audience last night who
    really should be involved.

    This campaign now needs to
    move forward on a proper footing. Any ideas or offers?

    • Chris Tibbitts

      So do you have any ideas on how an £8,000,000 leisure centre and swimming pool can be funded? We desperately need one.

      • JTay

        Incorrect Chris! Really the only thing we need is a new leisure centre! No swimming pool as we have a really good one! And also if you think properly the place eventually the money will come from is us the public. PFI eventually is funded by us ad if not council tax. And we dont desperatly need one!

        • Chris Tibbitts

          Hi JTay. I am g
          Ad you like the current pool. However, Alleynes will not be available for much longer, let alone 20 years which this plan is all about. It costs too much to run and maintain, it is inefficient and the school will probably become an academy which means it is not council run and therefor not open to the public. I first read this plan abput 15 months ago and i was at the meeting, listening! Besides, the opening times for Alleynes are shoddy and i everyone i know says its not exactly top quality.

          • JTay

            Chris, for starters it has just had a huge refurbishment meaning it can last for up to the next 20 years, as it states in the plans. Also, there is no ownership to the school. The school have an agreement with the council to use it as there is no space in the school. So if Alleynes turned into an Academy then nothing would change there it would still be council run. The only reason the times are a little awkward is because of the FUTURE and as the council keep saying the FUTURE is where we are heading. Well think of the future and without the futures studies then how can we become the future? Point proven!

          • JTAY, no amount of investment in the swimming pool at Alleynes will solve the issues that it faces i.e the lack of availability during the day, due to it being shared with the school and the pool there can not offer the other additional services that people want when they go for a swim.
            Going forward Alleynes swimming pool does not offer an adequate solution to the needs of Stone residents, which is why you will find a number of people in Stone choose to swim in Stafford. This is based on fact and not conjecture.
            Your point regarding the future makes no sense, what point were you trying to prove?

        • mark

          Jtay, how do you know we don’t need a swimming pool. Have you any research to back this up? The fact that is already a swimming pool at Alleynes School is not adequate justificatiion.

  9. pollyanna

    Unfortunately I missed the meeting. From a personal point of view I would like to see Westbridge park developed for the people of Stone young and old. We need a new pool, new park facilities for children, lovely garden areas to walk through and sit in to enjoy the canal and the fields behind. This alone would encourage people to walk into Stone more and would then perhaps increase the town centre business. The town desperately needs a revamp – more shops that people can visit to browse and make essential purchases without going to Stafford or Newcastle. I also agree that Stone needs a new Supermarket, Morrisons is fine, but every company needs a little competition! Westbridge park is however NOT the place for the supermarket. even without a large building extra to the leisure centre there would be constant deliveries day and night – traffic would be awful and bear in mind that other supermarket giants unlike morrisons would possibly be open 24 hours including xmas. This kind of supermarket needs to be situated outside the town centre – brooms road business park? I know other sites have been suggested. Perhaps the council would gain more Stone residents on their side if this was put in place instead.

  10. Gill

    Westbridge
    Park is our Community Space. One thing Stone can be proud of is it’s
    Community Spirit. I have been surprised that people have been refusing
    to attend things there because there is a cost. You would pay to go to
    Trentham Fireworks, Ludlow Food
    and Drink, Shugborough Fairs etc etc. The costs of any event are huge.
    If it wasn’t for the band of volunteers for many of the town events it
    would be even more. Some of our events – the profits are returned to
    Stone Charities – so its the town’s way of supporting them. Gone off at a
    tangent here – but this park is integral to community life. Changes
    need to be made to our Leisure facilities, Guide HQ, Scout HQ, play
    areas etc etc. Use the already built corridor from the Wells Bladen to
    the Pump House to create a multi functional Leisure/community building.
    Supermarket – NO. Morrisons maybe busy, but the Co-op’s aren’t and the
    new Heron place is a graveyard. Could the already represented
    Supermarkets improve their sites to cover the supposed need for another
    one?! Then provide us with the funding we need to move forward.

  11. Allan Skerratt

    S Richards

    I need the statement ‘Zoned for mixed use development’ explained and also why was that not made clear by our town councillors who were frankly appalling

  12. Philip Jones

    Allan Skerratt is a very prolific contributor but I’d like to point out that the reason why I supported deferring a vote on Westbridge Park was precisely so that he could make his views known and thus better inform the Council’s deliberations. As long as I am Chairman of the Committee we will not be bullied into unresearched decisions nor will we dictate to the town what they should and should not have.

    Philip Jones
    Councillor

    • mark

      Unresearched decisions? Bullying? Are you serious. You really should know better and I’m sure your perfectly aware that when planning applications are made, they are accompanied by a vast number of assessments, which is based on credible research and is produced by highly intelligent people.

      Your views are wrong and undermine the excellent work undertaken by the planning dept at stafford bc. Your not fit to be a councillor.

  13. Allan Skerratt

    Philip Jones

    Nor will you consult people in your own ward.
    Which is why I have never been visited in the 22 years I have lived in St Michael’s ward and asked my opinion on anything.
    Funnily enough neither had the 4 people I went to the meeting with who all live in St Michael’s ward. If we had not read the stone gazette we would not have known any of this was taking place.

    Allan Skerratt

  14. Val Davis

    I was at the meeting and share in the overwhelming view that it would be wrong to build on the green area of Westbridge Park.

    I think there are various areas that should be investigated further including:

    What truth is there in the idea that the swimming pool at Alleynes will no longer be available if the school achieves academy status.

    How inefficient is the current pool versus a state of the art new pool. Yes a new one may be more efficient but factor in the cost of providing one and perhaps the old one doesn’t look so bad.

    Is Westbridge Park truly the only place for a supermarket – and does Stone really need another one. Morrisons is not always busy – even on Saturday mornings there’s space in the car park. The Co-op is certainly not ‘overshopped’ and surely if supermarkets are busy this encourages people to avoid the queues and support the High Street.

    More holistic planning should be encouraged – can the area along the river Trent be improved to make it more attractive to encourage visitors to Stone. What else needs to be done to make Stone attractive to traders and shoppers – reducing car park charges or limiting the charging period would be a starting point.

    As raised in the meeting there should be a survey investigating the economic impact of any new supermarket on the existing High Street.

    How much money is the Borough Council prepared to invest in Stone, will this be withheld if the community does not agree with their mixed use plans. And, if so, why should it be withheld.?

    A park play area like the Victoria Park in Stafford is all very well for structured play, but the beauty of Westbridge Park is that it is unstructured green space.

  15. KeepWestbridgeParkGreen

    The Keep Westbridge Park Green campaign has only just began. The action group that has been formed has people with legal, planning and consultation backgrounds along with members of the Stone public who want to battle to Keep Westridge Park Green.

    I can assure you that at this very moment we are exploring all avenues and alleys to save westbridge from developers and supermarkets.

    We will endevour to keep everyone informed of what is happening both here on a Little Bit of Stone and our own website http://www.keepwestbridgeparkgreen.org/

  16. J.Nelson

    I was at the meeting, and support to keep Westbridge Park GREEN

  17. Sallie Tams

    I attended the meeting and was quite frankly astonished but the shambolic nature of proceedings at times but mostly at the condescending attitude of the Officers from Stafford Borough council and some of our elected representatives. More than once Mr Manders referred to ‘technical’ and ‘planning’ jargon during his presentation, his implication being, no doubt, that it would be too much for us to understand. Surely the essence of effective presentation is to convey information in a clear and understandable format not litter it with ‘jargon’ or patronise the audience, much less treat the people of Stone as muddle-headed simpletons? Does the public not deserve a greater degree of professionalism and respect?

    It was frequently stated that no decisions had been made, no offers tendered and how much the public input is valued and yet it was repeatedly suggested that if we want new leisure facilties, the addition of a further supermarket is tantamount to inevitable. A classic case of Keynesian economics and proof as ever that there is indeed no such thing as a free lunch because the cost will ultimately be the loss of the last remaining green space in the town centre. The data upon which the premise that Morrisons is currently over-shopped is not only laughable but inherently flawed and hardly a representative sample.

    At some point it was stated that in order not to kill the High Street it was important that any new supermarket be situated near the centre of town. Why is it then that we have a High Street struggling for survival and multiple empty units, when Morrisons is literally a stone’s throw from it? What evidence is there to support the idea that a new supermarket can ensure a healthy high street? Similarly if that argument is to hold true, why was Aldi situated on the A34 and not closer to the town centre?

    I would like to get a clearer understanding of how the planners think the road system is going to cope with the additional traffic potentially generated by a mixed-use development on Westbridge Park when it takes only a single dray wagon delivering to the Royal Exchange first thing in a morning to create gridlock encompassing the whole one-way system?

    • cpashto70

      “I would like to get a clearer understanding of how the planners think the road system is going to cope with the additional traffic potentially generated by a mixed-use development on Westbridge Park.”
      If my sceptical view of politics holds up Sallie, I’d say the ‘promise’ of leisure facilities are a red herring. The cash available for this would be instead diverted to pay for the necessary road improvements to make a new supermarket viable. I’m a regular user of Westbridge Park Fitness Centre, and besides an exterior paint job, the centre doesn’t really need any improvements in my opinion. However, the swimming pool at Alleyne’s probably does need a facelift, but do we really need a supermarket to support improvements to it?

      • mark

        The supermarket operator will be required to sign up to a section 106 agreement, which is a legally binding document. This document will state how much money must be paid to a new leisure facility, highway improvements etc etc. Consequently, it is not possible for monies to be diverted.
        Also, I would expect the BC to make it a requirement that a leisure centre forms part of the supermarket planning application, either through a joint application, or land set aside for this use.

        • You are correct Mark that the supermarket or council can’t redirect these funds once they are agreed, but as the council has not signed such a contract with the town beforehand, then they can simply set up the section 106 agreement to include, for example, just road and high street improvements and not the leisure centre.

          When a supermarket plays hardball with a council that isn’t on top of their game, they tend to get their way and the councillors get left doing damage control, ie “We got the best deal that was on offer”.

          However, I’ve worked for a council before and whilst it may be fun to criticize their work, you have to give them some credit. I do believe that they are capable of getting any major supermarket to contribute a moderate amount towards any such development, including the leisure centre. The only issue is its just not guaranteed.

          • mark

            Edward, thank you for your comments. As you correctly point out, the s106 agreement between the applicant (supermarket operator) and the council could include a financial contribution towards a plethora of things; highway improvements, public art, town centre improvements etc etc and at this stage we have no way of knowing what contibutions the council will ask for, or how much money. Notwithstanding this, i would EXPECT there to be a contribution towards highways and leisure because a key selling point of the redevelopment of westbridge park is for a new purpose built leisure centre. Therefore, leisure, highways and town centre improvements should be (and wil be) at the top of the Council’s shopping list (excuse the pun!).

            The applicant can not play hardball, or try and pull a fast one, because the operator will be well aware that in order to stand any chance of a planning approval they MUST improve the leisure provision at Westbridge.

            Furthermore, the Council will be completely justified in requesting this money because the development of a new supermarket will involve (i suspect) the redevelopment of the existing leisure centre and some loss of the open space. As such, the Council will be justified in requesting a contribution to replace the leisure centre and to mititgate for the loss of open space. And as i’m sure you aware if the applicant refuses to pay the monies requested as part of a s106 agreement, no planning consent will be granted.

            A new supermarket will pay a lot of money for westbridge and (I believe with some level of knowledge and experience) will pay a significant amonunt of money towards on site and off site improvements.

            Therefore. I have complete confidence that the Council will seek a significant contribution towards a new leisure facility and will deliver on the promises that they have made.
            You do not have the same guarantees with the New Homes Bonus, which Cllr Kenney and Cllr Hood are foolishly relying on.

          • mark

            Edward – a section 106 agreement is an agreement between the applicant and bc, not the town council. The BC will have an a SPG or planning policy which outlines what contributions they will expect applicants to pay for. This will include a payment towards leisure, especially if the application developing on an area used for leisure.

          • I would just like to add to a few comments to what Mark has said. The BC and Planners are fully aware that a Supermarket in Stone, particularly on WBP is a difficult sell to some Stone residents. Therefore I am confident that the BC will be insisting that they ensure that there is a worthwhile ‘sweetner’ for the Stone residents. Simply improving the highways etc, i expect would not be adequate and therefore they will be insisting on a significant improvement to the leisure provision. The BC have shown in the past few years that they are determined in improving leisure within the borough and subsequently i believe that this will be at the forefront of their wish list.
            Regarding developers playing hardball with the council. I am aware that this does happen, especially in areas that are struggling to obtain inward investment. However Stafford Borough has shown that even in these times of austerity they are able to attract developers and house builders…. St Georges, Morrisons, Marks and Sparks etc. Furthermore as stated on another post, 4 supermarkets have expressed an interest in Stone and therefore this does give the BC some bargaining power.

          • mark

            Edward, i’m slightly confused by your comments….in your posts you have stated that the supermarket could play hard ball and pay very little s106 monies if Stafford BC were not on the ball, which i completely disagree with for justifiable reasons that have been stated elsewhere, and then in this post your defending the BC. What is it to be?!

            For your information I have not criticised the BC, as you incorrectly suggest, rather the opposite. As you know I have stated ‘trust the bc to make the right decision etc’, which you incorrectly suggest is undemocratic. Odd.

      • mark

        Hi, I’ve just read a number of your posts that you have made on other threads. I found them extremely interesting and thought provoking. I will look forward to your next posts. Thank you.

  18. Penny

    I was at the meeting and whilst the BC repeatedly said no decisions have been made and that they will listen to the findings of the ‘public consultation’, I have very real
    reservations as to whether they will. This is because they are not proposing to
    commission an independent market research company to handle the ‘consultation’,
    instead they are planning to commission one of the UK’s largest Public
    Relations companies (Beattie Communications) to do so. 



    Beattie’s public sector website states: “We have one role in life – to help public sector
    organisations market themselves and communicate more effectively with the
    communities they serve. That means harnessing the power of advertising, brand
    development, PR, digital communications and call centre services to engage and
    inform”

.

    That to me suggests the BC’s goal from the ‘consultation’ (other than to tick the necessary box) is to persuade the public that they’re right, rather than to really listen
    to residents and engage in meaningful dialogue. I really hope I’m wrong, but if
    not then it seems a dreadful waste of £20k, not to mention everybody’s
    time. As others have said, the ‘consultation’ will also only relate to the leisure
    proposals, and not to the supermarket and mixed use development that seemingly
    is the only way that those proposals can come to fruition.

    

I run a research company (Step Beyond) based in Stone and if any professional advice is needed in evaluating how the ‘public consultation’ is conducted, I’d be happy
    to help.

  19. RichardS

    ‘The Plan for Stafford Borough’, the document which designates Westbridge Park for ‘mixed use’ development, will be put before a meeting of Stafford Borough Council for approval next Tuesday, 27th November at 7.00 pm in the Council Chamber, County Buildings, Martin Street Stafford.

    Mixed use designation means, of course, that the Borough Council will be able to consider planning applications for many different uses including a supermarket!

    If approved, there will be a minimum period of six weeks for representations as to “soundness and legality” after which it will go to the Secretaryof State who may then hold a Public Enquiry.

    It is inevitable that the document will be approved. The Conservative group has an overall majority and their councillors will be instructed to toe the party line.

    However it will be very interesting to see who of Stone’s Borough Councillors are prepared to speak against the Westbridge Park proposal and vote against it.

    We can obviously rely on Cllr. Jill Hood to do so but she is an Independent councillor and therefore won’t be able to alter the numbers. Cllr Phillip Leason is also an Independent so the same comments apply to his vote.

    The rest are Conservative councillors. Cllr. Geoff Collier bravely spoke out against the proposals at the Alleynes School meeting but has probably now been reprimanded for doing so. Will he have the bottle to vote against again next Tuesday? I don’t know where Cllr. Margaret Goodall stands on the issue – I don’t recall reading or hearing anything from her. As for the rest – Cllrs.Joyce Farham, Mike Williamson and Phillip Jones – the time has now come for them to show their cards. They’ve hidden behind the shield of “waiting to hear all the facts” before making up their minds. There are no more facts to be heard. Tuesday is D day for them.

    Stone Borough Councillors can be under no illusions after last weeks meeting – Westbridge Park must be kept green. The time has come for them all to speak on behalf of their electorate and vote against this proposal. They won’t be able to change the outcome but they can show the people of Stone that they are on our side. This fight has only just begun. We now need to prepare for the hurdles ahead. It would be very reassuring to know that all our councillors were behind us.

    So I shall be going down to Stafford next Tuesday (the public gallery entrance is in Martin Street) to watch these important proceedings. Is anyone else interested? There’s a couple of spare seats in my car! Let’s see some more democracy in action! (I hope last Tuesday’s meeting didn’t disillusion you too much!)

    • Chris

      Over 120 people have since shown support to “A new leisure centre on westbridge park” Facebook page. most of them did not even know about the first meeting. Lots of people at the first meeting have since said they wish they had not signed the petition as it was misleading – there will be no houses on the park and the green part of it will remain mostly in tact with the remained being developed to a much better standard which will enable generations to enjoy it all so much more. Currently litter, grafitti, condom wrappers, broken glass and drug use paraphernalia litter the outskirts of the under used park. Redevelopment is needed. It is not a unanimous “No” any longer.

  20. Bob Jones

    Much was said about the almost inevitability of a supermarket being built. Planning Appeals were mentioned. Our elected representatives have to SELL the land. Planning permission could be granted but without the ownership of Westbridge Park a supermarket development could not go ahead.
    A brief survey of the High St shows that there are 7 charity shops and 4 empty shops. Surely there could be imaginative proposals to encourage smaller “express style” developments. In fact it has been reported that many supermarkets are going off the idea of large stores and favour the small developments. Linking a supermarket development with improving leisure facilities distracted the concerns of most of the people who attended the meeting.
    Finally, the main reason for the “green” wedge of Stone is geographical. Medieval inhabitants rightly located their Priory and houses off the flood plain. Flooding does occur and with more uncertainty attributed to climate change it is likely that more severe climate events will occur. Green fields can withstand flooding. Increased building and tarmac car parks will increase run off , possibly affecting the renowned slalom course and increasing the likelihood of flooding downstream at Aston and Aston marina. The Westbridge Park area has been lauded as a green wedge of sustainability. There is nothing sustainable about deliberately increasing the liklihood of flooding. Have a look at the Environment Agency flood risk map for Stone

    • mark

      Bob, you are correct in your view that some of the large supermarkets, namely Tescos and Sainsburys are no longer seeking large out of town supermarkets. However thats not the case for all of the supermarkets. ASDA and Morrisons are trying to increase their market share and, therefore, they are actively pursuing new sites. As proven by the new Morrisons store in Stafford.
      If Westbridge Park was considered worthy of protection for medieval reasons (or any other reason) then it would be protected by planning policy. However, I’m not aware of any such designation. If you think your argument has merit you should contact the Council’s archaeological dept. Notwithstanding this, it is possible to develop sites which has potential for archaeological remains, therefore this does not provide a justiable reason for stopping development at Westbridge.
      I have reviewed the EA flood maps and i’m afraid i disagree with your findings. All of the site where i expect the built development to be built can be located on land not within the floodplain. I note the front part of the site, immediately adjacent to the road is in flood zone 2 and the rear of the site, where the playing fields are located is in flood zone 3. For your information, in accordance with national planning policy guidance shops and leisure facilities can be located in flood zone 1, 2 and 3a areas. Furthermore, any development in this location will be required to submit a flood risk assessment and as part of this assessment the applicant will be required to satisfy the environment agency that the development will not increase the risk of flooding.
      I hope i have alleviated your concerns.

      • If there’s such a great need for another supermarket in Stone, why is the Coop always almost empty when I use it? Even when the Post Office move in, I’m sure it will be just as empty!

        Chris

        • mark

          Chris, I suspect the reason why the Co-op is empty when you use it is because of the high prices that they charge. However, that does not mean there is no need for a new supermarket in Stone. Retail planning consultants make a very healty living demonstrating need and this is based on a plethora factors, such as population, existing facilities, profitability of the existing supermarkets and shopping habits of the local population. Trust me, a supermarket operator would not go to the expense of building a new supermarket if there was no demand, as such they have done their homework!

  21. Unfortunately I was unable to
    attend the meeting due to a migraine, but here is my opinion, I have live in
    Stone for just over 8 years and I’m proud to call Stone home, I see how the
    town has grown and developed and how we put on a variety of good events throughout
    the year and how we have great community spirit.

    The idea of having another
    supermarket in Stone is a good idea for me morisons is very good but for me the
    coop is expensive, so as a non-driver my options are limited so why don’t we
    build another one out of town my suggestion is on the bibbys land, this would
    create jobs more shopping options and keeps westbridge park as a green space.

    I however see the need for
    improved facility’s for people in Stone on Westbridge Park, and I hear the
    current pool is not fit for purpose so this would make sense to have it all on
    one space and I do believe Westbridege is the right place for this as long as
    it blends in and also considers the use of general community facility’s both
    the Guide and Scout hut I’m sure have seen better days (well the look it from
    the outside anyway) along with the Frank Jordan Centre so by selling the land
    of both Frank Jordan and Alleyne’s
    swimming pool for yes more houses this will cut into the 800 houses we have
    been told we need.

    Lastly let’s not make this to
    political I have heard from a reliable person that the tory party in Stone has
    had pressure put on them by them in Stafford….how very unfair thank goodness
    for people like Jill Hood and Rob Kenny amongst
    others who listen to your voice and represent you and LETS KEEP
    WESTBRIDGE GREEN

    • Kate

      James ,I was at the meeting and Cllr Mike Williamson said that Jill Hood had said nothing at the Stafford Borough Meeting about the wording of the plan. True or false Jill ?

      • jvictor7

        Thanks for that Kate. I’ll listen on iPlayer later

        —– Reply message —–

      • Jill Hood

        Hello Kate yes I heard him say that, this is not true but he does wear a hearing aid and its possible he missed what was said by me . I have not seen him at a scrutiny meeting as he isn’t part of the committee but I wear glasses so perhaps I just didn’t spot him. I have developed a thick skin when it comes to Tory tricks and sometimes it’s better to totally ignore what’s said. In defence of myself most councillors will tell you it’s not in my nature to not speak and that was an occasion when I most certainly did.

        • mark

          I am struggling to understand why party politics is relevant to the determination of Westbridge Park. If the development is good for the town then it should be supported whether you were a blue, red or yellow hat. As such, can we stop with the political point scoring and take an objective view of this development.

          I would also urge all council’s to review the supporting documentation that will be submitted as part of any forthcoming planning application. Stafford BC and developers pay a lot of money for consultants to fully assess the impacts of the development but in my experience councillors rarely look at these documents, and even fewer understand them.

  22. Rob Kenney

    KeepWestbridgeParkGreen campaigners will be attending the Borough meeting next Tuesday 27th November at 7pm and hope many other are available to attend. For more information and how to get there please see: http://www.keepwestbridgeparkgreen.org/

  23. Jane

    It would be lovely to have beautiful park facilities at Westbridge, similar to those in Stafford. Could the existing leisure centre be revamped and open to the community with a meeting place for teens etc. Maybe even space for the scouts? I believe it once operated for the community before it was a gym. In the long term this sort of small scale developement to Westbridge would be beneficial I’m sure. I can see that Stone is expanding and I do believe we need adequate facilities but building on a green space which is so central to all of the towns community events is short sighted. I have lived in Stone for 31 years and like the way it is evolving however a new supermarket built so close to the town centre will I am sure destroy what little independant retail we have in the high street. Build it by all means – out of town

  24. Another dubious supermarket ‘two-for-one’ deal if you ask me!
    There are plenty of unused swimming and leisure facilities across North Staffordshire already. Perhaps they should be turned into supermarkets first.

    • mark

      I fail to understand your point. How do the unused swimming and leisure facilites that you refer to benefit those in Stone? They don’t. Stone needs improved leisure facilities, this is based on objective research and an analysis of the existing facilities. Stone also needs another supermarket, which has also been proven by objective research based on peoples’ shopping habits in Stone.

  25. Kate

    I’ve just heard Cllr Mike Williamson and Jack Taylor (who spoke well) on Radio BBC Stoke talking about Keep Westbridge Park Green. Williamson described himself as Head of Planning for Stone town council. This is news to me and will be to the rest of our Stone town councillors! He also announced that the consultation will be in March. This information will come as a shock to Stafford Borough as I’m very sure that the date hasn’t been announced yet! He also said that Stafford Borough are willing to spend £20,000 on a consultation for the people of Stone. can I point out that they are more than willing to WASTE £20,000 of OUR money when they already have the answer from Stone. NO TO ANOTHER SUPERMARKET.

  26. K Smith

    I attended the meeting and want to make a few points. The SBC councillors kept referring to Victoria Park which indeed looks great but it was built on an EXISTING park so that is a red herring. To say that a supermarket would encourage customers to the High Street is ridiculous! Supermarkets sell a huge range of products. Shops like Baileys, Home And Colour and Birchall and Watson would suffer greatly. Lastly the road situation would be untenable. Even now,takes a good while to turn on to Stafford Road from Westbridge. Do we want a huge bottleneck like the one at Tesco in Stafford? Added to which, Stone regularly becomes gridlocked because of the Morrisons exit and lights system.
    I sincerely hope that the public consultation will be just that and that SBC listen to the people of Stone

    • mark

      K. Smith, Westbridge park is an existing park, therefore, it is exactly like Victoria Park. The only difference is, Victoria Park provides an attractive area of open space which enhances Stafford, whereas Westbridge does the opposite. Its unattractive, poorly utilised area. It could be so much better.

      A supermarket can encourage people into the high street because currently there are a significant number of stone residents that shop in supermakets in stafford and longton etc. A new supermarket in stone would allow these people to shop in stone and whilst they are in town they are more likely to use the high street. I did the same thing yesterday, I shopped in tesco (in stafford) and then walked into town. I’m sure I’m not alone in people that do this, actually I know I’m not!

      I totally agree with you about the tesco junction, its awful. However, the problems with this junction will not apply to westbridge. The main issue with the tesco junction is a lack of space and the traffic lights on the bridge. This juction could be significantly improved if the left hand slip road and right hand filter lane were longer, therefore, reducing the traffic queues. These issues will not affect westbridge because they is more space available and the road is more free flowing.

      • Your argument that Westbridge park “Does not enhance, but actively detracts from Stone” does not stand up to Scrutiny…

        My own feelings on the issue are mixed, but you are doing a poor job of presenting an argument here, and are coming across as a bit of a developer’s Shill through your condescending comments to the residents posting here.

        For example: “Trust the BC to make the right decision.” – Actively go against the principles of a democracy. The BC has expressed an intention that (as far as we can tell) goes against the wishes of the town, people have a democratic right to object to it, why should they sit back and let the BC to whatever they want until election day.

        Additionally your method of response is a clear attempt to discourage action rather than put forward any relevant argument for the supermarket (that isn’t already in the developers brief or council’s initial consultation work), in response to suggestions here, you simply offer statements like “That wouldn’t work, I could tell you why but I won’t.” to discourage action.

        If you are as I suspect attempting to discourage any response to this issue, then you are being rather heavy-handed about it.

        If you have worked in town planning with these educated people, then you must realise that part of the profession involves knowing that other planners have made mistakes, and it has cost communities dearly. You cannot say these planners are infallible, as its a logical inconsistency. Good planners are aware they can make mistakes, good planners know that the community is part of what makes each development work, and good planners shouldn’t need to spring plans like this on the town at such short notice with so little consultation.

        If the proposed works were in the best interests of the town, there would be no need to use tactics like this – e.g. Council/Developer shills attempting to hold off any action by the town until they can come up with a backup plan ;-)

        • mark

          Edward,
          Westbridge is a big area of green space, …. but its not visually attractive, nor is it suitable for football pitches for the reasons explained in the posts by Ben Alcock. Do you drive past Westbrdige and think that looks pretty or do you merely see the function that it serves? I believe Westbrdige provides an important area of public open space but i don’t think its visually attractive or well utilised. Its also worth noting that if it was considered important in environmental terms it would have been protected by planning policy, which its not.
          I don’t mean to be condensending to any of the contributors, however all of the objections to westbridge are what i’ve heard a millions time before and so have the BC. Whilst the objections made may have some justification (not all), I’ve read nothing yet that convinces me that a successful challenge can be made, and arguments such as the village green status merely support my opinion.
          Edward, at this present time only the principle of development has been established, and i am in favour of a supermarket being built on Westbridge park because of the community benefits that it will have, it will also meet a retail need and it most importantly it accords with planning policy. Notwithstanding this, I have not yet seen the proposed scheme for westbridge, if this promotes a scheme that will eradicate most, if not all, of the greenspace and advocates buildings of the quality that is currently present on site (which detract from the area), then I will be first person to object. HOWEVER, we are not at that stage yet.
          If people want to object to the principle of development, then they have every right too. However, i don’t want to give false hope, nor do I want people to pursue arguments that have no justifcation. If people want to know how to object and what reasons to put forward then I’m happy to help. However, as mentioned above, the redevelopment of Westbridge for a supermarket accords with planning policy.

          Everybody makes mistakes and planners are no exception but i can assure you that all the decisions made by the planning dept are made in the best interests of the town that they serve and based on a thorough examination of all the evidence. I became a planner because I am passionate (geek – whatever you want to call it) about the world we live in and i want to make it better place, more attractive, prosperous etc etc. From my experience all planners want the same.
          The redevelopment of Westbridge has been talked about for a number of years, however its again reared its head because of the publication of the new local plan. The new local plan has to go through a series of public consultation events and everybody that wants to comment should be aware of it, as such it is well publised. The consultation requirements for the new local plan are set out in the Council’s approved statement of community involvement document. Furthermore, the local plan will be subject to an examination by an independent inspector, if he or she believes the plan has been poorly consulted on they can determine the plan unsound. As such, it is the best interests of the planning authority to consult, which is what they have done and will continue to do.

          • mark

            Edward –

            In response to your comment below: –

            For example: “Trust the BC to make the right decision.” – Actively go against the principles of a democracy. The BC has expressed an intention that (as far as we can tell) goes against the wishes of the town, people have a democratic right to object to it, why should they sit back and let the BC to whatever they want until election day.

            Major planning applications are approved by a planning commitee which consists of local councillors from across the borough. Those councillors are democratically elected to represent our interests, as such the planning decision making process by its very make up is democratic.
            The inclusion of the mixed use policy for westbridge park was approved by the town council and borough council, therefore, it was a democratic decision.
            I’m not sure we can conclusively say that the development of westbridge is against the wishes of the town. There is significant support for the redevelopment of westbridge and, in my opinion, the anti petition did not adequately obtain peoples views. The anti petition as worded was against all development, however Cllr Hood has since confirmed that she is in favour of some development at WBP just not a supermarket. As such, were the people that signed the petition against all development, some development or just a supermarket…..???!
            A better way of obtaining the views of Stone would have been to ask a series of questions as to what development they want, if any, and request reasons for their viewpoint.

        • Edward, I could not disagree more with your comments. I have read a number of Marks posts on this and other forums and found them very informative. He has consistently provided evidence, rationale and reasoning to the argument which has been lacking in a number of people’s arguments who are clearly passionate about the future of Westbridge Park. You state that Mark has not added anything to the argument other than what has already been stated in the consultation document etc, this simply is not true and I would urge to read through all the comments. Myself and Mark have made numerous references to the NPPF, Sequential test and the Mary Portas report etc, I therefore believe your comments are incorrect and giving him a diservice.
          Clearly planners have made mistakes, the 60s and 70s were an awful period for Britain, but I, as a fellow professional in the construction industry believe we have learned a number of lessons since then and are making strives forward. Planners that will ultimately decide the future of Westbridge Park will do so based on all the facts and in accordance with planning policy.
          I do not agree with your comment that these plans have been delievered to Stone residents at short notice. WBP has been identified as a mixed use site for a number of years, therefore you as a professional should of envisaged that this site would then be subject to development.
          I personally like Westbridge Park, but I do not believe it actively enhances Stone, like other Parks do in other towns which have much smaller parks i.e Victoria Park and Beacon Park, Lichfield. Furthermore the buildings on WBP are clearly an eyesore and the leisure centre has come to the end of its life. These buildings do detract from the park.
          The point Mark made Trust the BC, i believe refers to something that I and others have been saying, which is to wait and see what the BC propose rather than trying to second guess whats going to happen with all this conjecture. Like Mark, has said, if the proposals are poor and do not enhance Stone I will join the anti-brigade, but i would much rather see the findings prior to making any decision on the future of westbridge park.
          Your final comment is particularly insulting and I would urge you to refrain from comments like that which could be deemed as questionning Marks professional integrity.

  27. Ian

    There are, understandably, strong emotions on this thread and a number of arguments ans counter arguments. In the interests of objectivity, I would like to present a few facts that might enable people to make an objective assessment.

    FACT 1: The WYG report commisssioned by SBC concludes that a new supermarket is required in Stone and that to build such a supermarket in an’ out of centre’ location ‘would be a missed opportunity’. (Note that Westbridge Park is classed as an ‘edge of town centre’ rather than ‘out of town’).

    FACT 2: The same report recommends placing the supermarket on Westbridge Park and locates it precisely on a map in the area currently occupied by leisure centre, tennis courts, playground, ca parking and scout hut. It further specifies that this will provide a total footprint of 2,500 sqm and a retail space of 1,500 sqm which matches the retail need identified in the report.

    FACT 3: The same report states that the building of a supermarket would involve removal of these amenities and that ‘finding an alternative location may prove more difficult’.
    FACT 4: The same report reviews alternative locations for a supermarket in the Town Centre and decides them innapropriate. It further recommends against an ‘out of town’ location.
    FACT 5: The need for a new supermarket is based on a suvey of 120 people 87% of whom live in the Stone area. 65% of these state that Morrisons is their ‘preferred’ shopping location. These preferences have then, it seems, been applied to the population of a geographic zone extending to Fulford in the East, Croxton in the North and well beyond Eccleshall in the West. The resulting calculations are such Morrisons is ‘over-trading’ 82%. Clarification has been requested.
    FACT 6: SBC has onbly in the last 3 weeks published its Leisure Strategy which identifies the potential need for a leisure centre of up to 4,500 sm with associated (undefined) car parking. It also places this on Westbridge Park.
    Now some questions:
    Q1: What if the research leading to the conclusion that there is a need for a new supermarket is flawed?
    Q2: The total space requirements on Westbridge Park may be 2,500 sqm (retail and around 7,000 sqm (leisure centre). Where can that be placed without removing the ‘green park’ element?
    Q3: The WYG report accepts that Westbridge Park is sited on a flood plain. How can such additional space be allocated for building without knock on effects elsewhere (see a previous contribution).
    Q4: The traffic situation in Stone is already problematic. Christchurch Way and Lichfield St are bottlenecks. Stafford St presents a further bottleneck at the site of the bridge of the trent. Is it realisitc to expect that to be managed effectively?
    Frankly, I am not a Luddite, against development in principle, nor a NIMBY. But I worry that we are faced with this situation following a succession of highly questionable assumptions and that we may end up with a really poor end result and the loss of a valuable amenity that deserves strengthening rather than destroying.

    • Allan Skerratt

      I have read the WYG report commissioned by SBC and I know some of the councillors who worked on it. It was commissioned and written before ALDI was built and I am lead to believe it has remained unchanged since. If that is the case Why??

      • Ian

        The ‘final version’ was published Jan 2011 I believe. The report acknowledges that Aldi is coming and calculates an expected turnover but still concludes that a new supermarket is needed.

        • mark

          Wyg are well known in preparing supporting information for retail consultants and have been successful. Their research will be robust and will stand up to scrutiny by stafford bc and more importantly to the planning inspectorate. Please move away from the argument that there is no need for a new supermarket in stone because this is an argument that will not win.

          Traffic implications, flooding et al will be addressed as part of the planning application. These assesments will look at mitigation, if required, and will be assessed by educated people. If they disagree with the findigns the application will be refused, however developers may a lot of money for the best consultants, as such I know that these assessments will be robust and will demonstrate that the development can go ahead.

        • mark

          Thats correct Ian. The report concludes that ALDI will take approximately 24% of the identified capacity, therefore, there is still capacity for another supermarket.

    • Penny

      Hi Ian – the research actually consisted of only 104 interviews in the Stone area (120 is the wighted base) – and only around 91 people answered the questions relating to their supermarket shopping. They also weren’t representative in terms of age group, nor I suspect in where they live and social grade.

      That really can’t provide a robust base on which to make the decision as to whether to build a supermarket at Westbridge or not.

  28. Humph

    I have a suggestion that may help to stop the development. An application can be made for Town and Village green registration which, if granted, will prevent development. The application can be made by any individual and the local authority will have to grant it (if the conditions are satisfied) or risk a judicial review. One of the conditions is that is should have been used as an amenity – for sports/recreation etc for more than 20 years. I’ll find some more information and post again.

    Town and village green registration has become so popular that Defra is consulting on making changes to this process – it is obviously irritating someone!!

    http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/protected/greens/

    • mark

      Humph, I have seen your suggestion used a number of times with little success, and where it has been successful it has been for small pockets of land. There a number of reasons why I think this application would not be successful here, which I would be happy to share with you.

  29. Allan Skerratt

    Keep Westbridge Park Green

    Tuesday 27th November 2012

    I attended the Stafford Borough council meeting purely as an observer.

    I was interested in one item on the agenda the development of Westbridge Park in Stone.

    The proposal was to alter the use of the Westbridge Park site to make it a ‘mixed use development’. This was explained last night by Tory borough councillor F. Beatty who has the Planning and Regeneration portfolio, to mean that a mixture of retail, office, leisure could be put on that site. She seemed to think that as Westbridge Park has a road it was mixed development already. I doubt she has ever been to Westbridge Park

    The rest of the debate involved Tory councillors criticising the petition of 4700 signatures and questioning the integrity of those people who organised the petition and those who signed it. It was said by Tory councillors that those who signed did not know what they were signing.

    Councillor P. Jones called town councillors who wanted to Keep
    Westbridge Park Green,’ members of the Taliban’ and the 4700 people who signed
    the petition did not understand what they were signing.

    The vote was lost. The Tory group being the
    biggest group on the council voted for the change to mixed use
    development. ALL but one of Stone’s TORY
    town councillors voted FOR THE MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT OF WESTBRIDGE PARK one tory councillor abstained.

    I was appalled at the sneering patronising attitude demonstrated last night by a number of councillors. The implication was that the petition signatories were too stupid to know what they were signing, The attitude was that ‘we know what’s best for
    you plebs’. It was an Andrew Mitchell déjà vu moment.

    The Tory groups at County, Borough and Town level have been told to toe the party line. One aspect of this is to make sure there is no council tax rise in Stafford next year. Eric Pickles is offering extra cash to councils who do not raise their council tax
    If the borough council sell the land and then do not use the money to build leisure facilities this money can be used to keep Stafford’s council tax frozen. A major supermarket chain would come in and buy the land. They would then build a supermarket and a sports hall for free. Stafford borough
    Tory group could then use the money from the sale of Westbridge Park to
    subsidise Stafford council tax bill in the hope of re-election.

    A cynical ploy seen all too often these days.

    • There is no place for party politics in planning. Please stop your anti – tory rhetoric. It has no place in this debate, it is neither useful or relevant and has no factual base.

      • Ben
        How do you work that one out?
        We have a Tory majority on the town council
        a Tory majority on the Borough council
        a tory majority on the County Council
        a Tory Mp and a Tory (coalition) govt

        So here are some easily checkable numbers.

        According to the well known Tory communities minister Eric Pickles says councils have the largest amount of money in contingency funds that they have ever had. Hence the 1.7% cut in grant. Stafford council have just approved £23million for new council offices in Tipping street. After wasting £40,000 on Stone balls outside £38million new County council Headquarters.

        http://www.expressandstar.com/tag/stafford-borough-council/page/2/

        And we are expected to believe they could not afford a sportshall or a refurbishment of existing facilities if there was the political will.

        • mark

          Allan, I have worked as a development control officer for a local council and my decision making was not influenced by colour of the local council. Planners make decisions based on a thorough examanition of the supporting documentation that is submitted as part of a planning application, and must consider applications against national, regional and local planning policy. Local politices had absolutely no bearing on my recommendations or decision making, however what you do get through local politices is political point scoring or cllrs making decisions in order to retain their seat. However cllrs, like planners are expected to consider the recommendations of their officers and make defendible decisions based on justifable planning grounds. If Cllrs fail to do this, they lead themselves open to challenge at planning appeals. It also provides ammunition for developers to go for costs against the council. In essence “costs” are a fine against the Council for making an indefensible decision. In order for a decision to be defendible it needs to be based on planning grounds not on party politics.
          I’ve previously responded to your second paragraph elsewhere.
          In respect of your third paragraph, what existing leisure facilities can the BC improve in Stone? Westbridge leisure centre is not fit for purpose, nor does it meet modern needs. As such, i actually expect it would be more cost effective to demolish the existing leisure centre and build a new one. Also I do not accept that the BC could fund the level of investment required at Westbridge.

          • mark

            Allan, why do you think the BC would not use the money from the (part) sale of Westbrdidge Park to fund the leisure improvements? Also you have failed to consider the part that a s106 agreement will play. The easist, and most transparent way to provide a new leisure complex is for the supermarket operator to sign a legally binding agreement and agree to pay for it; this is a s106 agreement. The amount of money to be paid is to be determined by the BC and any planning approval will be approved subject to the signing of a s106 agreement. As such, if the operator does not commit to paying the money, they do not get their permission.

        • Allan, I am sure you aware these contingency funds are ring fenced and therefore are not used in this way.
          A sports hall is estimated to cost 8 million pounds, do you honestly believe the Borough Council have this much money to spend, when they have already confirmed that to carry out the £275,000 improvements to Victoria Park they require additional funding from a private enterprise. You must also be aware that the county council is preparing to spend a vast amount of money on developing the business park to the north of Stafford.
          Regardless of who was in power locally or in central government a development like this would not be able to take place without some private finance especially in this time of austerity.
          I do not want to turn this into a political debate, this is about what is best for Stone not political in fighting. However, must I remind you that the Labour Government relied heavily on PFI agreements whilst in power despite governing the country in a period of prosperity.
          The fact remains planning, development and regeneration should be about what is best for the area and not Self preservation by councillors, or political point scoring.

        • I dont want to turn this debate into a political debate, but if you really want to see a poorly run council look at Labour led Stoke on Trent Council. It has consistently faired poorly regardless of which political party was in Power. However that is irrelevant and I dont want to turn this an informative debate into a political fighting and tit for tat. Lets leave that for Central Government.

          • One of the few things I will aggree with you on is that Stoke is a very poorly run council. I have been saying so for the whole of the 23 years I worked for them.
            As far as I am concerned it is not a political debate. I support no political party and am only interested in the future of Westbridge park. It becomes political when local councillors tell their eletorate they are going to vote for a particular course of action and then vote for another. Also we saw at the meeting what happened when one member of the party voted against the party line.

          • Allan, that is another thing we agree on. I do believe that some Cllrs do lack integrity and do not always act in there best interests for the electorate. This is why I do believe there is debate to be had as to whether Cllrs should even be involved in the planning process, however that is for an argument for another time.

          • mark

            Whether we like cllrs or not should be irrelevant because the cllrs on the BC’s planning committee must make decisions based on justifiable planning reasons, and they should consider the recommendations made by planning officers.

        • Allan are you suggesting that Cllrs make decisions for political gain and based on the party they represent? If you are, I would suggest that you are questionning the integrity of Cllrs which would be a clear inditement of why Cllrs should not be involved in the planning process. As stated by Mark and others when Cllrs make decisions to grant or regect an application they must be able to justify their decision. If they are unable to substantiate there case with supporting planning documentation the developers will seek damages from the council. Therefore it is critical that these Cllrs act in accordance with the planning process.
          The figures you banded about, do seem excessive. However as you are aware the reason why the council moved into Tipping Street offices was to centralise operations and to reduce the maintenance costs etc of having a number of buildings throughout the borough. Therefore they argue that by moving to these new offices savings will be made. Whether that remains the case is uncertain at this point of time, but this has no bearing on the decision to improve Westbridge Park.
          Allan, we agree on the fundamental issues, which are:
          Stone’s leisure provision is inadequate and requires improvement.
          Stone requires a new supermarket by 2015 due to current overtrading as stated by WYG
          The high street in Stone needs to be rejuvenated.
          However, where we disagree is the mechanisms to achieve the above. I would urge yourself and other Stone residents to wait and see what the borough council and developers are proposing for the Westbridge Park before you dismiss all development on the site.
          Allan, you can be rest assured that if what the BC and developers propose on Westbridge is a poor scheme, I will join the anti-development brigade – but lets just wait and see what happens next.

  30. Allan Skerratt

    Keep Westbridge Park Green
    Tuesday 27th November 2012
    I attended the Stafford Borough council
    meeting purely as an observer.
    I was interested in one item on the agenda
    the development of Westbridge Park in Stone.
    The proposal was to alter the use of the
    Westbridge Park site to make it a ‘mixed use development’. This was explained
    last night by Tory borough councillor F. Beatty who has the Planning and
    Regeneration portfolio, to mean that a mixture of retail, office, leisure could
    be put on that site. She seemed to think that as Westbridge Park has a road it
    was mixed development already. I doubt she has ever been to Westbridge Park
    The rest of the debate involved Tory
    councillors criticising the petition of 4700 signatures and questioning the
    integrity of those people who organised the petition and those who signed it.
    It was said by Tory councillors that those who signed did not know what they
    were signing.
    Councillor P. Jones called town councillors
    who wanted to Keep
    Westbridge Park Green,’ members of the
    Taliban’ and the 4700 people who signed
    the petition did not understand what they
    were signing.
    The vote was lost. The Tory group being the
    biggest group on the council voted for the
    change to mixed use
    development. ALL but one of Stone’s TORY
    town councillors voted FOR THE MIXED USE
    DEVELOPMENT OF WESTBRIDGE PARK one tory councillor abstained.
    I was appalled at the sneering patronising
    attitude demonstrated last night by a number of councillors. The implication
    was that the petition signatories were too stupid to know what they were
    signing, The attitude was that ‘we know what’s best for
    you plebs’. It was an Andrew Mitchell déjà vu
    moment.
    The Tory groups at County, Borough and Town
    level have been told to toe the party line. One aspect of this is to make sure
    there is no council tax rise in Stafford next year. Eric Pickles is offering
    extra cash to councils who do not raise their council tax
    If the borough council sell the land and then
    do not use the money to build leisure facilities this money can be used to keep
    Stafford’s council tax frozen. A major supermarket chain would come in and buy
    the land. They would then build a supermarket and a sports hall for free.
    Stafford borough
    Tory group could then use the money from the
    sale of Westbridge Park to
    subsidise Stafford council tax bill in the
    hope of re-election.
    A cynical ploy seen all too often these days.

    • mark

      You’ve made a number of accusations in your post. Can you substantiate any of them? I don’t think you can.

      If a planning applocation accords with planning policy and the benefits outweigh the negatives then it will be supported by the planners. Please note planners are well educated individuals that make recommendations to councillors objectively, they are also not driven by party politics (or council tax). Its up to the councillors then to make the final decision. When making the decision councillors must have justifiable reasons to approve or refuse the application. If the application is refused the developer will appeal and could go for costs against stafford bc, which will be paid for by tax payers.

      Let’s keep to the facts people.

      • Mark

        I do not think I have made any accusations in what I have written that cannot be substantiated by the documentation now available andd statements by SBC and Tory party press releases. I question your statement that planners are well educated individuals. We can see that at the junction of Christchurch way and Lichfield street. There are very few people who call that well planned. The rest of what you say is true BUT stone council have known this was coming since the report for the Borough plan was first commissioned in 2006 . Why did they choose to keep it a secret. Why was no one ever told about it. Why was there only ‘token’ consulatation. I suspect because they knew what the reaction of people would be. I am a democrat I will go with the majority view. IF 4700 people had not signed a petition I would not have got involved. If the majority want a supermarket and all the rest of the developement they will vote for it and we shall see democracy in action and I will accept the result.

        • mark

          Let’s see your proof then. You have accused the local conservative govt of wanting to sell westrbrige in order to keep the council tax frozen. Absolutate rubbish. If that had any truth, the Tory party can not fabricate evidence of a supermarket and leisure need if one does not exist, nor can they influence the decision of the planning dept. The planning dept are independent from party politics.

          Town planners are not highway engineers, therefore, they do not design road junctions. Do you know what planners do? I don’t think so and do you have any idea what qualifications you need to have to be a qualified (chartered) town planner? The answer is No. Let me educate you, because you need educating. A qualified planner must obtain a 2i degree at university, which is a 4 year course and then complete 2 years post qualication experience. That equates to 6 years of higher education, not to mention 18 years of secondary and further education. What education qualifications have you obtained?

          The redevelopment of westbridge has been known for a number of years and the sbc are required to carry out extensive consultation in order to produce a sound plan. They cannot just undertake ‘token’ consultation,.

          As you correctly poiny out (your only correct point) 4,700 people have signed a petition. However, this represents only about 25-30 per cent of the stone population based on the 2001 census, this is hardly a majority. Plus this petition has been running for a number of months. The petition in favour of westbrige being redeveloped, which has been running for only a couple of weeks already has a 1000 signatures.

          • mark

            Allan,
            I would like to further expand on a number of points that you have raised. The 2006 document, is a background paper, therefore the BC do not have to consult upon it. However, the purpose of the background paper is to inform the ‘new’ local plan which, as you know, needs to be consulted upon. In order for the BC to be able to adopt the ‘new’ local plan they must convince an independent local plan inspector that they have undertaken consultation and anyone wanting to comment on the plan could do so. If the inspector is not convinced by the level of the consultation that has taken place they can determine the local plan unsound, or particular policy or designation etc. In light of this, its in the BC’s best interest to ensure that the consultation is more than adequate. Furthermore, every council must prepare a statement of community consultation which outlines how they propose to consult with local people This document is available to view on the BC’s website.
            If you consider that the council have failed to accord with their statement of community involvement then you have justifiable reason to feel aggrieved and you should make this known in your representatin to the new local plan outlining how the council has failed to accord with the sci. I would be very surprised if the BC has failed to adhere to their own statement of community involvement, however i am happy to be proved wrong.

          • Mark I love being patronised by the anonymous but Ill not get into a debate about whose got the longest string of letters after their name. I thank you for your concern over my education requirements and the answer is an MSc. You need to calm down one minute you are abusing Phil Jones then having to apologise the next minute because you got the wrong person. I think planners like all people make decisions that THEY and their children do not have to live with. Lets see what happens

          • mark

            I believe planners make recommendations based on what is the best for the community that they serve. However, it is up to the Cllrs that sit on the planning committee to make the final decision. As elected members this should reflect the wishes of those that they serve, however any decision they make must be defendible because if it isnt it can be challenged.

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