Westbridge Park viewpoint: Let’s be positive…
The creators of the ‘New Leisure Centre for Westbridge Park’ Facebook page want people to be positive about the plans for the park. Here, they explain why they feel developing Westbridge is vital for the future of the town…
We are a group of local residents who set up a Facebook page offering the people of Stone a place to be positive about the proposed development on Westbridge Park.
Our page is now followed by nearly 200 like-minded people, most of whom are aged between 25 and 45 and live in Stone. After the petition and the Alleynes High School meeting, we wanted to offer a place that people could go to say: “You know what, I would like a new leisure centre, I am open minded about all this and would like to see something positive happen to improve our town!” Continuing with the existing split site (Alleynes/Westbridge) facilites is too costly and there is the possibility that Alleynes will become an academy, so the Council have to do something about the leisure provision. Plus, we must all admit, the current offerings are about due for modernisation!
We asked people what facilities they would like to see and what they thought of the proposals. This has led to some very positive ideas and great debate on our page. It has also been very interesting reading comments from people who now wish that they could retract their names from the petition: they were led to believe that the park would be destroyed to make way for houses and shops. This is not going to happen. In fact, it never was. Instead, we will see new leisure facilities including a modern swimming pool, improved play areas for various age groups, a picnic area, a circular walk, a pool, new facilities for the Guides and some landscaping, paid for in the most part by a legally binding agreement with a food operator worth millions of pounds.
The objectors to the scheme have made the following comments, which we respond to in turn below…
There is no need for a new foodstore
This isn’t true. A research firm called WYG has assessed the existing retail provision, including the (then) proposed Aldi store and identified a need for a 1400 sq m foodstore. It is also worth noting that WYG’s assessment was based on the 2001 Census data and zero growth projections. As such, it does not take into account the number of new homes that have been built since the publication of the report or the 500 new homes proposed in the draft Local Plan. Had it done so, the need could have been greater. The 2010 Census demonstrates that the Stone population has increased by 30% since 2001 and the Local Plan is looking at catering for the next 20 years.
Furthermore, four foodstore operators have expressed an interest in Westbridge Park, these include Marks & Spencer and Waitrose. These operators do their due diligence and would not locate a store in a location if there was no demand or need. Just look at the congestion Morrissons causes at peak times. It is the third busiest supermarket per square metre in the entire borough.
The proposals will result in the loss of the green space
Most of the proposed development will take place on the previously developed areas, as such most of the green space will be left undeveloped and enhanced by the funding that will be provided by the foodstore development. In addition, the access road and car parking area at the front of Westbridge Park will be included within the park, therefore increasing the amount of green space that is currently provided there.
The new foodstore will harm the High Street
Government research (The Portas Report by Mary “Queen of Shops” Portas) has proven that foodstores on the edge of a town centre can increase footfall into the town centre. We share this opinion and a poll on our Facebook page has shown that most people would shop in Stone more often (including the High Street) if a new foodstore and leisure centre was provided. Currently, a significant number of people that live in Stone shop in Stafford or Stoke-on-Trent. Getting them to spend time and money in Stone is essential for our future.
There are already food outlets on and around the High Street so another one will simply give people more choice. A 1400 sq m food outlet (much smaller than Morrissons) will be unlikely to stock white goods, clothing, electronics, books or bikes. It will also unlikely sell holidays, offer an opticians service make flower deliveries etc. So exactly what on the High Street some people think it will affect we do not know!
In a time of austerity the Borough Council should be commended for seeking to provide for the leisure needs of Stone. This development will also provide additional job opportunities. This would be a welcome boost to the area and would give people more disposable income to spend locally. We would also urge the Borough Council to make it a requirement of the S106 agreement that a percentage of tradesmen and staff must be local people.
The plan that Stafford Borough Council released last week is only an indicative drawing, it shows an artist’s impression of what could be. It isn’t to scale and could be added to, making it even more attractive through our input. It’s a shame that it has been taken so literally and negative comment has been made in regard to effects on the Food and Drink Festival and other community events which simply does not have to be the case.
There really would be very little difference in the size of the grassed area and if the festival needs more land to grow into in the future then it can, and would, have to use the land at the rear of the park or spill out into additional sites around the town and possibly at places like Aston Marina who would surely welcome greater passing trade.
All the new buildings will be state of the art, sympathetically designed and as “green” on the environment as possible. They will look fantastic compared to what we have here now! The park in its current state is becoming a site of anti-social behaviour, there are signs of drug usage, broken glass, dog fouling, litter and graffiti. We need new facilities and we need them fast. Stafford Borough Council even said that they will consider gifting the ownership of the event area to Stone Town Council after the development so that we can determine its future once it has been improved.
We hope that the Borough Council get positive support for the proposals so that they can give us more things to do – not just on the much loved festival and farmers’ market days but every day and night of the week.. We also hope that people get involved in the consultation process and make their comments known. If you think that improvements can be made to the layout, please let the Council know. Together we can deliver a development that we can all be proud of and benefit from, so let’s grasp this opportunity and make your comments known. Please complete the questionnaire which is being posted or find it on our Facebook Page or the Stafford Borough Council website or collect one from the exhibition events.
If you would like to keep up to date with the developments at Westbridge please follow our page and get involved in the debate. We look forward to receiving your comments on our Facebook page ‘A New Leisure Centre For Westbridge Park’.
See all of A Little Bit of Stone’s Westbridge Park coverage HERE
Click HERE to see the borough council’s plan for Westbridge Park
Click HERE to take part in the consultation on the borough council website