Westbridge Park viewpoint: Plan not viable
The Keep Westbridge Park Green campaign was formed last autumn and organisers started a petition against the park being included in the Local Plan as a site for mixed-use development. In the latest viewpoint, the group says the borough council’s plans for Westbridge Park are not viable
Stafford Borough Council (SBC) has revealed its plans for Westbridge Park and announced consultations with residents. Stone residents may have already received their consultation leaflet.
We are extremely concerned that SBC recommends that the whole of Westbridge Park be designated a zone for ‘mixed use’ development. If this recommendation is adopted the entire park will be open to potential development. Residents should understand that, whatever the current stated intentions of the council, the park in its entirety is under threat.
We have consulted planning professionals who advise that:
- The formats used for both the supermarket and leisure centre are unrealistic
- There are serious issues with access and location of the facilities
- The plans do not conform to planning guidelines.
Correcting these errors would change the indicative layouts substantially.
A large portion of the existing event space has been used to construct a new road and car park and the proposed loss of green space threatens the ability of the park to host future festivals.
The artist’s impressions in the SBC consultation leaflet are misleading, giving the impression of a vast open space and angles of view which bear no relation to the diagram of the park layout and the actual remaining grassed area.
The following Q&A is featured within the SBC consultation leaflet:
Q) If the food store and leisure centre are developed at Westbridge Park, what will happen to the Food & Drink Festival and the Stone Festival, scouts, guides and canoe club?
A) We have ensured that a substantial green area is retained for these important events at Westbridge Park and would be happy to consider gifting the event area to Stone Town Council. The scouts and canoe clubs will remain where they are but we would provide replacement facilities for the guides.”
The answer to the question gives the impression that the various festivals have been consulted with. This is not the case.
Comments from the Festival committees:
Stone Food & Drink Festival - “F&D has not been consulted or contacted by the Borough Council either formally or informally. We have had no input whatsoever into their scheme. As presented, their scheme would make it impossible to hold another Festival on the site. Last year we occupied a much larger footprint than that proposed and we already have plans for at least an extra two attractions which will require an even larger area this year. I very much doubt that we would wish to organise a smaller, scaled down event. I personally was very concerned at the suggestion in Mike Heenan’s comments which indeed implied that the Festival was happy with the proposals. As you can tell from my above comments we object most strongly to the reduction in size of the event space.”
Stone Festival Committee - ”Whilst we are pleased to see improved facilities for children, the Scouts and Guides and the new leisure centre, we are disappointed that the green space in Westbridge Park appears to have been reduced by some 25%. If this plan goes ahead Carnival Day activities in Westbridge Park will be curtailed. We are also disappointed that the Borough Council has not consulted with the Festival team before publishing this plan.”
Stone Town Bonfire & Fireworks - “I can confirm that we have had absolutely no contact or consultation with the Borough about our requirements. Again we are concerned that the press release implies that we are happy to organise the event on the new design. That is definitely not the case. There is nowhere in the plan where we could build and light a bonfire. Without a bonfire we would not put on the event. The fire is central to the night’s entertainment. We will be holding an emergency meeting in a couple of weeks so that we can lodge a formal objection.”
Consultation is taking place not only in Stone but also in Barlaston and Eccleshall. Would Stone residents be consulted on changes to the green infrastructure in those villages?
We have concluded that the drawings on the SBC brochure do not fairly represent reality and that the plans for the Park are not viable, threaten its very existence and are a misguided attempt to minimise adverse comment.
We have appointed an experienced Planning Consultant to review the ‘Plan for Stafford Borough’, make formal representations and appear before the Planning Inspector at Public Inquiry. Although we have serious reservations about the Plan and the intentions for Westbridge Park, we are open to constructive dialogue with SBC to ensure that our voice and that of many like-minded Stone residents is heard.
Please remember that, if you disagree with the proposal to sell land on Westbridge Park for commercial development, SBC still has an obligation to provide leisure facilities appropriate to the needs of Stone residents.
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