More Westbridge consultation on the way?
The report on Stafford Borough Council’s leisure consultation in Stone earlier this year calls for more consultation, the creation of a liaison group to “engage constructively” with the council and a fresh study on the need for a new supermarket/foodstore in the town.
The council released the 79-page consultation report from consultants Beattie Communications today on its plans for new leisure facilities on Westbridge Park that were to be part-funded by a foodstore/supermarket.
A press release issued today by the borough council said “bosses are now looking at a range of options for the park taking in to account the feedback”.
Click HERE to read the full report.
The borough council’s plans – which were consulted on in February and March – were put on ice in March when council leader Mike Heenan said he was not convinced there was “sufficient support for the scheme in its present form”.
And the report recommends further consultation to attempt to find a way forward, the creation of a liaison group that would meet quarterly with the borough council to “engage constructively with the Borough Council on issues regarding Stone” AND a fresh study on the need for a new foodstore/supermarket in the town.
The report states that 1,369 took part in the consultation, with 757 supporting the proposal and 471 against. A further 104 wanted more information before making a decision and 37 did not answer the consultation questions.
The report sets out consultation responses collated by the Keep Westbridge Park Green campaign group separately. It states that some residents posted them back to the borough council themselves – and that these are included in the figures above – and that hundreds were handed in at the final public consultation event: 689 were against; 11 in favour; and nine were unsure.
The report states that, although it treats the responses handed in by KWPG separately, all responses to the consultation need to be considered by the borough council.
It states: “It is our professional opinion that the responses should not be ignored but should be detailed separately as we cannot verify the accuracy of the information which was given out to these respondents as we were not in attendance to listen to information or clarify any points. Although there were more supporters of the proposed new leisure facilities than those against at the Borough Council’s events,the overall consultation and KWPG’s campaign clearly shows that there are concerns about the whole park being developed as well as concerns about the need for another supermarket in the town centre. It is our opinion that the Borough Council should therefore take all of these concerns into account before making a decision.”
Beattie makes a number of recommendations, which are published here in full:
1. One of KWPG’s key concerns was the designation of Westbridge Park as a mixed use site. Although in policy terms “mixed-use” legitimately includes green space, this has posed a key concern. It is recommended that if possible, the specific areas proposed for commercial space and the leisure centre should be ring fenced.
Then, the specific area which would remain as green and open space could also be ring-fenced and an agreement made to protect this green space in perpetuity should this proposal go ahead. If this recommendation is approved, then residents should also be notified and provided a further opportunity to comment before a decision is made.
2. If that additional consultation takes place, Beattie further recommends undertaking the following activities as part of that activity:
a. A number of respondents wanted more information in order to effectively respond to the consultation process, particularly details about elevations, designs, size and layout of the buildings. It is recommended that the Borough Council distributes any further information which can be made available to residents providing another opportunity for them to comment on this detail.
b. One of the key concerns related to retail need in Stone and the impact on the High Street in terms of another supermarket. It is recommended that the Borough Council undertakes a further study and provides that information to residents allowing a further opportunity to comment. If the eventuality of another supermarket is proven, respondents should have the opportunity to confirm which of the possible site options they prefer.
c. It is also recommended that as part of the further consultation all of those who responded to the KWPG consultation should also be given the additional information along with a key fact sheet and invited to respond with their opinions.
d. In order to make any further consultation as cost effective as possible, it is recommended that the Borough Council uses the database of those who participated in the consultation to send the above information as well as answering the other questions raised through the consultation process. This additional information and Q&A should also be uploaded to the website and promoted via the local media, online channels and sent to Stone Town Council.
If further exhibitions are considered, it is recommended that the Borough Council seeks to work with KWPG as this would avoid claims of misleading information being levelled against any party.
e. Eleven individual residents have also provided contact details and agreed to participate in a liaison group with the Borough Council. In addition, a number of the Park user groups have voiced a willingness to participate on this group. It is recommended that this liaison group is created and the individual residents who offered to participate, as well as all park user groups, The Moorings and the Town Council are notified and invited to nominate one representative to sit on this group. The group should then meet quarterly in order to work in partnership and engage constructively with the Borough Council on issues regarding Stone.
The report shows that as well as the public consultation events in Stone, Barlaston and Eccleshall, representatives from Beattie met with a range of charities and community groups to discuss the council’s plans. They held meetings with the Stone Festival committee, Stafford & Stone Canoe Club, Westbridge Park Guides, Stone Scout and Guide Band, the headteacher and governors at Alleyne’s High School, Trinity Skills For Life, Stone Master Marathoners, the Stone in Bloom committee, the Food and Drink Festival committee, residents of The Moorings and Stone Bonfire committee. The report provides summaries of these meetings.