Stafford Borough Council has exchanged contracts with the developers for the proposed M&S Simply Food store at Westbridge Park.
Chief executive Ian Thompson said today: “We have exchanged contracts with Liberty Properties who are the developers for the proposed M&S Simply Food Store on the area of Westbridge Park currently occupied by the tennis courts. This will provide funding towards the leisure development in the park which will include new leisure centre and play areas. We have been working on plans for the new leisure centre but required this contractual agreement to be in place before we could progress further.
“A planning application for the M&S is expected soon.”
A planning application for a Marks & Spencer Simply Food store and cafe on Westbridge Park in Stone will be submitted by the end of the year.
A Stafford Borough Council spokesman told us today that the planning application was imminent and that it was the first stage of the process to deliver a £6 million leisure scheme for Westbridge Park.
The proceeds from selling land at Westbridge Park (the current tennis courts) to Marks & Spencer will contribute towards the cost of a new leisure centre and play facilities.
In December last year, following consultation in the town, the borough council revealed its amended plans, which saw the size of the planned food store scaled down from 30,000 to 11,000 sq ft. As well as a new leisure centre and play facilities, the borough council said last December that the scheme could also include a new sports hall and 3G artificial pitch at Alleyne’s Academy, as well as improved football pitches at Walton Common.
In May, the Keep Westbridge Park Green (KWPG) campaign group registered their interest to make a bid for the land earmarked for the M&S store. KWPG is opposed to any commercial development at Westbridge Park.
Cllr Jill Hood from Keep Westbridge Park Green said: “This will finish our High Street, particularly now that in a recent email to me from Hugo Adams – director of property for Marks and Spencer Plc – he states that there will be a cafe included in the development, a detail not mentioned by Stafford Borough Council. There will be no need for anyone shopping there to leave the park and wander into town to browse and visit our shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. I welcome a new play area for the young children, swimming pool and a teenage facility on the park, something Stone has been denied the right to for years, but not at the expense of the environment with hundreds of cars being added to an already very busy road.”
The borough council spokesman added that additional planning applications to deliver the leisure scheme would follow a successful Marks & Spencer one. Like all planning applications, local people will be able to submit comments on the M&S Simply Foods store application.
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The borough council is planning to outsource its leisure and culture facilities to a charitable trust – it says the move will not affect the developments at Westbridge Park.