Crown Wharf plans go public

Crown Wharf: proposed view from the west (image courtesy of McCarthy & Stone)
Crown Wharf: proposed view from the west (image courtesy of McCarthy & Stone)

McCarthy & Stone outlined their interim plans to build a retirement complex of 33 1-bed and 2-bed apartments on the rough car park at Crown Wharf at a well-attended public exhibition at the Christchurch Centre on July 17th.

The retirement home builder has an option to buy the site from the Canal and River Trust provided they can obtain planning permission.  They aim to submit their planning application to Stafford Borough Council by the end of this year.

Since their neighbourhood consultation session earlier that month, McCarthy & Stone have been taking advice from Borough Council planning officers on the overall acceptability of their designs, representatives said.

This has given rise to some amendments, principally that part of the derelict Wharfingers’ Cottages, one arm of the three-sided complex would now house a guest suite.  But designs are still very fluid and further changes are possible McCarthy and Stone representatives stressed.

  “Our feedback forms show that 75.5% of the visitors (31 out of 41) supported the development,”

a McCarthy & Stone representative told the Gazette.

“Notably, seven attendees specifically filled in priority interest cards because of their strong interest in purchasing one of the proposed apartments.”

But Stone Town Councillor Rob Kenney disagrees.

“This is a development that I will be fighting against,”

he told the Gazette.

  “In the recently adopted Plan for Stafford Borough, Crown Wharf was included into the extended Town Centre boundary. It is now designated for Town centre purposes, not residential development. It is one of the few areas, if not the only remaining area that could be used to enhance the Town Centre. It should be used to highlight the heritage of the Trent and Mersey canal at the heart of the town and its history.”

“A sympathetic development that incorporated canal heritage is a must for this site. Stone is crying out for a heritage centre and where better than at Crown Wharf? It’s something that should be built. It would bring in huge amounts of visitors each year to Stone, something that local businesses need. It was for this reason that in 2009, an Independent-controlled town council raised £100,000 by a one-off increase in council tax. STC were in talks with Staffordshire County Council about creating such a project. Unfortunately the Canal and River Trust seem to have taken a ‘highest bidder stance’ and forgotten the importance of this site to the town it stands in.

If Stafford Borough council were to permit this residential development it would mean that the recently adopted ‘Plan for Stafford Borough’ would fall at the first hurdle.

With residential development already permitted on the nearby former Crown Bowling Club site, this would mean the town turning its back on the canal, instead of opening up to it.

I can only hope that Stafford Borough Council have the sense to stand by the Plan for Stafford Borough that they created.  Let’s not miss out on this opportunity for Stone!”