£6 million leisure investment will keep Stone park green


A new leisure centre and play area are part of a potential   £6 million scheme for a popular park in Stone.

The proposals would also protect the green space at the town’s Westbridge Park – a move that is hoped will allay fears of residents.

The money will be used to build a brand new leisure centre with six lane swimming pool along with children’s play area and youth facilities on the park. The scheme could also include a new sports hall and 3g artificial soccer pitch at Alleyne’s Academy as well as improved football pitches at Walton Common.

The plans to serve the north of the borough have been drawn up following a consultation last year which showed residents wanted improved facilities but were worried about losing green space in Westbridge Park to a supermarket. A number of national food chains had shown interest in moving to the site.

Now Stafford Borough Council say the new proposals will mean the undeveloped green area of Westbridge Park will be protected. With a smaller M&S Simply Foods store being located on already developed area to help pay for the exciting leisure plans.

The local authority will also offer the green space in the park to a Trust or the Town Council – protecting the site for major events such as the Food and Drink, and Stone festivals.

A closer view of the proposed site
A closer view of the proposed site

The £4.5 million leisure centre will boast a six lane swimming pool, top of the range gym equipment, as well as fitness rooms and improved changing accommodation. The borough council has been in talks with Alleyne’s Academy about the old school pool being converted to an indoor hall which can be used by the public for sporting activities in the evenings and weekends – and for pupils during the day.

The plans will be funded by the borough council including money from the M&S development. All money from the sale of the council owned land will be pumped into the leisure offer for Stone and, along with savings made by running the centre and swimming pool from Westbrige Park, will mean cash for the scheme does not have to be raised through local tax payers.

The details of the project are revealed in a report that will go before the council’s cabinet next week (Thursday 11 December). There will also be an opportunity for residents and businesses to give their views as part of the planning process.

Councillor Mike Heenan, leader of Stafford Borough Council, said the proposals would be the biggest investment the council had made from its own resources for decades.

He said:

“We listened to the feedback from local people and this helped make our agenda very clear – to deliver the best leisure facilities for Stone, without losing valuable green space on Westbridge Park, and not burdening local tax payers.

“And with this scheme we can achieve it.”

“Youngsters will have a play park that rivals the success we have had at Wildwood Park and Victoria Park in Stafford. Residents will have a new leisure centre with a swimming pool that they will have greater access to every day – and not out of action for running repairs as it has been on a number of occasions previously.

“Football pitches could be improved at Walton Common with the potential for a new artificial 3g pitch at Alleyenes.”

He continued:

“To do this we required money from the new food store and this is where we have made sure we took into account what we heard from local people. The M&S food offering is smaller and will be built away from the green area of the park. It is also a store which we think will complement the very successful Food and Drink Festival and High Street, and bring people to Stone providing a boost to the local economy.

“These plans mean we won’t be raising funds through increased taxes on Stone residents, and we will also offer to gift the green area of the park to a Trust or the town council.”

The borough council has also met with the local Guide group to discuss a new building and location within the park.