M&S AND WESTBRIDGE PARK
– An open letter from Stone Independents
Stone Independents support improvements to Stone’s High Street and provision of improved leisure facilities for residents and are helping develop plans to achieve this. We also welcome the prospect of an M&S convenience store in Stone but believe that its best location is the High St where it would help regenerate the Town Centre.
We believe that moneys from existing ‘S106 agreements’ (agreed with developers when they build new houses) provide sufficient investment to fund new leisure facilities without any need to sell off land on Westbridge Park.
Once this land has been sold, residents lose effective control over its use. Should M&S not proceed or ultimately fail, how would residents feel about a range of less welcome retail options in its place? Stafford Borough Council’s proposed changes to the settlement boundary could even enable a future residential development.
Westbridge Park, part of the historic gateway to the Town, was gifted to Stone Urban District Council by Joules for the recreation of Stone residents. Ownership passed to Stafford Borough Council in 1974 as part of local government re-organisation. We agree with HM Inspector who said that the Park is best retained for leisure and recreation use.
The Park has been allowed to deteriorate, contrary to resident’s wishes, through under investment yet has the potential to be a wonderful amenity at the heart of our community. Landscaping, walkways, picnic areas, children’s play areas and community facilities should have been provided over the years at manageable cost to make the most of its canal and river setting.
In summary, Stone Independents support a convenience retailer (such as M&S) in the Town Centre and will fight for Stone to receive its fair share of funding for improvements to the Park and for new leisure facilities.