CONTROVERSIAL plans to earmark land on a popular Stone park for a retail development have been declared “unsound” by a planning inspector.
Stafford Borough Council had proposed earmarking land at Westbridge Park for new retail and leisure facilities, to meet future need for shopping space, as part of its local plan, which was publically examined in October.
But the plans sparked fury in the town, including a petition signed by more than 4,700 people which was submitted to the borough council in 2012.
Concerns were also raised at the public examination stage at Stafford Borough Council’s eleventh hour proposal to expand the town centre policy boundary to include part of Westbridge Park, Crown Wharf and the Morrison’s car park.
This week planning inspector Stephen Pratt, who is examining the local plan, published his recommendations for main modifications.
He said that “two contentious matters” needed further consideration in Stone. They are mixed use development at Westbridge Park and the phasing in of further housing at the town after 2021, so as to avoid any adverse impact on the regeneration strategy of the North Staffordshire conurbation.
He recommended the mixed-use proposal at Westbridge Park and the amendment of the town centre boundary to incorporate this site should be deleted from the plan.
Mr Pratt said: “Firstly, the proposed mixed-use leisure/retail development at Westbridge Park is locally very controversial. Stafford Borough Council now proposes to remove most of the references to this proposal in the plan, which is questionable in terms of retail need, has not properly been subject to sequential tests relating to town centre/retail policy or flood risk, and could have an impact on the character and appearance of this important gateway to the town.
“At present there is insufficient evidence to show that the site could be developed in the manner intended, but if it is decided that this retail/leisure scheme is needed, it could be reconsidered at the Site Allocations/Neighbourhood Plan stage.
“In the meantime, this is an unsound proposal, and there is also insufficient justification to include this site within the amended town centre policy boundary.”