Stone protesters fight to protect 'vital' Westbridge Park
MORE than 700 people have backed a campaign to stop development plans at a popular town park.
Residents in Stone fear green space at Westbridge Park could be swallowed up if the site is earmarked for a 'mixed use development' in Stafford Borough Council's local plan.
The site is also home to many community events, including Stone Food and Drink Festival, below, which took place at the weekend.
Now an online petition has been set up to preserve the space.
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Councillor Rob Kenny, who started the petition, said: "We do not want any sort of development on the site."
Council officials stress no housing would be built there.
But campaigners believe if shops are created, it could damage the local economy.
Jill Hood, councillor for Walton, said: "The number of people that have signed the petition proves the outrage that the community feels.
"It is a beautiful park, which people enjoying spending time in, and it's a vital part of Stone's local economy.
"The shops, restaurants and pubs in the area all rely on visitors to the park, which will diminish if developments are made."
Mrs Hood said Stone's economy partly relies on the annual festivals held at the park, including the food and drink event which attracts thousands of visitors.
She added: "There is also wildlife to consider. There are two sets of badgers living in the park. What will happen to them and the wildlife in the river if the council develops the area?"
Kristen Green and her husband Mark, from Newcastle Road, Stone, organise the annual Stone Lions' Park Fun Day on the site in July.
Mrs Green, aged 62, said: "If we didn't have the park, we wouldn't be able to hold the festivals. There's nowhere else in Stone that's big enough."
Mrs Green also runs Mayfield House Bed and Breakfast and said the business would suffer without trade from the festivals.
George Bennett, aged 31, of Stafford, took his four-year-old daughter Molly to Westbridge Park at the weekend.
He said: "I'd never really come to Stone before the food and drink festival. It would be a shame if shops were built on the park because it's such a pretty area."
Maggie Salt, aged 52, from Tunley Street, Stone, said: "The last thing we need is our park taken away from us."
To sign the online petition, visit 184.108.40.206/stafford/Sign.aspx?Pet=32.