The future of Shrewsbury’s historic Square is set to be decided at a public inquiry.
Developers say an inquiry is inevitable after hopes of a compromise deal with town officials over a plan to move shop fronts were dashed last night.
The owners of Princess House want to bring forward a row of shops which are currently set back from the historic Square.
But Shrewsbury Town Council planners last night said they could not back the scheme which they fear will see the end of the Square’s cafe culture.
Project manager James Tibbles said the delay over the decision could lead to ‘three shops or more’ leaving their current locations in the Square in the coming months.
His team claim that moving the recessed shop frontages forward will help improve the visibility of stores based in the building and allow them to prosper.
The scheme has already been given planning permission, but campaigners have written to the Department for Transport to prevent it being the final go-ahead.
The Government department had asked both sides to attempt to reach a compromise to prevent the need for a public inquiry, leading to Mr Tibbles and colleague Andrew Renshaw giving presentation to town councillors last night.
They said any fears about the loss of cafe culture were unfounded and added that moving the frontages forward would help ensure companies remain in the Square.
But councillors said they had to consider how the plans would affect the look of the Square for decades to come.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Tibbles said he found it hard to understand why councillors were objecting. “This is an application supported by retailers, which creates investment and jobs. It is really quite a struggle to understand,” he said.
“We have to go to public inquiry.”
In the meeting, leader of Shrewsbury Town Council Peter Nutting said he had not been convinced by the developers’ arguments.
“I don’t see what it is going to improve,” he said.