A public inquiry over the future of Shrewsbury’s historic Square will be a waste of public money, it has been claimed.
The owners of Princess House want to bring forward a row of shops which are currently set back from the Square.
But Shrewsbury Town Council planners said they could not back the scheme which they fear will see the end of the Square’s cafe culture.
Developers say an expensive and lengthy inquiry now seems inevitable after hopes of a compromise deal with town officials were dashed earlier this week.
Project manager James Tibbles said an inquiry would now have to take place, but warned it would be a ‘futile waste of public money’.
Shrewsbury Town Council leader Peter Nutting said he also thought the inquiry would be a waste of public funds – but added the authority would not be dropping its opposition.
Mr Tibbles said he was confident the inquiry would rule in the developer’s favour, especially as planning permission had already been granted.
“They don’t have a case and yet we have to go through this process – what a futile waste of public money,” he said.
“The whole thing is bonkers, pure and simple. With public inquiries, you can look at tens of thousands of pounds.”
Councillor Nutting said: “It is a shame so much public money will be wasted on this scheme that will not be for the benefit of the town.
“But if we have to go to an inquiry we will. We will stand whatever we need to stand to defend our position.
“If they allow this change, the Square will be altered forever.”
Developers say moving recessed shop frontages forward will help the visibility of stores in the building and help them prosper.
But campaigners have raised fears the move will bring an end to the ‘cafe culture’ in the Square stopping businesses having tables and chairs outside their stores.
The scheme has already been given planning permission, but campaigners wrote to the Department for Transport to prevent it being the final go-ahead.
The Government department has asked for a compromise, leading to a meeting on Tuesday.
By Chris Burn