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Pedestrianisation, cycleways and green space: Future vision to bring Shrewsbury into 21st century

By Lucy Todman | Shrewsbury | Business | Published:

An ambitious plan to bring Shrewsbury into the 21st century was today unveiled.

An artist's impression of how the redeveloped station forecourt could look.

Among the ideas is the pedestrianisation of the majority of the town centre by banishing traffic.

There would be a redevelopment of the riverside, increased cycleways and more green space.

The Big Town Plan is the brainchild of Shrewsbury Business Improvement District.

It says it wants to make the town a more attractive place to live, work and visit.

People and businesses in the town are being invited to help create a visionary plan that will shape the future of Shrewsbury at a special ‘pop-up’ space.

Shrewsbury BID, Shropshire Council and Shrewsbury Town Council are jointly leading the initiative.

They have created a series of artist’s impressions in which the town is dominated by pleasant pedestrian areas, without the intrusion of traffic.

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Councillor Alan Moseley leader of Shrewsbury Town Council, said: “This is a perfect opportunity for everyone who cares about Shrewsbury to contribute to shaping our town’s future and we will greatly appreciate comments from residents, businesses and those who work in and visit the town. 

“This Big Town Plan has brought many partners to the table, working together to make Shrewsbury an even better place than it is now.”

Nic Laurens, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for economic growth said: “The Big Town Plan will set out priorities and ambitions for the town, guiding development and ensuring Shrewsbury continues to develop as a great place to live, work, visit and invest. It will be used to help guide future decision making on issues like infrastructure investment and services.”

Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury BID, added: “The Big Town Plan ‘pop up’ will allow people to explore the plan and its themes in an accessible and visible location. The Big Town Plan team will be on hand to explain and answer questions and postcards will be available for people to give their thoughts and suggestions.”

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Following consultation on the Big Town Plan during September and October, a shared action and delivery plan will be developed with support from across the public and private sectors.

A consultation HQ has been set up in a vacant shop unit on Wyle Cop where the public can have their say and speak directly to members of the Big Town Plan team. A website, shrewsburybigtownplan.org, has also been set up.

Movement and place

An artist's impression looking towards Pride Hill

With ambition, vision, investment and action, the study says Shrewsbury has the ability to create a town centre that feels truly great to be in and move around, with people at its heart.

Given its size, Shrewsbury has severe limitations in terms of its public transport offer, particularly in relation to evening and Sunday services, and this can exacerbate the impacts of car use for local journeys and deter night-time visitors.

The bus station is also not favourably located and fares are perceived to be high.

Vehicles – moving or parked – dominate parts of the town. With its flat landscape and compact layout and natural environment, the town is offers a good canvas for cycling and walking. So by improving facilities and routes for walking and cycling offers considerable scope to encourage people to shift to more sustainable modes.

Currently, cycling in the town is fairly low and mostly for leisure, rather than a form of transport. Yet it is estimated that 57,000 people are within 15 minutes of the centre by cycle, rising to 80,000 within a 30 minutes ride.

The BID envision an enhanced network of vibrant, great spaces and streets, green links and cycle ways; with pedestrian-priority or car free and shared spaces and zones, where both possible and preferable.

They say they will develop better signage, legibility and wider tactics to support walking and the people-friendly focus, opening up the town centre to green space, the river and walks into the countryside along with developing a cycle-friendly town – especially the town centre, including bike lanes, cycling routes and bike parking, including the train and bus stations.

Enterprise

An artist's impression of the Flaxmill

The town’s future business success and labour market is partly ‘chicken and egg’; the town needs the right jobs to attract people with the necessary skills, but quality, sustainable jobs are often a product of a good labour supply and higher productivity.

Twenty-first century businesses also need access to quality, robust infrastructure – from good transport links, to high speed broadband, access to market. And as importantly, they need a supportive public sector that works with its business base to ensure that the town, its population, and its wealth creators, have the best chances to succeed.

Currently some 13,000 people travel outside the town and surrounding districts to work in other towns and cities, such as Birmingham, which offers a considerably great employment choice and higher wages.

The town is recognised as a strong base for independent businesses, attracting entrepreneurs, and this should be celebrated, and built on. Similarly, the town is well known for its quirky independent shops, although it would also benefit from an increased mainstream offer. So effort is needed to attract the right retail and ensure that the independent and high street offer works in harmony.

The BID says it will create an inward investment and business retention plan along with an enterprise plan which will be proactively targeting new businesses.

It will lay down the infrastructure, business and creative space to support growth, meet the future skills needs with a linked education and training plan and support the town’s entrepreneurial spirit and independent culture by providing a supportive environment and platform to encourage new entrants and expanding business.

Vitality

Looking towards High Street

The BID recognises that changing the tone of the town to create interest and experience – through public space and public art interventions, wider services and amenities – for all age ranges, is vital in getting an economic and demographic mix, helping Shrewsbury to address its ageing population.

The town is lively during the day, with a range of cafés and restaurants, but it tails off quickly after 5pm as shops close. The BID believes it should build an evening economy, responding to the opportunity of the students now living in the town centre, but ensure it develops broad leisure and cultural offer, with a multi-generational appeal.

“The town’s originality and creative spirit is already palpable. This is an important ingredient to bringing the town to life in its public realm,” say the BID. “Yet, whatever the town’s offer, its night life and appeal is undermined by its limited transport options; its poor public transport and restricted operating hours of the park and ride, mean that people don’t naturally linger after the working day or are deterred from travelling in.”

The BID hopes to link the town’s arts and culture plans to public space and movement plans to ensure that there is the canvas and network for convivial and vibrant spaces and use the river as a major spine in the public realm network, exploring ways of making more use of the riverside – such as picnic places and cafes or a floating pool.

To do this the BID will work with and build on existing ‘cultural gems’ and the wider cultural sector to extend provision, exploring more opportunities for programming and events and invest in public realm improvements and pedestrian areas, creating a ‘network of spaces to respond to these aspirations’.

Natural town

The BID suggests that changing the tone of the town to create interest and experience – through public space and public art interventions, wider services and amenities – for all age ranges, is vital in getting an economic and demographic mix, helping Shrewsbury to address its ageing population.

The town’s spaces should be seen as a canvas for public life, a way that people can enjoy from the way space is designed, and enlivened, with places to sit to enjoy the town and everything it offers. This should naturally extend to its major public spaces – such as the Quarry and the river, with the opportunity to integrate the riverside into the town’s public realm network.

Improved lighting could greatly enhance the evening ambience and night time appeal, with public and architectural lighting showcasing buildings, and thoughtful lighting schemes opening up safe and attractive public space networks at night. This network could extend to its riverbanks, using new lighting techniques that switch on and off as people walk by. This has the benefit of making the river paths safe, yet not interfering with the ecology and natural habitats.

The BID adds: “The town’s originality and creative spirit is already palpable in its enviable network of independent retailers, and future retail strategies should support this, protecting against a ‘clone town’. Time should be spent exploring the potential for opening times to be amended to reflect how the town is used by ‘all-ages’.”

The group says it will develop multi-functional, multi-generational places and a sense of play ensuring refreshed plans have the needs of all ages at their heart, including ‘seats for rest, places for play’. They promise to ‘explore technology as a way of helping people engage with their environment and its historic fabric’.

Lucy Todman

By Lucy Todman
@shroptod

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle based in Shrewsbury.

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