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Shrewsbury shopping centre bid and garden villages alongside M54 announced as part of Shropshire's economic growth

By Thom Kennedy | Shrewsbury | Business | Published:

Shropshire Council is considering a move for Shrewsbury’s shopping centres, a council chief has said.

Gemma Davies, head of economic growth at Shropshire Council, Nick Laurens, portfolio holder for economic growth, Deborah Cadman OBE, chief executive of West Midlands Combined Authority and Clive Wright, chief executive of Shropshire Council

It was revealed in the summer that the council was considering getting involved with the centres, which have been in a state of flux since development plans were placed on hold in 2013.

At the launch of Shropshire Council’s new Economic Growth Strategy at Theatre Severn, council chief executive Clive Wright said: “We are on the cusp of should we buy back the town centre and make our shopping centre flourish, and make Shrewsbury the county town it should be?

“There’s so much we can do if we take control and start to invest.”

An "economic corridor" including garden villages could alos be on the cards for Shropshire, the leader of Shropshire Council told businesspeople at the launch.

Councillor Peter Nutting introduced the report along with his "vision" for developing land close to the main route into the county to deliver new homes and businesses.

The new strategy outlines plans to increase the annual economic output or GVA of the county by 12 per cent, from its current base of £6 billion, by 2021.

In doing so it hopes to unlock £300 million worth of private sector investment, create 3,700 new jobs, and build 1,375 homes every year.

Mr Nutting told the event that among his ambitions were a plan to use land around the M54 to encourage development.

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"We have to bring companies in and bring better skills into Shropshire. We are starting to look at how to invest our money, and what we can do to help the economy," he said.

"One thing that we are looking at is the M54 corridor. I'm encouraged by the responses to see what we can plan with the green belt around Telford and Bridgnorth.

"I have a vision of a corridor that could become an economic zone for Shropshire – it could be garden villages.

"You have I54 and T54 – I would like to see that corridor called S54, or Shropshire 54."

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The M54/A5 East growth corridor is one of the "growth zones" regarded as a key area for development, as a "key road and rail transport corridor which reinforces Shropshire's close proximity to the West Midlands" and the growth potential that will develop.

Mr Nutting also repeated his suggestion that Shropshire could become home to an international airport, and at the event he pinpointed Cosford as being a potential location for that proposal.

"In my mind there is no reason why Cosford can't be a joint-use airport," Mr Nutting told delegates at the event.

The strategy was accompanied by prospectuses for some of the key development sites in the county, and how they could be used.

These include the Shrewsbury West development, which could bring a business park and 720 homes to land north of Welshpool Road in the county town, Shrewsbury South, a 14-hectare development site between Shrewsbury Town FC's stadium and Wyevale Garden Centre, the six-hectare extension to Shrewsbury Business Parkthe Greenhills Enterprise Park at Battlefield and the Flax Mill.

Elsewhere in the county, development sites include Oswestry Innovation Park, which is a 23-hectare site which is aimed at bringing new businesses to the border town, and Ludlow Eco Park, a 6.6 hectare site. It is also looking for an occupier for Clive Barracks at Tern Hill.

Mr Nutting added: "There are huge opportunities at Ironbridge where the power station has closed, and Tern Hill is going to become available.

"There's more and more opportunities there and Shropshire council is going to be doing positive things to drive the economy forward.

"Let's do what we can to improve the economy of Shropshire for everybody, but most of all our young people, who we need to upskill and keep in the county."

Council chief executive told the meeting: "Shropshire is an excellent location to do business, and we have lots of businesses that trade all over the world.

"We need to attract new businesses with high-value jobs that keep our young people here and attract new young people to the county.

"This strategy is intended to do that, to bring young people in and to keep young people here. That is also why we are developing a university

"There are also plans in each of our market towns and our council is putting investment into those towns.

"You can feel and see a change in the culture of the council. People in the council want to be the vision that Peter is setting out. We do want to help business flourish. We know we have to up our game in processing things like planning applications and we are reviewing these things with an ethos of being a good council to do business with."

Shropshire economic growth strategy

Shropshire Council’s economic growth strategy is a six-point plan, with a number of specific proposals in each segment.

1) Target actions and resources on economic opportunities

The council plans to focus its energies on capitalising on economic opportunities when they arise.

To do this it will work as a non-constituent member of the West Midlands Combined Authority, work with partners to prepare itself for HS2, promote its investment opportunities on a regional level and support the county’s tourism and visitor economy sector.

It will also promote its new employment sites which are ready for development, including the M54/A5 East corridor, the A5 West growth corridor including Oswestry Innovation Park, and various development sites around Shrewsbury.

It will also target growing and under-represented sectors, including advanced manufacturing including engineering, agri-food and agri-tech; food and drink production; health and social care; the visitor economy; environmental science and technologies; and the creative and digital industries.

2) Enable businesses to start, grow and succeed

The council plans to identify fast-growing companies and work with those who have potential to increase output and staff numbers through its business relationship management team.

3) Deliver infrastructure to support growth

The Marches LEP has helped identify the key transport areas which are needed to deliver growth in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire.

It also plans to use the Connecting Shropshire programme to boost mobile phone signal, work with utilities providers to improve their capacity, and to boost housing provision.

4) Meet skills needs and people’s aspirations for work

The council will use the apprenticeship levy to add apprentices to its own staff, it will produce a plan in collaboration with businesses and education and training providers to encourage an increase in higher-qualified and better-paid jobs.

5) Promote Shropshire to investors

The council is to prepare a document outlining the benefits of investing in the county, while also developing its web and social media presence.

It says it will “grow the investment brand for Shropshire”, and produce a plan including a stratefy for targeting potential investors.

6) Build a reputation as a council that is 'good to do business with'

This will include building relationships with the Shropshire Business Board, review its internal functions to improve its offer to businesses, and develop a support package for major investment in the county.

Thom Kennedy

By Thom Kennedy
Business Editor - @tkennedy_star

Shropshire Star Business Editor

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