Gamble on Shrewsbury shopping centres has 'cost the whole county'

Fifty million pounds spent on Shrewsbury’s shopping centres could have instead been used to give an economic boost to the market towns of south Shropshire, councillors have claimed.

Shrewsbury's Pride Hill shopping centre
Shrewsbury's Pride Hill shopping centre

Bishop’s Castle town and Shropshire County Councillor Ruth Houghton said the only people to benefit from Shropshire Council's ‘investment’ are the vendors, not the people of Shropshire.

Meanwhile Councillor Andy Boddington said that small towns like Ludlow are being starved of investment while the council struggles to keep its out of date shopping centres alive.

It was revealed last week that the value of the three Shrewsbury shopping centres, which the council bought in 2018, had plummeted to just £12.65 million, a loss of nearly £40 million in just three years. The council and business bosses have continued to defend the decision to buy the centres.

The overarching plan is for the Darwin centre to be the main shopping precinct, Pride Hill centre to become the new council HQ and offices downstairs with a leisure facility upstairs, and the Riverside centre to be demolished to make way for a new riverside destination.

Andy Boddington, the county councillor for Ludlow North, Ludlow Councillor for Gallows Bank and Bromfield Parish Councillor, said the money could have been spent refreshing towns across the county.

Councillor Ruth Houghton of Bishop’s Castle said: “The only people to have benefitted from this 'investment' are the vendors, certainly not the people of Shropshire.

“Fifty million pounds could have been spent differently including providing an economic boost to the smaller market towns of south Shropshire."

Councillor Boddington added: “I get very angry when I listen to Shropshire Council’s leaders trying to brush off the loss of £40 million on the value of the Shrewsbury shopping centres. Council leaders appear to think losing £40 million is neither here nor there. If your house had gone down in value by three quarters, would you not be concerned?

“We are told by the council this is not “real money” because it has no intention of selling the shopping centres. This is real money. Every household in the Shropshire Council area has lost £342 so far on the shopping centres.

“Of course, it is a good idea to invest in the regeneration of Shrewsbury town centre. But if the council had not panicked itself into buying the shopping centres when prices were high, it could now buy them at a discount rate. That would have left money in the bank to improve the centres and convert them to other uses. As it is, the council will have to find at least £11 million extra to covert and improve the shopping centres.

“This is real money. It is money that could have been spent refreshing town centres and facilities across the county. Ludlow is desperate for around £0.5 million to improve the decrepit park and ride site. Other market towns have a waiting list of improvements.

“This money is not available because Shropshire Council has lost £40 million on the shopping centres. The council is struggling to keep its out-of-date shopping centres alive while starving small market towns like Ludlow of investment.

“As the county’s market towns struggle to recover from the pandemic, they need investment. But Shropshire Council made a bad gamble on the shopping centres. It lost the gamble. That loss is a loss for the entire county."

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