Consultation on Oswestry masterplan to open next month

A masterplan setting out major regeneration ambitions for Oswestry will go out to public consultation next month after being signed off by senior councillors.

Oswestry masterplan design
Oswestry masterplan design

The draft document puts forward ideas for how four key areas of the town could be improved, including sweeping changes to road layouts, public transport, town centre buildings and key development sites.

The masterplan is the result of several years of work by the Future Oswestry Group (FOG), made up of representatives from Shropshire Council, Oswestry Town Council and the Business Improvement District (BID).

Shropshire Council’s cabinet met on Wednesday to agree the draft for public consultation, after which the final version will be presented to the full council for endorsement.

Councillor Ed Potter, deputy leader and portfolio holder for economic growth and regeneration, said: “The intention is that the masterplan is intended to be a flexible long-term course of action, not determining specific projects or initiatives but rather flagging a range of potential projects and opportunities, referred to as ‘big ideas’, on which future discussions should be had and local collaborative decisions be made.

“The vision will be used to guide future development and investment decisions in the Oswestry area.

“This is a really positive move for Oswestry and I very much hope cabinet will back going out to consultation on this so we can start to bring forward some good, positive ideas to increase economic growth and development in Oswestry, a key market town in north Shropshire that also has significant importance around our tourist economy”

Councillor Potter said the work was part of a “sequence of projects” to improve towns across the county, following the Big Town Plan in Shrewsbury, and said Bridgnorth would be next on the list, with a programme to come forward “in the very near future”.

The masterplan focuses on four key areas of the town, including the ‘Castle Quarter’, centred on the castle and the Bailey Head, which the report says could become the town’s “cultural heart”.

A programme of work could see a water feature reinstated and the relocation of the indoor market to allow the building to be re-purposed.

Meanwhile, proposals for the ‘Church Street Quarter’ include expanding Festival Square Car Park to turn it into a pedestrianised area for outdoor dining and events.

Road improvements and the re-purposing of the vacant B-Wise and Regal buildings are also highlighted as potential projects.

Proposals are also put forward for the ‘Mile End’ area, which takes in the planned Innovation Park, Maesbury Industrial Estate, sustainable urban extension and the development land at the former Smithfield livestock market.

Key priorities for this area include strengthening public transport links, improving walking and cycling infrastructure and developing active frontages along Shrewsbury Road to create a “sense of arrival” into town.

The final area of focus is the ‘Cambrian Gateway’, concentrated on the former Morrisons supermarket in Oswald Road and surrounding land, which could be developed into housing, commercial and/or leisure uses.

The bus station could also be scrapped and replaced with a new public transport hub outside the railway station, which the draft masterplan says would also future-proof long-term ambitions to reconnect the town to the rail network.

However, concern was raised at the meeting about the Morrisons building, which the council has applied to start knocking down in the coming weeks.

The council was criticised by Oswestry Town Council at a meeting on Monday evening, when members voted to object to the demolition and said the FOG had not been consulted.

Green group leader Councillor Julian Dean said: “I’m just a little bit concerned about the effectiveness of jointly working with Oswestry Town Council.

“I notice that they have opposed the proposed demolition of the Morrisons store, saying there’s no business plan attached to it and that it could be a useful building even within an Oswestry plan.”

Councillor Dean said re-purposing the building or holding off the demolition until firm plans were in place for the site, allowing materials to be recycled, would be preferred.

He added: “I’m just concerned that we are ploughing ahead with proposals to make changes in Oswestry, such as bringing down that building, even before this consultation has come forward.”

Councillor Potter said he would be meeting the town council to discuss the site, and that the demolition would “enable all options to be considered in the final plan”.

Councillor Dean Carroll, portfolio holder for physical infrastructure, added that the building had been marketed for a total of five years, first by Morrisons and then by the council after it purchased the site, with no interest.

Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor David Vasmer welcomed the consultation, adding: “There is a need for investment in the town and I hope this will be the beginning of a new phase for Oswestry.”

The six-week consultation will open next month.

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