Empty shops and offices fear as rethink urged over major plans to regenerate Shrewsbury town centre

A rethink has been urged over major plans to regenerate Shrewsbury town centre in light of changes to the way people live, work and shop as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

How the Square could look under the masterplan proposals
How the Square could look under the masterplan proposals

Councillor Roger Evans, leader of Shropshire Council’s opposition Liberal Democrat group, said proposals contained in the Big Town Plan could result in vast amounts of new retail and office space never being used due to a lack of demand.

But members of the council’s cabinet said they were confident the project would bring huge benefits to the town and wider county.

The masterplan sets out how six defined areas will be developed over the next two decades and how people will move around the town.

Councillor Evans said he could not support the masterplan in its current form, questioning why it includes 190,000 square feet of retail space when the Pride Hill Shopping Centre is set to house Shropshire Council's offices.

He said: “If you look at Covid and what’s happened in the last nine months, is this really practical for Shrewsbury or are we going to create a lot of empty offices which will not be used?

“It doesn’t make sense in the current climate to build that number of extra offices and retail space when we have got a retail space in a shopping centre which is now likely to be converted into offices because there is no demand for retail.

“I think it really needs to be revised in light of what’s happened in the last nine months.”

'High level'

Council leader Peter Nutting said the masterplan was a “high level” vision, the detail of which was far from being set in stone.

“It’s designed to stimulate discussion about the future of the town,” he said.

“I think the biggest area where there will need to be a lot of talking is about movement, which is mainly about cycling, pedestrianisation and traffic and how they all fit together.”

Labour group leader Councillor Alan Mosley said it was important people get involved in the consultation and help to shape the plans as they develop.

He said: “It’s important that Shrewsbury is recognised as being the important county town that it is. Its success influences people, property and businesses well outside Shrewsbury.

End game

“It’s very important that this is taken on board by the county as a whole. It is a vision, not a plan that’s going to be put in place in the next six months, or a year or two. It’s a vision for the way Shrewsbury has to develop, evolve and grow for the next 20 years.”

Cabinet unanimously agreed the Big Town Plan masterplan and vision, which will now go out to a six-week public consultation.

Councillor Steve Charmley, portfolio holder for assets, said: “The Big Town Plan has been in the making for a number of years now and it’s great to see this is finally coming forward towards the end game.

“It’s a result of collaborative working including many of our councillors across all political spectrums and key stakeholders have also had an input to create this vision and to shape the future of of our county town.

“I believe that as a concept this is great news for the county town and for the wider county.

“I appreciate that some of the areas might be too much for some people but that’s exactly why we are going out to consultation.”

The consultation period begins tomorrow with a virtual ‘Big Town Plan Festival’ - for more information visit shrewsburybigtownplan.org

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