Shropshire towns 'could be transformed by levelling up fund'

Three Shropshire towns could be transformed by government funding being sought for major development projects, Shropshire Council has said.

Shropshire Council wants money from the Government's levelling up fund to help pay for a major redesign of the Smithfield and Riverside areas of Shrewsbury.
Shropshire Council wants money from the Government's levelling up fund to help pay for a major redesign of the Smithfield and Riverside areas of Shrewsbury.

The council’s cabinet has given the green light for three bids to be made into the first round of the government’s £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, for schemes in Shrewsbury, Oswestry and Craven Arms.

Councillor Ed Potter, portfolio holder for economic growth and regeneration, said the “shovel ready” projects were backed by MPs and the public, and were selected for submission in the first round of funding as they were considered to have the greatest chance of success.

The council has not revealed the value of the three bids, but each submission can be for up to £20 million.

Speaking at the first meeting of the new-look cabinet on Monday, Councillor Potter said the authority was also looking into drawing up joint bids with Telford & Wrekin Council in future rounds of the Levelling Up Fund, which aims to boost transport, regeneration and cultural projects.

Timescale

Councillor Potter said: “A great deal of work has gone into this, and a lot of time from officers and my predecessors in the relevant portfolios to ensure that we have bids going forward that we think meet the criteria and stand a reasonable chance of being successful in securing investment into our communities.

“There was a limited timescale and very strict criteria, and we have have identified projects that meet these criteria and are to some extent shovel ready to meet the deadlines for the bid.”

In Oswestry, funding is being sought for a package of projects in the town centre and at Mile End.

The town centre work would include improvements to public spaces in Church Street and Cross Street, re-purposing of buildings, creation of new co-working spaces, and new library facilities, while at Mile End money would be spent on a new skate park and preparation of large-scale housing and business sites.

A new bridge is part of the plans for Shrewsbury's Riverside

In Shrewsbury, the grant would fund demolition work and site preparation as part of the council’s big ambitions to re-shape the Riverside area, a key element of the Big Town Plan. Money would also go towards town centre improvements including pavement widening, traffic calming and wayfinding.

Councillor Roger Evans, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, said he was concerned that the grant bid could lead to the Riverside redevelopment being rushed through before adequate consideration had been given to controversial proposals to relocate the bus station.

Labour group leader Councillor Alan Mosley, who is also leader of the town council and sits on the Big Town Plan board, said he supported the bid and was happy it would not affect the bus station plans.

The bid for Craven Arms is to fund a huge scheme of works including a new roundabout on the A49, a road bridge over the railway line to replace the current level crossing, and spine roads and utility provision on key employment sites.

Councillor Potter said: “This has got a great deal of support locally, and is something which will bring benefits to the town in particular because it provides the infrastructure to unlock the allotted development within the local plan for housing and employment growth.”

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