Business leaders call for re-think on future Shrewsbury roadworks
Business leaders are calling for a re-think on future Shrewsbury town centre roadworks after recent works have left a main road closed for more than two months.
Shrewsbury BID met with senior Shropshire Council officials to discuss concerns about delays to the work in High Street which has caused major disruption to businesses.
Executive director Seb Slater said: "The consultation and communication regarding what has now turned into an 11-week road closure has been unacceptable.
“At a time when town centres and particularly retail businesses face significant challenges, it’s vital that road works are well managed and communicated effectively to minimise disruption and any fall in visitors to the town."
BID worked alongside the authority to create a pocket park in Shoplatch while the roadworks are ongoing as a way to attract people into the town, but Mr Slater said the road closure has now extended way beyond what was originally planned.
He added: “We are also very disappointed at the lack of progress on the installation of the new Shrewsbury Wayfinding scheme.
"It’s a great partnership project that will improve the visitor experience and we were assured that roll-out of the scheme would start over a year ago but still no totems have been installed.”
At the meeting, BID also reiterated its wider concerns regarding the Shrewsbury Integrated Transport Package (SITP), with further works planned next year.
Kevin Lockwood, vice-chairman, said: “While we welcome investment in the town centre, we wrote to Shropshire Council in February 2018 outlining our concerns regarding elements of the SITP programme.
“We felt that some of the works and disruption in the town centre for fairly minor improvements to the visitor experience were simply not going to be worth it and that the investment could be better directed.
“Look at the works at the bottom of Wyle Cop last year and Claremont Bank which have caused lots of disruption for very little gain.”
BID is now urging Shropshire Council to pause on the future SITP works and look how the investment could be better spent on transformational projects within the town centre in line with the Big Town Plan, which is being led by a partnership of Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Town Council and Shrewsbury BID.
It also encouraging the authority to fast track the installation of the Wayfinding scheme which is designed to welcome and help visitors to find their way around the town centre and its historic streets.
We'll look to improve, says council
Steve Davenport, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "We fully appreciate that times are challenging for Shrewsbury’s town centre traders at the moment – as they are across the county and the rest of the country – and we apologise for any disruption caused by the current closure of High Street.
“We’ll also meet with the BID to discuss the future phases of the SITP work, and look to agree a way forward that satisfies all parties, while continuing to meet our funding agreement. But we also want to see where we can support and build upon previous successful initiatives such as the Shoplatch pocket park, to deliver future initiatives and improvements.
“The closure of High Street was necessary to enable Cadent to carry out essential work to renew ageing gas mains.
“Our intention was always to take advantage of the road closure by carrying out a major facelift of the kerbs and paving on High Street and at the bottom of Pride Hill as soon as the gas works finished.
"This work – being carried out as part of the SITP – is now taking place.
“Alongside the upgrading of Pride Hill and the work from Town Walls to Claremont Bank – also part of SITP – this work is key to improving the public and urban realm for Shrewsbury.
"We continue to thank people for their understanding while all of this important work is carried out – we’re certain they will see a significant and notable improvement to the town centre once the work is complete.
"We’re sorry local businesses feel information about the nature and length of the road closure wasn’t communicated as clearly and effectively as it could have been, and we’ll certainly look at ways to improve our communication in future.
“We value the close relationship we have with the BID and take any such concerns seriously.
“We want to make Shrewsbury the best possible place to live, shop, visit, work and do business and we’re committed to working with all of the town’s stakeholders – especially the BID – to achieve this.
"Working collaboratively will help us all to achieve the best outcomes for the town within the resources we have available. Self-evidently, the aims and aspirations of Shropshire Council and the BID to support a thriving town centre are important to us both.
“The wayfinding project we remain committed to.
“We will bring forward the project outside of the initial SITP area – the outer perimeter of the town centre.”