Multi-million pound plans to revamp Shrewsbury town centre revealed

Multi-million pound plans to revamp part of Shrewsbury could see the castle grounds opened up to events, roads pedestrianised and the statue of Charles Darwin moved.

How Castle Street could look, with listed walls along the castle knocked down to open up the area. Picture: LDA Design
How Castle Street could look, with listed walls along the castle knocked down to open up the area. Picture: LDA Design

Proposals have been unveiled to transform Castle Street into "The Castle Quarter", with ideas including turning the areas in front of the train station and library into welcoming squares at a cost of around £2.9 million.

The plans also identify the old Granada Cinema building and the Conservative Club building in Meadow place as development opportunities for residential dwellings or hotels.

Urban design experts LDA Design have produced a report which is out for consultation. One of the key parts is a new "Darwin Square", which would open up the area outside the front of the library and the castle. The aim would be to have the Darwin statue as a key focal point, but it may be moved as part of building work.

Traffic would also be diverted away from the train station to make it more welcoming for pedestrians, with parking and the taxi rank moved to Howard Street.

The report was funded by Marches Local Enterprise Partnership and Shrewsbury Big Town Plan Partnership following conversations and workshops with businesses and residents on how the area could be improved.

The work was completed before the coronavirus outbreak, and some of the principles to make the area safer and more welcoming have already been trialled, such as widening pavements to create more pedestrian space.

The report says: “Pedestrians will have priority, with space provided to meander up Castle Street at your own pace. Rather than a traffic-dominated corridor, the street will be handed back to the people and the businesses that are thriving up and down the street.”

The reimagined frontage of Shrewsbury train station. Picture: LDA Design

Shropshire Council leader Peter Nutting said: “We appreciate everyone’s immediate focus is on the coronavirus recovery, but this report gives us an opportunity to consider how this important area of town could develop.

“And actually, the aspiration to reduce the dominance of traffic and make more use of the open space at the castle and library has never been more relevant.

“Indeed, with the temporary measures already in place to adapt the town centre to help people maintain social distancing, some of these plans could be brought forward reasonably quickly and work has started on identifying potential funding opportunities.”

Shrewsbury Town Council leader Alan Mosley added: “Castle Street acts as the gateway to the town centre for thousands of people every week. It’s a vital area of the town and these proposals are really exciting.

“Castle Street is already on the up, with a number of new independent businesses opening over the past year, and this report shows a way forward to an even more thriving future.”

Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury Bid, said: “A wide range of people have shaped these proposals and we would urge people to visit the Big Town Plan website so they can explore them in more detail,” he said.

“The world has changed with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, and of course the main priority at the moment is to make the town centre safe for visitors, residents and business owners.

“The proposals set out in this report are all in line with the general principles of the Big Town Plan and we think Castle Street has a unique opportunity to become an even more successful, welcoming and liveable part of Shrewsbury town centre.”

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