Plans to transform Shrewsbury's riverside should be 'uncomfortable but exciting', say designers

Plans to transform Shrewsbury’s riverside should make people feel “uncomfortable” but excited, according to designers.

Redeveloping Riverside is a priority
Redeveloping Riverside is a priority

As part of the Big Town Plan, officials want to pedestrianise Smithfield Road and create a riverside destination complete with a promenade, spaces to relax and greenery which will encourage more people to visit for the experience.

In a presentation going into more detail on the riverside aspect of the “masterplan” released recently, planning consultants said that making changes to allow Shrewsbury to be protected and to thrive in the future are “urgent”.

Alan Harris, head of asset management and development at Montagu Evans, said: “Creating change is urgent. It’s about getting ahead. The fear is, and thankfully this isn’t happening in Shrewsbury, that people put their heads in the sand and don’t think about how these massive changes can happen.

“The riverside is one of the best sites in the UK for development in my opinion. You should get excited about it and get involved.”

Bernie Foulkes, director at LDA Design, added: “If you are uncomfortable with the plan then we’ve probably done our job. Change is uncomfortable, especially in a place that seems timeless.

“There is change happening regardless because of shopping habits and Covid. Town centres have been about retail. This is about the town centre reflecting the innovativeness of people in the town.”

Mark Barrow, Shropshire Council’s director of place, insisted that flooding issues are being carefully considered alongside the plan. He is also involved in the River Severn Partnership, which is looking at ways to alleviate problems along the entire river from Wales to the Bristol Channel.

“Climate change predictions are that even higher volumes of water will be flowing through the town in years to come. There has already been £70m set aside by the government and individual projects that have emerged. This isn’t just pie in the sky.”

The “masterplan” is aimed at sparking debate about the future of Shrewsbury, and explores ideas including creating a new northern entrance to the railway station and revitalising the Abbey Foregate viaduct to provide space for businesses and community events

The planners were speaking at a presentation titled What’s Next For Town Centres as part of the Shrewsbury Big Town Festival. The festival, a series of online talks about shaping the future of the town, started last week.

There are three more discussions this week about how plans affect the town’s heritage, its young people, and what happens next.

To listen in, or to listen to previous talks, visit festival.shrewsburybigtownplan.org/

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