Peter Nutting has warned that “serious money” will need to be spent on commissioning a fresh movement strategy to support the Big Town Plan, addressing car parking, bus provision and measures to remove traffic from the town centre.
Speaking at a meeting of Shrewsbury Town Council, called to discuss the Big Town Plan vision document currently out to consultation, Councillor Nutting said far more work was needed to properly understand how people currently move around the town and what needs to change.
He also told fellow councillors that his vision for a parkway station next to the A5 near Preston Boats Island could help to alleviate congestion around the railway station.
The town council voted unanimously to request the retention of a bus station in the town centre and for a new movement strategy to be prepared.
Town council leader Alan Mosley said the masterplan had the potential to “rescue” Shrewsbury from the economic downturn brought about by the Covid pandemic.
He said: “It’s a way of engaging with residents about the type of town that they want to live and work and play in.
“It’s certainly a medium to sell the town to people outside and it’s a catalyst for development.
“But it isn’t a blueprint, it isn’t written in stone anywhere. I don’t expect that everyone will agree with everything in the document this evening.
“I certainly don’t agree with everything that’s in the document. I think there are some areas that are weak and require further work, and I think the movement strategy is one of those areas that definitely requires significant amounts of further work.”
Deputy mayor Julian Dean said the suggestion of removing the central bus station was a concern.
Under current proposals, buses travelling into Shrewsbury would terminate at one of the three park and ride sites and passengers would then use the park and ride to get to town centre and other destinations.
Councillor David Vasmer said it would be a “huge mistake” to scrap the bus station.
He said: “There is a lot of emphasis in the Big Town Plan about the railway station and about the proposals to improve it as an entrance to the town, but we have to remember a lot of people comes into town via the buses and to scatter people across town I don’t think is good enough.”
Councillor Vasmer said the need for a central bus station “should be given as much emphasis as the railway station and it should be a central part of the plan”.
Councillor Nutting said no decisions had been made yet over the future of the bus station and Raven Meadows multi-storey car park, which are both earmarked for demolition as part of the regeneration of the Riverside area.
He said: “I don’t think anyone is against the idea of there being a bus station within the town centre, I think that’s generally accepted.
“I’m not sure that where it is now is the right location and I in my mind have got a vision of having a bus station underneath a multi-storey car park.”
He added that a new “strategic site” in the town centre, bought by Shropshire Council last week, could be a potential location for a new multi-storey, with Frankwell also being looked into.
Turning to private car traffic, Councillor Nutting said a “fundamental” question was whether to send vehicles coming over the English Bridge up Wyle Cop or Town Walls. He added that plans for a ‘low traffic neighbourhood’ (LTN) must not simply push cars into surrounding residential areas.
Councillor Nat Green, whose Quarry and Coton Hill ward includes the town centre, said: “I think in principle it’s imperative that we get this LTN in as soon as possible.
“The local residents understand the importance of it and they really want it.
“We do need to make sure that they remain on side with this because they are the ones who live within the loop of the river and the ones who are going to bear the brunt of any changes, in particular along Town Walls.
“I think we need to ensure they have sufficient traffic calming measures that will help to ensure that attempted through traffic is dissuaded as much as possible in whatever form the overall LTN should take.”
Councillor Nutting said he was concerned that “not enough thought” had gone into the proposed LTN, bus station or car parking arrangements.
He said: “From my talking to the people who are doing a lot of the work I don’t think they have understood Shrewsbury very well.
“They came and they looked and they spoke to people, but unless you have lived in this town for a number of years and tried to work your way around it does take time to understand how movement works in this town.
“I actually don’t think the consultants who did this work had enough time and money to understand how traffic in Shrewsbury works, so I think that’s a problem.
“I think if we are going to do this work again we will need to invest some serious money in it to get some seriously qualified people in, because Shrewsbury is a difficult area.
“I don’t think we can deny cars coming into Shrewsbury but they don’t necessarily have to come into the loop of the river.
“If we can improve car parking at Abbey Foregate and Frankwell I think that might help start dealing with it, and improve the park and ride as well.”
He said the entire movement strategy “needs scrapping and starting again”.
Councillor Nutting also said the Big Town Plan’s proposals to remove traffic from in front of the railway station were a “pipe dream”.
He added: “I am still talking to the government about trying to get finance for a parkway station on the edge of town.
“I do believe if we could get some of the people who use the station to drive to a parkway station that would take out some of the pressure on traffic around Castle Foregate and that area of town.
“I do believe that that’s one of the ways forward to help ease pressure around the railway station.”