Shropshire Council bids for slice of £4 billion 'levelling up' fund for major projects

Major development projects in three Shropshire towns are all included in bids to the government's £4.8 billion 'Levelling Up' fund.

The clearance of the Riverside area of Shrewsbury, a new roundabout and railway bridge on the A49 at Craven Arms, and town centre improvements and a new skate park for Oswestry are all covered by applications being drawn up by Shropshire Council.

The council’s cabinet will be asked at a meeting next month to sign off the pitches for submission.

Shrewsbury

In Shrewsbury, the money will fund demolition work and site preparation as part of ambitious plans to re-shape the entire of the Smithfield and Riverside areas of the town.

The project would see the most significant changes to Shrewsbury in decades, and a report from Mark Barrow, the council's director of place, says the council believes the plan will attract more people, and business, to the town.

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.

He said: “These interventions will stimulate growth through the provision of new public realm and infrastructure that will increase town centre footfall, enhance and support the visitor economy, strengthen economic activity and stimulate developer confidence and appetite in bringing forward Shrewsbury’s most significant riverside regeneration site.”

The bid also requests money for work across the town centre including pavement widening, traffic calming and wayfinding.

Craven Arms

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, and spine roads and utility provision on key employment sites.

The report says: “This supports the planned growth of Craven Arms through accelerating the delivery of infrastructure to unlock the allocated local plan housing and employment growth on the northern edge of the town.

“This will enable sites within the town centre to be redeveloped for more appropriate town centre uses including housing.”

Oswestry

The third bid will go towards a “package of projects” in two areas of Oswestry – the town centre at Church Street and Cross Street, and Mile End.

The report says: “Current projects under consideration include public realm improvements on Church Street and Cross Street, extending capital grants available to re-purpose underused buildings in the town, support new activities and facilities at the library, and develop new co-working business spaces within council-owned assets.

“These proposals complement existing activities and schemes such as the High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme.”

At Mile End, money will be spent on preparing the planned housing and business sites and development of a new skate park."

If any of the bids are successful, work will start in the current financial year.

Mr Barrow’s report adds that the council hopes to submit further bids to future rounds of Levelling Up funding, but that the three proposed for the first round were considered to have the highest chance of success.

It says: “The timescale for the submission of bids is extremely tight and they must be made by 18 June 2021 at 12pm.

“In effect this along with other set criteria mean that these first round submissions have to be based upon existing projects that already have a degree of project planning already completed.

“The three bids, which are being put forward in this first round of levelling up funding need to meet the key objectives of the funding and critically can show spend in 21/22.

“Officers understand that other areas may have projects that they wish to be considered for future rounds of funding and these will be captured as well as those ideas and projects which could be looked at for any further rounds of Levelling Up or future prosperity funding.”

The report will be considered by the council's cabinet at a meeting on Monday, June 7.

Telford & Wrekin Council said it had not yet applied to the fund because it is currently in the lowest tier – Tier 3, Shropshire is Tier 2.

Council leader Councillor Shaun Davies said they were speaking to the government to see if it can be moved into the higher tier – with access to greater funding.

He said: “We disagree with the government’s criteria with regards to the levelling up tier system. We consider Telford & Wrekin has been put in the wrong tier and we working hard to get that put that right.

“We are confident we will submit a very strong bid in the near future to the levelling up fund that will link into the Towns Fund bid, currently being assessed by government.”

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