£52 million Shrewsbury shopping centres purchase was 'strong leadership', says expert

A High Street expert has branded Shropshire Council's £52 million purchase of Shrewsbury's shopping centres as "strong place leadership".

Mark Robinson, chair of the High Streets Task Force, an alliance of experts working to re-define the nation's town and city centres, described the move as showing a "clear vision for the future".

He also described Shrewsbury's Big Town Plan as "hugely exciting" and a "bold vision".

The council has come under heavy criticism for the purchase of the centres, which plummeted in value by £33.5 million in two years. It is expected that the Riverside Centre will be demolished, while the Darwin Centre will be the town's main shopping mall.

Pride Hill Centre is expected to encompass leisure facilities, possibly including a cinema, with offices downstairs - potentially housing the new Shropshire Council HQ.

Riverside Shopping Centre

Mr Robinson said: “The Shrewsbury Big Town Plan is a hugely exciting initiative. It is not only a bold vision but one with collaboration at its heart, a key place-making principle that the High Streets Task Force is keen to support.

“Brave moves such as acquiring not one, not two, but three struggling shopping centres requires strong place leadership and a clear vision for the future, especially following years when private owners of these assets had let the community down.

“It is especially pleasing to see the vision grounded in detailed data-driven insight, this will build an investable masterplan which is key to the future renaissance as local government can’t be expected to do all of the heavy lifting.

Vision

“Shrewsbury is of course blessed with some fabulous foundations on which to build this vision - the River Severn, medieval streetscape, and gorgeous heritage buildings - but excitingly the plan also leans into the future, looking to high-spec office and collaboration spaces.

“I especially love the focus on using place-making to improve people’s mental and physical wellbeing, partly being driven by a ‘Movement Vision’ promoting sustainable and inclusive travel to and around the town.

“I’m very much looking forward to visiting Shrewsbury post pandemic and regularly checking in on your progress and hopefully having a nice cold beer, overlooking the river from a rooftop bar sometime in 2036, or hopefully before!”

The masterplan for the town was unveiled at the start of the year, highlighting a range of ambitious projects aimed at helping Shrewsbury thrive in the future, including turning Smithfield Road into a riverside destination.

More than 2,400 contributions were made in the initial consultation into that vision, and an updated document is due to be published later in 2021. There were many positive comments, although concerns were raised about how developments would be in keeping with the town's historic buildings, and how the transport strategy would work.

For more information about Shrewsbury Big Town Plan, visit the website at shrewsburybigtownplan.org

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