Shropshire Star

Council ignoring 'cash-starved' county towns to focus on Shrewsbury, claims councillor

Opposition councillors say Shropshire Council is ignoring “cash-starved” smaller towns after the authority agreed to press ahead with a Shrewsbury regeneration scheme.

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Signage advertising the new Smithfield Riverside development on Roushill Bank, Shrewsbury. Picture: Mike Sheridan/LDRS

The council’s administration voted to move forward with plans to demolish Shrewsbury’s Riverside shopping centre, the first stage of a multi-million pound scheme to regenerate the Smithfield area of town.

The vote also gave the council approval to start negotiations with cinema and hotel operators for future leisure uses on the riverside.

Conservative councillors hailed the scheme as a “cunning and visionary plan”, but opposition members criticised the administration for taking on extra borrowing to finance the scheme, and questioned the overall benefit to the rest of the county.

Liberal Democrat leader Roger Evans said the project was “an important step for the county town of Shrewsbury” but blasted the council for spending money on consultants to design the scheme, adding that any increased borrowing would put stress on the council’s revenue budget.

“Every household especially in these times knows that you don’t contemplate knocking down part of your home and rebuilding it when you’re broke,” he said.

“The council is now intending to borrow even more money to employ even more consultants to draw up a scheme, when there’s a £62m black hole caused by government, but also by the antics of the Conservative administration in the years since the unitary authority was formed.

“It’s time really for the Conservative administration to grow up, and cut their cloth according to their budget. We would look at alternative delivery methods that could include spreading any spend to Shrewsbury and also sharing it around the other cash-starved towns of Shropshire.”

But in response, Conservative councillors accused the opposition of “sitting on the fence” by not fully backing the plans, while Housing and Assets portfolio holder Dean Carroll said the council was bringing millions of pounds of investment into Shrewsbury – and was justified in bringing in outside expertise to manage the project.

“Towns and cities across the country would welcome the kind of vision and commitment to the future vitality of the town centre that we are putting forwards,” he said.

“I’ll borrow the comparison that was made about your house. If you were building a new house or an extension, you would hire an architect, you would hire a clerk of works… you wouldn’t try and draw the plans up yourself.

“You would bring in the experts, and that’s what we are proposing to do.”

Conservative councillor Gwilym Butler said the extra business rates and council tax brought in by regeneration projects in Shrewsbury would eventually help to support services across the county.

“Shrewsbury is one of the major places that we can create revenue for this county and I recommend that you support these recommendations, because that revenue will actually support every resident across Shropshire,” he added.