Shropshire Star

Business packs up ahead of town centre redevelopment - but tensions remain

The first business is on the move for the start of a town regeneration project in Oakengates amid a continued backlash from traders.

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Traders staged a protest in November about the regeneration proposals plans that will see their shops demolished, pictured: Bianca Gregory, Sue Gregory, Angela Smith, Pauline Jackson, Julia Evans and Christine Orford

Opposition remains to the controversial proposal, which includes plans to demolish 31, 33 and 35 Market Street, and 1, 3, 5 and 7 Limes Walk. A refurbishment of Telford Theatre has also been promised, following a £20m Levelling Up injection awarded last week.

Recruitment agency, Proactive Personnel Ltd is set to become the first business to relocate in Oakengates as part of the government-funded project to transform the town centre when it vacates its current unit in Limes Walk on January 31.

The recruitment agency is set to reopen in the former Barclays Bank building at 34 Market Square on February 1.

Last July some traders and local business leaders were outraged when they saw the plans that would see their shops demolished. Six months on tensions remain, with traders feeling “left out in the cold” and the local MP raising concerns over the breakdown in communication.

Christine Orford, of Christine’s Florist, is a member of the local Chamber of Commerce. Her business is not directly affected by the plans, but she claims members are ‘disgusted’ by the process. She said: “It’s disgusting how we’ve all been treated. It seems the council just does what they please, there’s no democracy.

“Whether people want this or not, they’ll just go ahead and do it. It’s not that Oakengates doesn’t need the investment, of course it does, but where is everyone going to go? Where is the support, the help? Everyone wants the town done up, but no-one wants their business knocking down.” Pauline Jackson, from Community Helpp, has run the charity shop on Market Street for 12 years. It sells donations to raise money to help people in Shropshire who suffer from mental health issues and PTSD.

Ms Jackson claims three of the charity shops impacted by the redevelopment plans have been offered no alternative premises. She said: “Community Helpp, Hilbrae and Severn Hospice haven’t been offered any new units and our leases haven’t been renewed. We’re beginning to wonder if it’s a charity shop cleanse.

“If we lose this shop a lot of the people we help get their lives back through therapy, might not have that opportunity. At the moment this shop helps put a therapist in Ark, in Shrewsbury, one day a week, to help homeless people.

“We feel left out in the cold, it’s seems there’s very little communication and nothing is in black and white. They haven’t told us if we’re staying or going, there are businesses who have been offered alternatives that aren’t suitable. Everyone’s in the dark.”

But the authority insists every business has been offered support.

A spokesperson for Telford & Wrekin Council said: “We fully appreciate that the redevelopment proposals are creating a period of uncertainty.

“Every business has been offered the opportunity to occupy one of the units in the new development or to be supported to move to another location on Oakengates High Street. While not all businesses have confirmed a move as yet, several have already signed up for relocation.

“We continue to work with all businesses affected by the proposals and meet with them on a regular basis. We have hosted consultation events, attended public meetings and have full support from the Oakengates Chamber of Trade.”

“Alongside this, we continue to develop plans to improve the theatre, the public space and entrance to Oakengates, develop a new street market, use our High Street Fund to attract and retain businesses and maintain free parking on all council-owned car parks.

“Through our Pride in our High Street Fund, we’ve also offered grant support to numerous businesses in Oakengates and we’ve met with owners of long-standing derelict sites across the town to try to find solutions to bring them back into use.

“This is all with the aim of boosting footfall into Oakengates and transforming the 1960’s shopping precinct into a modern, welcoming shopping experience for residents and visitors alike.

“While a few business owners have repeatedly voiced their opposition, none have offered suggestions in their place. Any business owner who would like to speak with us about this exciting future for Oakengates can get in touch at”

Telford’s MP Lucy Allan, has previously expressed concerns over the plans to create a ‘destination theatre’, and pledged to work with the Council to ensure funds benefit the whole community.

The council say that detailed plans of the refurbishment will be worked up in the coming months, with residents given the opportunity to get involved with the process.

The planning submission for the Oakengates redevelopment project can be viewed on the planning portal: