Work to clear the Riverside, which will include pulling down the shopping centre, medical practice, multi-storey car park, bus station and even Frankwell footbridge, is to begin “within the next few months”, Shropshire Council’s leader has said.
The demolition of the old buildings fronting the river along Smithfield Road will pave the way for the creation of a new ‘Riverside Quarter’ which will include flats, offices, hotels, restaurants, retail and leisure facilities, all set around a new promenade stepping down to the river.
With the Riverside Medical Practice set to relocate to its new premises at the Tannery this month, Councillor Nutting said it would not be long before bulldozers were on site.
He said: “Demolition has proven slightly challenging, we have had trouble identifying where all the services like gas and water get into the site, but we are near to resolving those.
“We hope to start demolition in the next few months.
“We are talking to hotel groups about a hotel on the site and there will be a reasonable amount of residential development, and there’s a debate going on about parking and bus stations.
“The bus station is most unlikely to stay where it is.
“As you drive around from Smithfield Road it’s the site you see first, so we see that as a commercial site. But at the back of the site we think that could be a good place for a car park, or possibly a car park above a bus station.”
Councillor Nutting said a new bus station would be smaller than the current one, with plans also afoot to create bus terminals at the town’s park and ride site.
He said: “Buses will be picking up passengers in more locations, I think it will be a different kind of bus service.
“People might find it more convenient, because where the bus station is now it can be difficult for people to get to.
“We also have to think about how the North West Relief Road could affect the town centre. We do really believe it will relieve a considerable percentage of traffic on Smithfield Road and the town centre, and allow us to do more cycling and pedestrian schemes.”
Councillor Nutting said the project was intended to make the town more visitor friendly, with plans to include replacing Raven Meadows car park and Frankwell bridge with a more accessible structures.
He said: “I think it will change the atmosphere. We are trying create a much more visitor-friendly atmosphere for the town centre.
“We don’t want people having to drive through the multi-storey. You have to go around steep humps and tight corners and then you manage to park and there’s a pillar against your door.
“So the multi-storey is likely to go. We need a different sort of car park.
“Frankwell footbridge will have to go because it’s not disability-friendly, so that will need to be replaced.”
It was hoped that demolition work would begin by the end of this year, but the project is now aimed at spring.
Councillor Nutting said: “By the spring people will see action on the Riverside, but to complete all these projects it is going to take at least two or three years, and some even longer.
“We have spent the last year or two getting all the information and we have encountered lots of legal issues with rights of way and the services into the site have been complicated.
“There were a couple of people who had long-term leases – the police station was one – but I think all of them have now been resolved.
“The medical practice is ready to move this month into its new premises so that will be demolished first, and that could then be where we base our site offices.
“Covid has got in the way but now it is all systems go.”