Shropshire councillor to step down after 18 years

A long-serving councillor has thanked voters for putting their faith in him for the last 18 years as he prepares to step down from Shropshire Council.

Peter Adams
Peter Adams

Peter Adams was first elected to represent the newly-created Bowbrook division on Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council in 2002.

When Shropshire Council was created in 2009, along with Shrewsbury Town Council, he won seats on both and has held onto them in the two elections since.

Now 73, Councillor Adams says it is time for a new face with a fresh outlook and ideas to take his place, and has decided not to run for re-election next May.

He is one of several councillors preparing to step down, meaning that, for the first time, less than half of the seats on Shropshire Council will be taken by members who have served since its creation.

A former distribution manager, Councillor Adams said he first decided to stand in order to ensure public money was not “frittered away”.

He said: “Local council is important in that it can tax you – you pay council tax and there is a police precept and fire precept. You can then spend that money badly or you can spend it well, and we hoped we would spend it well.

“Just before I started, the borough council had sold all its council houses and had a pot of cash.

“We built the theatre which has been extremely successful. When it comes to filling seats, as a percentage we are filling more seats than the Grand in Wolverhampton. That was something of significant benefit to the town.

“The market hall in The Square was basically about to fall down, it was about 400 years old, so we had it completely re-built and it became a cinema and cafe. We thought we could minimise its losses but it actually makes a profit.

“The other thing we did was we built the Sports Village, which has been a remarkable success.

“The Guildhall was originally built to support the borough council but it has got a much better use now as the university campus.

“We have worked with the horticultural society to revamp the Quarry. About 20 years ago it was looking really tired, but they have put new drainage systems in and things like that, and now it looks very respectable.

“The pot of money we had in 2002 has been quite well spent for the people of the town.

Bulk

“We could have sat on it and left it in the bank or we could have frittered it away on silly projects – and there probably have been one or two silly projects – but the main bulk of the money has been well spent.”

Councillor Adams said there were some occasions when he had been proven wrong, such as when Peter Nutting, then leader of the borough council, came to him with some money available to be spent in Bowbrook and suggested creating some allotments.

Councillor Adams said: “I said, ‘who in this day and age wants allotments?’ And Peter said, ‘well you can have them anyway’.

“We put on 74 plots and – what do I know – they sold out in five days. They were so popular that a year or two later we made another 25.

“They have their own committee and they are extremely well-run, and they often give any surplus produce to things like the hospice. I think everyone has won on that.”

Pre-pandemic, Councillor Adams would be sure to knock on every door in Bowbrook at least once a year to speak to residents and hear any issues or concerns they had.

He said: “A lot of it is small things which some people might not think much about, but for that resident it is important.”

Councillor Adams is also a school governor and sits on the executive board of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire and Rescue Authority.

Priceless

A key issue he is keen to see prioritised by his successor and the council as a whole is education. He said: “Good education is the greatest gift a councillor can help give.

“A child in Bowbrook can go to an Ofsted-rated outstanding preschool and primary school at Oxon, then to an outstanding secondary school at the Priory or Meole, an outstanding sixth form college and, for the first time in Shrewsbury’s history, to a university in the town.

“You can go from the age of three right to degree level at some of the best schools in the country.

“For the poorer children in the area that is a priceless gift.”

Bowbrook has changed significantly since Councillor Adams was first elected, and he said it was the residents who deserved most of the credit.

He said: “When I first came to Bowbrook there was a bit of a slump on and the ward looked a bit tired and jaded. We worked with the civic society to improve things.

“We went around all the car parks and had 75 abandoned cars removed, we had cracked drains and kerb stones repaired and re-paved some of the streets, and made sure all the lights worked. Over two years it improved dramatically.

“The country came out of its slump and the local people then decided they would put money into their properties, putting in double glazing, looking after their gardens, and after another two years you would not have known it was the same place.

“Then we had a couple of significant investments in the area. We had £55 million spent closing Shelton Hospital and building Redwoods.

“There are now about 3,300 voters in the ward and with the two hospitals, self employed people and the industrial estate there are about 6,500 jobs.”

The ward is on the cusp of further changes, with large-scale housing and commercial developments going through the planning system, and a potentially significant reduction in through traffic if and when the North West Relief Road is built.

Councillor Adams said: “Having an extra 1,500 houses in the area could be dreadful, but we are making sure it’s not. We are ensuring the required infrastructure is also coming with it.

“We have set aside land for a possible medical practice and dental practice if they are needed, and land for nursing homes.

“We are building two new schools, a special school and a secondary school, and adding new classrooms at Meole Brace.

“Near the Welshpool Road Co-op, land has been set aside for retail development.

“We are trying to advance on all fronts.”

Arlinda Ballcaj has been selected as the Conservative candidate to contest the seat next May. Two other candidates for the Bowbrook ward have also been confirmed – Shay Corrigan for Labour and Alex Wagner for the Liberal Democrats.

Councillor Adams said he did not do “pearls of wisdom”, but said there were several qualities any new councillor must have.

He said: “You have got to like people, because you are trying to improve their lives.

“You have got to know the area, get on with people, and, if necessary, you have got to be able to put the boot in sometimes to get things done.”

On his decision to retire from local politics, Councillor Adams said: “One of the reasons I am standing down – apart from the fact I’m getting old and decrepit – is that everything I wanted to do has either been done or is in hand.

“I think it is time to pass it over to someone with a fresh vision.

“One thing I want to emphasise is that I could have done very little in the last 18 years without the support of residents, council officers and other people who have given their help and expertise.”

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