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Star comment: Dream of town with no traffic

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

The traffic which passes through Shrewsbury town centre does nothing to enhance the place for shoppers and visitors.

An artist's impression looking towards High Street

Imagine how much more pleasant things would be if the traffic was removed entirely, and people could wander about on nice open areas free from the tyranny of the car.

It would be like a rebirth for the centre of the county town and open up all sorts of opportunities. You could have continental-style cafes in the car-free street, street entertainment, and so on.

Shrewsbury needs people to come up with ideas like these. Enter the Shrewsbury Business Improvement District, which has come up with its Big Town Plan which imagines a traffic-free future for the town centre. Locals and business are being invited to have a look and see what they think.

It is very difficult to see how removing cars would harm the experience of visiting Shrewsbury centre. They are a darned nuisance and have presented a headache for Shrewsbury planners from the very early days when motoring became really popular.

Nevertheless, all is not quite that simple. If traffic is banished from the town centre, it means that traffic management has to be carefully rethought, and there will have to be an alternative plan. For instance, how would traffic get from the Welsh Bridge to the English Bridge? The decision on that journey would have to be made by a motorist well before they got to the Welsh Bridge.

In other words, banishing traffic from the town centre would not just affect traffic management within the river loop. A practical new scheme would have to be worked up for the entire town.

Then there is the question of the necessary vehicle access, including emergency services’ access, to shops and buildings in the town centre.

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A significant proportion of the town centre is already pedestrianised and the town is better for it. Extending the people-before-cars approach would complement the shopping environment and architectural and heritage merits of Shrewsbury. Enjoying a beautiful and historic place is a lot easier if you are not being chased onto the pavements by passing vehicles.

Among the artist’s impressions is a vision of the railway station with a pleasant lawn outside. That would be a pleasing outlook for people coming and going by train.

Having unveiled the dream, the test is whether it is realistic and workable. If not, it is a pipe dream.

And crucial is what the ordinary people, shoppers, shopkeepers, businesses, and so on, think about it.

Here is a potential future direction for Shrewsbury. So, Shrewsbury folk – do you want it?

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