Shrewsbury Big Town Plan

Introducing the Big Town Plan

Local partners are inviting you to shape the collective vision and plan for Shrewsbury.

The Big Town Plan will guide the development and priorities of the town, ensuring we are creating and making the most of opportunities, and are well positioned to manage current and future challenges.

The Big Town Plan is a new way of working in the town - diverse stakeholders from across the public and private sector are coming together - and putting the needs of people at the heart of our plan-making and place-shaping.

The Big Town Plan will ensure that Shrewsbury develops in a way that is complimentary of, and sensitive to, the place that it is today. It is vital that the identity of Shrewsbury – the place in which our businesses and residents trade and live, and visitors spend their precious free time – is curated and managed.

Over fifty individuals and organisations participated in a series of workshops about the future of our town. The conversations and ideas which flowed from these sessions have formed the basis of the Big Town Plan which you can read on this website.

We are now inviting everyone to get involved and let us know your thoughts and ideas.  At the end of each section of the report there is an opportunity for you to fill in your comments and suggest ideas.

The Big Town Plan Popup will be open from 11th-29th September at 80 Wyle Cop, where you can come down, have your say and talk to the Big Town Plan team.

We look forward to hearing your views and working with you to shape an ambitious vision and deliver a prosperous future for our great town.

Why we need a Big Town Plan

Shrewsbury is the thriving county town of Shropshire, at the core of the county and its economy. It’s a town with lots to commend it. Its historic centre, with beautiful architecture and medieval layout, is the canvas for a thriving town centre, with an enviable mix of independent and mainstream shops, with lush, green spaces, all nestled in an island setting, in the embrace of the River Severn.

Yet this unique centre is certainly not isolated: it is the heart of an attractive, successful market town, which is home to over 73,000 people, providing both a local and regional shopping and leisure destination. It is also a major tourist hub.

Shrewsbury’s natural beauty and built heritage, laid down over the centuries, are the foundation of its many qualities – its “assets”. The town is famed for its quality of life, as well as its distinctiveness. There is a sense of individualism, entrepreneurship and innovation. It is the birth place of the renowned evolutionary biologist, Charles Darwin, and home to the world’s first iron framed building – described as the ‘grandfather of skyscrapers’.

Indeed, Shrewsbury is proud to declare that it is ‘the original one off’.

Sustaining the original one off

Yet for all its strengths, Shrewsbury has weaknesses. Some of these are structural, such as a demographic shift that is exacerbated by a relatively low wage economy driving younger people to build their livelihoods elsewhere, poor public transport provision, with a subsequent over-reliance on car use. Others are merely the result of being slightly out of step with changing notions of urbanism, lifestyles and sectoral shifts in the economy.

Towards a vision

Shrewsbury’s centre is a rich layering of architectural styles and history - a canvas on which successive generations have left their mark. This layering of architectural styles, its rich history and strong sense of identity and independence, have combined – in the main – to place Shrewsbury in an enviable position.

The town’s fabric – its beautiful architecture, quirky street layout, and wonderful open spaces – is special and distinctive, true assets for any 21st Century town.

Yet many of its assets have been eroded. Twentieth century changes and developments – both physical and societal - have not been as kind to the town. While Shrewsbury cannot be a living museum, its less sensitive modern developments, traffic schemes and car parks, have made a not so positive mark on this pretty town.

Indeed, like every other town and city in the developed world, Shrewsbury’s recent past has been shaped around vehicles. This approach is increasingly being called into question, and over the past decade or so, civic leaders and businesses alike, growing emphasis on putting the needs of people at the heart of its plan-making and place-shaping.

Such placemaking has become an important component of thinking about the future of our towns, cities and places. This is vital for a number of reasons and providing a good quality of life and quality of place is seen as important to continued economic success. Places where people want to be means that employers can attract the right mix of skilled people, shops have customers and a town has a sense of vitality that is only possible when people are consistently present.

There is a new ‘Shrewsbury Big Town Plan Team’ who will in time become the custodians of the Plan understands that it is important to put the needs of people at the heart of its plan making; with a vision that articulates the values and sense of direction to achieve a place that is on course to remain a thriving town.

Our Vision

A town that has been forged by its people is now giving back to its people – by taking the good bone structure laid down by its’ forefathers, building on this framework to invest back in its citizens - a people-friendly town, a town for all ages, a town that celebrates and encourages diversity and independence – and in doing so, is laying the right foundations for its future for generations ahead.

Our Aims and Priority Areas

  1. Creating a Place for Enterprise
  2. Improving Movement and Place
  3. Enabling Vitality, Life and Mix
  4. Nurturing Natural Shrewsbury

Principles and success factors

A town that builds on its historic birthplace of the father of evolutionary science, celebrating his legacy by planning a thoughtful evolution of the town’s built form and economy, and nurturing its ecology.

Our principles include:

  • A people-centred town, a managed ecology, responding to the diverse needs of its people;
  • Strive for quality, with design and supporting infrastructure at the heart of good growth;
  • Celebrate and sustain authenticity, character and diversity
  • Create the conditions and give permission for evolution, emergence and change – buildings and spaces – with responsive, co-ordinating planning and licensing frameworks and iterative processes.
  • Develop a network of neighbourhoods, with their own sense of place, respecting and create distinctiveness and local amenities
  • Take risks and experiment, especially in public space and temporary uses vacant and redundant space;
  • Use Shrewsbury’s story, resources, assets - hidden and otherwise - and creativity to respond to change and design for growth

Other success factors include:

The importance of time

From taking time to take the community along on growth and change, through to how to plan and deliver this change: from quick wins and slower, longer-term achievements;

Iterative process and actions

Few things can be put in place and set in aspic, so it is essential to develop a process that is responsive to input, and generates a connected set of actions that can develop and be nuanced over time; iterative planning, rather than a traditional linear plan based approach.

Building on positives, addressing weaknesses

Like most towns, Shrewsbury has its pluses and its minuses. This plan sets out to address how we more effectively use its plus points for its future success, while addressing the things that are more challenging on the town, its people and economy.


  • Great ‘bone structure’

  • Its history and the fabric of the town’s heritage

  • The town’s green spaces and ecology

  • The spaces and layout – streets, alleys, squares

  • The River Severn

  • Its building stock – both its heritage and its stock – with several redundant old buildings ripe for reuse

  • Its people – either returners or life-long Shrewsbury dwellers, and everything in between – all with a love of the town

A good offer

  • A high quality of life

  • Good quality schools and education

  • The cultural offer

  • Its reputation for horticulture

  • The wealth of independent shops

Well placed

  • Its location, as a natural market town and its border position

  • Connections to the urban centres of Manchester, Wolverhampton and Birmingham

  • Easy access to both Manchester and Birmingham airports

  • The focus on growth in the county, is driving the need for change

A great ‘brand’

  • Frequent media mentions, such as Shrewsbury Town Football club, which adds to Brand Shrewsbury’

  • The new university

  • Growth opportunities - an opportunity for the town to grow and attract young people, if seized

  • Current infrastructure improvements


  • Road layout and through traffic

  • Transport – there is very little public transport at night and poor linkage between modes

  • Low wage rates compared with the national average

  • Impact of growth on securing sustainable infrastructure provision

Shaping a great county town

Shrewsbury plays a vital role in the economic growth of Shropshire. Of the 306,000 people living in Shropshire, more than a third live within the town and the central Shropshire area, with 73,400 people resident within the town and its current development boundary.

This plan, focused specifically on Shrewsbury, articulates the ambition and vision that will help achieve economic growth. Yet ambition needs to be matched with results.

In November 2017 a masterplan and prioritised action plan will be drawn up and transformational projects will be identified and we will set out the partnership framework for delivery.

The Big Town Plan forms an important plank of an ambitious Economic Growth Strategy for Shropshire, attracting new investment, supporting and growing existing businesses, as well as developing and retaining the existing talent and skills.

Indeed, in delivering The Big Town Plan we will celebrate and utilise the substantial assets and entrepreneurial spirit within Shrewsbury.

Building on strengths

Shropshire’s economy has a number of strong sectors, and these are particularly prevalent within and around Shrewsbury: especially advanced manufacturing, environmental technologies, the visitor economy and creative and digital industries.

Shropshire is already well linked to its wider region, and will be even stronger if it harnesses the influence of Shrewsbury as its county town and recognised centre in support of its wider hinterland that reaches beyond geographical and political borders.

Working in partnership

To succeed in a global economy and win larger tranches of inward investment and strategic Government infrastructure investment, economic areas such as Shropshire have more to gain by being part of a larger partnership.

Our geographic position – as well as our approach – supports this ambition, allowing Shropshire to work across a number of boundaries and locations on shared agendas, maximising opportunities and productivity across the county.

Shropshire is collaborating with our surrounding neighbours, taking an active role in partnership activity and discussion with a number of partnerships listed below. This Big Town Plan will draw on these where appropriate to bring resourced to Shrewsbury.

  • Marches Local Enterprise Partnership

  • Midlands Engine

  • West Midlands Combined Authority

  • The Northern Gateway Constellation Partnership

  • Powys Council and Growing Mid Wales Partnership

Shrewsbury and Shropshire in numbers