Improving movement and place
A town – and a town centre – that feels great to be in, to move around, is vital to Shrewsbury’s future success and sustainable growth. Quality places, designed with people at its heart, make people feel welcome and create a canvas for public life; while ease of movement, that strives for the right balance between modes, further supports quality of life and, as crucially, the business environment.
All in all, this sets the tone and lays the foundation for many other aspirations, from growing the night time economy to improving air quality. With ambition, vision, investment and action, Shrewsbury has the ability create a town and town centre that feels truly great to be in and move around, with people at its heart.
Challenges and opportunities
Like many towns across the country, many of Shrewsbury’s weaknesses relate to transport. This has a tangible impact on the physical environment, but also brings less tangible constraints, with potential brakes on the growth and vitality of the town and its economy. Indeed, there is already a perception that the town centre is underperforming in economic terms, with limited public transport access, impact of traffic and poor legibility of the town centre being cited as key contributors.
Given its size, Shrewsbury has severe limitations in terms of its public transport offer, particularly in relation to evening and Sunday services, and this can exacerbate the impacts of car use for local journeys and deter night-time visitors. The bus station is also not favourably located and fares are perceived to be high.
Vehicles - moving or parked - dominate parts of the town, and roads cut off access to the river. In fact, 23,500 vehicles a day use the Smithfield Road corridor – above the national average, adding to this severance of the river. Like many other retail centres, delivery vehicles add to the in-bound traffic, and surface car parks and on-street parking are scattered throughout the town. Out of town park and ride services are not well patronised, partly due to cost and operating hours, while the town’s road layout and signage pushes even more through traffic into the town’s core. It’s estimated that c. 60% of all traffic exits within 10 minutes, Meanwhile, plans for a relief road to the north-west of the town have been on the drawing board for some time and are currently being refreshed.
With its compact layout and natural environment, the town is offers a good canvas for cycling and walking. So by improving facilities and routes for walking and cycling offers considerable scope to encourage people to shift to more sustainable modes.
Currently, cycling in the town is fairly low and mostly for leisure, rather than a form of transport. Yet it is estimated that 57,000 people are within 15 minutes of the centre by cycle, rising to 80,000 within a 30 minutes ride.
For people on foot, the town’s layout and wonderful network of green spaces, attractive lanes, shuts, nooks and crannies, readily lends itself to a connected network of pedestrian-priority areas and walking routes. It is estimated that 12,000 people live within a 15-minute walk of the centre, rising to 37,000 within 30 minutes.
Attractive seating areas, placed strategically around the town, should form part of the network. These should be designed to provide different options: encouraging more walking by offering rest stops, places to enjoy the bustling town centre or, just as importantly, ‘off the beaten track’ oases of calm and quiet.
The town’s physical layout and future planning policy can play a pivotal role in supporting improved movement and place. This includes the need to review and consider how we plan for the location of future economic activity. Over the past 40 years commercial, industrial and business activity have gradually been pushed to the town’s periphery, resulting in the current high volume of traffic at both ends of the working day.
There is considerable scope for future employment growth in the core, capitalising on existing and future employment opportunities, such as the education sector. Creating a Central Business District (CBD), especially with an employment cluster around the rail station, would make best use of the links to the wider region, and have the benefits of reducing reliance on cars, bring greater footfall and activity in the town centre and offer employees a more dynamic working environment.
A town that feels great to be in, to move in, with people at its heart.
With ambition, vision, investment and action, Shrewsbury has the ability to overcome its weaknesses, using its natural and physical assets.
A connected town, with the needs of people as its priority – putting pedestrians and cyclists at the heart of its planning;
A town centre that strives to balance the needs of people, and quality of life, with the wider commercial imperatives of a working town centre and supporting Shrewsbury’s economy and business base;
An enhanced network of vibrant, great spaces and streets, green links and cycle ways; with pedestrian-priority or car free and shared spaces and zones, where both possible and preferable;
A movement network that builds on the town’s natural environment, creating a network of green space, linking to the river and the horticultural tradition and heritage;
A town centre that manages its spaces and movement, with connected actions such as public space investment and freight plans that support business, but help reduce the impact of vehicles at key times;
A town that makes the best of its assets, linking the river and its green space into its movement network;
Greatly improved public transport, taxi and park and ride systems that work in harmony, reducing the need for cars and car parks in the town centre, overcoming traffic dominance;
Creating change informed by trying things out from street closures, or smaller scale experiments, such as trialling new pedestrian crossings, all in close engagement with the community;
Using technology to improve the options and ease of movement, with bus and taxi apps, or on-demand transport services;
Working with town centre businesses to plan for movement and deliveries that can reduce environmental impacts, while not impeding business operations;
A fresh appraisal of roads into and around the town, to support necessary journeys, yet deter unnecessary movement into the centre;
Orchestrating movement and placemaking with the physical shape, or future shape, supporting development opportunities and demographic and economic growth. Make the best use of planning policy to support the town’s ambitions.
To achieve this, we will
Plan for integrated movement and placemaking
Develop an overarching plan that supports the town’s ambitions and growth. Working iteratively with the spatial plan, this will include both small-scale movement and larger infrastructure or structural changes. This will guide a specific activity and plans – as set out below.
Develop a great walking environment
Create a set of initiatives to make the town a walkable, attractive, place for people. This will build on existing work, especially the measures identified in the Shropshire Integrated Transport Package and City ID wayfinding work underway (see below). This could involve shared space, urban design measures such single surface paving, overall reduction of vehicles and through traffic, pedestrian zones, opening up the river, timed deliveries, etc, as well as public art, seats and activity.
We will develop better signage, legibility and wider tactics to support walking and the people-friendly focus, opening up the town centre to green space, the river and walks into the countryside.
As part of this, we will take advantage of the existing community park network, expanding it to the new residential areas, increasing and improving links, both into and across the town, making full use of the river and streams that naturally exist and create green fingers throughout the town (see also Natural Shrewsbury).
Create a cycling culture
Develop a suite of activity to develop a cycle-friendly town – especially the town centre, including bike lanes, cycling routes and bike parking, including the train and bus stations. Suburban conditions and options for cycling should be improved to make it a viable commuting options.
Reduce the impact of parking in the centre
Provide viable, attractive alternatives to discounrage car use in the town centre. Take into account the use of the two ring roads and potential north west relief road, and other measures such as better signage to discourage through traffic, timed commercial deliveries and car free days.
Develop an overall traffic management strategy
Consider how traffic can be reduced by providing viable, attractive alternatives of transport to discourage unnecessary vehicle movement in the town centre. This will need to link to the wider urban design strategy, pedestrian-priority and cycling networks, the Local Plan and the whole town road and rail network (see below). It should take into account the use of the two ring roads and north west relief road, and other measures such as better signage to discourage through traffic, freight plans* to support sustainable commercial deliveries and car free days.