Nurturing Natural Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury is a beautiful, verdant town, renowned for its horticulture. Indeed, it’s one of the reasons for the town’s popularity; and a fitting birthplace of Darwin. The River Severn loops around the town centre like a green necklace, and green routes into and around the town are both wildlife corridors and valued green spaces in themselves.
This network is essential to protect and enhance, especially in the context of growth, which is placing development pressure on the town and its hinterland. Open green space helps keep its citizens healthier, too – mitigating pollution and incentivising people to maintain active lifestyles.
Challenges and opportunities
The river is such a defining feature for the town centre, yet it is seen as an overlooked asset in terms of its potential, especially its severance from the town in key places by roads. In fact, the town centre has largely turned its back on the river, so any opportunities to enhance the natural environment – both as a place to be, as well as an economic rationale – should seek ways to reverse this. This could be as simple as having more seating along certain points, through more riverside cafes or leisure facilities.
The town already has a wealth of green space, paths and links, and the town council invests significantly in horticulture, and this network is increasingly recognised as fundamental to the town, a major element of the its future attractiveness and sustainability. Indeed, ‘Natural Shrewsbury’, in all its forms, will help deliver the wider elements of this plan; supporting the movement and place, vitality and mix and public realm aspirations.
These plans should help identify opportunities for new green links and spaces. This should be as much about places to linger, as well as entice walking and cycling – such as the disused canal bed, part of the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal network. There’s scope to reconsider the design of green infrastructure across the town to reflect an urban design refresh and a more contemporary feel.
Vehicle dominance in parts of the river loop means significant parts of the town centre suffer pollution, close to or exceeding legal levels of Nitrogen dioxide in certain areas, especially around the train station – a key gateway to the town. Besides the impact on health and wellbeing, this pollution – both in traffic noise and air quality – is a deterrent for visitors, so is a drain on economic vibrancy.
The town’s independent spirit suggests a natural empathy with sustainable living, but its supporting infrastructure lags behind. As the town faces growth, bringing the need for more homes, jobs and pressure on existing infrastructure, it is both urgent and important to establish a more holistic approach to sustainability. This will need to embrace transport and wider measures, to attain a healthy place and quality of life and contribute to wider sustainability goals.
A town that works towards and celebrates sustainability and resilience, placing it at the heart of its future success, making it achievable, desirable and enjoyable to be part of Shrewsbury’s green future;
A successful green economy, with sustainable workplaces – both working practices and workspace – offering exemplary new stock and a retrofitting of heritage buildings;
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;
Improved air quality in the river loop, through increasing green infrastructure and reducing motorised vehicles;
Linked approaches to transport planning, land use planning and new buildings, walking and cycling and natural resources; putting green infrastructure and sustainability and resilience as foundation stones to change;
A protected, extended network of green spaces, with the needs of people as its priority – putting pedestrians and cyclists at the heart of its planning. These will link the river to its historic core and the spirit of the town, and support ecology and quality of life, contribute to the town’s visual interest and encouraging active lifestyles by inviting more walking;
Enhance the Environmental Network Approach and shape a plan that integrates, nurtures and builds on the natural ecology, environment and greenspace of the town, integrating the river and the former canal bed.
A refreshed approach to green space, in line with improved public spaces and urban design, and in the spirit of more creative interventions;
Embracing new technologies, building on the strength of the environmental technology sector in the town and wider area;
Utilise the public space network and the river more effectively to entice greater use; look at areas that can be enlivened where appropriate, with leisure offers, seats, food and drink and cultural activity.
To achieve this, we will
Plan for sustainability at the heart, not an add on
Develop a Natural Shrewsbury’ Plan that takes a holistic approach to defining Shrewsbury as a leading town in sustainability.
It will help integrate, nurture and build on the natural ecology, environment and greenspace of the town, cementing the river as a key spine, while creating new corridors and natural environments, including new developments.
The plan will also offer a raft of holistic measures to promote a sustainable town, both in terms of its approach to transport and ‘good growth’, existing and new building stock, through to education and encouragement of behaviour change in residents and businesses across a suite of issues.
Address air quality
In certain areas of the town centre the poor air quality needs tackling, especially the high levels of nitrogen dioxide. This pollution impacts on health, the town’s image and contributes to wider climate change. Traffic reduction and calming, additional green infrastructure – including green walls - and sustainable travel options will all play a part.
Bring the river into the centre of town’s life and offer.
Put the river at the heart of plans – whether it is walking and nature or bringing it to life where appropriate. This could take inspiration from exemplars such as Lyon, and New York, where industrial river banks have been transformed into magnificent riparian parks, magnets for people of all ages offering places for walking, fishing, picnicking, thinking and water sports. This can extend to utilising the redundant canal bed and flood plain, harnessing both for leisure and sports activities.