People naturally have a lot of questions about the Big Town Plan, and this page will be regularly updated with a list of questions and answers covering a range of issues.
What is the purpose of the Big Town Plan?
The role of town centres and their economy is changing. As a community, we want to understand and agree what the role of Shrewsbury town centre will be in the future.
For instance, the nature of retail is changing. Office and commercial property has gradually moved out to the perimeter and there is a potential to draw some of this back into the town centre in the future.
There is a growing demand for town centre housing. People are becoming greener and don’t expect to drive their cars in and out of the town, so we need to look at how we might facilitate alternative greener modes of movement in the future.
This document explores a wide range of ideas about how we might be able achieve these ambitious aims, and crucially how we can manage and engage with potential investors by having a co–ordinated development plan.
Who was involved in the process of coming up with these ideas?
The report was produced by nationally-renowned experts, Glenn Howells Architects, who have worked on regeneration projects in Worcester, Birmingham and London, as well as being the lead architects on the project to convert the Old Market Hall to a successful cinema and cafe.
They have undertaken extensive research throughout 2020 to produce this detailed and innovative vision for the future of Shrewsbury.
A lot of the research involved discussion groups and workshops with various people and organisations – including business leaders, councillors and council officers, educational institutions and community groups.
What happens next?
The first round of formal consultation took place from January 2021 to March 2021, and closed on 10th March 2021. We had over 1,200 comments which are now being analysed to inform a final version of the Masterplan Vision which is due to be published in the summer of 2021.
There will then be more opportunity for people to get involved with the next stage of the process.
How does the Covid-19 pandemic affect the Big Town Plan?
It already has. The principles of the Big Town Plan have been central to a lot of the partnership work undertaken to make Shrewsbury safe and welcoming for people during Covid restrictions, such as removing through-traffic from the town centre to enable social distancing and allow businesses to make more effective use of outside space.
In some ways, the pandemic has only heightened the need for joined-up working to think about how Shrewsbury needs to evolve to stay economically and socially strong.
Why should people get involved?
Following the initial concept study published in 2017 we had a very positive reaction from businesses and the public.
We are hoping to get a similar response from this more detailed look into the future so we have the confidence to move forward with more detailed studies and look at identifying key areas/investment that can help start us on this journey, such as the redevelopment of the Riverside shopping centre. To do this we need to know we have the support of the community.
What feedback are we looking for?
Ideas and comments from Shrewsbury residents and businesses, as well as visitors.
Investors who are interested in the opportunities available here in Shrewsbury and wish to get involved with suggestions.
Proposals from organisations and stakeholders, such as those involved with transport (rail, bus, taxis, cycling, walking etc) to facilitate these changes.
Is this just a way of pedestrianising the town centre?
The ideas outlined in the Masterplan Vision document have built on the priorities which were agreed in the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan in 2018. One of those priorities is to reduce the amount of traffic travelling through the town centre, so movement of people and traffic is a key part of this strategy.
However, that does not necessarily mean pedestrianisation – there are a variety of ways of improving the town centre environment, and making roads pedestrian-only is one of a number of options.
This Masterplan Vision is not a planning document, it is setting out a range of aspirations – and reducing through-traffic is proposed as one of those aspirations.
Do the pictures in the Masterplan Vision show what is going to happen?
Not necessarily! As we are keen to make clear – this is a vision, not a planning document. The computer-generated images and artists’ sketches are designed to give the reader a visual idea of how key areas like The Square and train station MIGHT look, showing the PRINCIPLES discussed in the document rather than being a visual representation of any firm proposals.
Isn’t this just a big waste of time when we should be concentrating on more important issues, like the Covid-19 pandemic?
Having an agreed strategy for how Shrewsbury can evolve and develop is actually more vital now than ever. Government funding, as well as private sector investment, is more likely to come to places that can show a clear plan for the future – and Shrewsbury is already leading the way since the publication of the Big Town Plan in 2018.
Whilst we all agree that Shrewsbury is already a very special place, standing still is not an option, so having a robust plan for how we can move forward together is essential.
How is the council going to afford to put any of these plans into action?
Whilst Shropshire Council is the lead authority, and owns some key parts of the town centre, such as the shopping centres, this is not a set of council proposals – it is a shared vision for the future.
Many of the ideas in this document will need to have agreement and input from a variety of organisations – and funding will come from a variety of sources, including private sector investment.
Where will the money come from?
This is not an easy question to answer because things are so fluid due to the Covid-19 pandemic – but there are various funding schemes available for town centre regeneration projects, and having a robust and innovative plan such as this will mean we are in a good position to apply for funding as it becomes available.
A co-ordinated plan like this also gives us an excellent base for talking to developers and private investors about the exciting opportunities here in Shrewsbury. The Big Town Plan is a way of ‘selling Shrewsbury’ as an attractive place to invest – potentially leading to significant investment from the private sector.
The following Questions and Answers have been provided by Shropshire Council relating to the Shrewsbury shopping centres [as of January 2021]:
What is happening in The Pride Hill Shopping Centre?
Pride Hill will be repurposed from a retail offer to create more flexible town centre space for the future.
What will be inside Pride Hill?
The Council is looking at commercial, civic and cultural mix of uses for Pride Hill.
In the past we’ve been told a cinema would be opening in Pride Hill. Is this still the plan?
There were pre Covid-19 discussions with cinemas and other leisure occupiers. These discussions have been put back as a result of the pandemic and the trading impact on the sector.
Where are the tenants in Pride Hill going?
Individual negotiations are underway with occupiers to manage the process of relocation.
Independent tenants have been offered the opportunity to relocate to a new specially created shopping gallery for independent traders in the Darwin Centre called The Collective.
Several large national chains are consolidating their floorspace requirements and relocating to the Darwin Centre. All individual discussions are confidential.
What is The Collective?
It is a new specially created shopping gallery for independent traders. The space – which was formerly home to QVC – opened in December 2020 and can house up to 10 independent businesses.
Why would traders in Pride Hill want to move The Collective?
Independent traders within The Collective will benefit from higher, regular, footfall in the Darwin centre, and will be able to trade alongside other established brands.
What’s happening in the Darwin Centre?
The centre is becoming the primary covered retail destination in Shrewsbury.
The Council’s vision is for the retail mix to evolve into more of a community-led shopping centre.
What changed in the Darwin Centre following the recent refurbishment?
Brand new toilets and a Changing Places facility have been created.
A brand-new family room has also been created, which features a baby changing area, breast feeding zone, play area and dining counter, as well as a kitchenette and family toilet facilities.
Shop fronts have been upgraded and new lighting installed, to make the centre brighter and lighter.
What is happening with The Riverside?
Shropshire Council has always been clear on the intention to demolish Riverside and to redevelop the site.
The Council is looking at a development framework for the site and will be able to update on timescales towards the end of December.
This includes a technical report on the complexities of the demolition.
What will The Riverside actually become?
The redevelopment remains a priority as a key element of the Big Town plan.
The development framework is suggesting that a mixed-use scheme is likely to be most viable option and potentially include residential, offices, leisure, retail, education, culture, arts, and hotel use.
When and how will the centre be demolished?
Demolition of the Riverside centre will be a complex process and any plans for this will be made available once the technical aspects of the project are clear and the recommendations of the development framework is concluded.
Any demolition will only take place after consultation with businesses and stakeholders.
There are currently no dates identified to commence demolition.
I keep reading that the values of the shopping centres have fallen? Why is that?
In light of current economic and health pressures values of UK shopping centres have fallen and income is suppressed in the short to medium term.
This is not unique to Shrewsbury and is caused by a combination of issues including more people shopping online; retailers struggling with too much space and the overall economic disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Why did the Council buy the centres?
The Shropshire Council investment in the shopping centres is long-term and a significant part of the future vision for the transformation of the town centre.
Having control of these assets is essential to shape the future of Shrewsbury, without reliance on external or absent landlords.