Plans take shape to help Shrewsbury adapt to ‘new normal’

Plans are well underway to help people stay safe as they come back into Shrewsbury town centre as coronavirus restrictions are gradually eased.

The Shrewsbury Recovery Taskforce, part of the Big Town Plan Partnership, made up of Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Town Council and Shrewsbury BID (Business Improvement District), have been in ongoing communication throughout the crisis and developing proposals – with keeping people safe at the very heart of their planning.

An initial budget of £100,000 has been set aside by the Partnership to fund a range of placemaking initiatives to make the town centre safe and appealing for people.

The aim is that as lockdown measures gradually change, people will be able to stay safe and minimise any spread of the virus through good social distancing and hygiene measures – whilst making the most of the opportunity to keep active.

Members of the taskforce say initiatives already outlined in Shrewsbury Big Town Plan will enable the town centre to adapt to a “new normal” of social distancing and hygiene stations.

Councillor Peter Nutting, leader of Shropshire Council, said: “When the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan vision was published, no-one could have foreseen how much life would have changed just a year on.

“The ‘new normal’, as people are calling it, of social distancing and avoiding close contact, will undoubtedly be a huge challenge for town centres.

“But by using the Big Town Plan vision as a blueprint, we can reduce through traffic, provide more open space with priority for pedestrians, and allow greater freedom for people to use the town centre in a different way.

“I know businesses want to see people back in town centres, which is what we all want to see, and by working together and considering some innovative ideas, we hope to ensure that can happen as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Councillor Alan Mosley, leader of Shrewsbury Town Council, said: “The task force is providing a coordinated plan, dedicated to the individual needs and opportunities of Shrewsbury.

“It’s vital that we work together to ensure our town centre can adapt to allow people to get back to work and start socialising safely again – in whatever capacity and form that may take.

“The Big Town Plan’s aspirations of providing easier access by foot or bicycle, along with more imaginative use of space, give us an excellent basis for how small but significant changes can make the town centre safe and more accessible during this next phase.”

Ideas include changing road layouts to enable pavements to be widened, and providing more space for pop-up food and beverage stalls to allow cafes, pubs and restaurants to trade despite their premises being closed.

Bright, welcoming signage will help people to move around the town whilst adhering to social distancing rules, and hygiene stations will be created to allow people to wash their hands regularly.

Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury BID, said: “It is vital people continue following the government advice, but it is also important to ensure that Shrewsbury is ready to welcome visitors again when the time is right – in a way that makes people feel safe and implements government guidelines.

“The Shrewsbury Big Town Plan Partnership has been holding discussions from the very beginning about how the town can adapt to new restrictions designed to stop the spread of the virus and keep people safe.

“We are considering ways of using the space differently to enable people to use the town centre in a different way following the lockdown. It’s about giving people the confidence that they can start visiting and enjoying the town centre again, whilst staying safe.”