Shrewsbury reimagined

Shrewsbury Big Town Plan Partnership lays out its vision for Shropshire’s county town

Revitalising a town is no small undertaking, and so it is no surprise that the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan Partnership’s recently unveiled Masterplan Vision maps out the next two decades of development for Shropshire’s most prominent market town, exploring the range of ways in which Shrewsbury could improve and develop.

The Partnership, made up of Shrewsbury Town Council and Shrewsbury Business Improvement District (BID), said the report is a ‘visionary document’ which it expects will spark debate about the future development of Shrewsbury. The consultation which took place from January to March 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.

Central concerns raised by locals over the plans focused on the future of the town’s shopping centres, which were all purchased by the Shropshire Council to play a part in the long term transformation of the town.

The masterplan shows that Pride Hill shopping centre will be repurposed from a retail offer to create more flexible town centre space for the future, including commercial, civic and cultural uses. Plans for a cinema at the centre have been put on hold due to the pandemic.

Pride Hill tenants are in negotiations to relocate to a new specially-created shopping gallery for independent traders in the Darwin Centre called The Collective – a shopping gallery for independent traders which opened in December 2020 in the former QVC site. 

Several large national chains are consolidating their floorspace requirements and relocating to the Darwin Centre, with plans for the centre’s retail mix to into more of a community-led shopping centre. The Darwin Centre also recently added new toilets, a Changing Places facility, a family room, new lighting, and upgraded shop fronts.

The Darwin and Pride Hill centres are both set to be revitalised with clearly defined streets, increased access to natural light, the introduction of new uses including leisure, food and drink, plus a new pedestrian link from Pride Hill down to the Riverside integrated within the building as a 24-hour accessible winter garden.

The north façade of both shopping centres will be refreshed providing the opportunity for more daylight and access to river views. The ground floor servicing areas will be reconfigured to enable activation of the Raven Meadows streetscape.

Plans to demolish the Riverside are still underway, with the site expected to be a key element in the big town plan. The development framework suggests that a mixed-use scheme is likely to be the most viable option and wll potentially include residential, offices, leisure, retail, education, culture, arts, and hotel use. 

Mark Robinson, chair of the High Street Task Force called the move of acquiring all three struggling shopping centres ‘brave’ but that Shrewsbury is ‘blessed’ with some ‘fabulous foundations’ on which to build its vision

He said: “It is especially pleasing to see the vision grounded in detailed data driven insight, this will build an investable masterplan which is key to the future renaissance as local government can’t be expected to do all of the heavy lifting.”

This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.

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