A project that matters ...
Shrewsbury Big Town Plan is a fine example of how to manage change in our town centres. It presents a clear way forward, tackling some of the big issues facing today’s high streets.
Shrewsbury Big Town Plan: The power of the collective.
“We are delighted to present this collective vision for our town’s future. It presents a series of realistic, practical and sustainable aspirations; together with a clear plan of how we can get there. It is ambitious and bold in putting people at the heart of the town so it becomes an even better place to live, visit, work and invest.”
Alan Mosley, leader of Shrewsbury Town Council
Death by a thousand cuts?
On rumours of his untimely demise, Mark Twain quipped: “The report of my death was an exaggeration”.
Much has been said of the decline of the UK’s high streets, caused in large part by the onslaught of online shopping. It seems hardly a day goes by without the loss of another big retailer making headlines.
But with bold thinking and the right approach, can the patient be resuscitated and made more resilient? Can the decline be slowed, halted and even reversed? The good people of Shrewsbury and LDA Design think it can.
A view of Shrewsbury
“The Shrewsbury Big Town Plan is ambitious and bold in putting people at the heart of the town so it becomes an even better place to live, visit, work and invest.”
Alan Mosley, Leader, Shrewsbury Town Council
The Shrewsbury Big Town Plan sets out an ambitious, landscape-led vision for how this historic Shropshire town will look by 2036. It could become a blueprint for other county towns to follow.
Developed by LDA Design in partnership Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Town Council and business-led initiative, Shrewsbury Bid, it is a holistic approach aimed at making the entire town, not just the centre, more liveable, strengthening all-year-round appeal.
Priorities included rethinking movement and place; supporting, creating and nurturing town vitality and a mix of uses; creating a place for enterprise and boosting natural Shrewsbury, enhancing the qualities that make the town special: the river loop and medieval quarters, and its parks and green spaces.
The process behind the Plan has been refreshingly different. The councils together with Shrewsbury BID corralled organisations, individuals and key decision-makers who had never really worked together before, but were all determined to put people at the heart of things.
Consulting widely, they gathered more than 2,500 responses from across the town. These revealed a real appetite for tackling thorny issues, from taking traffic out of the town centre to directing investment in new housing and start-ups from the periphery into the centre.
One participant said it was the best masterplanning experience in 30 years
One very big week
It was evident a masterplan was needed to bring all of the ideas together, and to direct change where it was most needed.
Determined to make the process as inclusive as possible, we hosted an intensive week of workshops involving more than 50 individuals and organisations with a stake in the town’s future. Not surprisingly, diametrically opposed views were aired and contested, with LDA Design acting as honest brokers and provocateurs. A plan emerged, worked up by LDA and transport specialists, Phil Jones Associates.
The week was pivotal, changing the way in which decision-making would be made in the town in the future. It successfully demonstrated how a well-informed and committed group could work together to direct change; and it put people right at the heart of the plan. A participant said it was the best masterplanning exercise they had been involved in for 30 years, another that it reminded them why they came into town planning in the first place!
“This final draft reshapes the physical public realm and matches it with an outstanding public experience, revolutionising movement around the town and attracting vital investment.”
Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury BID
The ‘big on people’ Big Town Plan
The masterplan sets out 10 goals, identifying the places where intervention is needed and illustrating what change might look like, from a new people-friendly square outside the town’s spectacular railway station to a traffic-free riverside promenade.
With so much potential for change, consensus fell around The Big Connection – a string of adjacent sites running from the historic Flaxmill, the world’s first iron-framed building, to the town’s struggling shopping centres via the station. Focussing regeneration efforts here, including significant improvements to the public realm and traffic flow, will bring greater activity and life to the two centre long into the future.
The original meaning of Shrewsbury is ‘fortified place’. The good news is the Plan will indeed fortify Shrewsbury, strengthening the town for success in the decades to come. There is a big lesson in all of this: that people can make a place better without big government, big investment, big infrastructure. What’s needed is energy, great ideas, collaboration, vision, and an appetite for change.
Visualisations of the Shrewsbury to come – well-connected, lively and thriving.