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Plans for Castle Quarter unveiled

Plans have been unveiled to transform Shrewsbury’s Castle Street into “The Castle Quarter” - with a range of ideas put forward to make the area more welcoming and distinctive. 

Urban design experts, LDA Design, funded by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan Partnership, have produced a report following conversations and workshops with businesses, residents and interest groups about how Castle Street could be improved. 

The work was completed before the Coronavirus outbreak, and some of the principles to make the area safer and more welcoming have already been trialled, such as widening pavements to create more pedestrian space. 

The report sets out proposals to “re-energise Castle Street as a distinctive and inviting culture, business and leisure destination within Shrewsbury”, and goes on to say the area could be redefined as The Castle Quarter. 

“Pedestrians will have priority, with space provided to meander up Castle Street at your own pace,” the report says. “Rather than a traffic-dominated corridor, the street will be handed back to the people and the businesses that are thriving up and down the street.” 

Among the more specific ideas in the report are plans to open up the areas in front of the library and castle to create a welcoming “Darwin Square”. 

Councillor Peter Nutting, leader of Shropshire Council, said: “We appreciate everyone’s immediate focus is on the Coronavirus recovery, but this report gives us an opportunity to consider how this important area of town could develop. And actually, the aspiration to reduce the dominance of traffic and make more use of the open space at the castle and library has never been more relevant. 

“Indeed, with the temporary measures already in place to adapt the town centre to help people maintain social distancing, some of these plans could be brought forward reasonably quickly and work has started on identifying potential funding opportunities.” 

Councillor Alan Mosley, leader of Shrewsbury Town Council, said: “Castle Street acts as the gateway to the town centre for thousands of people every week. It’s a vital area of the town and these proposals are really exciting. 

“Castle Street is already on the up, with a number of new independent businesses opening over the past year, and this report shows a way forward to an even more thriving future.” 

Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury BID - part of the Big Town Partnership along with Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Town Council and other organisations - said the report had involved a lot of discussion with businesses and residents. 

“A wide range of people have shaped these proposals and we would urge people to visit the Big Town Plan website so they can explore them in more detail. The world has changed with the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, and of course the main priority at the moment is to make the town centre safe for visitors, residents and business owners. 

“The proposals set out in this report are all in line with the general principles of the Big Town Plan and we think Castle Street has a unique opportunity to become an even more successful, welcoming and liveable part of Shrewsbury town centre.” 

Mark Graham, director of LDA Design, added: “The Castle Quarter holds a huge opportunity to deliver a distinctive welcome to Shrewsbury. Our vision is defined by the fantastic independent businesses that flank the street, the historic assets which punctuate the place and the connections to the many destinations which sit beyond the Quarter.” 

The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership contributed nearly £20,000 to the Castle Street project earlier this year. 

Marches LEP chair Mandy Thorn said: “Now, more than ever, it is essential that we give our High Streets and town centres the support they need to recover and rebuild from Covid-19. The Castle Street scheme will play an important part in helping Shrewsbury town centre continue to thrive for years to come.” 

An extract from the report says: “Through a celebration of its key assets and the public spaces between them, Castle Quarter will become one of Shrewsbury’s primary destinations offering independent shops, vibrant bars and restaurants, event space, museums, conferencing and office space within an attractive and connected environment. 

“The Castle Quarter will provide enhanced connections into the town centre and towards Riverside, as well as providing places to pause and enjoy the Quarter.” 

An interactive version of the report is available to view at www.shrewsburybigtownplan.org for people to give their opinions on the proposals. This project is feeding into the wider masterplanning work of the Big Town Plan which is due to be published later this year. 

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