Plans for town’s ‘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.

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 ideas 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 Darwin Square.

Cllr 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.”

Cllr 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,” he said.

“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.”

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