Shrewsbury has been held up as an “outstanding example” for its work developing a long-term vision for the town centre through the Big Town Plan.
Hayley Owen, growth programme and strategy manager at Shropshire Council, and member of the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan Partnership, was a speaker at a national webinar led by the High Streets Task Force about the future of UK town centres, attended by a live audience of more than 550 people.
Simon Quin, executive director of the High Streets Task Force, said Shrewsbury Big Town Plan was a beacon for others to follow on effective development of a collaborative vision for a town centre.
He said: “Shrewsbury is among a small number of outstanding examples of visions, which demonstrate why it is so important to have an agreed vision for a town or city.
“But these examples are the exception rather than the rule. You would think there would be many examples around the country, but we did some research a few years ago looking at visions that existed for towns and cities, and they are very hard to find.
“Visioning is not only important on a strategic level, but it is also now vital to secure funding, as a sound strategic vision is now required by the Government when considering funding distribution.
“It was great to have Hayley on our panel talking about the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan, which really does illustrate many of the principles that we think are important.”
During the webinar, Hayley outlined how the Shrewsbury Big Town Plan has developed since 2016, with a clear vision agreed by Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Town Council and Shrewsbury BID about how the town can evolve to enable a thriving town centre.
Councillor Peter Nutting, Leader of Shropshire Council, said: “It’s testament to the excellent partnership work taking place here in Shrewsbury that the Big Town Plan is being recognised on a national level.
“The High Streets Task Force were particularly keen to hear about how we have been using the principles of the Big Town Plan when implementing the temporary interventions to make the town safe and welcoming during the Covid-19 crisis.
“We are looking forward to continuing to discuss with residents, businesses and stakeholders how the interventions are working, and how the movement strategy in Shrewsbury can develop in the future.”
Councillor Alan Mosley, Leader of Shrewsbury Town Council, said: “Shrewsbury really is leading the way when it comes to this kind of joined-up working, and we should all be proud of the work that has been done to get us to this point.
“However, we are now moving into an even more important phase when we start to think about making the vision a reality.
“It’s therefore vital that we continue working together – local authorities, businesses, interest groups and the community – to ensure Shrewsbury can continue to be an enjoyable, sustainable and welcoming town centre, both now and for future generations.”
Joining Hayley on the panel was retail expert, Bill Grimsey, author of The Grimsey Report into high streets and one of the leading voices on how town centres need to adapt to survive and thrive in the future.
He spoke about the importance of local authorities and business leaders working together on a collective vision for their town or city, with the key aim of making town centres a desirable place for people to live and spend time together, rather than relying on their historic role as a marketplace or retail centre.