STATEMENT CONCERNING THE BIG TOWN PLAN (Spring 2020)
Often assumed, yet unstated, is the fact that Shrewsbury is an unusual and rare town of genuine, architectural and heritage significance. These features are the most durable ones in maintaining the quality of life and a stream of visitors, or in other words, its sustainable economic future. Consequently, any alterations to the Town Centre need skilled evaluation to ascertain that they will enhance, and not erode, these qualities.
The Civic Society has such issues as its substantive objective. We welcomed the Big Town Plan in a statement in October 2018. Then, as now, we were keen to see that any new development or altered streets or buildings would be carefully assessed for their impact on the existing built environment, both neighbouring and wider. We welcomed the idea of a “Design Charter” although this may now have been subsumed into Shropshire’s emerging Local Plan Update. Perhaps more specific to the town was a “Shrewsbury Test”, as this could have the potential to execute the rigorous evaluation similar to that which ‘design reviews’ might provide.
We think that the “Shrewsbury Test” should be developed as soon as detailed planning is being prepared for any of the Master-planning Areas. There are many issues that would apply to all or any of these Areas, which may include:
- the engagement of highly qualified and experienced designers/architects only
- the provision of a built environment that helps the viewer to be aware of its history
- the quality of design of places and buildings in terms of proportion, fenestration and shape
- the nature of public spaces and their human scale
- restrictions on Conservation Area building frontages e.g. Shop fronts
- the significance of roofs that contribute to skylines of inviting elevation
- the articulation of walls that reduce massing
- the variation of uses of buildings providing human scale, interest and variety
- the use of locally appropriate materials
- retaining Shrewsbury’s famous Shuts (even creating more!)
- exclusive use of high quality designed signage and way finding
- reducing street ‘clutter’
- the provision of increased living greenery, trees and green spaces amongst buildings
- increased provision for pedestrians and cyclists
- significantly improving public transport with ecosystems
- reduced provision for polluting traffic and increased opportunities for public transport
- reducing carbon emissions by building design and appropriate retro-fitting
- free high-speed electronic communication wherever possible
Although not exhaustive, the above points may support the development of a “Shrewsbury Test” and certainly reflect most of the “10 Goals for Shrewsbury”, as identified by LDA. We would be happy to flesh these out with sufficient detail to use in practice.
The Civic Society is pleased to have been invited to several Master-planning Area Events and to offer suggestions because most of the “Areas” have significant issues in common. Additionally, all the areas are wholly (or partly) subject to Conservation Legislation as implemented by the Local Planning Authority’s team.
We agree that the early stages of the Big Town Plan’s formation was very well supported by considerable public engagement. We hope that this may continue in the later stages of development.
The Society will consider any resultant planning applications as they arise.