Shrewsbury Civic Society was started in the 1960s as an organisation seeking to preserve Shrewsbury’s unique heritage. It now has offices at the Bear Steps in the heart of Shrewsbury. This is fitting because it was the Civic Society that preserved and renovated this medieval building.
The Bear Steps cafe – under renovation and today
Like all civic societies, it monitors and scrutinises planning applications, considering their merits as well as their suitability for a historic town. The society receives no financial support from national or local government, and runs on the goodwill of many people, who are all passionate about the town and are determined to prevent the erosion of its heritage.
Shrewsbury has already lost many iconic buildings, such as the Raven Hotel. Continual changes to the planning process mean that the Civic Society needs to keep a keen eye on proposals that may not be satisfactory, for all sorts of reasons. The town has a unique attraction for tourists, but this will suffer if its heritage is not preserved. Visitors tend to come to Shrewsbury because it is different from the average town of shopping centres and national retail chains
This does not mean that the Civic Society opposes all development. It is very much aware that sympathetic development can enhance the town, and is supportive of plans that seek to do this.
However, the Civic Society will oppose development that erodes the heritage of the town. It is anxious to support long-term, sustainable development, but will seek to counter ill-considered plans that threaten the town’s character and environment. The Civic Society seeks to offer support in helping the town to develop whilst protecting the heritage that forms Shrewsbury’s attractiveness
Shrewsbury Civic Society is strictly non-political, because its interests and aims reach further that simply pleasing current political leanings. There will, or course, be occasions when a particular proposal has some local political implications, but the society is rigorous in applying its principles irrespective of all other considerations
The society wants Shrewsbury to become economically dynamic, providing a high-quality standard of life for its residents. It is recognised that the Council faces many difficult decisions, and the society is keen to work with them, and with other local bodies, to promote the town’s appeal. The society believes that the town does not just need conserving – it also needs enhancing as an increasingly desirable location for both visitors and locals
Shrewsbury Civic Society is run entirely by volunteers, who carry out various activities from arranging events and producing newsletters to staffing the Bear Steps and researching aspects of Shrewsbury’s history.
“If you have a civic society, you always have a group ready to show that people do value their heritage. If you care about where you live, I call you on to join your civic society.”
Griff Rhys-Jones, former President of Civic Voice