Success and disappointment for Shropshire as levelling up funding awarded
Shropshire Council has welcomed the Government’s decision to award £18.7m of levelling up funding to support the regeneration of Shrewsbury town centre.
However, there is also disappointment that the council’s three other bids for levelling up funding were unsuccessful. These bids were for funding to regenerate and revitalise Craven Arms and Oswestry and to reinvigorate public transport across Shropshire. The council will continue to lobby the Government, and where possible seek alternative sources of funding, to help make these important plans happen.
Last August the council submitted the four projects – seeking a total of £104 million – as part of the Government’s Levelling Up Fund (LUF) round 2.
For all four projects it was the second time that the council has sought funding.
The successful Shrewsbury bid will fund two complementary infrastructure and public open space projects, essential to realising the ambitions of Shrewsbury’s Big Town Plan.
The Smithfield Riverside redevelopment programme will accelerate the regeneration of around 1.2ha of brownfield land, enabling mixed-use low carbon waterside development, significantly improving Shrewsbury’s employment and productivity, and incentivise private sector investment, whilst addressing flooding and increasing opportunities to live in the town.
And a range of associated transport, active travel and public realm interventions near to the town’s railway station will ensure this programme maximises benefits for the town.
One of the criteria the bids were measured against were their economic impact, and the success of the Shrewsbury bid underlines the positive effect it will have on Shropshire’s economy.
The LUF funding will help to increase the appeal of Shrewsbury as a location for business, tourism and investment; help to create higher value, higher skilled jobs; ensure lower vacancy rates and an increase in commercial floorspace; and make the town centre better connected and more accessible for people using all forms of transport.
For Craven Arms, a bid was made to deliver a major infrastructure project, including a new roundabout on the A49, a new road, and a road bridge over the railway line.
The Oswestry bid aimed to regenerate the town through a package of projects.
And the public transport bid sought funding for a new on-demand bus service, and a reimagined Shrewsbury Park and Ride service.
Lezley Picton, Leader of Shropshire Council, said:
“Today’s announcement is on the one hand very welcome, but on the other very disappointing.
“The funding for Shrewsbury’s town centre’s regeneration is great news, and confirmation of the value and jobs that it will bring to Shropshire’s economy. It means that we can now proceed with our plans to redevelop and regenerate the Riverside area of the town.
“However, we had held very high hopes for all four bids, particularly our bus bid that would impact across all of Shropshire, and we were confident of receiving even better news than we have done.
“These plans do not simply stop here. In the next few weeks we’ll be revealing more information about the on-demand bus service, and how we plan to improve public transport in the county.
“Our schemes for Craven Arms and Oswestry predate Levelling Up and we will continue to seek alternative sources of funding to enable them and our public transport overhaul to progress: we’ll review any opportunities to bid for these again to ensure these can happen as quickly as possible.
“We want to create a healthy economy, stimulate jobs and growth in our towns and to support Shropshire businesses. And we want to reinvigorate public transport in the county, because we know that for many residents in Shropshire’s vast rural areas good public transport services is vital to get them to work, leisure and social activities, medical appointments or college.
“We understand that there were £7bn worth of bids from a fund of £2bn, so appreciate that not all bids could be successful. However we remain absolutely behind our plans and are committed to do all we can to make them happen because these would benefit so many people across Shropshire.”
The bids, summarised below, are aligned with the council’s Shropshire Plan and the key LUF criteria set out by the Government.
For Craven Arms, a transport bid was made to deliver a major infrastructure project including a new roundabout on the A49, a new road, and a road bridge over the railway line.
This supports the planned growth of Craven Arms through accelerating the delivery of transport infrastructure to unlock the employment land, providing opportunities for business investment and bringing higher value and better paid jobs to boost productivity rates in the local economy.
This will also enable sites within the town centre to be redeveloped for more appropriate uses, including housing.
For Oswestry, funding was sought for the regeneration of the town through a package of impactful projects, alongside complementary initiatives, that will create a more sustained, revitalised town which will better serve residents, businesses, the rural hinterland and cross border communities.
The key projects will deliver a streetscape fit for the future through work to create new public open spaces within the town centre, support an extension to a town centre shopfront improvement grant scheme and enable infrastructure works as a catalyst for change to bring forward employment development.
The town centre proposals are underpinned by the Future Oswestry Masterplan Vision led by the Future Oswestry group and complement existing successful activities and schemes such as the High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme.
Proposed infrastructure works will provide serviced employment land to support local companies looking to expand and attract inward investment.
The public transport bid sought funding for a new on-demand bus service – named Connect On-Demand – and for ‘Shrewsbury Connect’, the reimagined Shrewsbury Park & Ride service offering connectivity to a number of key strategic sites across the town, including the hospital and rail station.