Shropshire Council gives little hope that Shrewsbury bus station will be retained when Smithfield is redeveloped

Shropshire Council gives little hope that Shrewsbury bus station will be retained when Smithfield is redeveloped

Shrewsbury’s bus station and the bus layover bus are the essential for the operation of bus services in and out of Ludlow. Fears that the bus station will be demolished were raised when Shropshire Council and Shrewsbury Town Council published the latest stage of the Big Town Plan. This suggested that the bus station would be replaced by housing and people coming into Shrewsbury by bus will change to a town bus at a park and ride site. Now there are suggestions that Shropshire Council is having a rethink but it only committing to a “facility” not a bus station.

If a modal shift in the way that people travel in and out of Shrewsbury town centre is to be achieved, buses should be at the centre of the Big Town Plan. Bus transport should shape development, not be squeezed into the margins.

The image above is from a Shropshire Council video about the plans for Smithfield Road redevelopment published earlier this week. I cannot recall a council video featuring so many buses. But the council leader, peter Nutting, did not mention buses or the bus station once during the video. Buses are simply not on his mind or on the minds of those driving the Big Town Plan.

The bus station issue was discussed twice by the council’s cabinet last week. At the second meeting, I asked a formal question about the future of the bus station. The response acknowledged that the masterplan for the area should have made more explicit reference to buses. It gave a commitment to a “bus facility” in the town centre  but there was no mention of a bus station.  

My question had been submitted to the 8 March cabinet at which it discussed and agreed a consultation on the framework for redevelopment of the Smithfield Road area of Shrewsbury town centre. However, due to the number of questions at that meeting, my question was held over to the next meeting on 11 March.

The reply to my question was given by deputy leader Steve Charmley. He told councillors the Smithfield masterplan “suggests potential development could be accommodated on the current bus station [but] these illustrations are primarily to demonstrate the application of the core framework principles.” So, are the indicative housing plans on the bus station fantasy? Councillor Charmley continued:

“Assurance can be given that it is not being recommended that the town’s bus station is removed without replacing it with an [sic] facility appropriate to the Shrewsbury context and at a location that effectively supports modal shift, in particular, to and from the town’s rail station. It is acknowledged that the Masterplan Vision and the recently launched Smithfield Riverside Strategic Development Framework should reference these wider movement objectives more explicitly and clarify that the town will be served by buses, as well as wider public transport.”

That is not a commitment to a bus station but to a “facility”. Is there a hint in the answer that the station forecourt is under consideration as a bus interchange? It could work if there is a modal shift to reduce traffic on Castle Foregate but there would still need to be somewhere allocated in the town centre as a layover for bus drivers on their mandatory rest breaks. A layover facility is essential for the continuation of rural bus services, especially those from mid-Wales.

I think Frankwell car park should be considered as location. If there is to be a modal shift in how people access to the town centre, there will be no need for such a huge area of car parking. The current pedestrian bridge across the Severn, or its replacement, would link to the shopping areas. A new bridge would link to the rail station. Flood assessments will be needed but the bus stands could be on the higher ground and the layover bays on the lower ground.

Maybe that idea would not work but if a modal shift in the way that people travel in and out of Shrewsbury town centre is to be achieved, buses should be at the centre of the Big Town Plan. Bus transport should shape development, not be squeezed into the margins.

I have little hope of buses

From Cllr Andy Boddington

The Big Town Plan (BTP) presents a bold vision for Shrewsbury town centre. This vision is not only important to the county town. The impact of the BTP will extend across the county town’s hinterland, including into mid-Wales. This impact is no more apparent than in the proposal to demolish the county bus station and replace it with housing.

On 1 March, members of Shrewsbury Town Council agreed to oppose removal of the bus station. Having spoken to bus companies and rural bus companies, we agree with this position. Rural bus services into Shrewsbury are at risk of failure if passengers are forced to change at satellite bus stations on the outskirts of Shrewsbury. Journey times will increase and bus services will no longer be as convenient. This could lead to an adverse modal shift from buses to cars. It could also lead to reduced footfall in Shrewsbury town centre in favour of locations such as Telford with has direct services to the bus station in the heart of its shopping centre. The plan may also lead to increased rural isolation and reliance on deliveries booked online.

The plans for consultation before cabinet today are not accompanied by an Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) or a movement plan that considers bus movements between Shrewsbury and rural areas.

There are few sites within the loop that can accommodate a bus station and layover facilities. There has been talk of not having bus station at all in an endeavour to maximise real estate value from town centre land owned by Shropshire Council.

The BTP must champion rural Shropshire as well as promoting the county town. In the light of the reaction to the BTP, particularly from the rural bus companies, would the council delay consultation on the BTG until an EqIA and a movement plan that encompasses rural areas has been produced and published.

Response from deputy leader Steve Charmley

The Shrewsbury Big Town Plan recognises the importance of an integrated public transport network, that not only serves the town centre but also supports the specific needs of the wider county. It aspires to reduce unnecessary traffic entering and passing through the town, in preference for more sustainable, cleaner forms of transport, promote walking and cycling, and provide more space for pedestrians in the town’s streets and squares.

Parking provision in the town will also encourages the use of car parks outside the loop of the River Severn and beyond, supported by the new Park and Ride facility; parking will be provided within the loop of the town centre for those that have a specific need. It is recognised that there is a requirement for dedicated bus facilities that ensures the town is well served and promote all modes of public transport, accessible to Shrewsbury’s rural hinterland.

Whilst the Masterplan Vision and the Riverside SDF suggests potential development could be accommodated on the current bus station, these illustrations are primarily to demonstrate the application of the core framework principles that underpin delivery moving forward. In this context, assurance can be given that it is not being recommended that the town’s bus station is removed without replacing it with an facility appropriate to the Shrewsbury context and at a location that effectively supports modal shift, in particular, to and from the town’s rail station. It is acknowledged that the Masterplan Vision and the recently launched Smithfield Riverside Strategic Development Framework should reference these wider movement objectives more explicitly and clarify that the town will be served by buses, as well as wider public transport, walking and cycling, whilst finding a balance with those wishing to access the town by private car. The outcomes of the consultation processes, for both the Masterplan Vision and Riverside SDF will be analysed and appropriate amendments made and reported back to Cabinet in the summer 2021. An Equality Impact Assessment will be undertaken of the final documents and will ensure the concerns raised will be assessed. The Masterplan Vision consultation will formally conclude on March 10 and it is proposed that the Riverside SDF consultation will commence towards the end of May 2021 for a period of at least six weeks.

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