Shropshire Council has this week applied for money to take forward four projects totalling £104 million as part of the Government’s Levelling Up Fund (LUF) round 2.
The four projects in Craven Arms, Oswestry and Shrewsbury, as well as a cross-county transport bid, will now all be considered for a slice of the £4.8bn fund.
For all four projects it will be the second time that the council has sought funding. It has developed them further since the LUF Round 1 and the Bus Back Better bid as part of the Government’s Bus Service Improvement Plan funding and is optimistic about Government support for Shropshire.
Ed Potter, Shropshire Council’s Deputy Leader, and Cabinet member for economic growth, regeneration and planning, said: “I am so pleased that we have submitted these four projects for funding again following approval by Cabinet in June. If successful, they will help with our economic plans, boost infrastructure and benefit our communities for years to come.
“It’s all part of our plan to create a healthy economy, and we have ambitions plans for Shropshire. We want to stimulate growth in our towns and support our businesses, which is particularly important as we continue to recover from the pandemic and start to navigate the cost of living crisis.”
The bids, summarised below, are aligned with the council’s Shropshire Plan and the key LUF criteria set out by the Government.
In Craven Arms, a transport bid has been 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.
The regeneration of Oswestry, through a package of impactful projects, alongside complementary initiatives, 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 Shrewsbury bid proposes 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, productivity, incentivise private sector investment, whilst addressing flooding and increasing opportunities to live in the town.
Associated transport, active travel and public realm interventions near to the town’s gateway rail station will ensure this programme maximises benefit for the town.
The transport bid is to reinvigorate Shropshire’s public transport network through two linked projects:
Shrewsbury Connect includes replacing existing park and ride bus services in the county town with new services connecting park and ride sites with key destinations across the town, using new electric buses.
It is the reimagined Shrewsbury Park & Ride service offering connectivity to a number of key strategic sites across the town, including the Hospital and the railway station, which people across Shropshire seek to access. It is a metro service for the county town and will provide new and improved park and ride sites for key spine routes, cross-town routes and interchange hubs.
The LUF investment will provide new and improved passenger facilities including better waiting facilities and real time information in order to improve overall passenger experience. The scheme will be run with new electric buses, therefore, charging infrastructure will be required which will be delivered through the LUF investment.
This involves covering 18 zones across the county with demand-responsive services using new minibuses, bookable from 30 minutes beforehand to two weeks in advance. Rural Connect will enable people to access services locally in their nearest market town, and to access the wider regional and national transport network by connecting with bus or rail for onwards travel to Shrewsbury and other major destinations.
These projects are the two central elements of Shropshire Connect, the council’s ambitious, holistic all-mode approach to public transport in the county, reshaping the offer in an increasingly sustainable (decarbonised) way.
Mr Potter added: “As well as helping us to bring prosperity to our communities, these LUF bids will enable us to get much-needed recognition from the Government that Shropshire really is the best place to live, work and visit.”