'Save Shrewsbury' call as former shop owner fears for his town
A former Shrewsbury trader has issued a plea to “save Shrewsbury before it’s too late” after being dismayed by what he saw during a recent walk around the town.
Howard Franklin, who for decades ran a leading florists next to the Lion Hotel on Wyle Cop, fears that unless something is done Shrewsbury centre could soon become “derelict and deserted,” due to a combination of high business rates and rents, falling footfall, and the impact of current reconstruction work.
He said: “I was in town today and purposely walked all the main shopping streets and also the secondary trading streets. There are now equal amounts of empty shops to those that are open.
“The whole of the town centre is jaded and looking uncared for. Even Wyle Cop, which is the entrance to the town, has so many empty and closed shops.
“I stopped to read notices of repossession posted on several windows. Even shops that are still open look uncared for and in need of their facades painting."
Mr Franklin said: “The whole of the centre is closed to through traffic including Pride Hill, High Street and Shoplatch, yet there was no evidence of workers doing any reconstruction work. There were hardly any shoppers, and the shops that were open were deserted.
“Very soon I predict that our county town will be derelict, deserted and abandoned by the general public.
“I traded in Shrewsbury for 32 years and survived two major recessions, and retained 12 members of staff. Then, Shrewsbury had eight florists. Now the town only has one town centre florists business.”
Mr Franklin said he had spoken to a property agent who told him it was likely half the shops in Shrewsbury would go out of business.
What is the local council doing about it? The business rates are extortionate, and landlords are charging unrealistic rents, which cannot be met when there is such a falling off of footfall and people shopping.
“The Pride Hill resurfacing has been an unmitigated disaster and is still not completed after three years’ disruption. Castle Street and Pride Hill are being occupied by trashy businesses.
“Look back to the 1950s and 1960s when these thoroughfares were full of specialist shops and thriving community shopping.
“Our county town must be saved for the sake of the people of Shropshire and for the sake of tourism, which is so important for our local economy.
“Shrewsbury can boast so much history and is renowned for its Tudor mansions, Georgian town houses, ancient churches, the Abbey and Shrewsbury Castle, our beautiful Quarry park and the Dingle, but it is nothing without a vibrant shopping experience for our visitors.
“Please do what you can to save Shrewsbury before it is too late.”
As for his own background, he said: “We were the leading florists in the town – in fact the county – next to the Lion Hotel in Wyle Cop.
“My background includes being the World Champion Florist for Bridal Design and also my appointment as a Court Florist to HRH The Princess Mary, Princess Royal, also HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.”