We go in to a new year with plenty to concern us. Nationally, the uncertainty of Brexit continues.
In our county, the Future Fit NHS review appears to be in chaos, with the possibility of one of our A&E departments being downgraded – but only if a small matter of £300 million can be found to pay for the reorganisation.
The county, like the rest of the UK, also faces a more dangerous world with the threat of terror looming. And, economically, interest rates are likely to rise, squeezing families already under pressure.
But look on the bright side. We live and work in one of the most beautiful counties in the country. The next year brings with it the usual array of world-class events to bring vibrancy, colour and life to our towns and villages. While new developments promise to improve our lives, bringing new services and extra jobs.
Here are just a few things to look out for in 2018:
It’s going to be one of the most important years in Telford’s history as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Every established event is going to be bigger and better as organisers pull out all the stops to make 2018 worth remembering.
And plans are already in place for dozens of parties, concerts and celebrations across the year. But it’ll also be the year when the town’s shopping centre continues its refurbishment and Telford Central’s bridge into the town is transformed.
Town mayor Councillor Stephen Reynolds said: “It’s going to be an exceptional year. There’s a lot of things going on to commemorate the anniversary of Telford. Everything is coming together now so that we’re making great strides to get a good array of events throughout 2018.
“I wish everybody a happy new year – it’s going to be one of the best ever.” On November 29 Telford will reach its 50 birthday, marking the date of the Designation of the New Town. But residents and visitors won’t have to wait that long for the fun to begin.
The Telford 50 Laser Art Installation will kick off tonight (and also run tomorrow. The display by laser artist Dal Badial will symbolise celebration and the borough’s bright future.
Next year also sees Oakengates Theatre @ the Place’s reach 50. To celebrate this, the theatre will hold a newly-commissioned Telford-themed pantomime from March 25 to April 5.
Especially written for Telford @50, Pantomania will pay homage to the people and places of Telford.
Spring into the Park will celebrate St George’s Day on April 22 in Telford Town Park’s Queen Elizabeth II Arena. There will be spectacles in the arena, food and fun but also some elements from old town events, such as Super Saturday, that many people said they would like to see return for next year’s town celebration.
The Friends of the Town Park are inviting people to celebrate Telford’s half century with a special event sponsored by Telford-based Japanese company, Maxell.
The Sakura Festival takes place in Telford Town Park’s Maxell Gardens on April 21 and a taste of Japan will be recreated with live Japanese music, Taiko Drummers, Japanese street food and more.
The annual Kite Festival will turn into a Kite and Flight Festival on May 12 and 13.
And the Carnival of Telford Giants will celebrate the people and places of the town on July 15.
As well as that, dozens of other parties have been organised by community groups.
Information will be available at telford50.co.uk
IRONBRIDGE & NEWPORT
Towns and villages across Telford & Wrekin are building up to a fantastic year.
Ironbridge and Newport are just two examples of progress being achieved in areas outside the borough’s main town.
As well as the usual events and charity efforts that the town does so well, 2018 will also be the year that work begins on Newport’s new Innovation Park.
The £9 million project is set to create almost 1,000 jobs for the town, with Telford & Wrekin leader Shaun Davies saying that it will will drive the future economy of the borough.
More locally, it will bring fantastic fresh talent into the town – those at the top of their fields in cutting edge research and technology.
And many of them will be shopping on the high street and living in the town’s new houses, bringing with them a huge boost for Newport’s economy. The work will begin on the new site off the A518 in the 2018/2019 financial year.
It was all made possible after a bid by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership to secure funding through the Government’s Midlands Engine Strategy and Telford & Wrekin Council.
And thanks to payments from developers working in the town, Newport’s roads will also see an overhaul.
Speed limits could be extended, weight limits added and new one-way systems introduced on 10 roads.
On the opposite end of the borough, it’s going to be a big year for the Ironbridge Gorge.
The Iron Bridge itself is still under wraps, covered in plastic while renovation work goes on to ensure it is still stand in for many years to come. The Iron Bridge has spanned the River Severn in Shropshire since 1779. But English Heritage’s extensive surveys and investigations found that it is under threat from cracking due to stresses in the ironwork.
The problems stem from the original construction, ground movement over the centuries and an earthquake at the end of the 19th century.
When the work is done at the end of the year are bound to travel from all over the country and beyond to see the beloved landmark unveiled again.
And they won’t be the only visitors – a gang of giant ducks will be helping Ironbridge folk celebrate their heritage in 2018.
The giant ducks will be painted and put out in the town in an effort to get people exploring the Ironbridge Gorge.
Await developments also on the site of Ironbridge Power Station, where the much-loved towers will eventually come down.
The new year will bring new challenges for Shrewsbury, with some of the town’s most important landmarks taking centre stage.
Works will continue at the Flaxmill in Ditherington thanks to grants from Historic England, which are funding contractors and artisan conservators.
The Flaxmill, heralded as the world’s first iron-framed skyscraper, is slowly being brought back to life and, once work has been completed, the building will be transformed into a cafe, commercial space and offices. The project will see the full restoration of the main mill and kiln, listed as items of international architectural importance and currently on English Heritage’s “at risk register”.
Another Shrewsbury landmark should also undergo a transformation if the council gets the go-ahead.
Shropshire Council’s headquarters at the Shirehall looks set for an £18 million revamp, which will see the poky 1906s conference rooms and work stations updated and modified to bring them bang up to date.
Members of the council’s cabinet agreed in principle to the £18.7m refurbishment of the outdated building. Due diligence and a feasibility study will now be carried out and over the next three months. It is hoped work will begin in early spring.
Funding may be secured for the long-awaited North West Relief Road, which will link the Battlefield area of Shrewsbury to Oxon. Proponents for the scheme claim it will reduce travel times, improve air quality and increase the prosperity of the town.
Shropshire Council is looking to secure money from the Department for Transport and will hear from the Government whether their multi-million pound bid has been successful in the spring statement.
Footpaths, cycle lanes and roads will continue to be overhauled as part of the Shrewsbury Integrated Transport Plan, which will see Shrewsbury become a more attractive destination for shoppers and tourists.
The English Bridge area of the town has already been transformed in the £12m scheme, with wider footpaths, traffic lights and clearer lanes and work to start on upgrading the pedestrianised Pride Hill shopping area in March.
Ludlow will host an array of cultural, athletic and culinary events in the new year, as the town’s reputation for having a thriving social scene is all set to be upheld.
The Ludlow10 running race is set to return after a successful first year, the English Song Weekend is hotly anticipated as always and the Ludlow Fringe will take over the town for two weeks in summer, while many other events will expect good turnouts throughout the year. Ludlow North county councillor Andy Boddington
said: “You can’t be bored in Ludlow. It’s just the case that there’s too much to do and you have to pick and choose.
“It’s a town where you have a lot of cultural events, but also athletics for example. The 10k race was a huge success in 2017 and it will be hotly anticipated when it returns. The anarchic nature of the Ludlow Fringe Festival will also be popular. We make our own entertainment in Ludlow, and we’ll certainly do that in 2018.”
Online entry for Ludlow10, the town’s own 10km race which takes in the nearby Whitcliffe Common, will begin on March 4 with the race set to go ahead on July 8.
The Ludlow English Song Weekend will return for the first full weekend in April, with the theme this year being Irish influences. The festival’s artistic director explained why the town is a perfect setting for events like it.
Iain Burnside said: “Ludlow is the perfect festival venue. You can walk everywhere, and there’s architectural history on every street corner. Gorgeous views, great food, amazing shopping – what more could you ask for?”
Tickets are already available, and more information can be found on the Ludlow English Song Weekend website.
With a booming high street and a host of huge events in the calender there is plenty to be cheerful about in Bridgnorth in 2018.
Last year saw a difficult time for independent traders in the town due to months of roadworks.
But after a successful Christmas period, Bridgnorth certainly has something to shout about over the next 12 months.
Mayor Ron Whittle said: “Our locum town clerk has been saying to me how lucky we are to be having such a lovely town and full high street.
“So many towns are struggling with the online retailers but there’s lots of shops in Bridgnorth and all of them are full.
“We’ve got a lot of independent traders and it’s a nice place to visit.
“I think the country generally is doing well and our town is enjoying that too.”
Big employer Bridgnorth Aluminium announced an expansion and recruitment drive last year while the new £4m Marches Centre opened to give skills training opportunities to young people in Shropshire.
Councillor Whittle believes there’s plenty to be optimistic about in the future: “There’s some big employers like Bridgnorth Aluminium and Grainger and Worrall in the town. They have been very optimistic about the future and that’s going to reflect in the town as well.
“A £4m investment in the future of young people with the Marches Centre is brilliant.
“It’s easy to talk ourselves down but there’s a lot of reasons to talk ourselves up. I feel personally really privileged to live in Bridgnorth. It’s got a really community atmosphere.”
Among the big events happening in the town in the coming months will include the Bridgnorth Walk, which raised more than £100,000 for walkers’ individual charities while several thousand pounds was also raised for Bridgnorth Lions charities, including the Prostate Cancer screening event held in October.
Oswestry is looking forward to a prosperous 2018 with economic projects in the pipeline and new shops opening in the town centre.
The town’s bypass, which often grinds to a halt because of the sheer weight of traffic, is seen to be stifling new growth, in particular work starting on the Innovation Park and a new business site planned just off the Mile End Roundabout. However north Shropshire MP Owen Paterson says that for the first time since it was built, there now seems to be a real will to improve and even dual the A5.
This, he says, would help the Oswestry area prosper.
In the town itself there is also a new feeling of optimism. Mayor, Councillor Vince Hunt, spent 2017 attending exhibitions, welcoming new businesses to the town and meeting and greeting many visitors.
“Yes, as a town we still have difficulties to face but there seems to be some green shoots with growing economic interest in the town,” he said. “Empty shops are slowly filling in the town centre and hopefully with that will come employment and a boost to our local economy.”
There is also good news for education with the announcement that North Shropshire College is to seek a merger with Herefordshire and Ludlow College.
Local people can look forward to another year of fun and festivals.
The Oswestry Half Marathon will once again be held, starting and finishing from the British Ironwork Centre. Likely to be held in the summer, the event is being billed as a run for peace with every finisher getting a knife angel medal.
Town centre festivals include the long-running and popular food festival and also a weekend balloon carnival based in Cae Glas Park. The carnival will feature not only hot air balloons but live music, a fun fair and stalls across the town centre.
The north Shropshire market towns of Whitchurch and Wem have plenty to be cheerful about looking ahead to 2018.
Whitchurch is continuing to build on its aim to attract more visitors to the town.
Work to extend the canal arm from the Llangollen waterway into the heart of the town continues, albeit slowly and organisers are looking forward to another successful Food and Drink Festival on May 19 and 20. Part of the festival is held in Whitchurch Civic Centre, a venue that is booming since its refurbishment.
The centre is attracting more and more events from sports to markets and dancing.
Shropshire council recently announced that it is to start work on a skate park for the town. Over the last 10 years Shropshire Council, Whitchurch Town Council and many others have discussed raising funds and building a skate park in Whitchurch.
The main stumbling block has always been a lack of funding, but now a package has been put together from both councils and Next Generation Youth.
Wem is looking to see improvements to its road network in 2018. The town council is carrying out a local plan review and says consultation shows that taking a short and long term approach to traffic is one of the top priorities.
Mayor, Councillor Edward Towers, said it was hoped that short term improvements to the road system could help move the town forward with the possibility of a Wem bypass in the long term.
“We want to see Wem grow, to see more homes built and to see the area benefit from its proximity to the northern powerhouse.
“But this can’t be done until we improve the infrastructure – the roads, health centre and primary school places.”
Times are tough in places, but Market Drayton deputy mayor Councillor Mark Whittle says the town is fighting back.
There’s projects going on that’ll put it on the map, as well as events to look forward to throughout the year.
“Everybody is facing a hard time, but Market Drayton isn’t doing too bad,” Councillor Whittle said.
“We’ve got new shops in the town. We’re fighting back, we’re doing alright.”
After decades of work, the village could be getting a new marina near the coalworks soon, as well as new housing and a hotel.
Although the plans haven’t been finalised, Councillor Whittle said that it will be a massive addition to the town.
“It’s one of those things that has been going on for 20 years,” he said.
“Finally a company from London came down, looking to put new housing down there. There’s a housing project, hotel, plus a marina. That will hopefully hit planning some time in the new year.
“It’s very exciting news for the town itself. It would be a major tourism boost.”
And that’s not the only thing that’ll bring visitors into Market Drayton.
There will be a whole host of events to look forward to in the coming years.
The Ginger Festival is expected to make its return. The first event championed the town’s culinary heritage and historical links to spices, food and gingerbread as well as promoting local food and drinks producers.
It was also the unanimous winner of the Love British Food 2017 competition chosen by a panel of prominent judges led by Michael Gove MP.
The parish council has a number of projects that’ll be coming to fruition in the next few months as well, including defibrillators that will be put in place within the town.
“That’s part and parcel with health and safety,” Councillor Whittle said. “It’s very simple and it’ll save someone’s life.”
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