#86: This month’s ‘Highley Forum’ article.

Well, to say “so much has happened” since my last report would be something of an understatement. In fact a hell of a lot has happened, it just hasn’t been completed.

The B4555 has been more or less done (with permanent patches – which seems to be the norm now) with the exception of the High Street. Now that’s something you WILL have seen happen because your life will have been thrown into so much chaos by the road closures and diversions. That the High Street would be “put back in the schedule” has always been a fear of mine, so when I was told that the delays on the main job (due to the incredibly hot weather delaying the curing of tarmac) meant that time was lost and the High Street ceased to be an “emergency project” and, in order to get it financed, it had to become a “capital project”, my heart sank because it meant the High Street was now just one amongst others competing for limited resources within a restricted capital budget.

I’m hoping that its relatively high profile (thanks to the media) will give it some protection from the competing, neighbouring areas who felt so put out by seeing Highley’s earlier pleas (all of which fell on deaf ears) finally being heard and, thanks to a Kier highways engineer, acted on. It had been a hard two-year slog against highways officers who were more concerned with insulating themselves from criticism than actually listening and reacting to the genuine concerns of local people.

Adding insult to injury, we, meanwhile, were reading about expensive schemes to make Shrewsbury more attractive to visitors, the rationale being that by doing that somehow the rest of the county would benefit. The reality, of course, is a bit different to that claim. Once again South Shropshire misses out to North Shropshire and again the Wenlock Edge becomes a psychological as well as geographic barrier.

Picking up on that argument – and I suppose calling Shirehall’s bluff on its claims – that what is of benefit to one part of Shropshire ultimately benefits the rest of the county, I’ve long argued that “Shrewsbury isn’t Shropshire”.

Picking up on that argument, for years I’ve tried to promote Highley as a place with much to offer, especially when it comes to tourism, but also because we are ideally placed to pick up on a scheme that was widespread back in the seventies and eighties and which capitalised on rurality rather than point up that rurality as a disadvantage… ‘CoSIRA’… ‘Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas’. As it said on the tin, CoSIRA promoted small rural industries (not always “craft” industries either); the craft workshops at Jackfield were probably the prime examples of what it meant to invest in an area and promote it for what it could be, rather than for what it fell short of as an “industrial” area. That’s a thought we need to incorporate into our future plans rather than allow the remnants of Shirehall to dictate what they think we really need as a perceived second-rate option to North Shropshire and its multi-million pound business parks.

Dave Tremellen

18th August 2021.