Express & Star

New visitor centre and car park changes approved for Shugborough estate

Plans to relocate a car park and create a new visitor welcome centre at an historic attraction near Stafford have been given the green light by councillors – but concerns have been raised about changes to the access off a busy road.

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The entrance to the Shugborough estate. Photo: Google

A larger car park is set to be created, with the existing facility returned to parkland, while an access off Lichfield Road will be brought back into use as part of improvements proposed at the Shugborough Estate by the National Trust.

A report to Stafford Borough Council’s planning committee said that the current infrastructure at Shugborough should be adequate to support up to 250,000 visitors a year. In 2021-22 there were 239,000 visitors and “the car park is beginning to struggle with increasing visitor numbers and large dwell time at the estate”.

Committee members approved plans on Tuesday (February 27) to replace the existing 326-space car park with a 532-space facility, located to the southeast of the walled garden. An overspill car park with 210 spaces is also proposed, as well as a secondary unmarked overflow grassed area for use on particularly busy days, which could accommodate a further 300 vehicles.

The new visitor welcome centre and toilet block are earmarked for southeast of the estate, between the Lichfield Drive Railway Bridge and the walled garden. Two existing outbuildings – one a former Second World War building north of Lichfield Drive Bridge and the other a plant sales building west of the walled garden – are to be extended and converted to provide staff facilities.

The report added: “The existing Lichfield Drive access off Lichfield Road would be brought back into use through significant realignment works. The proposed access drive would pass beneath the Lichfield Drive railway bridge and lead to the proposed car park.

“The exit route would pass to the south of the walled garden (necessitating partial realignment) and lead south towards the existing exit onto the A513. The existing access route would be retained for larger vehicles – which can’t pass under the grade II listed Lichfield Drive Railway Bridge – and pedestrians.”

Simon Hawley, who spoke in support of the proposals at Tuesday’s planning committee meeting, said: “The proposed development is a major scheme of improvements to Shugborough. It will provide significant benefits.

“The new visitor centre is a high-quality building including a small café and information centre. Following its completion, the existing welcome centre will be demolished and grassed over and the old car park will be returned to parkland.”

Committee member Councillor Gareth Jones said: “I think, from the numbers I have seen, this is an extremely popular attraction. What is proposed will significantly enhance the visitor experience and I recommend we approve this application.”

County councillor John Francis raised concerns about road safety in a submission to the borough council ahead of Tuesday’s meeting however. He said: “The A513 Wolseley Bridge to Milford Road is national speed limit and has a number of recorded RTCs (road traffic collisions) on it. The geometry of the road is one with large sweeping bends, a width of around 6.5m and a number of entrances and exits off that can often make entry or exit difficult.

“With the concerns raised by myself in terms of the existing speed of the road, the potential for deer strikes and the number of entry and exit points on it, I am seeking to have the speed reduced to 40mph. To implement a speed limit reduction on the A513, with associated signage and safety measures, the cost would be in the region of between £25k to £30k. I gave some commitment to use some Divisional Highways Programme funding and the potential for some capital funding.

“However we are seeking other partners to also contribute towards the scheme. As such, we seek around £20k of additional funding, potentially from the new National Trust entrance.”

The highway authority – Staffordshire County Council – has raised no objection to the proposals, the report to the committee said. And speaking after the meeting, a representative of the applicant said they were working with the county council and happy to work with Councillor Francis.