MAJOR changes to the face of Worcester are proposed for the coming years, with a number of significant planning applications to transform the city centre.

With many signs pointing towards the return to some kind of normality soon and with the journey on the government’s roadmap out of lockdown seemingly running smoothly, attention now turns to how the city rebuilds from an extremely difficult year and what the future will look like for Worcester.

Regeneration and redevelopment, in its many guises, has always been high on the agenda and hot on the lips of many even before the pandemic struck, with huge developments and grand ideas and multi-million-pound promises coming and going.

The question now is what will Worcester look like in a decade or two decades time?

Will the plans that are either up in the air or on the back burner or primed and ready to go ever really come to fruition?

Nevertheless, if all the plans do see the light of the day and work does eventually progress, the city could look very different in the next couple of years let alone the next 20 years.

How can a city like Worcester not change significantly when we are talking about thousands of news homes and apartments, shops and restaurants, offices, new bridges, food halls, a new secondary school and all manner of other developments?

Helpfully, to get some kind idea of how the city will change post-Covid and how it will look in the future, the council produced a ‘roadmap’ of sorts not so long ago.

Worcester City Council revealed its ambitious ‘masterplan’ almost two years ago now which goes to some lengths to show how the city could look in the future and whilst by no stretch a definitive document, it does go some way to show how Worcester will look by 2040 and in the last 18 months, attention has turned to some of the more neglected parts of the city that are in desperate need of attention.

The city’s Shrub Hill area has long been a sore point with huge schemes and grand ideas coming and going but slight progress has been made.

In its masterplan, the council has highlighted four priority areas in need of regeneration with Shrub Hill included and undoubtedly one of the highest priorities.

The document shows how the city’s historic Shrub Hill area would be completely renovated into a business district with high-quality offices and new parking with a hope that the eyesore Elgar House, which was built in the 60s and blocks the city’s Victorian Shrub Hill station, is demolished to make way for a brand new ‘gateway’ plaza.

In a government bid which the council hopes will give access to £28 million in Towns Fund money, would see the ageing Isaac Maddox House site in Shrub Hill Road would also see a new enterprise centre and up to 100 homes built.

The bid also includes a long-awaited overhaul of the city’s Shrub Hill area with the First Bus Depot site in Padmore Street near Worcester Shrub Hill station top of the list for improvements.

A new walking and cycle route between Shrub Hill station, the planned regeneration area and the city centre would also be created.

The huge and much-needed regeneration of the Sherriff Street Industrial Estate was given another green light by council planners in February last year with demolition expected to start within three-to-four months – just before the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown put an abrupt stop to any kind of real progress.

The work is already years behind schedule after long negotiations between the developer and the council and progress has undoubtedly suffered from the pandemic.

The proposed development includes hundreds of flats, a 675-space car park, shops and restaurants, the possibility of a new hotel, the restoration of the Locke building as well as footbridge between the site and Worcester Shrub Hill station.

The most recent scheme to promise big changes and heavy investment in the city is the council’s major bid for millions in government regeneration funding.

The desperately needed £18m boost for the city centre will see the area around the tired and shabby Angel Place revitalised with a newly restored and re-opened Scala Theatre as a centrepiece.

The area around Angel Street and Angel Place, The Foregate, The Cross and Trinity Street would be completely regenerated to create an ‘urban neighbourhood’ focusing on new shops, cafes, restaurants and bars, a new performance and arts venue and other cultural facilities, family-friendly attractions as well as housing and office space transforming it into a ‘destination’ for young people and families.

There are also plans for a new secondary school in Worcester and a new bridge between Gheluvelt Park and the old Kepax landfill site.

The work by the council could all be built alongside another huge development in Shrub Hill and a massive scheme in Lowesmoor with a decision still to be made on those plans.

The major revamp of Lowesmoor Wharf would include bars, restaurants and cafes, shops, hundreds of apartments and offices to create a new bustling canalside destination in Worcester.

The enormous project, which is estimated to cost around £85 million, includes 271 apartments as well as more than a thousand square metres of space for shops and restaurants and more than 3,500 square metres of office space.

Dozens of new buildings would be built including a 12-storey, nine-storey and a couple of seven-storey buildings. Some of the existing buildings will be repaired and renovated.

But the work is not without its critics.

Worcester Civic Society called the work “totally unsuitable” and “derisible” and the intention to demolish significant and celebrated buildings has been met with scorn by heritage campaigners who say it will cause irreversible damage to a historic cathedral city.

Major developments in the city and the University of Worcester have often gone hand-in-hand in recent years and shows no sign of stopping in the future.

The University of Worcester had its plans to build 120 homes off Bromyard Road approved last year after abandoning its decade-long aspirations to build a £100 million science, health and enterprise hub on the site.

The city’s university is also moving ahead with plans to convert Berrows House, the former home of the Worcester News, into state-of-the-art teaching facilities for its health and medical students – work that has been included in the same council bid to government that could see Shrub Hill transformed.

Plans away from the city centre are by no means any smaller or less ambitious and again include thousands of homes and heaps of new facilities.

Of course, there is the recently revealed 500-home and 77-acre country park plan for Middle Battenhall Farm which comes as a significant compromise after years of battles between landowners, developers, the council, locals and campaigners.

And not to mention the whopping urban extension of Worcester which will see thousands of homes, new schools and leisure facilities, shops and a GP surgery built.

The city is only going to get bigger.