Unique opportunity to develop city

ANNIE Riddle is right (SJOpinion, January 2). A radical review of the proposed Maltings development is both vital and urgent, particularly in the light of the fact that a contract with the developers, Stanhope PLC, has already been signed by Wiltshire Council.

The Maltings development offers our civic leaders a unique and unrepeatable chance to shape our city centre, inform the way we see ourselves, and engage with the challenges of the coming years. This initiative is about more than buildings. This is a historic opportunity. As a community we owe it to our predecessors, contemporaries and future generations to get it right.

Over recent years the Vision team has shared initial ideas about a ground plan for the development. But we have heard little about the nature, content and design of the buildings that will make up such a plan. We are told that shops and cafés are needed, but residents and visitors alike expect more – much more – from a development on this scale at the heart of our city.

We need a detailed planning brief that is unique to Salisbury and its citizens. The new centre should reflect Salisbury’s ambitions for our future as well as pride in our past.

We must recognise the needs and interests of our local communities, including our students and young people, our military neighbours, and our rural communities.

We need to celebrate the distinctive contribution of local citizens to life-science, engineering and an education sector that is increasingly committed to these disciplines as we press for a local science university.

We have a superb theatre and a strong tradition of music-making. We now urgently need a regional art gallery to complement these achievements and attract a growing number of visitors to stay longer than the hour or two that it takes to walk through town and visit the cathedral before rushing off to Stonehenge and a night in Bath. We need the hotel accommodation to make this possible, along with a transport interchange that will make effective sense of our currently fractured arrangements.

For all this to happen, we need civic leadership that excites local support and reasserts Salisbury’s control over its own destiny and its role across and beyond South Wiltshire. Annie Riddle’s call to action chimes well with the energy and ideas of some of our newly elected councillors.

Time, however, is not on our side.

JOHN POTTER, Salisbury

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