We should not waste city's great opportunity

First published in Postbag

A DRUM roll and fanfare, please, for our civic leaders.

For two weeks running we have been treated to wellprepared public meetings that set out a vision for how we can work together to enhance and energise our city.

Last week the Journal reported on the development plans for transforming the wasteland of our central car park into an ambitious and beautifully crafted extension to our city centre of which we can be truly proud.

The developers, Stanhope, promised that the footprint of the new work will echo that of our historic centre.

They further told us that they are keen to engage the interest and ideas of our young people and will provide onsite opportunities for work experience and on-the-job training.

Most importantly, it was made clear that our local councillors and the Stanhope development team are keen to hear further constructive ideas for the car park development, such as those proposed by Cllr Tom Corbin in last week’s Postbag.

We need more, much more, than retail, coffee shops and restaurants. What about an array of start-up workshops that include arts, crafts and digital innovation?

Such activities attract visitors, as well as serving local people well.

We need, also, to celebrate the role of our world-beating bioscience and engineering communities at Porton and Odstock.

We need, further, to recognise and welcome the growing presence of the military as our troops return home to the Plain from their overseas bases.

Our school provision is about to be enriched by a Sixth Form College and a University Technical College.

Where, for goodness sake, is the previously discussed science university that we so badly need and so richly deserve?

There is much to consider, and there are so many good ideas to be gathered from the fertile minds of Salisbury citizens. We now need the means to capture and shape these dreams into practical proposals. Once more our energetic city leaders have worked imaginatively with colleagues and officers to come up with a way ahead.

Last Thursday at the arts centre we were offered a revised vision of how local communities can work together in partnership with civic, business and community leaders. We were given an overview of what is happening across the Salisbury Community Area.

This included useful facts and figures about our current performance in regard to health, housing, transport, employment, and children and young people’s services.

Attention was paid to the arts, leisure, safety and the environment. Informed groups of local people were invited to highlight key issues and to prioritise further action.

It soon became clear that further work is needed to track and evaluate how particular local needs are being met at a time when austerity cuts are severely undermining a number of services.

It also became clear that energetic follow-up is needed or else the impetus, impact and potential benefits will be lost.

We have glimpsed Salisbury’s way ahead.

If we take full advantage of the lead we have been given, Salisbury could itself become way ahead, a model of what can be achieved.

And that surely would be a cause for celebration and feasting in the Market Place.

John Potter, Salisbury


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