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Vision could easily turn into a concrete jungle if we let it
11:52am Thursday 6th September 2012 in Postbag
CHRIS Wain’s praise for Thomas Sharp’s Salisbury plan of 1949 (Journal, August 30) rather makes one wonder how much of it he’s actually looked at.
He may see nothing wrong with the idea of demolishing St Thomas’s Square to allow a new road right past the west front of St Thomas’s Church, and the destruction of more historic buildings further north, including the old market house, to make way for the Victory Hall (shown as a flat-roofed building of remarkable inelegance), which he likes so much. One can only wonder if he is equally approving of some of Thomas Sharp’s other proposals, including: The flattening of one side of St Edmunds Church Street, to turn it into a dual carriageway.
A large roundabout halfway up Castle Street, on the Scots Lane junction, and another one at the Salt Lane/Greencroft Street junction.
Between the two roundabouts, a dual carriageway, 70 or 80 feet wide, which obliterates the western part of Bedwin Street, and crashes through the middle of the next chequer to the east, laying waste to buildings as it goes, in complete contempt of the city’s medieval street pattern.
Sharp’s ideas are typical of a mindset of the time, which pursued ‘efficiency’ and ‘progress’, and saw the motor car as supreme. While he does seem to have a genuine feeling for the city, he cannot resist the conclusion that ‘many of the small old buildings, especially on the eastern chequers, are now too old and too primitive to have any further usefulness’, and that ‘a new Sarum must now be planned and built’. This is the ‘modernisation’ of which Chris Wain writes so approvingly.
Sharp’s plan for the bomb-damaged Exeter, from the same period, was actually put into practice, at least partly, giving rise to comments such as ‘what the bombing started, the planners finished off’. In Salisbury, traditionally cautious, the city council of the day filed his plan away and did nothing. Chris Wain may bemoan the failure to follow up Sharp’s ideas, but most of the rest of us will be extremely thankful that nothing came of them, and that the city’s historic integrity has survived largely intact.
RICHARD DEANE, Salisbury
- CHRIS Wain’s blog, entitled Down Memory Lane (Postbag, August 30), caught my eye. This was about a Mr Thomas Sharp’s proposals for Salisbury way back in 1949, which was only four years after the Second World War.
He wrote what a good idea those proposals were and how we all seemed to have missed out. Now, at that time many of our cities and towns were recovering from the severe bomb damage, caused by the Luftwaffe during that war. Food and clothing were still on rationing and remained so until 1953. So the chances of Mr Sharp’s plans being adopted were extremely small, if not impossible.
The City Hall, for example, was saved for from 1945 but didn’t come about until 1953, owing to a lack of a suitable site in the city and inadequate funds.
So, students of Salisbury history might like to look back at both of these proposals before casting a judgement.
The problem with our ancient towns and cities is that they have evolved over hundreds of years, and we have to take great care that we do not destroy what we have in the name of progress or convenience. When our roads and bridges were designed and built they were more than adequate for the traffic at the time. Then came merchandised transport, firstly steam trains, which required tunnels, viaducts, cuttings and bigger and better bridges to serve them.
The advent of more cars and lorries on our roads has meant bigger and better roads to support them. Let us not forget the ever present parking problem that this brings with it.
Anyone can come up with a plan or proposal which on paper looks a good idea, but what may in retrospect prove to be a bad one. The old saying that “Man proposes what God disposes” is often proved true. For example, does anyone now think that the proposal to remove the cinema in New Canal was a good idea, or to have completed the road to nowhere?
Another old saying was “Beware Greeks bearing gifts”. I think we could adapt that to beware developers offering cash and proposals. There never was such thing as a free lunch and probably never will be. Our Salisbury Vision could easily turn into a White Elephant or Concrete Jungle if we let it.
COLIN DULLER, Salisbury