AS chairman of the Salisbury Civic Society’s Development Committee, which deals with planning matters, I feel compelled to respond to the recent negative comments about the proposed development by McCarthy & Stone in Castle Street. The architects, HGP of Fareham, presented an early version to our committee at the end of last year. This attempted to look like a traditional Georgian street scene, but failed to be in any way convincing because there were, for instance, no doors. These are inward looking flats, all accessed from an entrance in Endless Street.

Furthermore, new Georgian-style developments in Salisbury usually fall lamentably short of original examples, because of a lack of commitment to quality of materials and detailing. The development on the old bus station site is likely to be another example of this. The Civic Society’s response to what it first saw for Castle Street was to encourage the architects to take a more contemporary approach.

The planning application’s depiction of what the final version will look like, as shown in the Journal, does the design no great favours, leading to alarmist comments about prisons and workhouses. The core of the design is actually a fairly conventional and familiar terrace-type treatment, and what the depiction does not show is the trouble taken to add interesting brick detailing, which should certainly enhance the effect. Unlike the first version, there are now communal areas along Castle Street, with larger shop-type windows, to create buildings which have some visual interaction with the street, rather than just turning their backs on it. In addition to the Civic Society and the council’s own specialists, Historic England (formerly English Heritage) have broadly welcomed the scheme, with caveats about the choice of bricks being critical to final success.

Whether the current emphasis on retirement housing in Salisbury is a healthy one in the long term is another question, but at least this example, if carried out with real commitment, should make a refreshing contemporary change from the more usual lame ‘traditional’ approach, which if anything de-values our genuine historic buildings.

Paul Stevens, Salisbury