NEEDING to get some fresh air and exercise after the Christmas excesses we decided to walk each street in the centre of Salisbury, counting empty commercial premises in the process.

In the local press in recent months it had been reported that Salisbury was below the National average for vacant retail premises. It was stated that there were 17 empty premises, however we counted 66 during our walk, and as I write Koh Thai Tapas has suddenly closed, making our total 67.

The report in September 2018, originally on the Wiltshire Council website, was an appendix to the Planning Application lodged by The Range store. How could these figures be so far apart? Not all empty shops are indicated by a “To Let” sign.

We counted: Endless Street x 5, Chipper Lane x 2, Blue Boar Row x 2, Winchester Street x 5, Queen Street x 1, Catherine Street x 6, New Canal x 4, Milford Street x 5, High Street x 4, South Western Road x 2, Castle Street x 5,

Fisherton Street x 6, Cross Keys Shopping Centre x 2, Old George Mall x 3, Market Square x 5, Estcourt Road x 2, Fish/Ox/Butcher Rows x 2, The Maltings x 3, Brown Street x 2, Crane Street x 1.

It beggars belief to hear that the development of The Maltings is still progressing, in spite of the fact that we are unable to fill the premises we already have. We believe that our city does not need more retail units, it is actually crying out for more leisure facilities. It was evident that the Christmas ice rink was popular (although the Christmas Market huts were rarely at full occupancy). Surely by providing more entertainment facilities such as a permanent ice rink, indoor skate park, roller skating or a gaming centre it would lead to a decrease in the antisocial behaviour witnessed in recent weeks. There is very little to occupy school age teenagers in particular, and boredom leads to mindless acts of vandalism and general nuisance.

Why not run a poll in this newspaper giving local citizens an opportunity to voice their opinions and put forward ideas? After all it is primarily local people rather than tourists that are affected. Undoubtedly many will request a Primark store but they need to appreciate that with the advent of this one shop many other businesses will close, leading to further decay of the city centre. It would have a significant, adverse effect on the Independent retailers and market traders that give the city its identity and individuality.

To sum up, in the words of The Specials “This town is coming like a ghost town”.