WILTSHIRE Council’s growth and investment chief has apologised for the poor way the relocation of Salisbury’s library was communicated to the public.

Alistair Cunningham claimed the rush to spend £6.1million of government money before the deadline of March 2021 was partly to blame.

He told the South Wiltshire Business Summit the change in shopping habits had meant tearing up the original plan for the Maltings, and a new scheme in its totality for the area would soon be submitted.

However, they needed to spend the money on a ‘Market Walk’ from the city centre to the scheduled Maltings Cultural Quarter before the money was transferred back and used on other priorities.

He said the new scheme was to create a new gateway, which includes a top-end budget hotel and rehousing the library. It will also include retail units and a gym.

“That was Phase One and it possibly proceeded at a pace that was a wee bit fast for public understanding of why we are doing it, and as an officer of the council we did that and we got that wrong,” he said.

“I have to say local members picked up a lot flack because we had not properly engaged so apologies for that.”

Mr Cunningham said they needed to act swiftly to ensure the £6.1 million government funding set aside for the Maltings development was not lost.

“We have to spend £6.1million of government money before the end of March 2021. That seems a long time, but in planning terms that’s tomorrow. The idea is to create a proper arcade going through the arch, with a glass dome roof, with small quality shops along it and either a boutique hotel or apartments above.”

He added: “That will create an entrance to the Maltings and across to the Cultural Quarter. We have to move quickly because if we cannot do the work now, we cannot use the money. As I say, it probably wasn’t communicated as it should be.

“We are working on a comprehensive development scheme. There will be an application coming in around the totality of the site.

“We are talking to the LEP now about whether we can be a bit more clever with the money and get the order right with getting the applications in.”