HIGH property prices, on which so many of us pin our hopes for a comfortable old age in this era of shrinking pensions, are as much a curse as a blessing.

Not only do they keep young people off the housing ladder, but they prevent budding entrepreneurs, artists and craftspeople from doing business affordably.

Which is why it’s brilliant news that Wiltshire Council wants to get involved in creating a regional ‘mutual bank’, specifically to provide financial services to small enterprises and people on low incomes and benefits. More on that one next week.

But no amount of developer-led transformation of city centre buildings will provide the cheap and – crucially - characterful places to actually live and work that will differentiate Salisbury from the big retail centres and make it so much more interesting to visit.

Developers rarely create ‘character’, do they? It’s doesn’t fit with economies of scale.

So do please, councillors, when you’re considering visions and masterplans and all the rest of it, save some scruffier corners, too, and where it’s within your control, facilitate their use as low-rent, individual studios, workshops, and ‘live-work’ spaces. With some brambly patches for birds and bugs.

Ours is a little city, making any changes highly visible. Hence they need to be introduced gradually and extra-carefully. It’s no wonder the proposed new library and Travelodge struck such a discordant note with so many residents.

Having just got back from holiday, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the county’s strategic planning committee has proved me wrong by rejecting the design.

It would have looked perfectly at home in Basingstoke, or Reading, or any number of towns that have already had the historic heart ripped out of them.

But it failed to grasp its once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set an architectural example and deliver a ‘wow factor’ to the street scene.

Maybe we should be looking for something more imaginative and more uncompromisingly modern to sit next to the lovely United Reformed Church?

Look what a success the extension of Bourne Hill is. A great example of what can be done blending old and new, all fitting beautifully into its setting.

Perhaps that should be a lesson informing Wiltshire’s latest public consultation (yes, another one!) on a Central Area Framework, which I really urge you all to take part in.

There’s a link to it on the council website, and information in libraries, council offices and the leisure centre. There really ought to be a leaflet drop to every household, too, because it’s about what we all want our city centre to actually feel like.

Finally, it would be nice to see policy-makers accept that the remaining green spaces alongside key approach roads to the city centre should be protected from development, as it’s environmental nonsense to create a concrete desert around a postage-stamp size oasis.

If we want Salisbury to be a green city, it’s up to them to ensure that it stays that way.