Salisbury is currently undergoing a period of change with a number of agencies contributing their relevant proposals for the revival of the city, such as ‘competitive brand positioning’, the Masterplan for the Maltings and Central Car Park, and an application to the Future High Streets Fund.
Below we set out the Society’s response to the first draft of Wiltshire Council’s Masterplan for the Maltings and Central Car Park area, to obtain the full picture we have also provided a link to the Masterplan.
As other proposals are released we will add them to this page, keep checking to see what’s happening.
THE MALTINGS AND CENTRAL CAR PARK MASTERPLAN
Wiltshire Council’s Masterplan for The Maltings and Central Car Park (adopted) can be read here
Salisbury Civic Society response
The first draft of the Maltings masterplan appears to be a good start in indicating broad aspirations for land use and layout on the site, and it is encouraging to see green infrastructure given a focus with consideration of an opportunity for integrating significant GI as part of the Environment Agency’s flood prevention proposals. However, some fundamental elements do not appear to have been considered. Overall there is a lack of evidence of detailed analysis and assessment with little information about key aspects of the site such as ecology, and access and circulation, and there is little in the way of city centre character analysis or design criteria/principles to guide and shape future development.
There is a reference to alternative options for the site having been considered, and it would be useful to have some statement as to which other options were discarded, in order to come up with the present proposals.
The masterplan is being described as a high-level document with built in flexibility due to the more difficult climate around development at the present time, and as such has been kept deliberately light on detail. A spatial masterplan can retain flexibility, and still function as a dynamic long- term planning document, but one which provides a conceptual layout and framework to guide future growth and development, and further work on the plan would enable it to perform this function more efficiently.
In particular, can the plan provide the safeguards needed to protect the special and unique qualities of this site and the surrounding area, and can it provide sufficient design guidance to control and shape new development so that it adds to the character of Salisbury?
Rivers within the site
The masterplan has a general focus on the importance of the rivers within the site, but says little about the specific characteristics of those rivers which need to be protected and enhanced. It needs to be expanded with respect to these, in line with the detailed response submitted by the Salisbury Area Greenspace Partnership.
Lack of Landscape/Townscape Character Analysis
The masterplan does not adequately set out the factors which will determine what forms of development may be appropriate to the area. It needs to consider the relationship between the Maltings area and the built-up parts of the city, in particular those to the east and south. Clearly any development on the southern fringe of the site needs to pay regard to the quite distinctive character of Fisherton Street, and add to that character, without necessarily mimicking any of the buildings currently there. To the north, the Maltings has never been part of the traditional chequers area of the city, but has rather had, in so far as it was developed at all, an industrial character. The current shopping development, with its indifferent design, has not added anything which specifically changes this picture. The Society does not see redevelopment of the area as needing to emulate traditional city centre character, but sees it rather as an opportunity to create something of its time, which can add to overall city character, as long as the exceptionally high standards of that character are matched, not necessarily in the same form, but critically in a sustainable one, that has a human scale, is people friendly and is not dominated by infrastructure for vehicles.
There is a need for more detailed analysis of the framework within which development will take place, including:
• Existing building heights (surrounding immediate site)
• The landscape setting
• Important views
• Land ownership
• Heritage assets
• History and development over the years
• Land use
• Scale and massing
• Active frontages
• Pedestrian movement
• Traffic generally
• Access and servicing
A photographic study of current site issues would be useful.
Ensuring Design Quality
The NPPF, 2019 Section 12 ‘Achieving well-designed places’ is very relevant. In para 124 it states that, ‘Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development, creates better places in which to live and work and helps make development acceptable to communities. Being clear about design expectations, and how these will be tested, is essential for achieving this’.
In para 125 it goes on to say, ‘Plans should, at the most appropriate level, set out a clear design vision and expectations, so that applicants have as much certainty as possible about what is likely to be acceptable’.
How the area is shaped in design terms, and what sort of relationship is being sought between this area and older parts of the city around it, is a key consideration not adequately considered at present. The masterplan needs to be strengthened in this area, and it would be extremely beneficial if it could point to the value, when actual designs come forward, of independent design review, all too neglected in the city (and in the whole county) since the Salisbury Design Forum was closed down in 2010.
A useful test case for how useful the plan will be in assessing any proposed new developments is the new library/Travelodge building currently intended for Fisherton Street/Malthouse Lane/Priory Square. This will have a major impact on the south-eastern part of the masterplan area, but it is difficult to see how the plan could be used to evaluate how appropriate the form of the proposed new development would be.
The requirement here would be for two things – a general analysis of the relationship between new buildings and the surrounding parts of the Maltings area, and a specific indication of what is expected in the form of design principles or criteria, for further development in this part of Salisbury. If there is in fact no expectation of the current Sainsburys/Priory Square area being developed into some new form, and the library building is likely to have to relate to the existing built characteristics of the area for the foreseeable future, the plan should probably be saying so.
Energy and sustainability
A low carbon approach is needed both for transport and for buildings, and should underpin the whole of the masterplan. Measurable targets are needed – BREEAM Excellent or Passivhaus should be the minimum for all new buildings.
Large-scale development in NW part of area
The largest blocks of envisaged development, by some margin, are those marked as areas 5 and 6 in the phasing and delivery plan, intended to be for a mix of commercial, residential and car park use. The idea of cloaking car parking with facades of a different and aesthetically more promising use is a good one, but the masterplan does not indicate what the actual visual impact is intended to be. Lengthy facades, of the height needed to mask car parking decks, are likely to be out of scale, and out of sympathy, with the areas around, particularly given their proximity to the green spine route, unless they are differentiated into separate elements, which will require considerable subtlety and skill.
Parking and access routes
The level of car parking will be a very significant contributor to the overall character of the area, and the plan has a specific figure of 1000 spaces, with a rather vaguer statement that ‘there will also be dedicated spaces for any residential development’. In fact, given the hypothetical nature of the masterplan and the lack of any certainty as to what developments will come forward, or when, the precise 1000 figure seems unwise, and while it is understood that those concerned about the removal of parking need to be reassured, some vaguer reference to ‘adequate car parking’ would probably be safer.
No roads are shown through the area, so there is no indication as to how the areas for, in particular, car parking and residential development will be accessed. Such indications need adding to the masterplan. Routes through the site for all users, including pedestrians and cyclists, need to be considered more thoroughly, as does the connectivity with areas around.
Several of the suggested routes for pedestrians and cyclists through the green spine may not be achievable. There are access roads and a private car park on the east bank of the main river which will be in this green spine. The Bridge Tap building blocks the proposed route to the south, and on to the cathedral, on the west side of the main river opposite the Town Mill. On the west side of the site the route proposed to run parallel with the railway does not connect very effectively within the site.
Additionally, every effort should be made to encourage a more sustainable approach to personal transport. (See separate energy and sustainability section)
Wider traffic implications
Vehicle circulation, and routes for pedestrians and cyclists, cannot be considered in isolation, and linkages with, and impacts on, the area around need to covered within the masterplan thinking. Specifically, the laudable E-W pedestrian boulevard has a serious problem at its eastern end, where the critical crossover point into the market place runs up against a serious traffic conflict as things stand. If pedestrianisation is not possible at this point, a return is needed to the shared space scheme which was worked up at a considerable level of detail some years ago, but unfortunately never implemented. The implications for air quality need to be fully factored in.
History of the Fisherton area
Formerly the separate parish of Fisherton Anger, the area has an important history of its own, which could usefully be drawn on to add colour and interest to developments adjoining Fisherton Street. In particular, the house of the Dominican Friars was a significant occupant of a site now commemorated by the name ‘Priory Square’. Historical and archaeological evidence should be used to ensure that the memory of this former use of the area is perpetuated.
Relationship to other parts of the city
It is understood that the forthcoming Central Area Framework will set out broad aspirations for a large part of central Salisbury, extending beyond the ring road, which can then be worked up at a greater level of detail. The Maltings masterplan can therefore presumably be seen as the first of several such plans. It would be very useful to see how the whole Central Area Framework area is to be subdivided and what other masterplans can be expected, and how they relate to the area covered by the present plan.
Impact on the City Centre and the Historic Heritage
The plan refers to the possible provision of a cinema with the plan area, with the important proviso that this should only proceed ‘if a viable future use of the existing Odeon cinema on New Canal is secured’. This consideration needs to be extended, into a demonstration that the Maltings can be developed without damaging the traditional commercial centre of the city to the east. One original premise of the whole Maltings redevelopment concept was that it would draw back into the city people living in its hinterland who should be seeing it as their natural destination for shopping and entertainment, but were currently going elsewhere. This should in practice benefit other parts of the city, by increasing footfall generally. Is this still part of the thinking, and if so how realistic is it?
With the current Maltings developers apparently not showing any signs of producing schemes other than the new library building, and subsequent redevelopment of the current library site, housing seems likely to be more attractive for subsequent schemes in the area than commercial ones will be. The plan refers to the 200 dwellings cited in Core Policy 21, but says that a greater figure may be looked on favourably. Is there a case for exploring, as a possible option, that greater level of housing development, which may in practice be the most realistic means of creating the funding for other desirable works within the masterplan?
Visual Strengthening of indicative masterplan
The indicative masterplan on P10 is a key feature, repeated in the phasing and delivery plan on P34. While the term ‘green spine’ is not actually used in the plan, it is clearly relates well to the fundamental concept of a route up the river Avon, where there is a reference to ‘Provision of approximately 40m width of green infrastructure through the development’. It is therefore unfortunate that the colour green on the plan is not restricted to this 40m width, but is used much more generally to denote ‘public realm enhancement’.
The plan would be much more immediately legible if the use of green was restricted to the 40m of green infrastructure, and some other colour used to indicate public realm enhancement generally.
The Civic Society welcomes the masterplan, and appreciates the considerable work which has gone into it. However it feels that further work on it would make it an even more valuable document.