The Maltings and Central Car Park
The idea of a major redevelopment of the central car park, and adjacent areas, has been around for quite a while. The rationale behind it was set out in the statement of aims produced by the (now defunct) Salisbury Vision in 2008, and it was the largest of the 24 projects within Salisbury which the Vision intended to launch. A policy to achieve it was written into the area’s chief planning document, the South Wiltshire Core Strategy, and repeated in the Wiltshire Core Strategy when that superseded the south Wiltshire one on its adoption at the start of 2015. The wording in the Vision document was that the project would be a ‘major retail-led mixed use scheme to greatly enhance Salisbury’s position as a sub-regional shopping and cultural centre.’ Concern that visitors, and in particularly shoppers, are not coming to the city because its facilities have been overtaken by those of neighbouring towns has always been key to the idea of redevelopment. The site was advertised as a commercial development opportunity in April 2011, leading to the appointment of London-based developers Stanhope as Wiltshire Council’s partner in the project.
Progress since then has been frustratingly slow. An exhibition in December 2012 gave a general indication of layout for the northern part of the site, which would constitute phase 1. Occupation of the southern part by Sainsburys, on a long lease, complicated the management of any redevelopment process. In March 2014 there was a public presentation on the project, without any particular detail being added to the 2012 information, and a promise of another exhibition at the end of 2014, which in the event did not materialise. One thing which did happen then was the sale of the Sainsbury end of the site by its then owners to property company Hendersons, which meant that logically Stanhope needed to speak to Hendersons to see how a scheme embracing the whole Maltings area could be achieved. This made further delay almost inevitable. The need to assess the extent to which parts of the site may be contaminated from previous uses, or the bringing in of noxious waste prior to the site’s original development in the mid 1980s, has also been quoted as a reason for delay.
Further complications have stemmed from the fact that Salisbury’s coach park was included in the land for which Stanhope were appointed developers, something not really made clear in the original Vision project, or the Core Strategy policy. This appears to have been done without full assessment of where the displaced coaches could be accommodated, and though a general outline of the intended strategy is known, full details of it are still awaited.
The Civic Society’s position has from the start been one of support in principle for the redevelopment, subject to its details being successfully worked out. On the basis of information released to date, it is impossible to say to what extent such success may be achieved. Stanhope have said they will make a presentation to a public meeting of the Salisbury Area Board in November 2015, and the hope is that this may reveal some genuine progress in what has been a very drawn-out process.
It has now emerged that discussions between Stanhope and Hendersons have led to a decision to produce a joint scheme, in a single phase, rather than the two phase approach which the separate ownership of the southern portion of the site had previously indicated , and which always seemed unsatisfactory. The Society views this as a very positive development, subject, of course, to the shape of whatever scheme emerges.