After a confused period during which the long-running Maltings project was apparently in the hands of two large developers, with little news as to what was going on, recent announcements have raised the hope that something will finally start to happen. If all goes to plan, work should start on site before the end of 2018.
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chief planning document, the South Wiltshire Core Strategy, and repeated in the Wiltshire Core Strategy when that superseded the south Wiltshire one on its adoption at the start of 2015.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 project started on the basis that London-based developers Stanhope would be Wiltshire Council’s partner, with agreement signed in 2011.
Progress since then has, up to now, been frustratingly slow. After little detailed information being available, the key event came in 2014 with the sale of a long lease on the Sainsbury end of the site by its then owners to property company Hendersons, which meant that 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 cope with contaminated soil, and to protect the site’s rivers from contamination, were also quoted as a reason for delay.
However in February 2017 £6 million of government money was made available to sort out the soil problems, and there is no chance that this could have happened without firm assurances that with the money in place, the project would finally get going. Stanhope have now withdrawn, leaving Henderson as Wiltshire Council’s sole partner in the project, though the company is now known as TH Real Estate.
The word now is that a phase one scheme should be made public before the end of 2017, with a planning application following, and work due to start on site by September 2018. Completion is anticipated by October 2020, at a stated cost of over £85 million. There is as yet no indication of how the scheme will be divided between a phase one and, presumably, one further phase.
Much remains unknown about the detailed shape of the development, not least the question of whether it is still proposed to include Salisbury’s coach park within it, and if so where the displaced coaches will be accommodated. The Civic Society has been in contact with Wiltshire Council, and with TH Real Estate, and hopes to use its Open Meeting in November as a forum for enabling the transmission of information about the project, and debate about all its various aspects. It has already told TH Real Estate that the architectural approach employed (preferably genuinely contemporary, rather than anything in a neo-traditional vein), and the treatment of the rivers through the site, are of particular interest to it.
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. Like many others, we await further word on those details with great interest.