WITH the country still on track to see the easing of lockdown restrictions, here are 10 non-covid stories from the past few months that you may have missed.
The pandemic – and when we can get back to something close to normal – may be all that’s on our minds for now.
But we shouldn’t forget issues rumbling in the background, some of which have the potential to transform our city or the way we do things.
From People Friendly Streets/low traffic zones to housing plans, from the never-ending bypass debate to the future of the Chapel Nightclub, here’s everything you need to know.
1. People Friendly Salisbury scheme – a traffic transformation?
In November, Salisbury’s People Friendly scheme was halted indefinitely by Wiltshire Council.
In a statement, the council said that “given the lack of explicit support, Wiltshire Council is unable to continue with the scheme at this time”, with council leader Philip Whitehead saying he was “very disappointed and surprised”.
This then lead to £1.3m of funding being transferred to a Cyber Centre project in Chippenham, despite multiple requests from MP John Glen for the money to remain in place.
Latest: In December, Salisbury City Council voted to support the reintroduction of the scheme in 2021, following an extraordinary three-and-a-half hour meeting – Wiltshire Council said it “will consider” a reintroduction.
So the low traffic zone which split opinion could yet return.
Watch this space and we will keep you up to date.
2. Laverstock/Britford/Local Plan – hundreds of new homes?
Potential developments in both Laverstock and Britford drew fierce criticism, as responses were drawn up to the Wiltshire Local Plan Review.
Nick Baker, chairman of Laverstock and Ford Parish Council, says the parish council’s objections reflect the very strong opposition to the development from across the community.
In Britford, the parish council criticised the impact hundreds of new dwellings could have on the village’s identity, as well as raising concerns about flooding and ecological damage risks.
The Local Plan would only recommend areas for development but it would make construction at earmarked sites much more likely in future.
The debate will rumble on for some time yet.
3. Return of Salisbury bypass arguments – will the city actually get one?
Earlier this month, MP for Salisbury John Glen said “radical solutions” to Salisbury’s traffic problems – such as a bypass – “must be considered”.
It came after the city council voted to oppose calls for a relief road or bypass as part of its response to Wiltshire Council’s Local Plan review.
In December, city councillor Dr Cllr Mark McClelland set up a petition calling for a bypass, which now has more than 2,000 signatures.
Highways England is currently undertaking a major strategic study, looking at the road network in Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset.
But it’s unclear if that study will seriously consider a Salisbury bypass.
Recently we looked at the bypass plans in the 1990s which nearly did become a reality – could those plans offer hope to supporters of a radical new ring road?
4. River Park project – big changes for the city centre?
Also perhaps going under the radar recently, the first planning application was submitted for the River Park project.
What is River Park, some of you may ask?
The application was for proposed developments at Ashley Road Open Space and Fisherton Recreation Ground, and land at The Maltings and Central Car Park.
It will see flood defences installed, as well as wildlife and amenity improvements and associated works.
The council say it will also enable the delivery of its wider regeneration goals for the Maltings and Central Car Park site and protect future development in the city centre – some of which have been put on hold.
Salisbury Civic Society recently wrote to the Journal arguing the project would free up city centre land for development, by protecting it from flooding.
So could this plan change the face of Salisbury in the long run and ease the need for new homes elsewhere in the local area?
We will keep you up to date.
5. Changes to the army – how many local troops will we lose?
There will be “no redundancies” for regular Army service personnel, despite Government plans to cut 10,000 troops by 2025.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace argued technological advances mean “greater effect can be delivered by fewer people” as he broke a Conservative pledge in the last election to maintain the size of the military.
Although the Government’s integrated review of Britain’s defences will boost annual spending on defence by £7 billion by 2024-25, it’s clear new priorities will see the number of soldiers reduced substantially.
What’s not yet fully clear is how forces in the Salisbury area will be impacted.
The Journal understands there will be no redundancies of Regular service personnel, but the structure of the Army will change.
6. Wilton Railway – could a new station get the green light?
An application to reopen the train station in Wilton has reached the third round of the Restoring Your Railway Ideas Fund.
It is expected that the project would cost around £20m and would look to be delivered sometime between 2024-2029, if the project eventually gets the full go ahead.
The Wilton Junction Stakeholder Group met in October 2020 to confirm the intention to submit an application.
The goal in Wilton would be the creation of Wilton Junction, a four-platform station that would be situated adjacent to the park and ride site in the town.
7. A303/Stonehenge Tunnel High Court challenge – will the plans overcome a legal fight?
The three-day hearing will take place from Wednesday, June 23, to Friday, June 25.
Save Stonehenge WHS Ltd. (SSWHS) is challenging Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ decision to go ahead with what it calls the “highly damaging” A303 dual carriageway through the World Heritage Site (WHS).
To mount the legal challenge, the group launched a fundraiser which topped £50,000.
The outcome of the court battle could decide the future of the vital A303 route, as well as the look and feel of the world famous Stonehenge for years to come.
8. Future of The Chapel Nightclub – what next for city’s nightlife?
In February. The Chapel’s managing director Amanda Newbery said the return of Salisbury’s biggest nightclub would be “a miracle”.
It has been a year since The Chapel closed as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, only receiving its first financial boost in November.
Amanda said: “Since November nightclubs have been treated like other businesses, we hadn’t had grants before then, it just felt so good to be treated like everywhere else.
“I think it is totally understandable we haven’t been allowed to open, I don’t think we should have been able to open, but we haven’t been given any help.”
Further help from the Government – as well as rules for testing and vaccine passports – could determine how Salisbury’s nightlife returns, and in what shape.
All those details are still be confirmed.
9. Grosvenor and Riverside House – will ambitious plan succeed?
Grosvenor and Riverside House was listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV), following a successful petition from a community group.
This ACV status does not mean that the group will get Grosvenor House as an asset transfer for free – the value is too high for that.
They will now need to raise the funding to purchase it.
Pete Rushforth, 32, and Ben Whatsley, 42, who launched the petition, want to turn the former youth centre into a “cultural hub that reinvests profits back into the city”.
10. Future High Street Fund – will Salisbury streets get an overhaul?
On Boxing Day last year, Salisbury was awarded £9,355,731 as part of the Government’s Future High Streets Fund.
But at the Area Board meeting in January, “disappointed councillors” said the grant may not be enough to transform Fisherton Street.
Around £14.3million had originally been requested for the city, in its bid to connect Salisbury Railway Station to the rest of the centre in a more attractive way.
But because the city received less money than it asked for, decision makers are having to think about what they can achieve with the Government grant.
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