By John Glen MP

The pandemic has certainly changed and delayed a lot of plans I look forward to getting back on track in 2021.

And I am hugely excited to see our award of £9 million from the Future High Streets Fund begin to bear fruit. But the prospect of shops and restaurants re-opening, and visitors once again being welcomed to our city streets and local attractions, has prompted several people to raise highly pertinent questions.

Has the pandemic changed the retail and hospitality landscape for good? If it has, will it be enough to simply go back to the way we were?

While many people have been forced by the crisis to master click and collect for the first time, and some may remain loyal to the keyboard in future, I think other retailers and service providers have taken great encouragement from how much their customers have missed the social aspects of shopping.

So, while I do not subscribe to the cataclysmic view that traditional retail is dead, I do believe the pandemic has accelerated changing trends that, I am pleased to say, were already being noted and acted upon in Salisbury and are at the heart of plans for the future.

Thanks, in large part to the commitment of Wiltshire Council, the creation of a brand new green space for the heart of the city is proceeding full steam ahead. The new River Park will form a green spine through the city, not only reducing flood risk to thousands of residents and businesses but also beautifying the riverbank and creating new space for recreation in under-used areas of The Maltings.

Increasingly, people of all ages – but particularly the young – want to come into the city centre to eat and drink, meet friends and pass the time in pleasant surroundings.

The River Park is the first of many steps towards creating a city centre that offers – not just facilities – but also experiences.

I look forward to re-visiting ambitions to enhance the built assets of Salisbury’s wonderful cultural organisations and to continuing exciting conversations of recent days around the potential of a Wilton Junction station to forge new links between visitor attractions throughout South Wiltshire.