What a difference a year makes. While we raised a glass with our nearest and dearest in recent days, I expect many of us will have been glad to see the back of 2020!
The challenges the past 12 months have brought have been unprecedented. But, along with terrible loss, disruption and uncertainty, the year has also brought us remarkable grounds for hope.
In the darkest days of last Spring, who could have anticipated that, by year’s end, we would have not just one successful vaccine – but several – and would have begun to roll out a programme of mass vaccination.
A difficult winter still lies ahead but at least we now face it with wonderful tools at our disposal – rapid testing, inoculation, and ever-improving treatment options.
I have spent much of the year engaged in shaping and delivering a massive government response to the threat to livelihoods and the economy that has saved millions of jobs and supported millions of families.
The fall-out of the pandemic is substantial and global and not everyone can be completely cushioned from loss. But the government has designed and delivered one of the largest packages of individual and business support in the world so that our economy is as well placed as it can possibly be to bounce back when the pandemic is over.
Locally, COVID-19 delayed several plans – not least the trial ETRO to reduce traffic volumes and air pollution in key parts of Salisbury city centre.
The collapse of local support for the trial, coupled with the impossibility of gathering definitive data during pandemic trading conditions, led me to join calls for its suspension.
But I still believe we are just at the beginning of the journey towards a greener and more vibrant city centre.
I look forward to wider consultation next year, followed by the return of a revised scheme that can command a broader consensus of support.
I also await ,with eager anticipation, the progress of the Salisbury River Park scheme.
It makes perfect sense to combine urgently-needed Environment Agency works to mitigate city centre flood risk, with a more holistic look at the riverbank and what it brings to the city in terms of environmental enrichment and leisure opportunities.
The creation of a green spine through the city will be beautiful and beneficial but it will also pave the way for the redevelopment of an underutilised part of the city.
Entertainment, culture, food and drink and pleasant public spaces are what give city centres the edge in resisting the march of online shopping. We need to recognise the changing role of retail and the need to provide an attractive experience to residents and visitors alike.
By the end of 2021, I hope Salisbury businesses and people will be united in their enjoyment of a clean and thriving city centre.
Happy New Year!