By John Glen MP
During lockdown, many enjoyed quieter roads and cleaner air and rediscovered their love of walking and cycling.
The government announced an additional £2 billion to build on this surge of interest in open spaces and green transport to bring about a long-term step-change in walking and cycling uptake by enhancing supporting infrastructure.
Pre-lockdown, a number of journeys by car in Salisbury were under two miles but had a major impact on emissions, air quality and public health. If just some of us can find viable ways to avoid returning to old habits, we will all benefit.
Clearly, it is not for government to prescribe local solutions or to build neighbourhood footpaths and cycle trails but it can enable local communities to come up with schemes that work for them.
Councils and local transport campaigners across the country have been considering the right balance between short-term measures, seeking funding for green transport elements within existing schemes and coming up with brand new proposals.
Wiltshire Council has a bold approach – which I applaud – deciding to seize the moment to consider wider issues that have raised persistent complaints from residents and visitors for many years – air quality in the city centre – particularly through traffic.
In all undertakings on this scale, the devil is in the detail. Their plan will succeed only if it finds ways to address concerns around business access but avoids adding to congestion on the ring road – another frequent topic in my inbox!
Due to Salisbury’s unique geography, we are not blessed with a large number of alternative ways of travelling by car from one side of the city to the other and no-one wants to see a scheme that solves one problem only to create another.
The changing nature of retail is not new: it has been accelerating for many years, driven by online shopping, hence the success of the specialists who offer a pleasant shopping experience and a level of expert customer service that cannot be replicated or undercut online.
While more people will have been forced by the pandemic to master online shopping for the first time – and may remain loyal to the keyboard – I know a lot of local retailers are encouraged by how much their customers miss the social aspects of shopping.
In Salisbury, the trends in retail have not gone unnoticed and are at the heart of the strategy for The Maltings redevelopment.
We cannot bury our heads in the sand, but must accept that people, even before Covid-19, would not go into the city solely to buy everyday things they can get online and delivered to their doorstep.
Those people – primarily young, but increasingly from all sections of society – go in for leisure, to eat and drink, meet friends, pass the time in pleasant surroundings and browse and shop along the way.
That is why the new Maltings centres around a riverside park. It will perform the essential function of protecting the city centre from flooding, but also provide green space and leisure opportunities in an under-utilised part of the city.