In my May message I said that, building on a review of the society’s objects, the trustees were working to develop a refreshed programme of work and activities.
In that review our foremost consideration has been our relationship with our most important interlocutor, the Dean and Chapter. In hoping to be both a critical and supportive friend of the Cathedral we must be always conscious of the severe financial constraints under which the Dean and Chapter work. But those constraints are not grounds for compromising the quality of buildings or landscape.
Our usual approach is to discuss issues of concern to us with the Dean and Chapter at regular or ad hoc meetings. Our regular meetings are now agreed to be every six weeks with the newly arrived Canon Treasurer and the Chapter Clerk. Additionally, the chairman will continue to meet, together with Julian Hepplewhite, as chairman of the Resident’s Association, with the Dean, at least annually.
However, we have clarified that there will be some issues, red lines if you like, where the trustees will feel that issues of importance to the society’s primary charitable objective – respect for the history, heritage, natural environment and overall setting of the Close – are not being observed.
In such circumstances we would:
- publicise our concerns locally and nationally, using all appropriate media
- seek support from relevant institutions, such as English Heritage, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, Visit Britain, Salisbury City Council
- register planning and listed building objections or request enforcement actions
There are several current important issues which we have continued discussing with the Dean and Chapter in the last year. The most pressing is the future of three empty properties – Leaden Hall, and No 20 and No 17, which remain empty and are deteriorating. On Leaden Hall the Dean and Chapter are continuing the laborious preparation of a planning and listed building consent application. In that connection several interested parties, including some of our trustees, received an outline briefing at Leaden Hall last January. The intention is to house all their staff, the archives and possibly Magna Carta on the site. It is expected that the application will be made to Wiltshire Council early next year. The board will closely examine the application as it affects this Grade I building and its use and setting.
More recently we have raised, and will continue to raise, with the Dean and Chapter matters relating to the use and maintenance of Marsh Close and associated traffic issues. Matters include large tented events on Lower Marsh Close, temporary parking on Upper Marsh Close and damage to and degradation of the historic box hedge and general environmental damage.
On traffic more generally the issue is that in 1997 a three-year permission was given to allow use of the then tennis courts as the present car park while an overall traffic plan for Cathedral Close was developed. That permission was renewed several times but lapsed in 2014. And there is still no traffic management plan.
Also recently, we have responded to the Dean’s consultation on implementation of the new Cathedrals Measure. Our concern is that the scope within the measure to involve organisations like our in advisory committees for the Dean and Chapter is used.
Finally on the important issues, we continue to urge the Dean and Chapter to address ad hoc and regular maintenance issues. On this we will continue to press the Dean and Chapter to make use of the Close Condition Report, which provides a detailed assessment of maintenance matters which need addressing.
At the last AGM it was noted that we were hoping to re-configure and re-launch our website. What we hope is a more attractive and user-friendly site was launched earlier this week, thanks largely to the very hard work of Dieter Scholz. We think that the new website is not only more user friendly for members and potential visitors but is easier for the Board to manage and add to. If you have not already seen the new website we encourage you to look at it.
In addition to all the foregoing, the Board has continued with its regular activities, that is monitoring relevant planning applications and maintaining its interactions with relevant organisations.
There has been only one planning application of concern this year. It was an application by Bishop Wordsworth’s School for change of use to a bed sit and refurbishment generally of their Grade II* stable at No 11 North Walk. Given concerns expressed by us and others the application was withdrawn and another will be submitted, which we hope will be more appropriate/acceptable. We have also monitored applications in relation to work proposed on trees, whether pruning or felling, and have commented on several of them.
Finally, we have maintained relations with organisations relevant to our objectives, including:
- the Close Partnership (a quarterly forum for exchanges between the Dean and Chapter and the ten or so Close stakeholders), in which Julian Hepplewhite, as chairman of the Resident’s Association, and I are participants
- the working group on the Salisbury Neighbourhood Development Plan, on which Dieter Scholz has worked tirelessly
- informally with the Salisbury Civic Society, planning and conservation officers and English Heritage.