Salisbury Cathedral Close Preservation Society

Chairman’s Report 2023/24

Chairman’s Report to AGM of 25 April 2024


At the AGM last June, I reported that your Trustees had been developing a more satisfactory relationship with Chapter. Unfortunately, that relationship has in one major aspect gone backwards.  As many of you who attended our meeting on 6 March will know your Trustees were considerably concerned about Chapter’s planning applications for the car park and Leaden Hall.

It was not only the substance of the proposals which had caused us considerable concern, as was expressed in the objections we made to the applications.  But in the eighteen months leading up to the Leaden Hall applications it had become apparent that the process of consultation with interested parties, such as your Society, was perfunctory and not a proper two-way process.  The Trustees’ efforts to have a productive conversation were unsuccessful, indeed seemed resented.  The formal relationship became quite frosty.

What we have tried to persuade Chapter of is that their approach to the management of their estate, that is The Close, seems piecemeal and certainly has resulted in inadequate maintenance of both listed buildings, other than the Cathedral itself, and the landscape.  Many of you will be aware that in 2016, after wide consultation, Chapter adopted a Masterplan for The Close which was endorsed by Wiltshire Council in 2017 as relevant to any planning applications.  It is also relevant to the continuing development of a Neighbour Plan for the city.  Although the Masterplan was a relatively high level outline your Trustees feel that it is the basis for a fully worked out plan for future development and maintenance of The Close.

Its first effort to persuade the Chapter of this was the presentation last September of York Minster’s preparation and implementation of a development plan for its precinct.  Although the talk was highly informative it failed to spark any interested response from Chapter.  As a consequence, the Trustees have been considering the possibility of commissioning a scoping project on the feasibility of building on the 2016 Masterplan for presentation to Chapter.

However, clearly it would be wrong for us to spend what would be a considerable sum of money on such a project unless we were confident that Chapter would receive it with an open mind.  Nevertheless, the Trustees have decided that the Leaden Hall applications have given us an opportunity to demonstrate what a scoping exercise might look like.

We have commissioned from Alan Baxter Associates and Ian Chalk Architects an illustrative concept of how many of the objectives of the Masterplan could be achieved by appropriate developments to the south of the Cathedral, which could include a purpose-built modern office space, educational facilities and an archive building that would be economically and environmentally better than the proposals for Leaden Hall.

We have sent this concept to both the executive and non-executive members of Chapter offering to have a private discussion of the issues arising from the document.

Unfortunately, the Chapter has not yet responded to that offer and so meanwhile, given the decision date for the Leaden Hall applications was tomorrow, we submitted the document to Wiltshire Council last weekend as a further comment on the Leaden Hall proposals. Incidentally, the decision has this week now been extended to 27 May.

We intend in June to have a special meeting with members to present this document to you, to explain the thinking behind the various detailed elements in it and to discuss with you the way forward.  Meanwhile the document itself can be seen in the comments section on the Council’s website for the planning applications and after the formalities of this meeting Nick Bacon will give you a short account of the document and the thinking behind it.

Despite this unwelcome development in our relationship with Chapter I can report, however, that we have managed to engage more successfully with Chapter on a number of important issues.

We have continued to develop a plan for the restoration of the hedges around Marsh Close which Chapter expects us to present to them later this year, Chapter has taken on board The Condition Report and we monitor its implementation and suggest updates and we have had some success in promoting the refurbishment of the lamps and lamp posts around the Close.

We have also continued with our programme of talks with the very well received talk on 28 March by the Curator of the Young Gallery, Dr Emily Dunbar, entitled “The Close Recorded: Watercolours from the Edwin Young Collection”.  And we have continued our weekly monitoring of planning and listed building consent applications relevant to The Close.

I should also mention that we are reaching out to institutions, such as Historic England and the Georgian Society, who are concerned about the proper management of a national and international treasure, The Close.

Under item 6 of the agenda, I will be reporting on the co-option of Trustees.  But I wish to mention now three Trustees who had stood down since the last AGM.  First, is Dick Clements who after long service, particularly valuable as Treasurer, has decided to retire from the Board.  Similarly Julian Hepplewhite after long and valuable service decided to step down.  Thirdly, Edward Smyth-Osbourne, given his continuing professional commitments, also decided that he needed to step down.  All three of these Trustees have been very supportive of the work of the Society for which I am sure members will be very grateful.

While mentioning the Society’s gratitude to the retiring Trustees I would like also to draw to your attention to very generous donations by five members to the Society’s resources.  Finally, while on the subject of the Society’s resources you will remember that the Board would be considering the question of increased membership fees.  You will know that we did indeed increase the fees and I take this opportunity to remind those members whose standing order operates in July to amend it appropriately.