Walking around Salisbury is an odd experience at the moment, there are some very large empty buildings.
The most obvious is the former BHS and Debenhams stores, prime retail spaces that are currently unused. In addition to this is the former bingo hall (Regal Theatre) on Endless street, then diagonally opposite are the former social work offices and at the opposite end of Chipper Lane stands many empty former post office and telecoms buildings.
There are published plans for some of these buildings or planning applications in the process, but it would be great to bring one other unloved and underutilised space back into a different sort of use.
Culver Street Car Park
There was a suggestion in 2016 that Hilton was an interested party in the demolition of the structure to then build a new hotel. Nothing much seems to have come from that 5 years on.
The car park is underused and has been for a long time had a problem with anti-social problem and is well known locally for being an unfriendly place. Goodness knows what visitors think when they blindly follow the signs to use the car park.
It’s well located, close to the city centre, has easy access from the ring road and offers some of the best views of the cathedral over the city roof tops. Built-in 1985, would now a mixed-use of the site, be the best way forward?
So what can be done with this space?
I noticed recently that the top, open-air, floors have been fenced off and are now out of use for cars. Let’s be honest, it’s never difficult to find a parking space in there so the top two levels aren’t needed – so how about some alternative uses.
A different purpose
One of the open-air levels at the top could become a community garden. A little like an allotment, but more of a cooperative effort. The local community could be growing veg and fruit which could then feed into The Pantry on Catherine Street or other food sharing organisations. There are plenty of homes being built in Salisbury without garden space, maybe some of those tenants would appreciate somewhere to go and garden, feel part of a community and help other parts of the community. So many social gains and that only scratches the surface. Of course, a thriving garden would also look really nice from the ring road too.
Young people already use it as a space to ride skateboards and BMX bikes… how about we encourage it. Install some ramps on the upper covered floor and the lower open-air level, and make a covered area for young people to enjoy the sports in which we were so successful at the Tokyo Olympics.
You could encourage a local entrepreneur to set up a bike cafe offering bike maintenance along with drinks and snacks and how about running cycling proficiency from there too. Mark up a little practice road layout, a little like the one that used to be on the old Cattle Market where Waitrose now stands.
Making it a safe place for young people to come and learn new things, enjoy themselves and be part of the community.
Just these two suggestions would bring to life 3 levels of a much-unloved space, would have benefits for a large section of Salisbury’s community and turn an unloved space into something exciting.
We’d also be keeping the majority of the 528 parking spaces (reduced by the top floors already being closed).