Cathedral unveils master plan with major changes afoot

Saturday, 27th June 2015

Sourced from The Salisbury Journal - follow link to original article

SALISBURY Cathedral has unveiled plans to reclaim the Bishop’s Palace - currently home to the Cathedral School - and ban cars from accessing the Close via High Street Gate.

Under the proposals, which are currently in the consultation phase, the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace would be opened up to the public for the first time in several generations, as would the historic building itself because it would house the Magna Carta, the cathedral archives and possibly the library.

Other plans involve renting out the Grade II* listed houses in the Close used by the Residentiary Canons and other clergy - rehoming them in new accommodation to be built on an orchard and garden at the back of 20 The Close.

Set out in a draft report entitled Beyond the Major Repair Programme, the proposals also include a new purpose-built works department for the cathedral, a new building to house a Song School for the choristers and an auditorium for concerts and lectures.

The cathedral is keen to see it and its treasures become more accessible for everyone by improving the welcome and having more on display.

It says at present, visitors are not only having to contend with conflicting vehicle movements through the narrow pinch point at High Street Gate “at just the moment when the vista of the Close should be opening before them” but are also left confused as to how to enter the cathedral itself with most “naturally heading” for the closed North Porch and then discovering the entrance is through a side door.

St Ann’s Gate, which is mainly used as the coach drop-off point can be a “busy and noisy experience” for visitors with many again heading for the North Porch.

Traffic regulation options include closing the High Street Gate entrance to all traffic at certain times of day, restricting “non-essential car movements”, reducing the amount of parking within the close and giving greater priority to pedestrians.

Last summer, the High Street Gate was closed to traffic for certain times during the day and a one-way system implemented as part of a pilot scheme for a month.

The cathedral also wants to provide a welcome centre where it has recently opened a tea room within 32 The Close, located between High Street Gate and the Cathedral.

But its biggest plans are regarding the Bishop’s Palace and are dependant on the Cathedral School’s ability to move partly or entirely to a new build within its existing grounds.

The cathedral plans to open up the grounds to the public allowing views of the cathedral that were painted by Constable.

The outdoor swimming pool on site may also get removed to “improve the appreciation of the view” and the works yard moved to a new workshop.

According to the report, the Cathedral School’s business plan - due to be adopted by the the end of this year - is premised on the fact the accommodation within the Bishop’s Palace is “no longer suited to the needs of a modern educational facility”.

It is looking at developing new buildings for the school on land close by referred to as the ‘kitchen garden’ site which is likely to mean relocating the existing astroturf pitch.

While the cathedral report, which follows on from the 2008 Master Plan, focuses on the projects it wants to develop over the next few years, the public may gain access to new areas this year.

It states that, subject to negotiations with the school, some of its grounds may be brought back within the day-to-day control of the cathedral allowing it to pilot alternative entry arrangements.

The report concludes: “The purpose of preparing this document is to identify the issues that relate to each of the proposals and to allow an initial consultation to take place with Wiltshire Council and other statutory bodies, as well as local residents and businesses.”

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