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Salisbury is open for business, say civic leaders

UK News | Published:

Salisbury is at the centre of a diplomatic row between the UK and Russia, which traders say has hit local businesses

People make their way around the market in Salisbury (Andrew MAtthews/PA)

It’s a scene reminiscent of market towns and cities across the country – with shoppers and traders going about their business.

This is Salisbury and it’s twice-weekly Charter Market is open for business.

But a combination of the Beast from the East earlier this month and the city being at the centre of an international diplomatic row between the UK and Russia is hitting trade.

According to traders at the market, there are fewer stalls than usual and takings are down.

First there was the heavy snow, then former Russia double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were found slumped on a bench at The Maltings shopping centre having been poisoned by a nerve agent, and now there is the “Mini Beast from the East”.

Butcher Colin Hinton, who has been serving customers at the open air market for 50 years, said: “Our trade has been cut in half, you can see yourself how quiet it is.”

One customer interjects: “The car parks are really quiet, as well.”

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Mr Hinton, who works for family-run business Pritchett the Butcher in nearby Fish Row, said: “Normally I have gone for a top up of meat from the shop by now but I’m not going today.”

Pointing to the large metal cordon across the market square at Zizzi’s restaurant on nearby Castle Street, he said: “The snow has hit business a little bit but what is really affecting it is over there.”

Others traders described business as unusually slow for a Saturday, despite a steady footfall through the market square.

Noting the weather and the attack on Mr Skripal and his daughter, one trader observed: “Russia has a lot to answer for.”

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But others are being more positive with local MP John Glen saying Salisbury was a resilient city and its residents would get on with their lives as the diplomatic row escalated around them.

“Only seven businesses have been shut behind the cordon and although we have seen a negative impact on the numbers of people coming into the city and a reduction in shopping and takings in immediate weeks, that was inevitable, but what we don’t expect to be inevitable is that there will be a drop off in tourism or in business generally,” the Conservative MP said.

“My primary concern is the wellbeing of my constituents and their economic wellbeing at what is an uncertain time.

“National and local governments have taken immediate steps to assist but also ensure that the internationally renowned cathedral city of Salisbury is open for business.

“There is low-risk to the public but there is no reason why anything needs to change in respect of coming to Salisbury and shopping there.”

Wiltshire Council is helping businesses with rate relief and had also suspended park and ride charges until at least Easter to attract visitors. The council is also planning on visiting every business in the city to see what help they need.

Councillor Matthew Dean, a local businessman and leader of Salisbury City Council, said less than 1% of the city centre was closed.

“My message is that it is business as usual. We have just seven businesses that are closed at the moment and the rest of the city is open for business,” he said.

“On Saturday we have our Charter Market, which is a very important day economically for the city, and I would encourage our residents and visitors to come into the city and enjoy our shops and other amenities as normal.

“People know there is a job to be done and it is very heartening to see people going about their business.”

Back at The Maltings, which has been earmarked for redevelopment, the police cordon remains in situ.

“I secured some Government funds last year for the redevelopment of that site and I am concerned about blight to it and we need to make sure that whatever happens that development can go ahead,” Mr Glen said.

“It would horrendous if Russian state-sponsored, or certainly state-complicit, assassination attempt prevented the redevelopment of this special part of Salisbury.

“I will be working with the local authority and the Local Enterprise Partnership to make sure this development goes ahead.”

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