Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

‘Resurgent’ Salisbury named ‘the best place to live in Britain’

SalisburyJust over a year after a nerve agent attack was carried out in the city, Salisbury has been named the best place to live in the UK.

The city won the accolade in the highly-regarded Sunday Times list because it had shown a “real collective spirit” in the wake of the poisonings.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov from the Russian GRU intelligence agency targeted ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the attack on March 4, 2018.

Three months later – just as tourists were starting to return to the city – resident Charlie Rowley found a perfume bottle now thought to have contained the nerve agent from the original attack. He gave it to his partner, Dawn Sturgess, who sprayed it on her wrist. She died a week later.

The attack caused what Salisbury business owner and Wiltshire Councillor Pauline Church described as a "significant economic shock". Footfall fell by 12.9 percent year-on-year, but as footfall had increased by 6.2 percent the previous year the swing was almost 20 percent.

A government-backed Recovery Plan saw 120 businesses receive grant aid, while £6m earmarked for improvements to Central car park had been diverted to redevelop The Maltings, the shopping precinct at the epicentre of the attack.

The city was finally declared 'clean' on March 1 this year.

“Shortly after the Novichok poisonings in March 2018, the shops were empty, the tourists were staying away, and the locals were feeling uneasy," said the guide.

“Now there is a real optimism in the air – with plans announced last month to connect the whole city to full-fibre broadband, and the cafes are brimming.

“Genuine tourists are returning, not just to see one of the most glorious cathedrals in Britain, its grounds a scenic meeting point for dog walkers, picnickers and joggers, but to enjoy historic landscapes, crystal-clear streams and meadows dotted with sheep.”

Besides praising the resilience of Salisbury's residents and businesses, judges also noted the use of older buildings by newer businesses, including restaurant Nando's in a “medieval home” and the Odeon cinema in a 15th century building. The city's “thriving marketplace” also got a nod.

Sunday Times home editor Helen Davies said: "Salisbury has shown real collective spirit in dealing with a chemical attack that saw the cathedral city become the centre of world headlines for all the wrong reasons.

“There are still parts of the city where the clean-up continues, but to bounce back and be even stronger is a sure sign of a very special community, which is one of the reasons we have chosen Salisbury as the best place to live in Britain in 2019.

“It remains a divinely attractive and welcoming place. It’s handy for coast, countryside and London, has some of the best schools in the south-west, a great market and it’s very strong culturally, too.”

It's the latest in a slew of recent good news stories for Salisbury. In March, the government announced that Salisbury would be the first city in the UK to benefit from universal access to Openreach’s new Fibre-to-the-Premises broadband technology.

And three weeks ago Wiltshire Council submitted a bid for up to £25m of government funding, while Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership agreed a further £0.5 million of funding for the city.