Salisbury Cathedral Close at risk from “insensitive” planning applications

CAMPAIGNERS have launched a fight to ensure that the listed buildings and landscape of the medieval Salisbury Cathedral Close are saved from “many years of neglect and decay.”

The area is subject to two planning applications which would see the creation of a permanent car park at the site and the conversion of Leaden Hall into an office, but calls have been made for the area to undergo repairs before any work can be considered.

The Salisbury Cathedral Close Preservation Society, who object to the plans along with other consultees, have described them as “insensitive” as they say the setting of the cathedral has been left to deteriorate over the years.

Salisbury Cathedral Close is one of the largest and most complete cathedral precincts in the country.

Amended plans to convert the temporary car park into permanent parking, as well as installing electric vehicle charging points and covered bicycle parking were submitted by Oakley Planning & Conservation on behalf of the Chapter Officer.

The car park Picture: Salisbury Cathedral Close Preservation Society

The car park Picture: Salisbury Cathedral Close Preservation Society

Formerly tennis courts, the plot has been used as a car park for visitors to Salisbury Cathedral since 1996, with temporary planning permission.

READ MORE: Bid to make Salisbury Cathedral car park permanent – and install EV charging points

READ MORE: Pictures: See inside former Leaden Hall School as cathedral office bid revealed

Alongside this, plans were submitted for a change of use of Leaden Hall from education to offices and meeting rooms which would also see the demolition of a conservatory on the west side of the building and the creation of a central archive hub for the cathedral.

Salisbury Close Preservation Society are concerned that the views and buildings at the Close are now at further risk of degradation and development as a result of the plans.

A spokesperson said: “Over the last thirty years, the Cathedral Chapter has carried out a magnificent restoration of Salisbury Cathedral but unfortunately the setting of the cathedral, described by Historic England as ‘probably the finest in England’, has been allowed to deteriorate and is now under threat from two insensitive planning applications lodged on behalf of the Cathedral Chapter.”

The society added: “The Close at Salisbury Cathedral has inspired generations of artists and writers, perhaps the greatest of whom was John Constable whose paintings of the cathedral and nearby water meadows rank amongst the greatest assets of our cultural history.

“It is these precious views and buildings that are now at further risk of degradation and development.”

The society said people need to encourage Wiltshire Council, councillors, and planners and conservation officers to fully appreciate and understand the historic and aesthetic the importance of the Close.

Historic England has said that it would support the full re-use of Leaden Hall, which has been vacant for the past seven years, but it has raised concerns over the lack of maintenance to the site which has led to “severe damage”.

Historic England, who submitted a comment on the plans on Wiltshire Council’s website, said: “We would request that immediate works are carried out, independently of this scheme, to repair and restore the unacceptable levels of damage we have seen and prevent further loss of fabric and structural integrity.”

The Georgian Group, the national charity for the preservation of Georgian architecture in England and Wales, raised similar concerns and decided to object to the plans.

Commenting on the plans the group said: “This (the condition of the Grade 1 listed building’s fabric) has been allowed to deteriorate to an alarming degree: on our site visit (February 20) we saw severe damage caused by water ingress on the south side of the building with widespread rot of timbers, damage to historic features and fittings, growth of vegetation, and damaged plasterwork.

“A large section of the drawing room ceiling has collapsed entirely.”

The Group added: “The failure to prevent or address damage of this kind to a Grade 1 listed building is wholly unacceptable.”

The plans for the car park can be found by searching PL/2023/09615 on Wiltshire Council’s planning website and the plans for the hall can be found by searching PL/2024/00720.

For more information about the Salisbury Cathedral Close Preservation Society, visit their website.


  1. Jan Scrivens Reply

    I can’t believe this is even being considered. The Close is so beautiful it should remain so. How many offices in town have parking on site? Not many. Walk from a car park like everyone else.

    1. Paul Tayler Reply

      Not everyone can, that’s why there is limited parking in the Close. I don’t think they are proposing to expand the car park, just to put what already exists on a permanent basis,

  2. Masie Clarke Reply

    Why would you want to object to this?

    The Cathedral carpark needs revamping and to put in Electric points is a really good idea.

    The Leaden Hall school, needs renovation so put offices in there will do that. The rooms must be suitable for large offices and spaces. I think the Cathedral have done great job over the years to maintain the close, it is a lovely place to sit with friends and family.

    The activities they have outside bring other people to the Close and that’s what it is there for.

    I am sure the Cathedral have thought long and hard over this and I know there has been many consultations.

    Is the new request more for the people in the close so they don’t share it with the local residents?

    Could always turn the Leaden Hall site into a B&B with fishing and boat trips!

  3. Paul Tayler Reply

    The attitude of the Close Preservation Society et al seems a bit odd on the face of what is reported here. Surely renovating the buildings to put them to good use will achieve most/all of what they want? Or are they only willing to see Leaden Hall returned to use as a private dwelling, and if so, for whom exactly?

  4. Jeremy Edwards Reply

    As a trustee of the Salisbury Cathedral Close Preservation Society, I can assure you that we support a revamped carpark in The Close. We actively encourage improvements to the aesthetic appearance of all buildings and landscape of this wonderful conservation area.
    Carpark: our concern is that the current planning application does not achieve a carpark that is aesthetically pleasing, visually sympathetic to its setting, does not properly address the problems of flooding and the danger to watercourses in the case of a fuel tank failure and does not address the unfortunate use of the grass area on Marsh Close for additional car parking. As such, in its current form we believe the planning application is a missed opportunity to deliver a carpark that is not only functional but would also enhance The Close.
    Leaden Hall: we are concerned that there are several aspects about the planning application that could cause long term damage to the building itself, would certainly not restore the grounds of Leaden Hall that are of national importance, highlighted by the paintings of Constable, and negatively impact the visual integrity of this heritage estate with the plan for the addition of a new, large, modern 2-storey building.
    It is with great regret that some might see ours as a negative message. We hope to work with the cathedral authorities to deliver improvements to The Close that are inspirational.

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