Shaftesbury Town Council is planning bee-friendly planting in a public open space, which will soon be transferred to the town’s ownership.
In January 1968, Dorset County Council planned to radically alter Shaftesbury’s road network. The High Street and the western side of Bell Street were to be pedestrianised. The traffic would flow one-way out of town, along Coppice Street and around St Martin’s Lane, currently a cul-de-sac, onto Salisbury Street. A property was even demolished to make way for this road circuit but it was never completed.
Now, over 50 years later, the Town Council has plans for that open land, known as Salisbury Street Green, which will soon be theirs. “The Town Council wanted to protect it as an open space. It’s been like that for decades,” said Town Clerk Claire Commons. “There had been a house there and the county knocked it down to provide a highway through from Salisbury Street. The green that grew has been loved by the community. The Council want to make sure that it is protected, so they have taken it on for that purpose.”
At the recent public meeting to discuss the Redrow development at Littledown, the developer’s agent voiced surprise that Shaftesbury Town Council had requested to take ownership of the open land around those proposed homes. The Redrow agent said that most councils want to off-load land.
Claire says Shaftesbury Town Council takes a different view. “We have been keen to have local control over open spaces. When they have headed off to the County Council or other organisations further afield, there is less control over how that land looks and how people can become engaged with the land. If we ‘keep it local’, we can respond to local needs and wants.”
Dorset Council has agreed to transfer the Salisbury Street Green to the town for £1, plus £650 for legal costs. Although the deal is not yet finalised, the Town Council has been told that it can now treat the space as if it was their own.
What is currently a grassy bank dissected by a footpath with soon feature more colourful flowers and fragrant plants. “There are already a few trees planted there, so we are meeting this week with the Open Spaces group to discuss planting plans, which will include buddleia and other bee-friendly plants. We’re not good to make it into a rose garden but it will be a respite between one end of the town and the other,” Claire said.
There is a clause that determines how the land may be used. “It is public open space indefinitely,” said Claire. But the Town Council has asked its solicitors to negotiate that the clause should no longer apply after 25 years. If Dorset Council agrees to that amendment, the Town Council could chose to build on the land after that period.
That’s for discussion but, whatever happens, Shaftesbury’s successful bee-town initiative will be boosted from planned and proactive planting this summer.