LABOUR has called on the council to cut ties with the developer in charge of delivering the stalled Kimmerfields project.

Opposition councillors tabled a motion at Thursday’s full council meeting expressing frustration that there had been no private sector investment in the flagship scheme since outline planning permission was granted in 2012.

In 2011, Muse Developments declared that “Swindon’s renaissance” had “moved a step closer” as it outlined a vision for what was then known as the Union Square scheme.

Then, in 2014, after delays in getting under way, more promises were made as the project was relaunched as Kimmerfields.

New streets surrounded by retail and leisure space, a hotel, a new bus interchange, offices and new homes were promised. But so far only a multi-storey car park, a health centre and a block of assisted living flats have been delivered.

Arguing it was time for the Conservative administration to find a way to terminate the agreement, Jane Milner-Barry (Lab - Old Town) pointed out that the only parts of the project to have come to fruition were funded by public money, not private investment.

“Our development agreement with Muse was signed nearly ten years ago,” she said.

“Do we have the shiny new office blocks we were promised? Do we have beautiful public spaces and restaurants and cafes? Do we have houses and flats providing high quality city centre living?

“Has our dreary bus station been replaced by something people might not want to avoid?

“Obviously not. All we have is a building site and a pretty picture on a hoarding.”

Coun Milner-Barry acknowledged the delays in securing compulsory purchase orders on some bits of land but she said Muse should have spent that time assembling the necessary finances to proceed.

“It appears that none of that has been done,” she added. “To all appearances, Muse have given up on Swindon.

“South Swindon MP, Robert Buckland, has said 2017 has to be the year of delivery for Kimmerfields. But so far there hasn’t been a single shovel in the ground and it doesn’t look likely that there will be one any time soon.

“It’s now time to consider whether to choose another business partner or to explore alternative ways of achieving our plans.”

The Adver understands that a significant brake on progress is that it is not financially viable in the current climate to build and generate a profit from the 650,000 sq ft of offices at the heart of the scheme.

The problem leaves the town centre potentially stuck in a difficult cycle where major improvements will be key to pushing up that price and making large scale projects attractive for developers, but those necessary improvements remaining out of reach without the big projects taking place.

Garry Perkins, the cabinet member for regeneration, said the opposition was proposing to make a decision without all the relevant information before them.

He said: “This motion is premature. There are financial, technical and legal reasons why all that information is not available yet.

“We should hold this debate after the detailed report on the issue has been brought to the September cabinet meeting when all options can be considered.”

But seeking to reassure councillors that a delay did not imply failure, he pledged that "Kimmerfields will be delivered."

Two of the questions that remain now are when, and who by?

The Conservative majority on the council meant an amendment to Labour’s motion, delaying the debate and any decision until September, was successfully ushered through.

Later this week, the council is due to showcase its masterplan for the town centre at a three day public event.

However, the suggestion that the future of the Kimmerfields development will not be fully understood before September will leave question marks around the extent to which it will provide businesses, and residents, with a full and honest picture of what is actually achievable.

The Adver's editorial view:

The frustration of the councillors demanding change in Swindon’s ongoing town centre development saga is entirely understandable.

It is over a decade since we were promised a slew of shiny new buildings and superb facilities, yet so far we seem to have gained little more than a health centre, some sheltered housing and a car park.

Any number of construction projects across the world have progressed from start to finish in less time. The list includes, but is not limited to, One World Trade Centre, Tower Bridge, Coventry Cathedral and the 160-storey Burj Khalifa.

In recent decades, the people of Swindon have been promised dynamic architectural wonders by councils of various political stripes.

In many instances, sadly, the only things delivered have been another type of architecture entirely — castles in the air.

Many long-suffering taxpayers concluded years ago that just about any development promise issued by the council should be treated like a chronic recidivist’s sincere and tearful promise to refor

Such a viewpoint is only partially fair — there have been some success stories, such as the decades-overdue new central library — but the council has only itself to blame.

The current call for some form of dynamic action to be taken after all these years has been met with a pledge to produce a report which will not be available until September.

This will do nothing to dispel suggestions of overwhelming inertia and an insatiable urge to kick anything remotely troubling into the long grass.

If the council wishes to salvage a shred of credibility from this affair, it must come up with a workable action plan and a credible, carefully itemised schedule of works.