A COUNCILLOR has hit back at claims not enough is being done to regenerate the town centre.

Coun Garry Perkins (Con, Shaw), the Cabinet Member for Economy, Regeneration and Culture, said £14m had been invested over the past three years and talks were ongoing for further plans.

He also disagreed with recent media claims the town centre was dead, saying it currently has one of the highest levels of footfall in the south west.

“This council has put a lot into big building projects that will significantly improve the town,” said Coun Perkins.

“A lot has been spent on improving the infrastructure and putting in new benches and tidying it up.

“Within the next year there will be a new supermarket, cinema and top restaurant at Regent’s Circus which will link the top of town with the centre.” Earlier this year, the council agreed to a Masterplan to upgrade the town centre, giving it top quality shops restaurants.

It also commits the council to improving key areas of the town, such as Wharf Green and Commercial Road.

Coun Perkins said: “The thing is that these things take a lot of time to be completed and they will happen when the funds become available.

“We are not sitting back and if you come in five years time you will see the change.”

“We recognise that the world has changed and people no longer just come in to shop. They look to spend the day and do other things.

“Our future plans take this into account, with projects such as the cinema and we are looking at putting in more green space.” The town has struggled during the economic downturn with a high number of empty units appearing in the town.

However, Coun Perkins argues this has been the same for many high streets in the country and Swindon is already recovering well.

“The number of shoppers in the town has increased year on year and that looks set to continue,” he said.

“Many of the big high street names in Swindon are now in the top quarter for performance of branches within their company.

“Of course Swindon has taken a hit but it is improving faster than most.”

Over the weekend, Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, called on councils to be less restrictive on parking to encourage business growth in the town centre.

Coun Perkins agrees with this sentiment and says the decision to cut prices at town centre parking is a prime example of the benefit it can have on the town.

“You won’t find cheaper town centre parking anywhere else in the country,” he said.

“Since we introduced the reduction footfall increased by almost 20 per cent.

“Whereas before people were coming into town for an hour to quickly do what they needed to, they are now coming in for several hours at a time.”