AN eyesore in Old Town has been left vacant for seven years and turned into a dumping ground and drug den, according to guest house owner Margaret Byrne.
Margaret, 66, owner of Gables Guest House on Bath Road, is baffled that nothing has been done with the property in a prime location, and says her business is suffering as a result.
Townsend House had formerly been used as a centre by the Girl’s Friendly Society, and was left dormant after a failed attempt to turn the property into flats.
Margaret said she has been approached to sell her own property in order for it to be combined with the ailing house, and since refusing has seen it fall into disrepair.
“We have got a big eyesore stuck in the middle of the nicest streets in Old Town,” she said.
“It was shut down completely about seven years ago, and since then it has just been used as a tip.
“It used to be a care home years ago, and after that it got turned into flats. But that shut down within three weeks of being opened, and nothing has been done since. Now it is completely derelict.
“The wall next to me was unstable for a long time, and it has since fallen down. It was never replaced.
“In the mean time we have had rubbish being dumped there and squatters moving in.
“There have been people using it as a drugs den and we have seen people doing deals at the back of the house.
“Every time we see a problem, we have reported it to police, but they always get there too late.
“Around that time there was security put around the property, but people have broken in through the padlocks.”
Margaret said having the house next door was putting off her customers, and she is unable to move location because she cannot find a buyer.
“When I look at it I ask myself why it should be shut up any longer,” she said.
“Any developer would buy that land and build houses on it straight away.
“The council said they were looking to get a business in there last March, but nothing has happened.
“I am living next door to a tip, and I feel very cross because I just see it getting worse and worse.
“It is damaging to my business, because nobody wants to stay next door to that.
“People have been out to clear the mess about 20 times over the last seven years, but it just keeps coming back. Squatters come in and cut the locks and the whole thing starts over. The iron gate outside has been stolen, and it is not even boarded up.
“It is a sin to see that place going to waste. If the council are desperate for money they should just sell it off. It is heartbreaking to see, and I can’t wait any longer for them to make their mind up.
“I can’t sell my house now, and I am trapped here.”
A Swindon Borough Council spokesman said: “We have been pursuing a number of potential uses for Townsend House over the last few years but, unfortunately, none have come to fruition.
“These have included using the building for educational purposes or, more recently, as a base for small commercial start-up enterprises.
“We are currently reviewing all the options for the building with a view to bringing it back into use as quickly as possible."