THE long-term future of the town centre was mapped out in a fresh ‘masterplan’ as Forward Swindon relaunched plans stalled by the economic downturn.
The firm, charged by Swindon Council with regenerating the town, unveiled its view of the shape of things to come in around 10 to 15 years, with a wishlist that includes a new performing arts centre, art gallery and a two-way Commercial Road.
Working with town planners Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners, the architects behind the much-lauded Olympic Park, Forward Swindon is also looking to improve pedestrian access across the railway line, link Old Town and the town centre with a ‘green spine’ cycle route and create a cafe culture.
It comes as pockets of development are already under way, including the rail station forecourt, the £350m Union Square complex and the Regent Circus overhaul, which has seen the former Swindon College building torn down.
Speaking at the launch event yesterday at the Central Library, Forward Swindon chief executive Ian Piper said: “This is a framework and a direction of travel for the town centre over the next 10 to 15 years and is the first step in getting the regeneration we all want to see.
“It is vital we have a clear masterplan in order to attract investment into the town and I think a plan like this needs to have a certain level of ambition. It’s about balancing between that level of ambition and what people believe can be delivered.
“I think externally the image of Swindon is not a great one and that is something we need to change because we need people to come here. I think this plan can do that.”
Council Leader Rod Bluh (Con, Old Town) welcomed the plans.
“This is about building confidence in Swindon the place. We don’t want to be another Oxford or Cheltenham or Bath – Swindon is Swindon and we want to keep that identity,” he said.
“We are talking hundreds of millions in terms of investment, 95 per cent of which will come from the private sector, and there are some big issues to be resolved.
“The public must understand these things take time and progress is already being made – there is already half-a-billion pounds of work going on as we speak, which is more than anywhere else outside the major metropolitan areas.
“It is also vital we have cross-party agreement on this and I’m pleased to say we have got it.”
Exhibitions for the public to inspect the masterplan will be held at Swindon Central Library, from today to October 5; at Swindon North Library, Orbital Retail Park from October 6 to 12; and West Swindon Library, the Link Centre from October 13 to 19. For more information visit swindonmasterplan.co.uk or email swindonmasterplan @am-up.com.