THE town centre regeneration is at the heart of the draft local plan policies for the central area of Swindon.

The local plan 2026 will be the new overarching planning document, which will guide the decisions of the planning committee and officers, and sets out a number of general policies, as well as specific locations for residential and employment uses.

Across the borough, the document allocates space for 22,000 new homes and 77.5 hectares of new employment land, which the council says is necessary to maintain housing growth in line with economic and demographic forecasts, prevent unwanted development on greenfield land, and provide for business growth.

The policies for the central area, which includes New Town, Old Town and North Star, are supported by the draft Swindon Town Centre Masterplan, on which Forward Swindon has recently consulted the public.

The draft local plan earmarks the area for 1,000 additional homes, which would come through the massive Union Square regeneration as well as other sites possibly coming forward through demolition or rebuilding.

It also has provision for at least 90,000sqm of new office space, mostly at Union Square, a new 1,000-space car park to the north of the railway line, and a new bus interchange, which is also part of Union Square.

There is also a policy for a ‘green spine’ through public parks, which would be a primary north-south green route for pedestrians and cyclists linking Old Town, town centre and North Star.

The town centre will be the focus of Swindon’s specialist leisure facilities, with the Oasis revamp and the possible renovation of the Health Hydro.

The plan also makes provision for a university or university technical college at a location yet to be determined in the central area, as well as two new primary schools.

Coun Dale Heenan, cabinet member for strategic planning and sustainability, said: “For the town centre, the major aim is to continue the regeneration of the central area and to ensure that any growth in Swindon doesn’t undermine that.

“We have Union Square, we have Regent Circus already started.

“We will also be looking at the rebuilding of the Wyvern, and other plans in Commercial Road.

“We also have a draft council policy on homes in multiple occupation to restrict the numbers that can be created over the next 15 years.”

A key town centre policy puts priority on the town centre for new retail developments to prevent more large out-of-town centres, such as the Orbital or Greenbridge, being built, taking away town centre trade.

On Old Town, Coun Heenan said: “Within Old Town, we’re looking to support the Locarno and see that developed over the next few years and we look forward to the design brief going to the planning committee in the new year.

“The town centre and Old Town do have different uses for Swindon.

“And Old Town does have its focus on a higher quality end of the market.

“And we want to preserve that and enhance its heritage.”