Stars have lined up to shower praise on the borough council’s cabinet member for heritage and culture Dale Heenan.

And it has propelled him to runner up place in the nationwide Heart for the Arts awards as the councillor who best champions the arts.

Coun Heenan was nominated for his work in kicking off the project to build a new larger Wyvern Theatre and a new home for Swindon Art Gallery and Museum in what he calls the town’s cultural quarter.

Judges of the final shortlist put him second to Rochdale councillor Janet Emsley. But TV presenter and journalist Mariella Frostrup said: “Dale's work is so impressive it’s hard to not drift off into superlatives. To get political support for a £80m relocation project which could add more than £35 million a year to Swindon’s economy and create as many as 1,200 jobs for the town displays nothing short of superpowers."

Actor and theatre director Sam West, recently on our screens as Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small, is chairman of the National Campaign for the Arts which runs the awards.

He said: “Dale is a great example of a councillor who sees the connection between culture and the mental and physical health of a community. He's helping with so many projects in and around Swindon, a town with a proud manufacturing history which mustn't be forgotten.

"He knows what it means to the people who perform. Dale realises that these can be life-changing experiences that transcend art forms or the boundary between amateur and professional."

Paul Hartnoll, half of electronic dance duo Orbital, added: “He has a long term clear plan and seems to have been able to get people to believe in his vision and get it moving along at a cracking pace.”

Coun Heenan was not disappointed by not quite clinching the local government champion award. "A simple thank you or well done is rare in politics, even when we successfully complete casework for residents, so the praise and positive comments by the independent judges is very humbling, he said. “It would have been great to have won but the recognition of doing a good job is enough.

“I have no idea where the research has come from but clearly it was thorough and a hard decision for the judges. I hope their comments show people that politicians are not all the same and that the majority of us are committed to improving the lives of residents in the towns where we live.”