Apsley House – the current home of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery – will not reopen.

The collection held there will be taken out to allow the building to be sold by Swindon Borough Council – and work will begin on preparing the upper floor of the civic offices in Euclid Street as a temporary gallery and museum.

And councillors were told a new exhibition space could be ready by the end of the year.

Members of Swindon Borough Council’s scrutiny committee accepted a decision by the Conservative cabinet to move ahead with the closure of the 1830s building in Bath Road and work on ways of showing the collection of art and artefacts in the civic offices – possibly as well as Lydiard House – and continuing with the Art on Tour travelling exhibitions.

But before the decision was ratified cabinet member for heritage and culture and leisure Robert Jandy and director of strategic growth and development Richard Bell faced a thorough grilling from both councillors and members of the public who had turned out in some numbers.

Mr Bell had told the committee that once officers were directed to progress the work, the upper floor of the civic offices could be ready to open its first display by the end of the year. 

He added: “There’s more floor space in the civic than in Apsley House, it’s more accessible, we’ll be able to show more of the collection. The only significant work that needs doing is to the lift.

“The work that would have to be done at Apsley House would take longer and it would not be as good or as accessible as here at the civic.”

A sum of £400,000 that was allocated two years ago for repairs to Apsley House will now be used for work at Euclid Street to enable exhibition there.

One of the members of the public, Rod Hebden, queried the council’s sums. 

He said: “We have looked at how much it would cost to open here. 

"It’s between £4.5m for all-singing, all-dancing to £1.8m for something more modest, or you could just have very few works on show, maybe just one. Which one is it going to be, or are we getting the pound shop version?”

Mr Bell said: “We have costings by experts, and they are very different to yours.”

Coun Roger Smith said: “The cultural quarter is years away and in light of this council’s questionable record on regeneration projects, what’s the impact if this building becomes the permanent home of the collection?”

Mr Bell said that could cost about £1m to £1.8m and added: “It would be no worse, and in many ways better than what we have at Apsley House.”