Scaffolding now covers the face of Apsley House in Old Town as workers for Swindon Borough Council get it ready to be put on the market.

But some have questioned the wisdom of rushing to sell the former home of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery quite so soon.

Dr Barbara Swann, a supporter of keeping the museum and gallery in the Grade-II listed Regency building in Bath Road, quizzed council leader David Renard

She said: “Can you explain the financial logic of selling off Apsley House, a substantial piece of property in a prime location, at a time when interest rates on cash deposits are very low, to part-fund a project that has no starting date as yet? 

“Given that property is the one asset that historically increases substantially in value, what is the financial argument for selling the building now? Surely it makes far better sense to make the necessary repairs, which we understand are being made in order to make it saleable, but then to hang on to it so the council can get maximum benefit from its future appreciation in value?

She added the length of time before the planned building of a new gallery and museum in the cultural quarter meant it made more sense to keep Apsley House and sell it for more money when the money is needed.

She said: “The earliest that work can start on the cultural quarter site is 2026 after the bus boulevard has been completed and the existing bus station cleared away. 

"So why does the council need the money from the sale of Apsley House now?”
Coun Renard said: “The sale of Apsley House is required to contribute to a new permanent facility in the town centre. 

"It will make a small contribution to the cultural quarter as a whole, but a potentially significant contribution to an art pavilion in the cultural quarter or a relocated museum elsewhere.

“There is a need to move quickly with the sale of Apsley House to enable a solution to be delivered that will minimise the time that the collections spend in a temporary location. 
The costs of repairing Apsley House are significant and the problems of disabled access into the majority of the building were detailed at the previous cabinet and scrutiny meetings. 

"The council cannot make Apsley House legally compliant, and we cannot continue to permanently operate a facility in a building that does not enable access for all.”

Coun Renard said  it might not be the case the council could sell the building for more in a few years if it held on to it.

“There is no guarantee that the value of the building would increase if it were retained," he said.

"Buildings deteriorate quite quickly when they are empty, especially so in this instance as the building is listed, so there are holding costs for maintenance and for security. 
"In the circumstances, there is nothing to justify the council retaining ownership of the building.”