A great chance for Swindon Council to do something dynamic for town centre regeneration will be lost if it pursues a plan to convert the old railway museum in Faringdon Road into yet more offices.
Swindon Link magazine in February 2004 argued the huge space, where railway engines once stood and Swindon's heritage was developed in the age of Steam, presented a fantastic opportunity for cultural development. People could come together to pursue interesting and unusual projects, which would extend community and cultural interchange.
But now Swindon Council wants to spend up to ?2 million on building a mezzanine floor so that organisations like the Council for Racial Equality, Age Concern and the Citizen's Advice Bureau can set up a combined town centre advice centre.
Welcome and laudable as this might be, there is empty office space everywhere in the centre of Swindon. What the town lacks is a large space where people can do things on a large scale. In the last two years the old museum – recently renamed Community Crossroads – has been the venue for meetings, exhibitions, multi-media events, two beer festivals, a skateboarders festival, and a voluntary organisations fair. In early May seven events in the acclaimed Swindon Festival of Literature were held there. Every week 40 people visit the hall to take part in a juggling club.
The lack of imagination by Swindon Council to do something remarkable to provide a community based, social dimension to the plans to regenerate the town centre, makes one want to weep.
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