Des Morgan looks back at previous plans and casts a critical eye upon Swindon Council’s grand designs for a cultural space.
Whilst I am sure many people would welcome the building of a new cultural centre to house the Swindon art and museum collections, I will not be holding my breath waiting for this to become a reality.
In the 1970s the council proposed a concert hall on the Princes Street surface car park, between the magistrates court and the Wyvern Theatre. Forty years on no concert hall exists.
The original concept was for retail outlets and offices to form the basis of the revenue stream – similar in fact to what is being proposed today.
In 2006 the predecessor to Forward Swindon, called appropriately The New Swindon Company, put forward a plan to build a promenade from the old college site to the Whale Bridge roundabout, adjacent to the Jury’s Inn Hotel.
According to then leader of the council, Rod Bluh, a cultural precinct was a vital area for town centre regeneration.
Envisaged was an enormous tropical greenhouse like the Sheffield Winter Garden – above – to act as the showpiece attraction.
Clearly ambition is not stifled by a lack of money and yet nothing approaching the aspiration has occurred, unless you count as progress a car park and a few apartments.
The new plan calls for the Wyvern car park to be demolished in 2014, but why do that until a date for redevelopment is set; are we to see yet another flattened site boarded up for 20 years?
There have been numerous suggestions from outside the council for a suitable location for the town’s art and museum collections. All have been either ignored or dismissed on the basis it wasn’t sound, the location inappropriate or the costs too high.
In 2014 some 40 years after plans for the site were first mooted, Coun Perkins now asks the residents of Swindon to believe him that a museum is a key part of the regeneration of the town centre.
I have only one question to ask, if there was no money available in the 70s, 80s and 90s where will he find the many millions required to bring this project to fruition?