Twelve years after the first homes were occupied in Swindon’s ‘northern expansion’ at Abbey Meads, and six years after the first people arrived in Priory Vale, Swindon Link wants to hear readers’ views on whether there is such a thing as a community in the area, or is it just a soulless dormitory with a large shopping centre in its midst?
Over thirty years ago, as the first families settled in West Swindon, the population was more vocal in their demands for facilities. A number of community meeting halls within walking distance of homes were built, and the Link Centre provided a centrally located recreation and leisure site.
North Swindon is almost entirely a speculative housing development with a limited number of social and community facilities. Until the Private Finance Initiative schools were completed in Priory Vale in the last year, the only meeting points were the church at Abbey Meads centre, Abbey Meads, Bridlewood and St Francis Primary Schools, as well as a couple of pubs. Residents with the means have however been able to join expensive private sports clubs.
At Priory Vale, with limited opportunity for community meetings or parent and toddler groups, no pub or church and only a recently opened Tesco convenience store, is it possible for people to get to know their neighbours and feel a sense of belonging? There are complaints that the cost renting facilities at the PFI funded schools is too high. Plans for a spiritual meeting place at Redhouse Village Centre have stalled because the developers are demanding a commercial rate for the land set aside. Swindon Baptist Church would like to move into Redhouse but cannot afford the asking price.
Flux, the three-year arts programme based at Isambard could play an important role in bringing people together. “We’re starting to do more community work and the people we’re reaching are getting a lot out of it,” said programme co-ordinator Jo Beale. “We’ve made good connections with the library; they see their facility as a community space.”
In December Flux organised a family puppet workshop at North Swindon Library which followed the successful Big Draw event in November.
SwindonLink magazine has reported events in the area since its beginnings. But we’d like to get an up to date perspective on what it’s like living in North Swindon. We want to hear from you. Are you proud of your community or have you yet to meet your next door neighbours? Mail: email@example.com