A new stadium complex for the Swindon Robins speedway team, including a greyhound racing track, covered market and Youth Initiative Centre, together with a new care home, 450 residential dwellings and a business park have been submitted to Swindon Borough Council. See the proposed layout at the end of this article
The application covers a 22-hectare (54 acre) site at St Andrew's Ridge to the north east of Swindon, next to Blunsdon by-pass, which is currently being built. Part of the land – owned by Thistle Land and RREEF UK Property Ventures – has had permission for employment purposes since the 1980s. The companies have teamed up with Gaming International, which owns the stadium, to submit the application following an extensive public consultation period last summer which showed strong public support for keeping speedway in Swindon.
However the council will have to consider a change of land use to accommodate the proposed 450 residential units. Vehicle access to the stadium and the employment area will continue to be from Tadpole Lane, off the new Blunsdon by-pass and not through the new housing area.
Clarke Osborne, Chief Executive of Gaming International said, the existing stadium is badly in need of re-development and the only way that we can provide a modern, purpose built facility is through a comprehensive redevelopment of the existing stadium and the adjacent site. The new stadium will be built to the east of the existing facility, allowing speedway and greyhound racing to continue during the construction period."
He acknowledged the overwhelming support for speedway in Swindon when proposals to close the stadium came forward in July 2006.
"When we published our initial ideas for re-development last year, it was clear that there was overwhelming public support for the inclusion of a speedway track within the new stadium. We have listened to the views of the people of Swindon and responded by proposing a development that will guarantee the long-term survival of speedway in the town.
In addition to securing a new home for the Swindon Robins, the stadium complex will include a Youth Initiative Centre providing training opportunities for young people in motor engineering and maintenance, and animal husbandry and care. Greyhound racing and the existing covered market will also be catered for in the new stadium complex.
The proposals as a whole are expected to create and safeguard nearly 1,000 jobs: 89 jobs will be retained at Abbey stadium; around 850 new jobs provided in the 16,745 square metres of new offices to be built on the site, and 31 people in the new care home. The 450 new dwellings will include a proportion of social housing.
Eric Petrie, Managing Director of Thistle Land, said, "public consultation showed there was broad support for the principle of regenerating this site as a mixed use scheme incorporating residential, business and recreational elements. I believe our plans fully address issues raised by local people about the type of employment uses on the site and traffic.
Terry Russell, co-owner of the Swindon Robins, has welcomed the revised proposals. "This scheme will secure the future of the Robins in Swindon which I know will be warmly welcomed by all supporters of speedway in this area. It will also provide modern, purpose-built facilities that will increase the enjoyment for speedway fans."
North Swindon MP Michael Wills welcomed the changes made to the original plans. "When the plans were first submitted, I was particularly concerned by four things. First, that the impact on existing residents of the area should be minimised. Second, that speedway should be retained. Third that there should be affordable housing on the site. And fourth that it should incorporate provision for young people. I am delighted that the developers have worked with me so constructively on these concerns of mine.
The plans now minimise the impact on residents, incorporate a new speedway track; provide opportunities for young people to learn engineering and mechanical skills in a novel and stimulating environment, providing somewhere for them to go and something for them to do, a resource desperately needed in Swindon where youth facilities are in such short supply. And the development will deliver affordable homes for people who need them. The new jobs this proposal will bring to the area are also welcome."
Abbey Meads ward councillor Justin Tomlinson said, "it will come as a huge relief to the fans of Swindon Robins that the developers have listened and the revised plans now include speedway provision. Safeguarding their future in Swindon was essential and I am delighted the developers have responded. In addition the developers have agreed to my request to put the revised plans on public display allowing local residents to see exactly what is proposed for the whole development, including the move from light industrial to a more appropriate residential and business development."
Subject to planning approval, the developers hope that the stadium will be ready in time for the 2009 speedway season. Racing will continue in the existing Abbey Meads stadium until then.