Swindon Council has announced that the grade II listed former railway museum in the town centre is to be turned into a youth centre are approved.
An al -fresco cafe, internet access, a stage for artistic performances and concerts, and an alcohol-free bar are proposed for a refurbishment costing £1 million. Rooms will be used for training opportunities for young people.
The premises have temporarily been occupied by a variety of organisations, including The New Mechanics Institution Preservation Trust. The council will now work with them to seek to find alternative venues for their activities. Essential repair works to the building are expected to start in September.
The move means the council would fulfil part of Promise number 3 – We will develop the use of the Old Railway Museum – although the second half of this promise originally identified the building to become an advice and information centre for voluntary organisations. The cabinet will discuss the proposal on Wednesday 6 June. If agreed detailed work will start on the scheme, involving young people, local residents and council partners.
Nick Martin, cabinet member for resources, said, "I have been campaigning since 1999 to preserve and protect this historic building – a keynote building in Swindon's Railway Village. This investment project is the perfect way to marry Swindon's history with an important part of its future – young people."
Garry Perkins, cabinet member for children services, said, "this project is a tremendous opportunity for Swindon to really engage with local young people. It will also breathe new life into an historic landmark and provide a host of new facilities for the community at large."
However the proposal has been met with dismay by the New Mechanics'; Institution Preservation Trust which has rented the building for the last four years.
Trust chairman Danial Rose, right, said, " we are particularly frustrated by the fact that the council has given us a week's notice ahead of the meeting to decide the future of the building and informed us at the same time as the notice being sent to the media.
"The trust is facing eviction despite on-going negotiations with the leader of the council to secure a lease on this historic building. We are very dissatisfied and disillusioned at the way the council has gone about this.
"While the Trust recognises the need for town centre youth provision it does not feel this building is the answer. Community Crossroads is the only large town centre venue for community, cultural, artistic, voluntary and youth activities.
"The council's youth service proposal duplicates much of what the trust has been achieving through their work with the community. We already enable young people to get their own ideas off the ground as our response to the governments Youth Matters consultation submitted by Swindon Youth Council two years ago. This research called for flexible activities that are not prescribed by adults.
"The Community Crossroads hosts many activities for groups that may be outside the mainstream, and in some cases sidelined by the council itself.
"The trust's volunteers have spent four years building a popular and increasingly recognised facility for the whole of the town despite the lack of understanding and support of Swindon Borough Council".
Former Swindon councillor and now Mechanics' Trust Trustee, Lisa Hawkes said the proposal was wrong. "At best this demonstrates a misunderstanding of the community sector; and at worst it shows a blatant disregard for volunteers and local groups across the town."
The Ttrust is calling upon the council to delay the decision until the already arranged meeting with Rod Bluh, the leader of Swindon Council, planned for 19 June takes place.
For details call Daniel Rose on 07979 504466 or mail: