Plans for a new apartment block in the heart of Old Town have been greeted with fierce opposition from residents who have already launched a petition against the scheme.
The proposals, currently in the pre-planning stages at Swindon Borough Council, will see the current back offices of the Swindon Advertiser demolished to make way for a 14-storey tower block containing 66 apartments. The tower block will be one metre higher than the spire at neighbouring Christ Church.
The frontage of the building on Victoria Road which is listed – pictured below – will remain, but other parts of the proposals include dividing the current ground floor into two units for shops or offices and the upstairs into five apartments.
Revealed in Friday’s Swindon Advertiser the developers claim the plans will kick-start the regeneration of Old Town with the managing director of architects Quad Group Gary Madgwick stating that the plans would ‘put Old Town on the map so that it wasn’t the poor neighbour of New Town’.
Swindon Regeneration Ltd is expected to buy the home of the newspaper from parent group Newsquest if planning permission is granted to build the 148 new flats, offices and the inclusion of a new community space.
Carole Bent, Old Town resident and founding member of Better Swindon, said: “This is a poor fit with the historic area and future aims of Old Town showing a woeful lack of knowledge by the architect about the local area.
“The first that many in Old Town, including some of our councillors, even knew about this scheme was in Friday’s paper – which raises questions. The good news is that the immediate, widespread and consistently critical response will hopefully prevent this progressing much further.”
A petition has already been launched against the plans at change.org and they are hoping to get 1,000 signatures over the next few days to show the widespread opposition.
There are two further sites of development being proposed slightly further down the road, with 32 flats proposed for the end of the island between Albert Street, Church Lane and Little London. These will be made up of one and two bedroom apartments while a further 45 are proposed for the corner of Cricklade Street and Church Lane.
The architect has sought to reassure residents that the flats will not obscure the line of sight of the church when looking down Church Lane. They are also proposing underground parking under each of the three main apartment buildings.
There is also an additional site on the opposite corner of Albert Street and Little London where the disused electricity substation currently stands. The plans propose pedestrianizing this area and diverting the road down Little London instead. A building for community use – which could include a library, a police hub or a café – will also be built here.
Mr Madgwick said that if planning permission is granted builders would be on the site and at work within 12 months. He told the Swindon Advertiser: “The vision is that we will provide a community space which is high quality and something that will kick-start all of the regeneration of the area. So much has been promised in Old Town and not happened.”
Old Town resident Neil Robinson, 27, has launched the petition against the plans. He said: “The Swindon Advertiser has published horrific plans that will see the site of its offices sold off to a company, which will build an eyesore of a multi-purpose use Tower Block. It will be taller than Christ Church, blighting the skyline from the people who look up to Old Town from New Town.
“In a nutshell, the plan is to keep the facade of the Adver Building, but throw up a massive tower block behind it. This is the most outrageous idea ever. Please sign the petition and I will forward it to Swindon Borough Council. Please also share it on Facebook and around the local community, shops, everywhere. We must stop this. We will make them listen.
“Furthermore, I do not understand how the Swindon Advertiser can just sit back and allow this to take place? It always used to champion being proud of being based in Old Town. It’s legacy could undermine one of the nicest areas in Swindon. The Adver changed its name from ‘Evening Advertiser’ to ‘Swindon Advertiser’ to affirm its loyalty to the town but as yet has failed to report the massive uproar from the people of Swindon.”
A public consultation will be held in the near future at Newspaper House, with a 3D model on display.