Restored Great Western Railway Works hosts national event to promote repurposing of former industrial sites
Swindon was the focus of heritage preservation and development issues on 26 April 1999 when Prince Charles delivered a keynote speech to a conference held in the BAA McArthur Glen Designer Outlet entitled: 'Making Heritage Industrial Buildings Work.'
The Labour Government of the day had recently announced 25 sites across Britain were being nominated for United Nations World Heritage Status, including the Great Western Railway line from Paddington to Bristol. The conversion of Swindon's derelict railway works was chosen as an example of how business investors and developers as to how heritage industrial buildings could be successfully adapted and renewed for contemporary economic uses.
The £40million restoration of the Grade II listed buildings of the former works reopened in March 1997 as the Designer Outlet Great Western, offering 200,000 square feet for retail space, one of the largest covered outlet centres with more than 100 shops. In 2012 it expanded even further when the adjacent 'Long Shop' was refurbished and integrated into the outlet centre.
Prince Charles, as President of the Prince of Wales's Foundation for Architecture and the Urban Environment had initiated discussion about setting up Regeneration Through Heritage as an initiative of Business in the Community, of which the Prince was also President. The conference brought together a wide range of commercial, local authority, architectural and heritage interests to discuss how viable economic development partnerships could be created.
The Prince of Wales urged those attending to consider the potential and opportunities presented by unused buildings of heritage importance and encouraged the highest quality of design and conservation. He also encouraged community groups to tackle the re-use of buildings and create partnerships with the business sector.