Roadmap to revive Mechanics Institute to be put before council Cabinet

By Amanda Wilkins - 31 January 2024


A roadmap for putting one of Swindon’s most famous buildings back into use will be discussed by the council’s Cabinet next week.

The Mechanics Institute, which has never been owned by the council, was a hive of activity at the height of the Railway Works' dominance of the local economy.

It has sat empty and decaying since 1986 and is currently classed as ‘at risk’ by the Theatres Trust.

Due to the condition of the building, it will take tens of millions of pounds and a number of years to bring it back into use.

A new plan, which has been shaped using expert advice from Historic England, will be presented to the Council’s Cabinet and sets out some key steps to begin the process.

This includes:

- Securing a viable and sustainable new use for the building

- Identifying how to fund the building

- Addressing the ownership of the building

The plan also asks for £110,000 in potential funding to progress the project. The council will work with local partners including the Swindon Heritage Preservation Trust (formerly the Mechanics Institution Trust) and Historic England, who have been very supportive.

If approved, the new roadmap will mark the first step in the slow process to bring the building back into use.

Cllr Marina Strinkovsky, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Heritage, Art and Culture, said: “The Mechanics building has played a huge role in the history of Swindon and it's a crying shame it has been empty and disused for so long.

"It’s time we took the necessary steps to secure a future for it back at the heart of the community.

“While the building's restoration is undoubtedly a huge task, this new roadmap clearly sets out what we need to do in order to bring it into use.

“I look forward to taking on this challenge and to finally seeing the Mechanics and the Railway Village alive and thriving anew.”

Bob Wright, chairman of the Swindon Heritage Preservation Trust, said: “We believe the cabinet paper proposals are the best chance that Swindon has had to deliver a restored Mechanics since the formation of the Trust.

“This paper is the culmination of all the work given by many to achieve a restored Mechanics Institution.”

The full report and plan can be read here and will be presented to the council's Cabinet next Wednesday, 7 February.

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