Swindon Borough Council Conservative Group leader Cllr Gary Sumner writes for the Link
I’m delighted to see one of the most significant projects of the Conservative administration continues to move forward with the redevelopment of the former Honda site by Panattoni which will create around 7,000 jobs for Swindon.
We worked closely with Panattoni and our MPs to secure both the investment and the planning consent, with much behind the scenes assistance from Sir Robert Buckland in managing complex issues with the Environment Agency. This will be one of many ongoing legacies of the Conservative Administration.
We have always been proactive on economic growth, and I am therefore enjoying contributing ideas to the council’s new ‘Building a Better Swindon’ policy committees.
At the recent meeting I suggested that Swindon Borough Council be the catalyst of change with its own estate holdings within the town centre (and elsewhere). There are many pieces of land, car parks and buildings owned by SBC, and we should be more proactive with these whether using our own Swindon Housing Company or in joint ventures.
It may be advantageous to have an external company review our property portfolio as I previously held discussions with national housebuilders who were keen to find town centre sites, but nothing was offered. We are in danger of missing opportunities.
Workshops have been held with First Investments who own the Brunel Centre, but we need to push them much harder to ensure that viable proposals are made to get redevelopment under way. I suggested they be asked to talk to us.
We should also be talking to Aberdeen Standard who own the Regent Circus development which is now largely unoccupied (apart from the cinema) about what we can do to help rejuvenate that relatively recent development. I appreciate they are still receiving rent from Morrisons but one day that lease will end, and it needs a fresh approach.
I held workshops with town centre stakeholders over the last couple of years and these were an opportunity to discuss how we could help and explain what we are doing. These discussions should be started again.
I also asked that these Policy Development sessions are held in public so that residents can better understand the issues that SBC faces and be part of the search for ideas.
Finally, I want to pay tribute to my hard working Conservative councillors who strive all year around for our residents. They have been supporting residents over the missed waste collections, damaged roads, speed limits, vermin issues, school admissions, planning and enforcement, broadband and a range of other issues.
This goes on behind the scenes all year round.
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