Swindon Borough Council say the second phase of works to regenerate Brunel’s historic Carriage Works is almost complete.
With £4m from the Government’s Getting Building Fund, secured through the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP), unit 7 will be an Innovation Centre for Applied Sustainable Technologies (ICAST) for the University of Bath.
A further £895,000 was secured by Create Studios, from the Towns Fund and Arts Council, to refurbish unit 9 as a high-quality digital media facility that will be used by Create Studios and participants in their digital media programmes.
Over the next few weeks, the council say two newly refurbished units will be completed by contractor Beard Construction, and handed over to Create Studios and the University of Bath to be fitted out with their equipment ready for use from the summer.
Swindon Borough Council has already invested in two other units inside the Grade II listed building to transform it into a business incubator for creative and digital start-up businesses and a desk co-working space. A further unit has been turned into the Royal Agricultural University’s new Cultural Heritage Institute, which will train the next generation of heritage managers and professionals.
Work has also been taking place on the exterior of the building and the creation of two new business units on the lower ground floor facing onto London Street which should also be finished by the end of the month.
Historic England has provided £174,893 in funding for the scheme, through the Swindon Heritage Action Zone, which will see the restoration of the exterior stonework and new glazing to the windows on both the lower and upper floors.
The lower ground floor units, which were in a bad state of repair, are being turned into usable units, which will be ready for occupation later this year.
The funding from Historic England was awarded as part of the wider Heritage Action Zone programme to deliver sustainable long-term regeneration to historic buildings in the area known as The Works.
The restoration of the Carriage Works forms part of a £100m programme of investment the council is leading on to upgrade and enhance the town centre’s public realm, transport links and heritage assets, while work is also well underway to regenerate a 20-acre brownfield site off Fleming Way.
The majority of the investment is using Government funding, with the projects helping to increase land values in the town centre and attract investment in new amenities, offices and homes.
Phase three of the Carriage Works will include further development of the street-facing units on street level and the Bristol Street car park-facing elevation of the building and is currently in the design phase, with the project aiming to go out to tender in the next few months.
Cllr Matty Courtliff, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Heritage, Leisure and Town Centre Experience, said: “I’m very excited to see this latest phase of the Carriage Works being completed.
“So much work has gone into this and it’s great to see this historic building, which was once at the forefront of Victorian imagination, being repurposed as a 21st century hub of innovation, knowledge and creativity.
“Whilst many residents may not get to see the inside of the building, the exterior works will brighten up the area and help highlight the amazing heritage we have in the town centre.”
Rebecca Barrett, Regional Director at Historic England, said: “It’s great to see the Carriage Works being transformed into an attractive new home for so many businesses.
"It’s the perfect future for a building long associated with innovation and enterprise.”
Paddy Bradley MBE, CEO of Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, added: “Swindon is re-using its historic industrial heritage in a creative and innovative manner.
“The refurbishment of the Carriage Works using a range of funds, is producing high quality work environments for the knowledge-based industries which are vital for Swindon’s future economic growth.
“The Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership is delighted to be playing a part in this great development.”
Matthew Davidson, Professor of Sustainable Chemical Technologies at the University of Bath and Director of iCAST, said: “We are very excited to be part of bringing innovation in sustainable technologies back to Brunel’s Carriage Works.
“iCAST links over 80 companies with the research and innovation expertise of the Universities of Bath and Oxford and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, in order to accelerate the translation of fundamental research into commercial reality.
“Swindon is ideally located between the two universities, so having our Creative Hub at the Carriage Works makes perfect sense and we look forward to becoming a part of Swindon’s dynamic business community.”
Shahina Johnson, CEO and Artistic Director at Create Studios, said: “We are thrilled to have been able to find a new home for Create Studios within the HAZ redevelopment in Swindon.
“Thanks to the support from Towns Fund and Arts Council England, it will make our skills development programme for young people and career developers entering the digital creative industries more accessible than ever.
“This is a sector that is growing fast, and we are committed to bringing that opportunity for creative employment to Swindon’s young people and digital producers.”
Jamie Harwood, Director at construction company Beard, said: “We’ve been proud to not only play our part in the long-term regeneration of this historic building, but in safeguarding the future of our vibrant town.
“Our guiding principle is to build with ambition and this fantastic project embodies that ethos by providing a platform for exciting new businesses to grow and share our vision.
“As the heritage sector continues to play an important role in the UK economy, we’re delighted to utilise our expertise alongside respected partners.”
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