Iconic Swindon tower block in need of multi-million pound investment

By Jessica Durston - 25 January 2023

  • The David Murray John Tower

    The David Murray John Tower

Councillors are due to discuss plans to invest £5m to make the exterior of one of Swindon’s most prominent buildings safe.

Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet will be asked next week (1 Feb) to approve major safety work to the external panels of the David Murray John building (Brunel tower) in the town centre.

This approval follows an extensive survey that revealed the panels are deteriorating.

Although the main concrete frame of the building is said to be structurally sound, the council says its contractors have spent the last 12 months carrying out remedial work to reinforce the glazing on the 72 flats on the 10 upper floors and remove any potentially loose materials from deteriorating external panels.

At next week’s Cabinet meeting, councillors will be told that surveyors have recommended that the external fabric of the building, which was built in 1976, needs to be entirely replaced.

Due to the extent of the repairs required, large-scale scaffolding and netting would need to be erected around the entire building and the council says this would be designed and procured as quickly as possible.

Work is already reportedly underway to secure the long-term future of the building, including how it could form part of a future private-sector-led regeneration scheme within the town centre.

During the safety works, every effort would be made to ensure the maximum amount of light is allowed into the building, but the council says it would also offer to buy any leaseholder flats at the open-market rate if residents want to sell their properties. The council would also offer to rehouse any tenants.

The estimated cost of the safety work is around £5m, while the cost of rehousing tenants and buying any leasehold properties could add a further £1.8m. It is anticipated the work would be carried out over the next two years.

Meetings have been held with tenants and leaseholders over the course of the last year to discuss the safety improvements that need to be carried out on the building, while the council has also been liaising with the owners of the Brunel shopping centre, FI Real Estate Management.

Cllr Keith Williams, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Finance and Commercialisation, said: “The David Murray John (DMJ) tower is almost 50 years old and, naturally, it is beginning to show its age. Although it is structurally sound, we have undertaken essential maintenance to the external fabric of the building.

“Some remedial work has already been completed, but our specialist contractor has advised us that the external curtain walling needs to be replaced and we need to carry out this safety work using a combination of scaffolding and netting.

“The DMJ is a landmark building on the Swindon skyline and we will be looking at how we can include it in future regeneration plans for the town centre.

“Our priority is to make the building safe, but we recognise there will be some tenants who do not want to continue to live in the DMJ. This is why I will be asking Cabinet colleagues that we provide support to those who no longer wish to live in the residential block.”

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