A degenerating regeneration

I’ve never had much trust in property developers and their colleagues, but with every passing bad news story about the regeneration of Swindon town centre, the words of the New Swindon Company become less believable. It’s just a couple of weeks since Mr James of the New Swindon Company was claiming that Modus were fully committed to the Regents Place development… which they’d just shelved. Two days ago, after Modus went into administration, Mr James was still as over-optimistic as ever.

Being placed into administration was one of a number of possibilities and therefore we have been looking into how we can still move forward with development at Regent Place… and we will work to get Regent Place back on track.

Now it’s reported that the development is to be scaled back to little more than a supermarket in Granville Street car park.

Maybe there’s room for food retailers to come into the town centre. If there was a big supermarket interested maybe they could go onto the Granville Street car park site. It would be something to attract people in and then there could be restaurants attached to it.

A supermarket. Stunning. And plenty of joined up thinking there as a supermarket is also proposed to occupy the old college building on Victoria Road.

There’s another aspect to this that undermines what little credibility the New Swindon Company had. It’s not so long ago that they were telling us that regeneration is a very long term thing, that couldn’t be blown of course by troubles in the economy, and that Swindon would be a destination to rival others in the south. It’s all different now. Mr James’ has scaled back the ambitions.

We are not trying to compete with Cribbs Causeway or The Oracle. We need to concentrate on making Swindon special and attracting people to the centre. We are looking at bringing more restaurants into the town centre.

Mr Young has forgotten the long term nature of the plans.

The Modus scheme was the right one for the time but we now have to look at how the market has changed and see how our regeneration fits into that…. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on what will bring people to Swindon, considering there are already two huge shopping developments at Bristol and Reading.

And now they’re thinking of another round of ‘consultation’, which will keep them and some consultants in a job whilst nothing much is happening.

This hyperbole and bluster would almost be comical if we weren’t paying dearly for this farce through our taxes.

Another day, a ministerial shadow…

Now both the main parties are at it. Just a few days after the red nest brought in yet another minister to meet and greet in the town, now the blue nest have brought in a shadow minister, again to meet and greet, in Parks ward where most of the ministerial visitors have spent most of their visits.

Perhaps I’m old fashioned but, when deciding which candidate to vote for in the council elections, I couldn’t care less what ministers and their shadows have to say. This is a local election, not a national one, and, for once, there are quite a few local issues to be debated, such as waste and recycling services, town centre regeneration, and the canal proposals.

It seems that the parties are so busy showing their parliamentary colleagues around Parks ward that so far they’ve had little time to enter the local debate on the doorstep in the rest of the borough. If parties concentrate campaigning effort on ‘key’ marginal wards and take the elctorate elsewhere for granted, they shouldn’t be surprised if the result is voter apathy.

A flurry of leaflets: local elections 2008 round 1

With a little flurry of leaflets (three in fact) from our local blue egg, it seems that the local election campaign is off to an early start. As is traditional in Swindon election leaflets, there’s a couple of photographs of the candidate standing in front of some graffiti tags. (I wonder if the taggers get a buzz from having their handiwork feature in election bumf.) In addition, there are mentions of the canal (nice idea but concerns about the local impact), town centre redevelopment (though I’m not quite sure why Central will be the ‘envy of the rest of Swindon’ when the vast majority of the development is in Eastcott), an invitation to sign a petition against post office closures (which is a little late seeing as the consultation period has just ended) and an oh-so-toned-down comment about the problems with waste collections.
Who’s the stranger in the top left corner?She’s disappeared from this one!
I’m sure if I just replaced the photographs and the colour of the ink, I’d get a close approximation of the leaflets I’ll be getting from the other parties over the coming months.
Too little, too late


Mr Tomlinson has clearly been stocking up on sand recently, enough to thoroughly bury his head. His response to the announcement that Marks & Spencer will open a branch at the Orbital Centre in north Swindon is shockingly naïve.

This is absolutely fantastic news for my residents. There have been rumours of this coming forward for quite some time. And during that period residents have been asking me to support it – which I am delighted to do. It is an excellent addition to the Orbital Shopping Park and I’m sure it will prove very popular. But the Orbital centre will never replace Swindon town centre. It will work alongside the town centre to improve Swindon’s offer to shoppers.

Decades of experience of ‘out-of-town’ shopping centres in towns across the country demonstrate that the reality is highly likely to be the opposite. You don’t need to be a genius to realise that anyone from North Swindon who is currently a customer at the town centre branch of M&S is unlikely to be one once the new branch opens. It’s hardly likely to lead to an increase in business at their Outlet Centre branch either. With people like Mr Tomlinson at the council leading the town centre redevelopment, the future for Swindon town centre looks bleak.