Tag: developer fantasies

Marketing a pavilion

The plans to replace the former tented market with a ‘pavilion’ of cafes is to be discussed by Swindon Borough Council Planning Committee on Tuesday. I’m not sure what the planning officer was looking at when she was considering the plan, but her report seems to be talking about something significantly more impressive than the artist’s impression — never known for showing developments in a poor light — of the new development.

The ‘pavilion’ offers a light and contemporary design solution to this tired part of the town centre and it will hopefully act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the surrounding streets and premises….

The full height glazing to the units is welcome and the brise soleil provides a contemporary architectural detail. The curved glazed facing Commercial Road provides an interesting gateway to Wharf Green both during the day and the evening….

The ‘pavilion’ has been designed using contemporary architecture which is light and simple. It is a building that can be viewed in the round as a centre point from a variety of vista’s. It responds well to the area and will be a positive catalyst to the future of the town centre regeneration.

I’d thought it was the role of planning officers to provide the committee with objective advice, not subjective opinions. Well, in my opinion, the proposed structure is no more ‘contemporary’ than the existing one. The existing building is a landmark. The proposed building is just another retail block no different from many to be found elsewhere.

A future from the past

I went along to the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust’s new information centre in Regent Circus today, where, amongst other things, they are promoting their hopes and the council’s plans for a canal through Swindon town centre. Whilst, not surprisingly, some of the volunteers there were very knowledgeable about the canal proposals, what was rather alarming was how poorly informed they were about the Council’s plans that would support their aspirations — the Central Area Action Plan. Alarming, because it is the developer contributions from the central area development which Swindon Borough Council says will pay for the canal, and because the plan says quite a lot about the canal and some of it contradicts what those from the Canal Trust are saying. But then, some of what they were saying is well into the realms of fantastic optimism over realism — trams and mass pedestrianisation in Swindon? I don’t think so! (Further pedestrianisation has already discounted in an earlier draft of the plan).

I’ve also adjusted the level of concern I would feel if I lived in Erin Court or Shire Court from ‘a little worried’ to quite worried. The new draft of the Central Area Action Plan incorporates a Gateway at Kingshill.

The Gateway at Kingshill
The buildings in the Shire and Erin Court area are visually poor. This area is, however, effectively a gateway into Central Swindon and as such is identified as redevelopment opportunity area on the Proposals Map.
The redevelopment of this area would remove the potential need for an awkward ‘S bend’ and would allow for the canal to be designed along a straighter alignment. The final alignment of the canal route through this area would be detailed at the design stage of the Shire and Erin Court redevelopment.

That sounds to me like compulsory purchase and demolition on its way. No other properties seem to be so clearly identified in the plan for long-term planning blight as these are.

I also see that the ghosts last sighted outside the Falcon pub have now appeared in the action plan outside the old GWR hospital, with one of them wearing a Brunelesque top hat. So much for this being ‘forward planning’….

New life for the Falcon?

If I owned one of the flats in Erin Court or Shire Court I would be a little worried. An artist’s impression shown in The Adver on Friday give a slightly better idea as to the intended route of the canal into Swindon. It will clearly cross Kingshill Road and, following the original line of the canal, pass between Erin Court and Shire Court, before turning sharp left, through the site of what is currently a car valeting and secondhand car sales forecourt, then sharp right into Westcott Place. The flats in the two courts are built very close to the line of the old canal: they would have water lapping right below their windows. In addition, somewhere in this short length of canal a lock must be fitted in too, as Westcott Place is below the level of the old canal route.

Still, if the artist is to be believed the Falcon Inn could be the first in a new generation of canal side pubs in Swindon (for ghosts, by the look it). I’m not holding my breath. The council has yet to find the £50M to fund this without directly charging it to the council tax… which is why I say the flat owners should only be a little worried.

Impressionable artists

Another grand plan and yet another fantastic artist’s impression to go with it. This time for the Dyson Foundation’s School Of Design Innovation, which the council are trying to attract to a mystery location in Swindon with ‘good transport links.’ It sounds like a good idea, but will it really be occupied by ghostly grey people and have assorted aircraft parts levitating in the centre of the building? Take away the overly optimistic gleam and what it will really be is just another concrete and glass block.


I’ve been waiting for the latest artists impressions for the updated Science Museum at Wroughton to appear on their website. They have, apparently, been three months in the making and the director of the museum has great aspirations for them

I hope these images will give people a sense of the sheer scale of the Inspired experience and the serious fun that Inspired visitors will have.

All I can say is they’ll have to be significantly more inspiring than the one picture shown in The Adver, which looks like nothing more than a big, drearily painted store room.

Flights of fancy

Hangar heavenI’m very much in favour of the ‘Inspired’ proposals for the Science Museum at Wroughton Airfield, but as usual the artist’s impression is glossy nonsense: never before have a set of old concrete hangers looked so shiny. In the words of the architect responsible for this nonsense

It looks quite pretty. Swindon could do with more landmark buildings so these plans could be the answer.

Pretty? It’s just infilling between the existing hangars. It will be no more a ‘landmark’ than those existing hangars (which admittedly are visible on the hilltop from the southern edge of Swindon) and according to the artist’s impression will be almost completely hidden by trees. There’s certainly no wow factor here.