Recent additions to the Swindon Local Studies Collection’s online archive of photographs have included several from a century ago of the point where the Wilts & Berks Canal crossed Kingshill Road. komadori has been out to photograph the same views today.
Reading of the wish of the headteacher of Drove Primary School to open a youth facility in his school’s grounds, I am struck by how this contrasts with the wishes expressed by residents elsewhere in central Swindon to restrict access to Robert le Kyng School, because of concerns over vandalism, drugs and underage smoking and drinking. Although some of the problems are different, perhaps the solution here too should include greater use of the school grounds rather than less.
Not to play bowls though. A meeting had been called for the street where I live to meet with local councillors, Mr Wright and Mr Montaut, and with the Kingshill neighbourhood policing team. The topic for discussion was anti-social behaviour in the street and surrounding area. There is, apparently, a problem with juvenile and late night drinking in nearby open ground and with drug dealing, not that I’ve ever noticed either of these. Lesser problems are late night revellers making a noise as they follow the cycle path from the town centre to West Swindon, children buying milkshakes in glass bottles from a nearby dairy and then smashing the bottles on the paths and in a children’s play-area, repeated vandalism of cars, overspill parking from a local restaurant and from a tyre shop, and cyclists (particularly large groups going to and from Iceland’s depot) cycling too fast and without lights.
My impression of the meeting? That some of my neighbours have very sensitive hearing, and that Mr Wright is, if his actions live up to his words this evening, quite a good councillor. Throughout the meeting it was primarily Mr Wright who was suggesting courses of action that might lead to a reduction in the problems. He also made a point of acknowledging the efforts of Ms Darker, now departed to a bluer ward, in bringing the meeting about.
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’….
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.
Earlier this summer, Westcott Place was re-surfaced. When a special high-visibility, high-grip road surface was aded at the site of the school crossing patrol near the entrance to Robert le Kyng School, I thought it might indicate that there was to be an upgrade to a proper pedestrian crossing, but that hasn’t happened. The re-surfacing work was completed, just in time for Westcott Place to serve as a diversionary route during the works on Kingshill. School term started. The crossing patrol did not resume. So now there are road markings to maybe hint that traffic should slow and give way and pavement marking to encourage children to cross here, but nothing to ensure that either actually happen.