A LOCAL heritage group has criticised plans to convert a historic building into flats, saying not enough thought has been given to alternative options.
Swindon Civic Voice has said there are better uses for the former college building on Victoria Road after a planning application to convert it into apartments was lodged last month.
The group also says the current state of the dilapidated building is a sign of how little care it has been shown.
Chairwoman Martha Parry said: “This is a building which is central to the history and development of Swindon.
“We can put flats or apartments in any old building but this is something which you could do so much more with.
“Originally it was designated for office space but when there was no market for them they changed it to apartments without giving it any real thought.
“The building is quickly falling into disrepair. So little thought or consideration has gone into what the building represents to Swindon.”
The Grade II listed college was built in 1895 and designed by local architect Thomas Ball Silcock. It was one of the first purpose-built technical schools, with a strong link to the history of Swindon. It is located next to the Regent Circus leisure development and is owned by Ashfield Land.
When the application documents were put in, they highlighted the poor state of the building. The second floor is currently unsafe for a full inspection while the ground floor is flooded.
Martha said: “We have been saying for a long time the building is falling apart. It urgently needs protecting from the weather.
“The roof and windows need repairing and it needs fully de-contaminating from the animals. From there a proper look needs to be taken into the building’s future so it can be a benefit to everyone.
“The Civic Voice would like to see it turned into a music venue. We have spoken with a number of musicians and groups who would welcome this and with its close proximity to the Wyvern it is the perfect location.”
If the application is given approval, much of the original entrance and central stairways would remain in use.
The move has been welcomed with caution from a number of councillors who believe at least the building will be saved if the application is given the go ahead.
Councillor Stan Pajak (Lib Dem, Eastcott) said: “Our first wish was to see it become the new home of the art museum, but if this is the best way to ensure the building can be saved then I support it.
“It is a job which can be done well. If you look at the former school on Euclid Street this is a great example of how well the job can be done.”
Council Leader David Renard (Con, Haydon Wick) said: “The only financially viable option for the college was to turn it into apartments.
“We have been in regular contact with the developers to ensure the future of the building, which is an important part of Swindon’s heritage.”
No-one from Ashfield Land was available to comment but the company in the past has said it has looked at possible uses for the former college but residential space was the best way to ensure the building had a future use.