THE historic Railway Village could be restored to its former glory through an ambitious plan by the management of the Mechanic’s Institute Trust.
Control of the Central Community Centre, at the heart of the area, passed from Swindon Council to the Trust last week, and the team began with a clean-up of the area on Saturday.
Piles of rubbish were cleared from gardens, and the council did its bit at the end of the day by clearing it away.
Daniel Rose, chairman of the Mechanic’s Institute Trust, said this could be the first of many projects the Trust can take over from the council.
“The Trust has been trying to get hold of this building for at least 10 years and return it to community use,” he said. “The building was not being used to its full potential.”
Daniel is looking at similar buildings in the area with a view to managing much of the village.
“We are keen to take over other buildings in the area if the opportunity arises,” he said. “We are looking at turning the Baker’s Arms into a community cafe, which is another example of trying to pick up more assets in the area.
“We feel the Railway Village has huge potential but needs focused attention. We can really ascribe to that and look towards taking control of the Mechanics’ Institute.
“We need to have a coherent plan of what we want to achieve, and there are a lot of buildings in the area that are under-used. We think we can put them to better use.
“It is about bringing the building back to life. It hasn’t had any management for 10 years, and very few local residents use it. It is a great opportunity to get residents involved in their building.
“We think there is a huge opportunity for Swindon and the community to breathe new life into the area.
“At the heart of the project is the Mechanics Institute itself. But as for specific buildings, that’s not something I can say because we are in the middle of talks. But we are working in the GWR Park and we have got projects that are due to take place.
“I think generally it’s a very, very important project to preserve the railway village for future generations and it is also of important historical value to the town and to the whole country.”
Daniel added this could be one positive consequence from dwindling council budgets.
“There is a lot of pressure financially at the moment and a lot of people are suffering the consequences, but this is about changing attitudes about bringing assets back into the community,” he said.
The community centre will now be managed by the Trust’s first full-time employee. Sean Haines, community development co-ordinator, said: “The Railway Village is something special but it has been under-appreciated. It needs that little bit of attention from someone. It is easier to make decisions about the Railway Village from within the Railway Village.”