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Town's regeneration takes centre stage
8:20pm Wednesday 25th April 2007 in News
CANDIDATES running in the local elections all think that Swindon needs improving, but the parties do not agree on how the town should be regenerated.
Despite David Cameron's plans to turn the Tories green, Swindon's ruling Conservative administration want to push forward with a huge £1bn town centre development project.
Council leader Rod Bluh said: "The regeneration is now taking real shape with projects commencing, such as the new Central Library.
"We will have a different town centre by 2010 with the whole project completed by about 2015.
"About £700m of investment is already pledged by developers towards the total, estimated to be in excess of £1bn."
Although the Labour opposition also want to see growth in the town, they are focused on developing services to cater for a larger Swindon.
Labour leader Kevin Small said: "Labour supports the future growth of Swindon, but believes that new infrastructure and services must be provided at the same time as the town grows.
"We are committed to making at least 30 per cent of all new homes affordable.
"We will create a town centre that offers a quality and varied shopping experience, cultural opportunities, a variety of restaurants and support for the evening economy, as well as leisure facilities for all age groups."
Liberal Democrat leader Stan Pajak, believes parks and cultural facilities should be provided instead of more shops and offices.
"We support regeneration of the town centre, but feel the Tory council has the priorities wrong in attracting extra shops and offices, where businesses are turning their backs on town centres, and micro-flats which tend towards decay," said Coun Pajak.
"The Lib Dem vision of the town centre is one of open, green spaces, attracting distinctive shops and attracting more arts and culture. What is missing in the regeneration proposals is the restoration of historical builds."
The UK Independent Party are happy to see development, but only in family homes and places for children to play.
Steve Halden, chairman of UKIP Swindon, said: "UKIP believes the priority for future growth should be to provide affordable homes for young families starting out in life.
"But affordable homes must not mean high density because, without sufficient play areas and gardens, it will not be a happy environment for children to grow up in."
The Green Party has gone against the grain of the other candidates and called for a stop to construction works.
Party chairman Bill Hughes wants only environmentally friendly buildings on previously developed land to be allowed.
"The regeneration proposals are too big and requiring vast amounts of energy materials and water, all of which are problems in a town already over expanded," said Mr Hughes. "The priority for future growth should be qualitative, not more of the same mindless concrete jungle expansion.
"All new builds should be 100 per cent eco-friendly and on brownfield not greenfield sites."
One project the major parties agreed on was the proposed new Science Museum in Wroughton.
Coun Bluh said the museum would get "national and even international attention" for the town and Coun Small said he supported plans "without reservation".
Coun Pajak also backed the plans but warned against delays and adequate transport and infrastructure.