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An ambitious vision

I MUST be one of very many who sympathise with Mr Ellory-van Dekker, and can guess at the frustrations which have led him to resign from the museum project; hopefully not too embittered a man.

We have all read in the Adver his enthusiastic and heartfelt aspirations for the gallery and Swindon. He is not an asset that should be so easily allowed go.

One can’t help but think that it was/is the scheme’s sheer vulgar pretentiousness that is the problem: that is, the new building of course. No honest person can pretend that £20m will cover this, let alone leave money over for running costs, staff or conservation.

Nor has Swindon any of the stature of Cadbury, Fry, or Rylands to repay in kind his/her home town for their massive wealth. Thinking big is all very well, but Swindon is not Bilbao or Sydney: both the Guggenheim and the Opera House stand in their own demesne, and in major cities.

What was the idea behind the Swindon building? Does it not conjure up a mesh of cobwebs, stricken butterflies in a death tryst, a couple of draining colanders?

Fragile, ephemeral, flimsy are surely the impressions it gives at any rate. It can never be a significant edifice, but rather always a caprice, set within a ghastly, windy, traffic-described precinct prescribed by 60s/80s greedy wide-boys and complaisant councillors.

Would it work? What will it look like in 20 years time? Will it age and weather with dignity? Or finish in a lamentable state akin to the Debenhams building in Fleming Way?

Are those myriad, brittle-looking limbs so very easy to clean of bird droppings? Who will crawl out to wash off every one of them every six months? Or tear out the grass now growing from the joins?

The terraces might seem a nice idea, but drainage is always a big, almost insuperable, problem with terraces in this climate.

The insouciant architect skilfully and beguilingly draws potted plants round about, oblivious to the continual maintenance and renewal costs they will need to stay attractive.

And, what are the terraces for? Will any franchise be persuaded to set-up a cafe on them for four months of the year? Who would climb up to stroll around in the drizzle to admire the views, comment on the innovative planting? I saw no car parking.

It is moonshine to imagine that anyone would voluntarily come to visit Swindon (‘a dump’ is the usual adjective, - ‘worse than Croydon’, one has heard), except specifically to tour the railway museum (or it maybe in the future, a really important art collection – wheresoever it be housed).

The director of the Wallace in London consents to keep a collection housed in a 19th century town mansion, that, by testamentary conditions, can never be augmented.

Might not Mr Ellory-van Dekker be tempted back were he offered (if it cannot now, alas, be the Corn Exchange – too much ready money to be made there for some few), a dull, but sound, refurbished building, comfortable, well-lit and spacious (with a cafe and car-park) – and, crucially, money galore for exhibitions and acquisitions?


War on dog mess

WHILE it pains me somewhat to say it, I do need to heartily congratulate Coun Oliver Donnachie on his initiative to seek to put in place dog fouling legislation for Swindon.

This is well overdue, but if he can get it through, it will be a major step forward for all of us who want to see a cleaner and better presented townscape and a credit to the council. As he rightly says, enforcement is the key but his plan in this area is both imaginative and resourceful and likely to be effective.

I am convinced it will significantly increase prosecutions of that very small percentage of our neighbours who think they only, have a special right to walk off and leave their dog excrement on pavements and grass verges, causing danger to small children, offending most people and demeaning all responsible dog owners. His idea is that a range of public officials could be trained to monitor this kind of anti-social behaviour, for example PCSOs, park wardens, borough council land staff, neighbourhood wardens and parish council operatives should the parishes wish to become involved, which I very much hope they would. Parishes could even co-operate between themselves and perhaps employ one or two enforcement officers between them, covering a range of twilight anti-social behaviours, out at night with body video and infra-red cameras.

Let me throw one other simple, yet kind of complementary idea into the mix. Why not small sandcastle flags issued by parish councils saying almost anything? They could be humorous to shame irresponsible owners or potentially threaten enforcement against the irresponsible or a combination. The very fact people are looking and caring is in itself a minor deterrent. Why not a town wide competition to think up the very best flag slogans?

On a more serious note let us or get firmly behind Coun Donnachie’s efforts to provide some leadership and some decent legal enforcement against this disgraceful minority of pet owners.


End Economic madness

IN previous General Elections one of the key issues has been the economy, with the Tories traditionally doing well in that area as they have often been perceived as being safer hands with the economy.

That cannot be said currently as the Tories are proposing to remove us from the Single Market.

To take us out of the Single Market would be economic madness with economists predicting that it could cause our GDP to fall by as much as 10 per cent. If that were to happen, the events of 2008 would seem like a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park in comparison.

While it is possible to argue about the legitimacy and validity of the referendum result, there can be no escaping the fact that the Tories have no democratic mandate whatsoever to take us out of the Single Market. Indeed, many of the key figures in the Leave Campaign openly stated during that campaign that they wished to see the UK stay in the Single Market.

Any claim made by the Tories regarding the economy has therefore to be suspect at the least, if not false. They are intent on doing significant damage to our economy.

And before anyone starts getting nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ of the 1970s before the EU, let’s not forget that this country went bust and we had the national humiliation of watching our then Chancellor of the Exchequer having to go cap in hand to the IMF.

On June 8, if you care about our economy, if you care about jobs, if you care about the future of our young people, whatever you do, do not vote for the Tories!

ADAM POOLE Savill Crescent, Wroughton

Not democratic

IT seems very clear based on the evidence of this letters page that very few Swindonians support the parishing that is happening.

Voters could refuse to dignify this process by exercising their right not to vote.

Withdrawal of democratic legitimacy in this way seems to be the only way to register our dissatisfaction.

I understand the counter argument that some will argue and, while I respect that view, what has taken place is not democracy and therefore no one should participate in this process.

GUY GREEN Old Town Swindon

A great survivor

I WAS interested to read your account of the centenary of St Mark’s Church (Rewind, 17 April 2017).

Many copies of the centenary book that is described in that article must have been printed. We have several in our parish office, which may be borrowed by anyone interested, and I picked one up in a second-hand book shop.

St Mark’s, along with its daughter churches, St Luke’s in Broad Street, and St Saviour’s in Ashford Road, continues to serve the local community, and to teach the faith that inspired previous generations.

The Great Western Railway, whose directors founded St Mark’s, may be no more, but the church survives.

This year marks the 172nd anniversary of the consecration of St Mark’s Church, which we will celebrate with a Sung Mass on Sunday April 30 at 10.30am. All are welcome to join us. FR DEXTER BRACEY Parish Priest