THE future of the Tented Market site is now more certain than at any point over the past two years.

Councillors have given the final green light for a development of 101 flats, consisting of a 15-storey tower abutting a longer eight-storey building with restaurants and a shop on the ground floor.

And while its dominating presence on the Swindon skyline will not be to everyone’s tastes, members of the council’s planning committee heralded it as the transformational project that is needed to kickstart the regeneration of the town centre when they voted unanimously to grant planning permission on Tuesday evening.

The debate over the future of the site was not without some voices of concern.

Ward councillor Bob Wright (Lab) said that while he was in no way opposed to the idea of building more homes, or to the principle of building on the Tented Market site, he felt the final proposal fell short of the clever design that was needed.

He said earlier plans, which had been warmly received by councillors when they met with the architects, had been better suited to the location.

Among his primary concerns was that the tallest part of the structure - the 15-storey tower - would cast an unpleasant shadow over the businesses and residents in Commercial Road.

His concerns were echoed by local campaign group Swindon Civic Voice.

The organisation’s chairman, Martha Parry, said: “We are not objecting to the building or its height, only its dominance of the approach to the retail core, the loss of a view of Swindon hill from that angle, and the missed opportunity to achieve a better roadway and pedestrian crossing.”

Barrie Thompson, chairman of the South Swindon Parish Council planning committee, said that while his committee supported the style of the building, a lack of detail on what would happen to the public realm, the absence of car parking provision and the impact on local services were of concern.

But for local businessman Paul Gregory, who is based in Commercial Road, the development couldn’t come soon enough.

“I’ve traded out of Commercial Road for 17 years. In that time we’ve seen a complete deterioration in that end of the road," he said.

"We can’t wait for this development to take place.

“If the town centre is going to be redeveloped, we desperately need more residential use.

"This building is properly designed and provides 101 flats on a semi-derelict site that has been semi-derelict for the 17 years that I’ve been trading.”

Committee member Nick Martin (Con) agreed with that view.

“The only problem I have with what Paul Gregory said is that he didn’t shout it loud enough,” he said.

“This is an impressive and exciting development - I think this will be a shot in the arm for the town centre.”

His committee colleague, Gary Sumner (Con), also expressed his support for the proposals, calling the proposed building a “unique, dynamic structure of a significant size”.

He added: “This is something that we need to deliver for the town centre - it will happen, it’s going to provide housing and it will enliven the heart of the town centre which is lacking.”

Labour’s Peter Watts said: “I’ve often espoused the view that the town centre needed people living in it. I’m very pleased - it’s an exquisite looking building with an outlook that is going to produce other developments that could come in around it.”

Lib Dem councillor Stan Pajak, also indicating his support, took the committee on a trip down memory lane as he recalled a time when the Brunel Centre was being built and the David Murray John building was rising into the sky. “It was a dynamic time when people saw Swindon as a progressive town,” he said.

Coun Pajak’s hope, and that of his colleagues, is that with the arrival of this new building the same may be said once again.

“We desperately need this,” he said.

Building on the site could start as early as next year.