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Unsurprising result

I am sure that Swindon residents and council taxpayers are grateful to Daniel Angelini for his concise report into the reasons why the Heritage Lottery Fund refused to support the request by SBC and the SMAG Trust for £12 million of funding for a new museum and art gallery (SA 26 May).

As a critic of the scheme, I must admit that nothing the HLF has said much surprises me, I have challenged the council on a number of occasions to explain the financial costs, particularly the running costs of the project relative to the anticipated number of visitors; I have called for them to clarify how they intended to manage the scheme as they have a woeful record at undertaking proper project management. As for the ‘unsecured funding’ – I asked Cllr Renard how certain he was of receiving the funding from private sources; his response offered me little if any confidence.

I would also like to address the claim made by Rod Hebden, a Trust director, who continues to put forward the false hypothesis that “Securing HLF funding would allow the council to press ahead with the rest of the plans for the cultural quarter”. That would be the cultural quarter which the HLF recognised was nothing more than an image on a drawing.

Finally, Mr Hebden is wrong when he dismisses the opposition to the SMAG as being driven by “conspiracy theories and misinformation”. The reality is that SMAG was and is a vanity project, poorly thought through and clearly a non-viable economic proposition.

Only recently I once again pointed out that Robert Hiscox’s Bilbao effect was for the birds – a new museum and art gallery alone would not bring economic advantage to Swindon, particularly as real time events demonstrate that many provincial museums are suffering grievously from local council cuts leading to reduced opening hours, a greater need for volunteers and increased subsidies.

The HLF confirmed that the economic gains were dependent on other variables and that future sustainability was ‘high risk’.

Des Morgan, Caraway Drive, Swindon

Tricks with bricks

One couldn’t avoid the delicious juxtaposition of stories, Evening Advertiser May 24. On page 6 we see a picture of a rather angry looking group of Lethbridge Road schoolchildren pictured against a row of historic stone pillars surrounding the school building, which the borough council conservation officer believes enhances the school setting. The school wants to demolish these due to their seemingly poor state of repair.

Then turn to page 14 to witness a whole page of award-winning bricklaying students who gather at Swindon College to practice and display their developing skills.

Two great local educational establishment who, if they put their heads together, would surely discover a solution is not beyond the wit of man.

John Stooke, Haydon End, Swindon

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