DESIGNS for the town’s future have been cast into the public eye as regeneration firm Forward Swindon tries to gauge reaction to their ‘masterplan’.
The firm, charged by Swindon Council with regenerating the town, unveiled its view of the town centre in around 10 to 15 years’ time on Monday and have begun a six-week public consultation exercise with a four-week exhibition at the Central Library.
Working with town planners Allies and Morrison Urban Practitioners, the architects behind the much-lauded Olympic Park, the company’s wish list includes a new performing arts centre, art gallery and a two-way Commercial Road.
Pockets of development are already under way, such as the rail station forecourt, the £350m Union Square complex and the Regent Circus overhaul, which has seen the former Swindon College building torn down.
But yesterday people held mixed views of the proposals, with many agreeing there was a need for regeneration but questioning in what form.
Tony Pike, 21, of the town centre, said he thought the development might be unmanageable.
He said: “I think the centre needs bringing up-to-date but looking at this much of it looks like they are turning it into Bristol, particularly the new railway station. I’m not sure if it is going to be manageable and it is going to cause havoc while they are doing it.”
Matthew Fitchett, 21, of Rodbourne , said he thought the town had an image problem.
“The first impression when you get to Swindon is it’s a building site and full of derelict buildings. The plans would make it look a lot better but the thing that comes to mind when I look at them is it looks like Bristol.”
Seventy-four-year-old Liden resident Ray, who has lived in the town for 35 years, said: “I cannot see it happening in my lifetime and I can’t get excited about it.
“We’ve had too many of these masterplans – seems they have been spending too much on them and not done the real things. I don’t see anything new or innovative. There’s no one here to explain anything – it just says improvement to Commercial Road, what does that mean?”
Forward Swindon chief exectutive Ian Piper said there were plans for staff to be present at the exhibitions at set times.
He said: “It’s a fair point and we understand some people may have trouble understanding the plans. We don’t have the manpower to staff the exhibitions full-time but we are hoping to have manned sessions and will release details of these soon.”