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'Unviable' retirement village plan set to be shelved
AMBITIOUS plans to turn the Mechanics’ Institute and parts of the Railway Village into a retirement village are likely to be shelved by Swindon Council.
The Prince’s Regeneration Trust, a charity specialising in helping to bring buildings at risk of demolition or decay back into use, suggested the idea after being commissioned by the authority.
The council’s mechanics’ advisory group supported the cabinet’s decision to pay the trust about £10,000 to complete a full study into the idea. But after reviewing the results, it has now recommended that the option is unviable and no more money should be spent on it.
The Adver understands the charity wanted about another £50,000 to work up the details of the plan, which the Mechanics’ Institution Trust, a group set up to save the building, previously branded as uninspirational.
Instead, the task group has recommended to press ahead with the Conservative administration’s proposal to work up costed plans and find funding from other bodies to completely refurbish the exterior of the building to increase the chances of a suitable end user coming forward.
Coun Peter Heaton-Jones, the advisory group’s chairman, said: “The view of the task group was that it was not a viable proposition now that more work had been done.
“There were two reports commissioned from the PRT. It was quite right that the council should explore the viability of it. The view that was taken, having received the second of the PRT reports, is on balance at the moment it’s not a scheme that’s sufficiently viable to justify the spending of more money on looking into it further.
“It was just the general thought that in the current economic climate, it was perhaps unlikely to be something that would be worthy of exploring. “What the PRT’s plan stood or fell on was it was not just the Mechanics’ building but encompassed the majority of the Railway Village in that area.
“It was a wide-ranging plan that had significant impacts for residents and for an area of land much wider than just the Mechanics’ itself, and I think it was felt that clearly presented challenges and it’s obviously a long-term proposal.”
The advisory group, whose proposals must first be supported by other committees, also recommended that the council seek urgent meetings with English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund over possible funding for the administration’s project.
Coun Heaton-Jones added: “The idea the lead member has come up with is to find a source of funding to ensure the building is at least renovated, looks good when superficially someone come to look at it, and has therefore reduced the costs for anyone who would be looking to take that building on long-term.”