AFTER years of waiting, work has finally begun on salvaging the former technical college in Victoria Road.

Workers moved in several weeks ago to turn the Grade II-listed building into 24 flats and hope to have completed the work early next year.

As part of the Regent Circus development deal, Ashfield Land initially took control of the 1895-built former college, known at various times as Victoria Road Technical Schools and Swindon and North Wiltshire Technical Institute.

Since it was vacated in 2006, the Flemish Baroque-style school has been left exposed to the elements.

Holes in the roofs and smashed windows also made it a target for vandals.

When developers first started looking at putting together plans to turn it into flats, they found the ground floor flooded and walls covered in damp, caused largely by holes in the roof.

However, work is now underway to fix the problem and it is thought no long-lasting damage has been done.

Council leader David Renard (Con, Haydon Wick) said: “I am absolutely delighted that the college is being brought back into use.

“We had commitments some time ago from the developer that any fears from the public the building would be left were unsubstantiated and they did plans.

“It’s good to see these coming into fruition. If you are interested in restoring these buildings, which I am, then they have to be viable.

"I am quite relaxed about their use as long they are maintained and enjoyed by people.”

Although the work as begun, not everyone is happy the building is being used for flats as there were calls for it be put into community use.

Speaking earlier this year, Martha Parry, the chairman of Swindon Civic Voice, said: “The building was in a good condition when it was vacated, and it has been neglected dreadfully.

“Civic Voice has expressed concerns with various aspects of this site and we did not think it should have been turned into flats because that is to throw away the building for future public use.

“It is very disappointing and it seems they have made a mess of this wonderful college by putting a car park around it.

“A building’s best use is the one it was created for, and while this building could no longer be used as a college, it could remain in the same category of public provision.

“It's not just about preserving something for people to look at, it is but about making a positive contribution to the life of the town.”