FRESH new plans are being discussed for the iconic former Corn Exchange building in Old Town but a suggestion about using the Lawns for parking is ruffling feathers.

The scheme is set to include 85 apartments, an 82-bed hotel, five restaurants, a small boutique three-screen cinema, as well as a cafe, bistro, retail units and a new pedestrianised market square.

If it goes ahead it could be finished by 2019. But before any decision is finalised the obstacle of finding more parking spaces needs to be overcome.

Steve Rosier, director of Swindon Corn Exchange Ltd is behind the £35m project and has been meeting with the Old Town Traders organisation to present proposals.

One of the options that is facing controversy with Swindon’s Lib Dems is the prospect of using part of the sunken garden next to the Lawns for 80 parking spaces.

Although it is only one of three options, the Lib Dems are urging residents to share their views and have set up a mini campaign against it.

“It is very controversial and is something a lot of people are against,” said leader of the town's Liberal Democrat party Stan Pajak.

“I would oppose parking because it is on one of our great green heritage spaces. I would want to see underground parking but that is a very costly option.”

However Steve told the Adver the Lib Dems have jumped the gun and is insisting is it only an idea at the moment that is being considered.

He said: “Before we press the button we are looking at every single issue that could present itself and we are doing a parking option appraisal.

“We are investigating the possibility of using an acre and a half of the Lawns in little clusters of a car park. It would not be one big piece of Tarmac if we were to do it, it would be in batches of three to six spaces.

“We have underground parking proposed anyway for the hotel and apartments. One of the options is going underground further, another being looked at is for multi-storey car parking and whether that would be appropriate or not and whether it is an environmentally sensitive proposal.

“Lawns is a 52 acre space, so it would only be a small part if we were going to go down that route and it would be done in an extremely environmentally friendly manner."

And he added: “The whole thing is about how Old Town can become much more sustainable and a travel destination. We can only do that if we can bring in quality operators.

“Jamie Oliver will be spending £1.2m in fitting out his restaurant but he won’t spend £1.20 if the people he wants to attract can’t find parking.”

Lib Dem Campaigner Toby Robson added: “The plans are ambiguous. What we have got to work out is if the price is worth paying.

“People like to go there and walk their dogs and enjoy the space.

“There’s pros and cons. With this survey we are dipping our toe in the water to find out the public’s reaction."

The campaign can be found at: