TWO buildings left in trust for the benefit of the community are to be turned into flats in a move that has caused concern among heritage groups.

Until August, numbers 1 and 3 Faringdon Road, at the corner of Catherine Street, were part of the WG Little Trust, a charitable fund which raises money for education projects.

But last month Forward Swindon — the council’s development arm — successfully applied for permission to remove the buildings from the trust. They are now set to be turned into eight residential flats and two new shops.

William Graham Little made his fortune in Swindon as a fabric and clothes merchant and opened Faringdon House in 1892.

When he died 35 years later he left the buildings, and almost all of his financial wealth, in trust to the people of Swindon. Through the years the buildings have had a number of uses — for a long time, 1 Faringdon Road was home to the Citizens Advice Bureau.

However since the CAB moved out in 2012, both buildings have remained empty and boarded up.

Martha Parry, of Swindon Civic Voice, explained that community groups have previously explored the possibility of registering them as assets of community value.

She said: “A number of community groups have asked to take on the buildings and bring them back into use but the council weren’t interested.

“They are supposed to have been holding the buildings in trust but they haven’t invested in them. We suspect they always intended to run them down and sell them off.

“They’re looking at this solely commercially but they’re not involving the community.”

Doug Kerrigan, Project Manager at Forward Swindon, said: “The buildings will be refurbished to a high standard as owner-occupied flats with new shop fronts.

“This is a catalyst project, we won’t make a lot of money from it but it’s designed to kickstart regeneration in the area.

“The buildings have just become a burden on the trust — the outside will look like it did before but we’ll be taking away the hoarding and putting life back into the area.”

To release the buildings, the council will have to pay their market value into the WG Little fund.