FORWARD Swindon’s ambitious plans for the regeneration of the town centre, starting with the Carriage Works, have been met with a mixed response.

Last week the firm, which is wholly owned by Swindon Borough Council and acts as its development arm, unveiled its vision for key town centre projects including Kimmerfields, the Railway Village, Aspen House and the Station Approach area.

Council leader David Renard welcomed the move as a positive step forward, but said he and his fellow councillors would be watching to make sure that progress continued.

“There’s a new team in place and we have to give them time to deliver,” said Coun Renard.

“We took a report to cabinet making it very clear what we expect Forward Swindon to achieve.”

The leader said he understood why frustrations had emerged around the rate of progress but he stopped well short of agreeing that developers should just be allowed to get on with turning around the town centre themselves.

“To suggest that the developers are just going to get on and deliver it is fanciful,” he said. “I can point to a number of examples where developers haven’t got on with it, that laissez faire approach just isn’t going to work.

“Nobody wants to see progress more than me. This is the council’s vision for our town, the role of Forward Swindon is to get on and make that happen.”

South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said that, while he was willing to offer every support to Forward Swindon in achieving their goals, he expected to see results soon.

He said: “2017 has got to be the year of delivery. I expect to see movement on the town centre sites. I expect to see a focus on the Kimmerfields site – it has been stalled for far too long and I’m losing patience.

“They need to get on with the job now. This is far from me giving them a blank cheque, I want them to get on with delivering.”

But North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson has called on Swindon Borough Council to call time on Forward Swindon now. rather than waiting any longer.

He has been arguing that the firm is an obstruction and that they should be disbanded with some of the budget savings invested into boosting the council’s planning team to allow development to be fast tracked.

“We’ve had 15 years of promises from Forward Swindon with regard to delivering town centre regeneration,” he said.

“We’ve seen the economy go up and down in that time, we’ve also seen other parts of Swindon such as Regent Circus, the Orbital, Mannington and the Outlet Village all regenerated without Forward Swindon’s interference.

“My concerns have come from meeting with developers and retailers who’ve all highlighted Forward Swindon for repeatedly blocking proposals. They have chosen to try and develop themselves rather than facilitating development.

“My frustration was increased when we showed the Minister for Heritage the excellent old railway quarter adjacent to the Outlet Village.

“There we have seen a combination of residential development in keeping with the heritage of the site, high quality employers such as the National Trust and English Heritage, as well as the cultural offering of the Steam Museum. The same developer has been blocked from replicating this at the Carriage Works.

“Previously Forward Swindon had said that their plans had generated huge interest yet it transpires it is only them who have signed up for the proposals.

“It’s time they stepped aside and allowed our much needed town centre regeneration to take hold.”