A RENEWED sense of optimism has gripped Old Town as further progress is being made to renovate the derelict Corn Exchange.

Councillors and developers met this week to plan the next stage of the restoration project which will likely see site clearance work beginning in the next couple of weeks.

Plans to breathe new life into the former Corn Exchange, which later became the Locarno Ballroom, have previously stalled due to delays in gaining planning permission.

Despite this, the council remain committed to restoring the site, including it in their Town Centre Masterplan which aims to spearhead the town’s regeneration projects.

An investigation into the viability of the masterplan was carried out by V4 Services in November.

They described the Corn Exchange as “a difficult project with tight site and a listed building in extremely poor condition. If the current development arrangement does not deliver then a fresh approach is going to be needed.

“The extremely poor condition of the building means that there may need to be more flexibility around the adaptation of new uses.”

The plan is to transform the derelict Grade II listed buildings, best known as the Locarno, into Old Town’s centrepiece including apartments, restaurants, shops and bars.

And with the prospect of workmen on site over the next couple of weeks clearing away the overgrowth and preparing the ground, a renewed wave of optimism seems to have arrived.

Labour’s Old Town councillors Nadine Watts and Jane Milner-Barry have spoken of “exciting times” ahead for Old Town.

Coun Watts said: “It is great that progress is being made with the redevelopment of the Corn Exchange. I have been in contact with the developer, who has informed me that the design team has been assembled to start the detailed planning application work.

“We look forward to consultation with residents and a planning application being submitted in the near future.”

Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, was also keen to see the restoration project pick up pace.

He said: “We have been struggling with this over the last few years, but I am much more optimistic going forward this year.

“It does need a little bit of care and attention because it has become an eyesore for people living nearby. But work will soon be starting to tidy up the site.”

He added: “We will assist the developers as much as we possibly can.”