EMPTY town centre plots make the place look like something out of a Wild West film, Swindon’s former mayor has said.

Other councillors say parts of the town centre earmarked for development look desolate and leave visitors with a bad view of Swindon.

Their comments came at a borough scrutiny committee this week, when councillors quizzed cabinet member Garry Perkins on plans for redevelopment in central Swindon.

Coun Maureen Penny, a Highworth councillor whose reign as mayor ended in May, asked: “How are you going to make Swindon better while these plots are vacant and looking very Wild West?

“I expect a big roll of grass to go past.

“We’ve got the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery tract of land [off Islington Street] that’s starting to make Swindon look very unkempt.

“We’ve got the tract of land that was the bus station that we’ve put lots and lots of fencing around, at Christ knows how much cost.

“It’s not very good for people coming into Swindon to see that because we’re starting to look deserted. What are you doing about it?”

Coun Perkins said Swindon Borough Council had had serious interest from a business which wants to develop 100,000 sq ft of office space on the Kimmerfields site off Fleming Way. The council parted ways with previous developer firm Muse late last year.

He told councillors: “We are working with Homes England as far as providing 700-odd houses on there. We are in very serious talks with a tenant for that site. That again one would hope that would be signed up by the end of the year.”

But a disgruntled Coun Penny shot back: “So it’s going to look barren for some time?”

“It depends what you mean by barren,” Coun Perkins replied. “Over the next six to eight months yes, but one would expect buildings to be taking place.

“We are still invested in the site.

“No development happens in just 12 months. Regent’s Circus took seven or eight years before it got sorted out, then it got built in 18 months.”

Proposals for the town centre plot earmarked for a new art gallery are still under discussion, Coun Perkins said. He added that the council is still considering options after the Heritage Lottery Fund turned down a £12.7 cash bid.

However, Coun Perkins was forced to admit the council had turned down an offer from a firm interested in putting a temporary “leisure centre” on the Kimmerfields site.

Coun Jim Robbins said: “That temporary use would have made the site look nicer, would have meant you wouldn’t have had to pay for the hoardings around it.

“It’s also my understanding that the developer coming forward with that plan had done it in other places and they’d managed to generate a revenue for the council.

“Are we in a position where we can turn that offer down?

“We’ve got sites in the town that have been desolate for years.

“Kimmerfields has been a building site for as long as I can remember.

“I don’t understand why we’re not more proactive in trying to find a use for them especially in these times where the council is so short of money and people are actively trying to give us money to do things.”

But Coun Perkins said the temporary leisure centre plans for the Kimmerfields site had been overtaken by serious interest from potential developers. The plans would not work on other empty plots in the town centre.

He said of the Swindon Museum site: “We want to step back and look at what we do with that area, that’s the car park and the area of the law courts.

“One has to get the direction correct.”