WRITING for the Swindon Advertiser, InSwindon boss Di Powell hit back at suggestions that parts of the town centre are desolate. She said:

“We are pleased Swindon councillors are debating the town centre and its future – healthy debate is welcome – and the BID wishes to take its place in this debate.

We don’t feel it’s helpful for anyone to claim the town centre is desolate – that’s not the case. We’ve seen significant investment in Regent Circus and the opening of The Crossing in the Brunel Centre.

We have a good reputation for nurturing independent retailers, which the Adver has reported on previously, and our footfall is looking positive with June reaching 993,075 up 3.6 per cent on the previous month compared to the UK average of 0.6 per cent.

In Swindon we have a development plan which is long term and the BID is working with partners to bring significant investment in to the town centre.

The town centre has a higher than average percentage of independent shops compared to the national average and vacant premises in the town centre are below the national average of 11.2 per cent at 10.2 per cent.

This is something we should be proud of and we should seek to improve.

There are challenges we ALL need to recognise as they are common to many town centres across the UK.

We are now in a world where people can shop online from their phone or their tablet at home.

A town centre therefore has to look and feel good, be safe, interesting and vibrant.

This requires collaboration by everyone in a community. We need to all be thinking ‘how can we?’ rather than ‘we can’t”.

We are calling on councillors, the council, businesses of all kinds, art venues, sports facilities and hotels around the town centre to come together to create a Swindon town centre experience for the day and the evening.

We need to encourage a more proactive and collaborative approach of supporting each other. “

This includes rents for town centre premises to be more affordable and discounted parking charge initiatives to encourage footfall.