WHALEBRIDGE multi-storey car park is falling apart, just five years after it opened at a cost of more than £12 million.

Safety fencing has been put up around the seven-storey car park, after council staff noticed cracks in the terracotta cladding panels.

Swindon Borough Council, which took out a £12.4m loan to pay for the new car park, said they were taking the matter up with the contractor. The car park remains safe to use.

A council spokesman added: “A member of our parking team noticed a defect with one of the terracotta cladding panels surrounding the car park a few weeks ago and, since then, we have carried out further inspections and removed some loose material as the safety of pedestrians and motorists is of paramount importance.

“Some fencing has been erected around the car park and scaffold canopies will be installed over the entrances and exits, although we would like to stress that this is simply a precautionary measure.

“The car park will be open as normal and is perfectly safe for motorists and pedestrians to use. Clearly these panels should not be cracking in this way and we will this week be taking the matter up with the contractor who designed and built the car park.”

The Whalebridge multi-storey opened in 2013 and was intended as the first part of the regeneration of Swindon town centre.

In 2015, the Swindon Advertiser revealed the car park had made an operating profit of £217,000 between its opening and the end of February 2015. At that rate it would take 72 years before the £12.4m loan would be paid off, even without interest charges. The council was having to pay off the loan at a rate of around £840,000.

At the time, town centre boss Coun Garry Perkins called the car park an investment in the future and the first part of the Kimmerfield developments. He added: “It was built for the 3,000 jobs which will come when everything is finished.

“If we did not do this then Swindon would become an economic backwater.”

However, Labour’s Mark Dempsey slammed the car park: “They have wasted £12m on a car park no-one wanted, no-one wanted, no-one is using and is not even covering its costs.”

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