A canal running through the town centre would be the biggest draw to bring people back to enjoy a "cafe culture".

That’s the view of Highworth resident Dave Merry who admits he “very rarely” heads into Swindon’s central shopping district although he was there with his wife Catherine yesterday.

Earlier this week The Adver reported the discussions between borough councillors Gary Sumner, Dale Heenan and South Swindon Parish councillor Patrick Herring where there was a degree of agreement that more residential development in the centre would lead to more businesses -such as shops and cafes - staying open to cater for those residents in the evenings and change the centre from a “retail rut” that is largely shut in the evenings to something more vibrant.

That idea appealed to Mrs Merry. She said: “The last time I was here in the evening was quite a while ago - but it was a bit frightening. But If you look at cities and big towns where they have more people living in the centre there is a different atmosphere, I think if they could get more people to live in the centre then you might get more of a bar and cafe culture.”

Mr Merry, who, like his wife, is in his “early sixties”, added: “The biggest mistake they ever made here was when they filled in the canal. Imagine if there was still a canal running through the centre of Swindon- there’s be cafes and bars and people would be sitting outside along it.

“I think it needs something to attract people here. The shopping is nothing special and I admit we don’t come where very often.

Peter Harris, 68, who lives in Walcott, gave his cautious approval to the idea: “If it works then I suppose it could do something to improve things.

“You’d have to be careful about noise and rowdy people and behaviour though. You wouldn’t like all that in your neighbourhood so you’d have to make sure people who were living in the town centre weren’t put off by that as well.”

Rose Wheater, 38, agreed that improvements could be made. She said: “It is really quiet here at night, when all the shops are shut. There are pubs and some clubs but there’s much more going on in Old Town."

Rose wasn't sure whether allowing, or even encouraging, more residences in the heart of the centre would improve things: "I think there's too many pubs and cafes already, so I'm not sure that more would be a good thing."

The canal that ran through the centre of Swindon was made obsolete by the railway and filled in in the early 20th Century.

A decade ago Swindon Borough Council did have an aspiration of bringing one back - and that was supported by the Canal and River Trust