Ambitious plans for culture in Swindon could see the Wyvern Theatre completely rebuilt – and if it is, the site would also become the new home for the town’s art gallery and museum.

But changes wouldn’t stop there – if a new proposal to be discussed by the borough council’s cabinet next week is approved, items from the museum’s nationally important collection will be put on display in ‘pop up’ or rotating smaller exhibitions in civic and heritage buildings throughout the town.

And while the theatre rebuild awaits completion, £400,000 could be spent on upgrading the museum and gallery’s existing building at Apsley House in Bath Road in Old Town.

Those are the main planks of a scheme to be presented to the council’s Conservative cabinet by Coun Dale Heenan, the member for the town centre.

His report says that while the museum is “much loved, the visitor experience falls well short of what would be expected form a modern museum. Space is at a premium and school visits are not easy to accommodate.”

And the museum is costing the taxpayer too much money, according to Coun Heenan, who will tell his colleagues the subsidy for every one of the 14,000 annual visitors is £14 which is “not sustainable given our current financial challenges.”

The plan officers have come up with is to develop the area of the town centre near the Wyvern Theatre as a wider “cultural quarter”.

The proposal is to build a replacement for the theatre with increased capacity for shows and performance which are too big currently for Swindon’s venues and to create a venue for civic functions and the museum and art gallery.

It adds that the sale or redevelopment of the council’s civic offices in Euclid Street might be needed to fund the plan.

Last year a £22m bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to build a new museum and gallery, three times the size of the current one, near the Wyvern Theatre was turned down by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Linda Kasmaty, who chairs the Friends of Swindon Art Gallery and Museum group is very pleased by the plans. She said: “It’s brilliant. There’s so much going on I thought does the council really have the will, or the money, to spend on culture and arts, and here they’re proposing a really good scheme.

“I heard Dale Heenan speaking about the proposals, and I kept thinking ‘what’s the catch’ but there isn’t one.

“I’m particularly pleased by the proposals to spend money on improving the current venue, but that is much needed now as well.”

The cabinet will discuss the plans at its meeting at 6pm on Wednesday, March 20 at the civic offices.

Coun Heenan said: “As a new cabinet member, I am pleased to have overseen, over the last six months, approval for the Zurich’s new headquarters and the £270m Ski Slope at North Star. Nobody could have said that a year ago and now I want to solve the problem of the future of the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

“I believe art should be seen and Swindon has one of the best modern art collections in the country, yet most of it is in storage.

“I am therefore proposing an ambitious and realistic plan that councillors agree in principle to sell or redevelop the Civic Offices to help pay for a rebuild of the ageing Wyvern Theatre.

“This new larger theatre would attract higher profile events and performers and include sufficient space to be a permanent home for our art collections and artefacts that will be financially sustainable. Imagine a single foyer: turn left for theatre, turn right for museum and art gallery.

“By taking a fresh look at what is best for our collections and artefacts, for local residents, for staff and for the council, I believe this new approach is one that all local residents and politicians can enthusiastically get behind.

“This will take time to implement, so a series of pop-up exhibitions will be organised to showcase our art collections in civic and heritage buildings like the Central Library, STEAM and the Carriage Works.”