The town centre of Swindon could be changed almost beyond recognition if the borough council’s ambitious plans come off.

Taken together, the development of offices and houses at Kimmerfields, the new bus boulevard on Fleming Way, the building of the indoor ski centre at North Star and the building of a new Wyvern Theatre – incorporating the town’s art gallery and museum and possible civic offices – will bring radical changes.

And the man in political charge of it all, the borough council’s cabinet member for the town centre Coun Dale Heenan, says it all fits together.

He said: “The town centre has stood still and it really does need to change.

“A conscious decision was taken 50 years ago to move it to where it is now from Old Town.

“But the way people shop, the way we live has changed very much over the last 10 years, let alone the last 50.

“We need to make the town centre fit for the future, and that means changing it – it means more offices, it means more people living there, with more businesses then catering for both the workers in the day time and residents in the evening.”

Coun Heenan added: “Two major projects, Kimmerfields and the ski centre at North Star, are now moving ahead so now we’re concentrating on starting the next two, the bus boulevard and the cultural quarter at the Wyvern Theatre site.

“And they affect each other – one of the longer aims will be to regenerate and improve Bridge Street and Regent Street.

“The footfall of people going to and coming from the ski centre in North Star will I hope help to do that by making that area more attractive to investment by business.

“Councils have always tried to do too much at once, so our plan is to do one or two things, get that moving then look at the next thing.

“And it needs private sector investment as well – there isn’t enough money to do everything but by bringing in Kimmerfields and North Star, that will increase property values in the centre and make Swindon more attractive to investors.”


The redevelopment of the Kimmerfields site in the central business area of Swindon is at the heart of the council's plans for regeneration.

So much so that once Insurance giant Zurich has built its new headquarters on the site Swindon Borough Council will buy it and lease it back to the company - and work is due to start this summer so the company can be in by 2022.

A Zurich spokesperson said: “We’re excited about our plans for playing a part in the ongoing regeneration of the town centre, providing new premises for our people and enhancing the local environment.  We’re still working through the details of our proposals and look forward to sharing more news on timings when we have it.”   

The rest of the site is expected to be a mixture of office accommodation, retail, a hotel and housing.

Development officer at Euclid Street Trudy Godfrey told members of the growing the economy scrutiny committee: "Six hundred square feet of commercial space and 450 new homes will be a high quality public space. and worth in the region of £200m on land owned by the borough council and Homes England. It is our flagship regeneration scheme."

Cultural Quarter

The borough council will be spending £250,000 on looking at how it can best knock down the existing Wyvern Theatre building and construct a bigger theatre on the same site, which will also house the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

Initial plans are that the theatres 700 seat auditorium will be increased to be able to hold over 1,100 paying customers.

Coun Heenan said: "To be able to attract the bigger shows, the bigger comedy acts we need a theatre of that size.

"It will be a theatre fitting for the size of the town. And with a better cultural offer in the heart of the town, office workers can pop out in the lunch hour and see some art, it will help to attract people to live in the town centre if there is more to do in the evenings and that will help with revitalising the centre."

The council plans to sell its Euclid Street buildings to pay for the project.

Bus Boulevard

It might sound like a dry public transport project, but the borough council believes the Bus Boulevard is actually quite key to the regeneration of the town centre.

Coun Heenan said: "At the moment Fleming Way is a duel carriageway and is a real barrier between the town centre retail area and the Kimmerfields development. This will clear that barrier and open the town and blur the distinction between the business district and the town centre shopping area.

"It also makes the town centre more attractive and available to people."

"The current bus station is also about 20 per cent of the area of the Kimmerfields site, so by freeing that space up, by sorting the bus boulevard out that will make more space available for offices and houses."

Coun Heenan's colleague, Coun Oliver Donachie, the cabinet member for economic development said: "people want to be safe, seen and illuminated in the central business district. This will help to cut insecurity and anti-social behaviour.

He added that an important BT broadband cable runs under Fleming Way with no back-up, providing links for card payments to hundreds of shops, and the project should improve broadband access.

Mechanics' Institute

One of the future projects for the borough council is to finally get the Mechanic's Institute - a vital part of Swindon's industrial and social heritage, fixed and back into use.

A Heritage Action Zone in the Greats Western Works area will be launched next month with English heritage working with the council and other organisations to improve and regenerate the area, and  bring the Mechanics' Institute next to the railway village back from its current state of dereliction.

Coun Heenan was unequivocal: " If the Heritage Action Zone hasn't sorted out the Mechanic's within five years then it will have failed.

"I want there to be a real road map on how to progress within two years and after five years actually to have work started on bringing it back from falling into ruin.

"It's an iconic building for Swindon and it's been a problem or more than 30 years deciding what will happen to it.

The Victorian building in Emlyn Square is currently owned by a private landlord.


A lot of the council's hopes for the regeneration ride on the success of the indoor ski centre soon to be constructed in North Star on derelict land just across the road form the Oasis centre.

'Snoasis' as it has been nicknamed will see two huge ski slopes as well as a trampoline sport centre, a bowling alley and the largest Imax screen in the Uk as part of a 12-screen cinema as well as bars, restaurants cafes and shops.

Coun Oliver Donachie said: "This will transform the area, and it will become part of a golden triangle, especially if the Institute of Technology comes and is in the Swindon College building.

"Millennials want to live in town centres and be able to have these sort of experiences available nearby."

When the project was debated by the borough council's planning committee there was a real fear from nearby residents and ward councillors that traffic to the site would have en even worse impact on the streets nearby in Rodbourne which are often already clogged. One Labour councillor, Jane Milner-Barry also wanted it redesigned so its roof could have solar panels and it could generate its own power.

Developers Seven Capital hope to start work on the site of the £270m project this summer with a scheduled opening date for the ski centre in 2021.

Carriage Works

A smaller project, the revamping of the GWR carriage works has been a real success.

The group of grade II listed building were brought back to life to offer office space, with a special unit - the Workshed, for high tech and digital start-ups.

As well as offices, one of the buildings will soon be in use as a new campus for the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester.

The college has agreed to run Swindon's first Cultural Heritage Trust at the buildings which were once the largest railway carriage works in the country and designed by IK Brunel.

Coun Donachie said: "This has been a real success - we can't sell the units fast enough and it's a real testament to Brunel that these building have been brought back so easily and sympathetically.”