There can be “no red lines” when it comes to ideas for the future use of the Mechanics’ Institute people who attended a public meeting on the building were told.

Scores were at The Platform in Emlyn Square to hear from the Mechanics’ Institution Trust, Swindon Borough Council and the consultants 4th Street, which is carrying out an options appraisal about what might be the best way to bring the derelict building back to life.

After presentations, the council’s cabinet member for the town centre and heritage Dale Heenan said: “There can be no red lines about what the possibilities are. The building has been empty for 20 years and we can’t wait another 20 years for it to be brought back to use.

“We don’t want it to be derelict, so we have to wait to see the results of the feasibility study.”

Director of 4th Street consultants Jim Roberts told the audience there were three main possible uses for the grade II listed building: a theatre and performance art space; an educational use and a business conference and meeting space.

He said: “It’s important that future uses make the most of the nature of the building and are respectful of that, and also that there is a community use element.”

He told the audience that if it was to be used a s a theatre it would be relatively small : “When you add in all the things you'd need these days then there's not a huge amount of space.

"People sometimes ask 'What about the Wyvern Theatre?' but they'd be serving two different purposes, and I don't think there's a conflict. The Wyvern, when it's rebuilt will have 750 to 1,000 seats. This space will be much more about community use."

Discussing use as a business and conference space Mr Roberts said: "There are organisations like the national Trust crammed into their offices across the railway, and they are more and more often booking conference and meeting rooms over this side, so there is a growing need for this.

"Any business or commercial use would have to include some element of community use as well."

Some of the audience were concerned about their voices being heard.

Justin Bishop said: "This is a council estate and these are people's homes. Will any future use be subject to a vote of residents?"

Coun Heenan any firm proposals would have to be approved by borough councillors, but did not promise a public vote.