SWINDON'S town centre shopping area should be shrunk with more space going to housing.

That's the view of Dale Heenan, the Conservative cabinet member with responsibility for the town centre.

Now he is urging businesses and residents to put their views forward on the borough’s draft local plan.

And specifically, he wants people to think about making the central shopping area smaller, with more streets given over to housing

He said: “We’ve heard this week about Topshop closing, and they wont be the last national retailer with problems because of online shopping.

"The government urgently needs to level the playing field on tax between physical stores and online shops.

"But what can do we do as a town?

“Firstly we must be more positive. One shop closes, and a new one always opens.

"Hays Travel is opening this month, Love Brownies, a new independent shop is planned for Faringdon Road, Lamaya Restaurant at Regent Circus, and an Afro-Caribbean Market are all coming soon.

"Residents know that there are over 150 shops at the Outlet and there are great independent shops and restaurants in Old Town.

“Secondly, many town across country recognise they need to consolidate, to shrink by 10 to 15 per cent to create a more focused core area of shops to keep a critical mass, and I think Swindon needs a debate about doing the same.

"The footprint of our town centre has not changed since the 1960s.

"We need more people living in the town centre."

Coun Heenan said some significant streets near the railway line could be revived if more people live there, brining in the sorts of shops residents need rather than visiting shoppers.

He said: “Some claim the area around Bridge Street, Fleet Street and Regent Street represents everything about our town centre.

"But it isn’t, and hasn’t been for years. The council can make a bold decision that says this area should be more residential, and not a primary shopping area. I believe it should.

"Many empty buildings, like the Liquor Lounge, have been up for sale for years.This simple policy change by the council could help show owners they can do something.

"To refurbish and sell them as homes. Do residents and business agree?”

The consultation closes at 5pm on January 31. Views should be sent to forwardplanning@swindon.gov.uk or dale.heenan@swindon.gov.uk.