Next week, the council’s cabinet will discuss the future of arts and culture in Swindon and will be presented with exciting proposals to build a brand new cultural quarter in the town centre.

Over the past 12 months, the council has been working closely with key partners in Swindon’s arts, cultural and business sectors to develop a plan for a new cultural quarter to help revitalise the town centre and expand our cultural offer.

Those plans will be laid out before cabinet next Wednesday (October 21).

And if approved, will be progressed through a partnership approach that brings together the arts sector, a diverse range of public and private sector stakeholders and funding bodies who will start to bring the project to life.

The ideal location for the cultural quarter has already been identified – that is the Kimmerfields regeneration site, which lies between the railway station and opposite Debenhams on Fleming Way.

Work to build Zurich’s new flagship headquarters at Kimmerfields has already begun, as signs emerge that Swindon’s economy is starting to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s important to stress that the plans for the cultural quarter will not be delivered overnight.

The project is expected to come to fruition over the next 10 years.

And it is hoped will include, among other things, a new theatre, dance centre, digital media and arts hub and new museum and art gallery.

However, we at the council believe in being bold and brave in seeking to deliver these key pieces of our town centre regeneration plans.

We are confident that these plans are credible and deliverable.

But we also know that there is still a lot of work to be done before residents will start to see any visible progress on site.

An economic impact assessment has concluded that the cultural quarter could add more than £35m a year to Swindon’s economy.

And it could create as many as 1,200 jobs for the town.

These are potentially significant economic victories that we must be grasp with both hands if we want to see the town’s economic recovery continue.

If approved by cabinet next week, the next six months will see focus placed on writing the financial business case and investment prospectus.

The whole development is expected to cost in the region of £80m and work will be undertaken to ensure we are well prepared for the next round of government and arts funding programmes when they become available.

Importantly, we cannot bid for these funding streams until we have a clear plan in place.

In the meantime, I would like to thank everybody who has helped get these proposals to where they are and, in particular, all our partners in Swindon’s arts sector who have supported us along the way.