A recent interview with Peter Boucher, the CEO of Excalibur Communications, in this paper has hit on a key point, which shouldn’t be lost on any Swindonian.

“We must be more positive about our town. If all people hear is negative things then that is all they know. Swindon has its challenges like all towns and cities, but as this experienced businessman says "the first and main thing I noticed was that most of the locals spent their time apologising for the town, and for no real reason…. it has a lot going for it.”

Graham Carter’s column on Monday was a classic example of where negative personal views about Swindon’s heritage aren’t reflected in the facts on the ground today. I was disappointed to read this opinion piece, which has the potential to reinforce the thoughts of potentially thousands of readers precisely as Mr Boucher warned. So what is the positive case for Swindon's physical heritage? Is it all doom, gloom and apathy as Graham claims? Is heritage more than two privately-owned buildings?

When I was asked by the Leader of the Council, Cllr David Renard, to be the Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, Culture and Heritage two years ago, I was clear to everyone a new approach was needed. We needed to focus on fewer, more impactful projects as a council, because meaningful change isn’t easy and it takes time.

The Mechanics was a personal priority and in January 2019, I made sure the right people were around the table for the first time to make an actual difference. Six months later the Heritage Action Zone was launched with one of its objectives to see visible progress within five years on the Mechanics. English Heritage has committed £500,000, a business case demonstrates a sustainable viable future of mixed uses, and preparation for a compulsory purchase has been authorised if needed. We will have more news on this soon.

Cllr Matty Courtliff has been vocal about supporting Lydiard. The house has seen £800,000 of repairs agreed and, throughout the pandemic, work has been ongoing. Just weeks ago, Swindon's first ever four-year country park improvement strategy was agreed with Lydiard Park protected.

The Health Hydro has seen the council commit £2m for repairs. Cllr Renard, I and others, successfully lobbied the Towns Fund board to support a further £5 million grant from the Government for the total refurbishment. Included is the reopening of the small pool. A decision is imminent. Cllr Nick Burns Howell is our Heritage champion and we have taken the issues surrounding the Corn Exchange/Locarno seriously. It saw the developer fail to meet several key project milestones, which the Council set. The building’s owner, Gael Mackenzie, is now finally seriously engaged to do something about this derelict building.

A further £3m investment in the Grade 2-Listed Carriage Works has brought the building to life with a new innovation start-up hub created, while the Royal Agricultural University has set up the new Cultural Heritage Institute. Heritage restored with jobs and learning.

We need residents to shout about our town and to take pride in what we are doing to preserve our heritage.

It is time to leave any outdated views about our heritage in the past and concentrate on the positive changes we are making for the town’s future.