Square let down

The announcement that Swindon Council is not proceeding with the purchase of that part of Cavendish Square which it does not own is a grave disappointment to local people. We have been campaigning to rectify the parlous state of the 'new' Cavendish Square for a decade. The unresolved problems are the result of the negligence of the Council. They allowed the original developer to leave the square without drainage even though they had failed to roof the area, bequeathing us the infamous Cavendish Square lake.

Even though Phase 3 of the project (the old Co-op site) was not going ahead Leehampton at one point committed to roofing the main part of the square but the council failed to hold them to that promise. The council allowed the derelict, dirty, unsafe, Co-op site to remain an eyesore. It took community groups two years of effort to secure the car park to replace it. More than £30,000 of a bond put in place for the roof (which was never built) was used to pay for the second car park. Nearly £90,000 is left to pay for any works requiring to be done.

The decision of the Council to buy back this area was the result of years of campaigning in the face of various owners whose only interest was the rent collected from the shops. The council had the perfect excuse, we can't do anything because we don't own it.

Obviously Covid is a material factor which cannot be ignored. Yet David Renard's statement that they have decided not to proceed because of the impact of Covid on retail values misses the obvious possibility of negotiating a lower price. Given the ongoing crisis of the retail sector, which pre-dated Covid, the owner might be amenable to a lower price. They may want to extricate themselves from this site. Rather than abandoning the proposal to buy it, surely it would be worth testing the possibility of negotiating a lower price.

Whilst the council may well say that this is a commercial investment, so far as local people are concerned it owes us the duty of resolving the long-standing problems with the Square, for which they are ultimately responsible. It was clear that the outstanding problems – flooding, lighting, decaying fencing, unsafe floor – could only be resolved if the council bought the land and put these things right.

In a recent statement Robert Buckland said that the council was seeking permission of the owner to “undertake third party work”. This makes no sense at all. We have opposed spending public money to enhance the assets of a private company. It makes even less sense when the council is seeking to buy it from them. Why should we gift money to a company which has treated local people with contempt?

Having had to campaign for so long to resolve these problems we believe that the council has a moral duty to stick to its commitment to buy back the square and do the work necessary to resolve the problems. By all means try to negotiate a lower price but ultimately the people of the area have been let down by the council and it is their responsibility to rectify the situation. The problems can only be resolved by the council sticking to its commitment to buy it back.

Martin Wicks

Welcombe Avenue

Park North

Council tax anger

A question to Mr Russell Holland Deputy leader of Swindon council, regarding the likelihood of a five per cent increase in council tax in the borough of Swindon.

Sir, may I remind you, there is the greatest financial crisis upon our island for over 300 years. Massive jobs losses. A great loss of human lives. Mental health issuesDomestic abuse increasing daily, The human race of all colours and creeds on our precious island with its beautiful scenery. Forced into house arrest. To mention but a few of many caused by the Covid-19 virus.

Over 75s having to choose to eat, heat or pay the TV licence. Your council tax takes up 85 per cent of my weekly state pension 10 months a year. One question I beg to ask you. Does the council tax take up 85 per cent of your weekly income? I await your reply with great and fervent anticipation sir.

I almost forgot.When I walk my dog around Covingham for an hour every night.Why are so many street lights not on, is that one of your basic duties of care in the dark winter evenings. Regarding lone females protection as well as potential accidents in the dark?

Bill Williams

Merlin Way