THE leader of Swindon Borough Council is optimistic about the town centre’s future despite the loss of anchor stores like Debenhams and House of Fraser.

Councillor David Renard responded to comments from shoppers which suggested the area had little to offer and felt "hostile".

He told BBC Wiltshire: “I come into the town centre quite a lot and it doesn’t feel [hostile] but I accept that maybe at certain times of the day, it does, and that is a concern. If it’s stopping people coming in, we need to work with the police, inSwindon BID and others to try and make people feel safe. Scooters, cyclists and now electric bikes are an issue which is raised with me.

“The police have enforcement powers. I’ve been in the town centre when the police have stopped someone and asked them to get off – they do it and have the powers to do it.”

The council chose not to renew a public space protection order which allowed cyclists, skateboarders, beggars and boozers to be fined on the spot when it ran out last month.

Instead, the local authority will now look into other enforcement options because the PSPO did not do enough to tackle antisocial behaviour.

Now that big high street brands which used to bookend the top of Canal Walk and the bottom of the Parade are empty units, Coun Renard suggested that a bigger focus on small independent retailers and options other than shopping would attract more people to the town centre.

He said: “[Shop closures are] not just happening in Swindon, it’s happening across the whole town and country.

“The [House of Fraser and Debenhams] buildings are owned by private institutions and we’re talking to them about how we can bring them back into use but people’s shopping habits have changed. The retail footprint of the town centre needs to shrink but the positive thing we have seen is a lot of independents opening around town.

“The national chains are being replaced by local independent traders, which is good news. We’re not going to go back to the days of the 60s and 70s when everyone flooded into the town centre to do their shopping.

“There are other choices now and we need to make the town centre a place where people want to come in – not just for food and retail but other reasons as well.”

Some choose to visit the Orbital Shopping Centre or Designer Outlet, but Coun Renard said a slow but steady transformation of the town centre which includes the planned Cultural Quarter and, he hopes, a new market in Wharf Green, would give people more reasons to visit.