WORK will start soon on creating a new home for Swindon Museum and Art Gallery.

The council's declaration comes after the campaigners that it "was not good enough" that its former home at Apsley House remained closed.

The group made a last-ditch attempt to urge Swindon Borough Council to change its mind about the fate of the Grade II listed building in Old Town in September.

That demonstration followed a report that recommended the venue stayed closed and was sold off.

Now, chairman of the Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery (FSMAG) and Save our Museum and Gallery (SoMAG) Linda Kasmaty is left wondering what has happened to the items previously housed in the gallery.

She said: "Like many venues Apsley House closed because of the pandemic. Unlike other venues, it remains closed.

"So the collections have been put into storage, and Swindon residents can see a few of the artworks via worthy but small exhibitions called Art on Tour.

"The Save our Museum and Art Gallery (SoMAG) have asked the council to ensure that the collections have a suitable home until then. In December 2021, the Cabinet decided to convert the entire top floor of the Civic Offices into a museum and art gallery. So far, so good. But something does not add up."

According to FSMAG, in March 2019 the council estimated it would cost £1,864,000 to convert the first floor of the Civic Offices, and the group adds that it is now claiming it will cost £400,000.

It has sought answers from the council on the difference in figures, but has had no answer.

Ms Kasmaty added: "Our rapidly growing town is already identified by the Arts Council as having low cultural engagement. This is shameful. A significant part of our culture is locked up somewhere, out of sight.

"For two months, we have been trying to meet the Culture Councillor, Robert Jandy, to discuss when we will have a museum and art gallery fit for the town. Swindon risks becoming a dormitory town, with huge housing estates and no facilities. Instead, let’s create a place we can all enjoy, and let’s start by valuing what we have got."

To read Ms Kasmaty's letter in full, click here.

In response, councillor Robert Jandy, the cabinet Member for  culture, heritage, leisure and town centre experience, reiterated Apsley House on Bath Road was no longer fit for purpose.

He said work has been ongoing to design and finalise detailed costings for the conversion of the Civic building so it can display more of the collections and be more accessible to visitors.

Mr Jandy said: "This is really important.

"Swindon’s modern art collection is superb, and it deserves to be displayed in a place and in a manner that everyone can enjoy. Inevitably this is a complicated process, and there are procedures that we must follow.

"A planning application to change the use of the civic building has been submitted and a programme of works will be developed around a major upgrade of the lift that will allow as much of the collection to be made visible as soon as possible.

“Much of the work can be done in house and we are confident that officers are now able to get on with the important job of converting the civic offices and delivering the facility that the Council and its residents expect.

“The collections are currently stored in accord with curatorial requirements and the art on display at the civic campus has been refreshed and it looks fantastic.

"A room on the ground floor has also been converted to provide a taster of how the new facility will look and I would encourage anyone who wants to view our fabulous artwork to visit our Celebration of Colour exhibition to see for themselves.”