THE regeneration of the town centre is full steam ahead, despite economic worries.

This is the message from Swindon Council leader Rod Bluh who says he is optimistic about the huge changes set to take place.

But he sounded a note of caution on the Wichelstowe development on land between Old Town and the M4, saying that he was waiting for a report into the development.

During a presentation to a scrutiny committee on Monday night, Coun Bluh said he was feeling much more optimistic about Swindon's prospects under the current economic cloud than he was at the beginning of the year.

He said: "It would be very easy to sit here and be full of doom and gloom about the year to come. But I think we have got grounds to be optimistic.

"We are on a long journey and it doesn't matter how much flood water there is we will keep on that road.

"We are focussed on business as normal but we have to be realistic about the challenges that will face us."

Coun Bluh said that the big ticket items for Swindon's regeneration were well under way, including plans to demolish the old Swindon College building in Regent Circus.

He said: "That one is somewhat out of our control but the indications are that it is getting under way.

"The two other major schemes are the Modus shopping centre and the Exchange.

"There are still issues to be resolved with these schemes but all indications are that we will have good news about these sites this year.

"However difficult these next few years are going to be we will come out of the other side and it is important to stay optimistic."

The leader also pointed to the successes that have been achieved so far.

He said: "Wharf Green has been delivered and seems to be building already. Over the weekend of the summer festival I am told that nobody has ever seen the town centre so busy.

"The library is on time and on budget and is due to be delivered on October 20."

He also talked about the hotly- debated canal scheme, pointing out that at a recent regeneration conference nearly all the projects on show incorporate a water feature.

He said: "The canal idea is not a daft idea and it has never been a daft idea."

Despite this he declined to discuss Coun Stan Pajak's suggestion that May 2009 would be a suitable date for a referendum on the project.

Asked about the future of the Wichelstowe project he said: "It doesn't take a genius to work out that not many houses are going to be built there in the near future."