The scale of the challenge in getting the Mechanic’s Institute back into use has been fully set out.

Members of Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet will be asked to endorse a “route map” for getting the building back into use, 40 years after it closed.

But money, and the co-operation of the building’s owner are crucial, and until now, neither have been in ready supply.

The report to the cabinet says there are three critical things that have to be decided in order to get the building, built as a library and theatre by railway workers for their families in the 1850s, back into use.

One is a purpose and use for the building.

The report to councillors says a viability assessment carried out before the Covid-19 pandemic said the best use would be a mixture of an events and conference space and business use.

The report says the success of the Carriage Works restoration just yards away also suggests use of the Mechanics’ for educational uses is feasible, and that a mixed approach would be best.

The second factor is money. The council estimates it will take £25m to restore the building, with another £2.5m needed sooner to make sure it is structurally stable.

That is money the council does not have.

But the report says: “It is anticipated that the majority of the funding needed for the first phase could come from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

"Further funding sources would also be reviewed, and would include other forms of grant, crowdfunding, and private investment.

"Private investment could be secured through coupling the building’s restoration to wider regeneration schemes that will come forward in the Heritage Action Zone and adjacent areas.”

But until now a real sticking point has been the fact that the building is in private hands, owned by Forefront Estates since 2002.

Nothing has been done by the company to safeguard the building and the council has spent more than £1.2 million in emergency repairs and safety work, and has a charge on the building to try and recover £500,000.

Now, according to the report, there is some indication the owner is interested in talking to the council: “The owner of the building does not appear to have been active in securing a new use for it or in protecting the building from deterioration.

"The Route Map involves engaging with the owner of the Mechanics Institute to ensure that the condition of the building does not deteriorate further and to collaborate on securing the restoration of the building.

"In recent months discussions have been initiated with the owner. This represents progress, as the council has written to the owner in the past without response.

"However, if the owner fails to positively engage, the council, working alongside Historic England, would evaluate options to bring about alternative ownership and/or control of the building in order to secure its preservation.

"Any such evaluation would culminate in a further report with a recommended course of action, and a full legal and financial assessment.”

At its meeting on Wednesday, the cabinet will be asked to approve a budget of up to £110,000, funded from the council’s cash reserve, in order to progress the development of options set out in the route map.

The meeting begins at 6pm at the Civic Offices in Euclid Street. The public may attend in person or the meeting will be webcast on Swindon Borough Council’s Youtube channel.