CASH strapped Swindon Council would transform the Mechanics’ Institute – but it has not got the money.

So says council leader Rod Bluh.

He made the comments after publication of an independent report that said the council had not probed alternative pots of cash for the restoration of the much-loved building.

The council cannot afford to buy the historic building in the Railway Village but has been in talks with English Heritage and owner Mathew Singh on its future restoration. But the conservation body has objected to the restoration plans – and Mr Singh’s latest plan is to build luxury flats and a conference centre.

Now a Planning Inspectorate report on the Swindon Central Area Action Plan says it has seen no evidence that other sources of cash have been explored to restore the building as a centre for learning, cultural and social activities.

It says the council must demonstrate alternative ownership and a cultural learning centre is not feasible before it can look at other uses of the building.

Coun Bluh said: “My priority is to make sure the Mechanics’ Institute is regenerated. But the authority does not have the capital or revenue. If we had the capital we would put it into schools.

“It is not our building and not in our ownership. It is a very complex issue.

“If it was easy, it would be sorted out by now, but it is not easy. The longer it continues it is not good for Swindon’s image or regeneration.”

The building in Emlyn Square was rated in a report last year as being in a poor condition with a priority ‘A’ risk.

Charity The New Mechanics’ Trust has been campaigning for the resurrection of the building as a community resource.

Chairman Daniel Rose said: “We consider that this latest decision throws the council’s past actions and policy into disarray.

“The inspector clearly understood the trust’s argument that plans for a hotel are not a form of ‘public access’. The trust is considering ways in which we can now move forward urgently to ensure that this landmark legacy of the Swindon community’s past achievement figures boldly in the plans for Swindon’s future.”

He plans to get in touch with Mathew Singh, the council and MPs to discuss the purchase of the building with grant money and fundraising cash.