SWINDON councillors have backed plans to ensure one of the town’s most historic buildings is brought up to scratch.

Planning officers, reporting back to the council’s planning committee at the civic offices, last night said they had issued a second letter of warning to the owner of the Mechanics’ Institute Mathew Singh.

This instructs him that if he does not comply with an urgent works notice by April 20 council officials will enter the building and will bring in their own contractors to get the work done.

The action was noted favourably by all members of the planning committee much to the approval of the building’s long-term supporters.

Daniel Rose, chair of the Mechanics’ Trust, said: “The Trust urges the borough council to hold your nerve and stand firm, you have absolutely everything on your side.”

The Mechanics’ Institute building, in Emlyn Square, is Grade II listed.

In December last year, the council issued an urgent works notice on owner of the building, which required certain work to be undertaken under Section 54 of the Planning Act 1990.

However, a report by the council’s director of planning and transport expressed concern that no approved contractor had been appointed or a schedule provided to the council.

The report stated that an inspection carried out on the premises in February found numerous works had not been done.

A letter was sent at the end of March to Mr Singh.

The report states that the cost if undertaken by the council is estimated at £249,889.

A grant has been available from English Heritage on the condition that the council contributes 20 per cent towards the cost.

This £50,000 council bill could be reclaimed from the owner.

Coun Bob Wright (Lab, Central) said he wanted to ensure sufficient contact was being made with Mr Singh.

He said: “The current works taking place aren’t in line with some of the vision of how the building should be used.”

Coun Vera Tomlinson (Con, Abbey Meads) said: “It’s part of Swindon’s heritage. We should move as quickly as possible before there’s any more deterioration.”

In response, Mr Singh, who did not attend the meeting, said: “I’m happy if they want to do that, there’s no issues as far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice.

“If they want to buy the building they’re welcome to buy it as well.

“I haven’t been told about it or what’s happening by any council member or councillor.”