THE first step in a colossal revamp of the town centre is taking longer than thought.

It had been hoped that detailed blueprints for a new 850-space car park, 84 flats and office space on the site of the old police station close to Whalebridge Roundabout would have been submitted by the spring.

The plans would be the first phase of a wholesale rejuvenation of the town centre called Union Square, led by developer Muse.

But the detailed blueprints are still not in.

This means Union Square could now be added to the growing list of delayed regeneration programmes, like the demolition of the old college building in Regent Circus and the construction of a pedestrian plaza outside the station, both of which should also have been under way in the spring.

Doug Finlay, development director with Muse, said that they are now looking at around autumn to submit the application.

He said: “The thing hasn’t gone in, it will go in, but there’s still some work to do and for the benefit of Swindon it has to be absolutely right.

“We’re not going to rush this thing. The plan is now that we go for autumn, but with the right content and the right design, so that it’s an application we’re proud of.

“The reason it’s taken longer is to improve it – we colloquially call it ‘design development’. It’s so that the arrangement of the buildings and the appearance of the buildings is as good as we can get it.

“I can assure you we’re doing everything we can to get this thing moving as quickly as we can.”

Coun Garry Perkins (Con, Shaw and Nine Elms), the cabinet’s head of regeneration, said he was “impatient” to see it all happen.

He said: “If all the money had been available it would have carried on, but we all know the economic situation. You can’t put plans in unless its economically viable.

“This is, after all, a 10 year build programme (for the whole of Union Square). It’s not as if a delay of six months is going to cause major problems.

“It will be done, but unfortunately now it’s like the station forecourt. That got signed off last week. It was sat with Network Rail and Great Western’s legal people for six months, which we have no real control over.”

Ian Piper, chief executive of the council’s regeneration wing Forward Swindon, said: “The next thing to be submitted is a detailed planning application for Phase One. We had hoped it would be (in by now) but the design process has taken a bit longer than anticipated by the developer.

“Things come along and change. The developer has being doing some design work to make sure when it does come in, it’s ready to go.”

But Coun Mark Dempsey (Lab, Parks), shadow cabinet member for regeneration, said: “The news about the delay to Union Square is disappointing. We feel the regeneration of Swindon would be moving forward more quickly if we had a clear masterplan for the regeneration of Swindon town centre, which is Labour policy.

“The Tories’ record on regeneration has been very poor, and projects have failed to be delivered.

“As a result, our ‘retail ranking’ has fallen from 55th to 65th (as reported in the Adver earlier this year).

“The project at Regent Circus has been delayed. The project at Regent Place, the Modus scheme, has failed to be delivered and the result is the town centre is scarred by wasteland and derelict buildings.

“It’s something the people of Swindon have been waiting a long time for: to see their town properly regenerated.”