Visions for Swindon

I’ve visited two exhibitions today showing visions for Swindon. First was the young amateurs. The ‘Visions for Swindon’ exhibition by Swindon College School of Arts included several imaginative designs. Being from young students, some lacked practicality, but the more realistic ones still showed original ideas that if turned into reality would be unique.

Then it was on to the professionals. The New Swindon Company’s exhibition of their designs for tidying up Canal Walk. Now, I’m all in favour of things green, but the proposal for a green wall is completely out-of-place A solid wall of greenery in a place where it’s surrounded by steel, glass and concrete walls looks ridiculous. It would look rather less silly if they spread it around a bit, so that there was some greenery on all the surrounding walls too. According to one of the company’s representatives at the exhibition, it will be first in the country. I guess she’s never seen an ivy covered wall, nor read her company’s own bumf which says there’s already one in London.

Designer puddleThen there’s the water features. The water jets in the display have already been dropped, I was told. The other water feature in the design, stylised puddles, or ‘Natural Stone Rainwater Water Features’ as the designers call them, were clearly giving the representatives a few problems: they were very keen to emphasise that they wouldn’t be a safety risk.

With the hyperbole being spouted to support these proposals making repeated reference to the Wilts & Berks Canal, it’s odd that they propose to relocate the Golden Lion statue. A statue that marks the site of the Golden Lion Bridge over the canal is rather pointless elsewhere.

Adding to the hyperbole, as has become traditional for all matters related to town centre regeneration, is one of our local councillors. This time, it’s Mr Young’s turn to be in twaddle mode.

We think greenery helps bring the town centre back to life and makes it a much more pleasant place to be and make people come into the town even if it’s just to see it.

I agree that it’ll make the town centre more pleasant, but if people are going somewhere just to see greenery, I suspect they’ll choose the countryside where there’s rather more of it.

McDonald’s felt that before Wharf Green was done, it was dragging the area down.

Hmm… guess they didn’t like the competition.

It’s very important to us to set a high standard with public realm improvements, and we want to hear what local people have to say.

Aah, the deceit of faux consultation! With work on Canal Walk due to start in July, the time for influencing the design is well passed. The New Swindon Company’s hubris is equally over-the-top.

The design concept aims to provide a vibrant, accessible street scene, encouraging visitors and shoppers to come to Swindon town centre as an exciting destination in its own right as well as for the shopping.

It’ll take rather more than a few trees, a hedge, new paving stones and stylised puddles to do that.

By renewing Canal Walk we aim to… provide a unique identity and quality environment… making Swindon an exciting place to visit.

A few trees an puddles amongst the paving stones as a source of excitement… developers must lead a dull life.

The designs for Canal Walk are the effort of no less than four consultancy companies. The New Swindon Company would’ve been better off hiring the college students.