I almost felt sorry for Mr Hitchings of Forward Swindon on Saturday, as he tried — with little success — to convince those attending a consultation display at the Central Library, that Muse’s Union Square development was an all-round good thing. There’s really no effective argument one can make against those — and there were several — that are adamant that any development is pointless because “People just don’t want to come to Swindon, they go to Bath.” Nor is there any easy compromise between those that believe there’s no point starting the development now whilst the economy is in a slump — “Just look at those shops they’ve just built. Over half of them are empty. What’s the point of building more?” — and those that can’t see the point of a development that won’t be finished for fifteen years. Trying to convince those that couldn’t and wouldn’t envisage a Swindon any different from how it is now was a pointless task, and I think Mr Hitchings knew that.
For once I found myself relatively impressed by what is planned, and I was not alone in that, though amongst those visiting the exhibition I appeared to be in a small minority. But to my mind there were two things that let down a good outline plan for the development. The first, as already noted by Mr Wakefield, is the hype. Not for the firsttime, what is nothing more than a development that could be found in many other towns is being touted as mould breaking.
An exceptional town centre regeneration scheme contributing to the renaissance of Swindon
Renaissance? These are plans for offices, not a cultural centre.
Union Square has regeneration at its heart and will provide a vibrant and genuine extension to the town centre.
I have diminishing hopes that one day I might read a developer’s brochure that doesn’t describe their bog-standard plans as ‘vibrant’. And if anyone can tell me what a fake extension to the town centre would be like, I’d be delighted to know.
The other point of concern are the plans for Phase 1 which will occupy the space where the police station once stood.
This first phase of the masterplan will deliver 84 supported housing units, a new high quality multi-storey car park (850 spaces) and space for either a relocated Primary Care Trust or a new office or hotel development.
Oh wow! Yet more flats and another hotel. Just how ‘vibrant’ is that? It must have taken a lot of imagination to come up with that plan. I can imagine it already. The Swindon Renaissance Hotel, serving genuine meals at Vibrant, its stylish carvery and grill….