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Ambitious town centre plans approved by Cabinet

A new bus interchange will be used as a catalyst for rejuvenating Swindon town centre, under exciting plans approved by councillors this week.

Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet endorsed a £25m bid to the Government’s Future High Streets Fund towards the cost of the new transport facility, with the remaining cost being met by the Council (£5m) and Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (£3m).

Artists’ impressions of the site show the proposed major improvements which include a green spine, new public space and dramatically improved pedestrian and cycle routes being created in the town centre with the current underpass at Fleming Way being removed.

The scheme would build on the improvements currently being carried out at nearby Wellington Street by creating an attractive route from the train station into the town centre, encouraging further investment in the area.

All national and local bus services would be incorporated along Fleming Way, improving the experience of bus users and pedestrians, while the new road layout would complete the link between the Eastern and Western Flyer cycle routes.

The new bus facility, which is an integral part of the mixed use Kimmerfields regeneration site, would free up the area which houses the current bus station increasing the size of the site by 20 per cent and increasing the value of the development.

It also supports the vision for the town centre, which states that ‘By 2030, Swindon town centre will be the beating heart of the local community. A place to set up home and business, where people stay longer, spend more and keep coming back’.

Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, said: “Everyone must recognise that the High Street is changing. The challenges facing our town centre are not unique, but we are fortunate to have the added benefit of the popular Designer Outlet Centre and Old Town, with its independent shops and bars.

“We also have a raft of exciting projects coming forward which are beginning to build real momentum. Six months ago, no-one would have believed that building work for the North Star Ski slope and the new state-of-the-art offices for Zurich, would both start this summer. Yet they are and there are also exciting plans coming forward from the owners of the Brunel Centre.

“Town centres can no longer be completely reliant on shops to survive, and these projects are key. Sorting out the bus station and Fleming Way is one of the top three problems we need to solve with the help of our partners, along with a new Cultural Quarter and finding a sustainable use for the Mechanics Institute. The improvements at Kimmerfields have been a priority for many years but a lack of funding has held back progress.

“This government funding is targeted at shovel-ready schemes, like Swindon’s, which focus on ensuring attractive public space, modern sustainable transport links, and quality homes so that great entertainment, shops, cafes and restaurants can be delivered.  We have a strategy, we have the plans ready to be implemented, now we just need this government money to make it happen.”

The new bus facility will take three years to complete with buses using a temporary facility next to the Wyvern Theatre during construction.

With Cabinet approval of the Future High Streets Fund bid for the bus interchange, the Council will submit an initial expression of interest to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) by 22 March.

Applicants will find out during the summer whether their initial application has been successful and, if so, and it can then proceed to the second phase of the process, which involves the development of a full business case.

The Government has stated that it expects full business cases to take between six and 12 months to complete.

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