Submission re Planning Application S/17/0368, 1 & 3 Faringdon Road Swindon
On behalf of ‘Swindon Civic Voice’, c/o Health Hydro, Milton Road Swindon SN1 5JB
17th April 2007
Swindon Civic Voice OBJECTS to the above application on the grounds of change of use and lack of public consultation.
The uses proposed, especially the conversion for sale of flats, have not been subject to public exploration of options.
Indeed Forward Swindon Ltd, as a wholly-owned SBC company has tried to avoid public consultation, even with the three expressly interested organisations. Namely:
- Swindon Civic Voice
- Mechanics’s Institution Trust
- The central area residents’ improvement group.
A token evening ‘consultation’ with neighbouring businesses was exactly that: tokenistic.
We do not wish to make a lengthy objection. We believe that the Council should now respond to public interest by opening up access to what decision making process there might be to public consideration.
They should do this in their capacity as:
- Trustees of the charitable fund owning the premises
- The local government body
- Owners of Forward Swindon Ltd.
We list related issues:
- SBC refused Swindon Civic Voice’s request to have the premised listed as being potential Assets of Community Value – as promoted under the provisions of the Localities Act.
We disagreed with that decision and will now ppeal to MP Robert Buckland to investigate that decision and help us to ‘appeal’.
We’ll do this in the light of the lack of engagement with local groups that have expressed interest in occupying the premises to the benefit of the wider town community. And also the fact that further High Court decisions may be relevant.
- The premises warrant listing and inclusion in the Railway Village Conservation Area, or at least exploration of its listing potential. We have not pursued listing ourselves, due to amount of effort required and lack of resources of time due to other priorities.
- The introduction of flats is unnecessary and is a ‘throwaway’ of another of Swindon’s significant properties by dint of its location, its role in generation of charitable funds, and its proximity to Railway Village Conservation Area.
- It’s understood that, at least 12 years ago, the Mechanics’ Trust promoted an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funding for an entire retail streetscape under the Townscape Heritage Initiative.
This effort was scuppered by the Conservation Officer at the time (now deceased) in a letter to Julia Drown MP. This letter stated that it was not of the quality HLF would consider. This is clearly untrue.
- The Council has long intended to off-load these premises – since 1990 at least. It has therefore neglected to invest in its upkeep. Any dereliction is due to the council’s own policy toward the premises.
- The premises have been a key element in Swindon’s voluntary sector provision since 1932, and should be carefully examined for potential voluntary or community uses as part of any future decision.
- The premises are now secure, and proper consideration can now be given without endangering the premises in the interim.
There is more that could be said in this vein. But what is required now is proper public scrutiny of the related issues, which all relate to council behaviour Vis-à-vis its citizens’ efforts.
We appeal to SBC/FSL to withdraw this application until such public scrutiny/consultation can be properly conducted.
There is nothing financial or physical to be lost by doing so. This focal, corner property has long been an eye-sore of the Council’s own making, and no rush to a ‘quick win’ decision in interest of town centre regeneration should be allowed to prevail.
If this was an issue, then SBC should have responded to approaches from ourselves (Asset of Community Value application), and from Mechanics’ Trust (Townscape Heritage Initiative per HLF) a dozen years ago.
Finally Ken White’s whimsical painting of the building: