MasterPlanI am reading the Swindon Masterplan Report (Draft Rev C), while the document is not all about canals; in fact very little of it is about canals, the Swindon Evening Advertiser would have you believe it was a well supported plan to make the City Town of Swindon into some kind of Venice.

The Swindon Town Centre Masterplan has been prepared in close collaboration with key business and community stakeholders in Swindon. It is a long term plan for the regeneration of the Swindon Town Centre and it will guide development over the next 10-15 years. The masterplan reflects the aspirations of local stakeholders for Swindon Town Centre to become: 

  • A place which is a cultural destination for Wiltshire and the South West;
  • An enjoyable place to shop and enjoy leisure time;
  • A town which celebrates its unique industrial and railway heritage;
  • A sustainable place to live;
  • A thriving, diverse and family-friendly evening economy;
  • A town centre characterised by beautiful streets, public spaces and parks; and
  • A town which continues to be a location of choice for major, high quality employers.

The masterplan sets out a clear vision for Swindon Town Centre and articulates a programme of projects through which the vision will be realised. The projects include:

  • A series of prestigious cultural venues, including a new art gallery to house the Council’s prestigious collection, which will help to transform Swindon’s image and identity and draw visitors back to the town centre as well as act as a catalyst for further investment;
  • A series of key infrastructure projects to connect the northern and southern halves of Swindon Town Centre, which are currently severed by the railway;
  • A framework for Swindon’s streets, public spaces and parks to deliver the ‘green spine’ identified in Council policy for Swindon and to make the town centre more inviting for pedestrians and cyclists and more legible for motorists;
  • A strategy for Swindon’s built heritage, including the Mechanics’ Institute, the Paragon Laundry, The Locarno and the former Swindon College building, which is designed to ensure a sustainable long term future for these buildings;
  • A portfolio of key development sites, some of which are already in the pipeline and will be delivered soon, and some of which are longer term proposals. The identification of development sites will help to ensure that new development in Swindon comes forward in a co-ordinated way, and that it can be delivered to the highest possible design quality; and
  • An action plan for delivery, which sets out clearly the next steps, key partners and timescales for the completion of major projects.

I am sure this is not the Re-Development plan for swindon, and I doubt that this one will be the last, or even if it is implemented; the implementation will be nothing short of a poor interpretation of this brief.

Reading the document I have found a few references to the idea of re-introducing the canal:

  • §2 Planning Swindon Together, Community & Business Consultation: There is an aspiration to re-establish the Wiltshire and Berks Canal through the town centre [Pg 5]
  • Establish the canal in the town centre [Pg 6]
  • Need to consider the canal connection through the town centre – great regeneration catalyst[Pg 18]
  • §3.1 Swindon Now: Place: Swindon’s transport network, railway and canal heritage make a very significant contribution to Swindon’s character and identity. [Pg21]
  • §3.3 Plans: Proposals to reinstate a canal running through Swindon Town Centre would provide a significantly improved pedestrian environment, and create a key attraction. However, they are likely to prove prohibitively expensive to deliver, due to the presence of key infrastructure, including roads and sewers along the preferred route. The masterplan sets out a suggested route for a canal and canal basin, along a former canal route, which may be more deliverable, and allows for the safeguarding of the cross-town route for the long term. [Pg 15]
  • Fleet Street area – the CAAP envisages new retail and safeguards land for a potential canal route and basin along Fleet Street. The proposed canal route is unlikely to be delivered due to its prohibitive cost. [Pg 16]
  • §4.1 Sustainable Swindon: Improve Connectivity between north And south across tHe railway;
    • To support the safeguarding of the canal and an additional pedestrian footbridge across the railway.

    Opportunities to secure new or improved links across the railway, including a new pedestrian bridge and reinstated canal should be sought through securing S106 funding from new developments within the masterplan area. A new pedestrian footbridge over the railway at the station will help unlock the site to the south of the railway line for development, as parking can be provided on the northern side. The new bridge provides an opportunity to secure a new landmark for Swindon of the highest architectural quality.

    The reinstatement of a canal route through the centre of Swindon is a key objective of the Wilts and Berks Canal Partnership, the overall aim of which is to restore the canal to a navigable waterway which connects Wiltshire, Swindon and Oxfordshire. Halcrow carried out a feasibility study (2007) for the Kingshill to Station Road, Swindon section which estimated a cost of £52 million. However the partnership also highlight significant economic and regenerative benefits from the restoration of this section of canal, and the section between Mouldon Hill and Swindon town centre to the north.

    A restored canal would also provide a safe and attractive corridor for cyclists to link to the Western Flyer Route/ National Cycle network route 45. The Western Flyer route will be a formal branded route and is expected to significantly improve cycle links between the western residential communities and the town centre.

    Pg 47

  • §6.4 Study area 2 – railway southside: former carriage worksThese two simple and elegant buildings form a significant part of the listed building portfolio and in their current form could be adapted for a numberof new uses. They are linked by a continuous facade along London Street which is currently redundant and unused at street level.This site also contains two surface car parks: one used by the Train Operating Company and the other owned by Swindon Borough Council but leased to a local commercial business.Between these two sites is a listed wall which also forms a bridge head over the former canal.

    Key priorities and principles for the area are:

    reuse of former carriageworks:
    The opportunity exists to bring these buildings back into use to enliven the street and rejuvenate this part of the town centre. There is potential to use the buildings for cultural uses, such as a Museum of Swindon, or as artists’ studios and workshops. Alternatively, the buildings could be suited to mixed retail or commercial schemes. Whatever uses are found, active frontage should be created facing onto London Road.

    new homes:
    There is the potential to relocate the surface level car parking into a new multistorey car park on the north and south sides of the railway to allow this site to be developed for new homes. Space should be provided in front of the homes for street trees.

    improved north/south links and new canal basin:
    The reintroduction of the canal along this route would help to encourage north/south movement under the railway and create an attractive public environment. Complementary improvements to the existing railway underpass, including improved lighting, landscaping and public realm would help to encourage additional pedestrian and cycle users. There is also potential to create a possible turning basin forming the southern end of the reinstated section of the canal to create an attractive civic space. Regardless of whether the canal is reinstated, it is imperative that the Green Spine be delivered through this area in order to strengthen the north/south connection between the town centre and the North Star area.

    Canal

  • §6.5 study area 3 – north star: Oasis; A new strategic Green spine: There is an exciting opportunity to create a major new linear park through the site. The park will act as a spine for the North Start area, complement the new leisure uses, provide a buffer to the Hawksworth Industrial Estate, create a new leisure attraction for residents and increase environmental sustainability. The proposal is for the canal to be reinstated along the length of the park.[Pg 153]
    Park

So?

In Reading this copy of the Swindon master plan, I fail to see why there is so much made of the canal; most of it seems to be passive provision for adding more in at a latter date; and adding it in as a water fetcher in a park?

Most of the document related to changing the use of some of the land within the town centre, and removing car parking spaces, and building housing, parks and multi story carparks. the implementation of a hopper bus to allow people to get around Swindon easer, and to link Old Town to the Town Center.

In general the parts of the document I read make good sense; I am now going to read the consultation document responses.