Swindon MasterPlan Consultation Responses Published
22nd December 2012 Forward Swindon have published a summary of the responses to the recent consultation on the proposed MasterPlan for Swindon Town Centre .A large number of responses indicated that they supported inclusion of the canal in the MasterPlan. Forward Swindon are now considering what changes may be made .You can read the summary of responses by clicking here
Swindon Advertiser 2 November 2012
Canal group fears opportunity could be lost
Chris Coyle (Company Secretary WBCT) letter to Forward Swindon Limited
29th October 2012
WILTS & BERKS CANAL TRUST - RESPONSE TO FORWARD SWINDON
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust notes with disappointment the response of Forward Swindon as reported in the Swindon Advertiser.
The Trust, which is an award-winning charity, comments that of course the residents of Swindon are going to be 'generally positive' about the proposals. Everyone has known for years that Swindon needs a major shake-up, so anything is going to be welcomed as a step forward. If that is the best that can be said about the reaction, then Forward Swindon has failed to come up with anything inspiring or to catch the public imagination.
Forward Swindon also gives a very misleading impression about the strength of the feeling in support of the canal, as expressed in the consultation. Saying that 'we have had comments regarding the canal not being shown as a through route' grossly understates the number and weight of the very positive support for the canal in the responses to the consultation. The supporters include the Wiltshire Swindon and Oxfordshire Canal Partnership, representing every local authority along the line, major national sporting and leisure associations such as Sustrans and Canoe England, the Environment Agency and Natural England, as well as other organisations. Support has also been given by Oxfordshire County Council, which urges Swindon to adopt the through route. The national Inland Waterways Association, representing tens of thousands of those interested in the development of a national asset, has given its support. Neighbouring canal societies including the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust and the Cotswold Canals Trust have equally urged for a through route. And very importantly the businesses of Swindon, as represented by the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, are lending their strong support. There have also been well over a hundred individual expressions of support. Are you listening Forward Swindon?
Saying that the canal will remain 'a protected route' and can therefore be restored in the future is disingenuous. Of course it can, in theory, but Forward Swindon knows as well as the Trust does that if the centre of Swindon goes through a massive redevelopment, no-one will be inclined to undertake another large exercise a few years later.
Forward Swindon cites cost as an obstacle. The Trust has provided independent evidence that the benefits far outweigh the costs, but this has been ignored and not even mentioned.
Forward Swindon says that the canal is not deliverable 'throughout its whole length' within the plan's timescale'. Who says? No-one from Forward Swindon has ever asked the Trust about this. Indeed, Forward Swindon has not taken up suggestions from the Trust and the Partnership to carry out a full assessment of the costs and benefits of the project, and the timescales. It might not be possible to reopen the whole 60 mile length; but it is certainly possible to open the section through Swindon, and connect to the national network, within that time.
Forward Swindon says that the focus of the masterplan is economic growth. Why then are they ignoring a major driver of economic growth, estimated to be worth £10 million a year to Swindon?
The Trust asks Forward Swindon to do the following:
- Make the 'processing' of the consultation responses an open and transparent process, and publish the results.
- Acknowledge the strength of the support for the canal.
- Engage with the Trust in a full and objective assessment of the costs and benefits of the proposal.
Perhaps it is time to remind Forward Swindon that its purpose and objective is to deliver what Swindon wants, not to frustrate it. Swindon wants the canal, as expressed in official Swindon Borough planning policy and strategy. Swindon business wants it. National sporting and leisure bodies want it. Oxfordshire and Wiltshire Councils want it. The people of Swindon want it. Time to start work on delivering it.
Ian Piper talks to the Swindon Advertiser
"We had a lot of comments regarding the canal and the fact that the whole length of it isn't shown on the plan....But it's still the protected route in the current documents and the canal route is still referred to in the draft local plan that will be coming out to consultation again soon" Swindon Advertiser 28th Oct 2012
An award-winning charity is urging planners to go back to the drawing board and reconsider the regeneration of Swindon town centre.
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust believes the current vision is "missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to maximise the impact of a restored waterway. Forward Swindon is consulting on a masterplan which would include bringing the canal back into the town through North Star as far as a basin adjacent to Station Road – crucially, it omits linking this section to the restored canal at Westleaze.
The Trust believes the scheme should be more ambitious and extend the restoration through the entire town so that more residents and businesses can enjoy the benefits of a new wildlife corridor which would attract tourism and employment. The charity, which recently received the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service, is now urging local people to take part in the consultation.
Canal Trust spokesman Chris Coyle said:
"We really do appreciate the hard work of everyone involved in preparing the current plans, but they run the risk of missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the most of this wonderful waterway. Estimates suggest the Swindon economy could benefit from an additional £10million per year if the Wilts & Berks was brought back to life, as well as increased leisure opportunities and improved access to the countryside. The current plan to only bring the canal as far as Station Road means many parts of the town might miss out on these tremendous benefits. We are urging all of our 2,300 members to rally together and make their views known, and we hope other people will join our campaign too."
"The social, economic, environmental and cultural benefits of a restored waterway have already been demonstrated across the UK, where towns have seen the creation of new wildlife habitats and the establishment of canalside cafes and bars and other facilities. We are as keen as everyone else to see Swindon transformed and new jobs created, but we must look at the bigger picture. The reluctance to engage with this exciting project seems to revolve around concerns about the cost of the canal without looking at the benefit. Integrating a waterway into the regeneration will be a fraction of the cost of the scheme but will contribute a significant proportion of the additional economic benefit. We only have one chance to get this right. Every voice will count."
Visit www.swindonmasterplan.co.uk or email