Monday, March 28, 2016

Locarno plan lays bare the perils and chances from Swindon's history and future

Steve Rosier's determination to get the Locarno 'done' deserves praise.

This blog remembers well the highly frustrating attitude councillors had to the previous proposal to the site with them deciding when it came to the crunch that it was too tall for them.

That then led onto the threat to demolish the building from the owners to push councillors to figure out their attitude towards it once and for all.

Of course, even before it got to that stage, there were the two fires before then and before that, years of it being empty.

As Mr Rosier has said, the car parking at the Lawns plan is just one of a number of options being explored to make the redevelopment viable. We'll look forward to all the plans being made public soon so we can look through and see them for ourselves (and the Lib Dems who had no details).

The Locarno plan will be a real test for Swindon Borough Council's planning department and the relevant councillors. They will have a difficult time raising objections to a plan which is working with a planning brief that SBC agreed on back in 2013.

The story of Old Town traders in support of the Locarno does raise the evergreen subject of Old Town deeming itself worthy of special treatment when it comes to planning in comparison to the rest of the town and borough. Mr Talikowski calls for Old Town to have it's own masterplan. Old Town already has it's own section of the Swindon Masterplan (study area 5, page 177).

If we go down the route of sectioning off areas of town - the town centre, the Outlet and Old Town, we simply reinforce the entrenched view and attitude that an area has nothing to offer or complement the other and the nearly two centuries old turf war between Old Town and New Town continues.

For every mid to high end independent business in Old Town there are three in New Town. They might not all be high end and most may not be mid-range, but they're doing a thriving business paying far less rent than some of those up on the hill and reaping the rewards from their cheaper prices.

There are frequent and fast bus services up and down the hill, maybe a cultural exchange is needed between and Old and New Town?

And no, it's not 1841, but in some ways, it still feels like it is.

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