Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Out-of-Town Tomlinson Plays Sim City, Badly

Justin Tomlinson's attitude to his own party's council-owned Forward Swindon seems tied to political opportunities as they come along.

He recently slagged off Forward Swindon for 'stubbornness' with regard to the old carriage works on London Street and why they hadn't just let developers get their hands on them like the buildings north of the railway that he toured with a fellow minister on a visit.

Tomlinson's argument is as shallow as his depth of knowledge on his own town's history, and, oddly, the way government processes work. The reason the Historic England offices (along with the Outlet, Steam, the Test Chain flats development and the Bottelino's restaurant) are as high quality developments as they are is because all the buildings were hurriedly listed when it became clear the developers of the works site wanted to pull down, or heavily alter, most of what was there. As a result of the listings, the developers of the works have had to meet high levels of sympathetic development.

Private developers don't retain nice old fittings just because they're nice, but because they legally have to if the building is given a Grade Listing.

He also suggests that developers have been chomping at the bit to get their hands on the old carriage works buildings, hardly, they've been mostly empty for over 10 years!

Tomlinson isn't adverse to riding on the coat tails of Forward Swindon and others when there's publicity for the asking, such as when TNT praised the organisation's help in getting them to South Marston.

It says much that Tomlinson's office is now in a brand new glass carbuncle at the Orbital and not in one of the empty 1980s/1990s units at one of the many business parks across North Swindon.

Tomlinson has remained quiet on the Swindon Gateway development that was criticised by many of his own residents, labelled 'bland' and 'uninspiring architecturally' by a Swindon Borough Council planning officer (listed under 'Urban Design Comments - 26-05-16'), officially objected to by the owners of Regent Circus and The Parade and was part of an intense lobbying (listed under numerous 'objection comments') campaign against it from the inSwindon BID organisation. Plus according to Forward Swindon, the development rides roughshod (listed under 'Email from Forward Swindon Re Kimmerfields') over rules for available land for the same development closer to the town centre.

So is he on the side of unrestricted privately-led development, or partnership working between Forward Swindon and developers? It must depend on the level of publicity available.

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