Wiltshire

Destination Swindon: Regeneration plan 'not looked at'

Swindon town centre Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The plans to regenerate Swindon town centre were rejected last week

Plans to regenerate Swindon were not looked at by council officials before they were rejected, it is alleged.

Last week Swindon Borough Council dismissed the proposals, including plans for a monorail, canal, university and conference centre, put forward by philanthropist Dr Laurie Marsh.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request, asking to see council reports into the plans, suggests none were made.

The council said the idea was "not viable" and "a non-starter".

The council's ruling Conservative group rejected the Destination Swindon proposals at a meeting last Thursday.

The proposals also included a plan to set up a charity to help secure planning permission on council-owned land.

According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service the FoI was requested by Labour parish councillor Patrick Herring.

In response, the council said it "does not have the information requested".

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption The Destination Swindon proposals were put forward by philanthropist Dr Laurie Marsh

Mr Herring said the implication was "quite explosive".

"No reports were produced by anyone acting on behalf of the council when they made the decision to turn away Dr Marsh's proposal.

"Either no formal due diligence was carried out, or it was carried out in such a way that no council officers were consulted and no information was written down and retained.

"One of the claims that we've heard consistently over the last month is that the council thoroughly investigated and fully explored the proposal before rejecting it."

However cabinet member for the town centre, Dale Heenan, said the "whole idea" was "a non-starter" due to Network Rail already rejecting plans to obtain land and buildings it owns.

He added there were also concerns about using public money for the scheme.

"At what point does someone accept the monorail, canal, university and conference centre is a bad idea, and move on?

"Does every bad idea now need a lengthy council report to justify not spending any further time on it?"

Philanthropist Dr Marsh said he was disappointed at the suggestion the cabinet had not asked for an officers report: "That's not the best word for it. It's much more serious what they're doing to the people of Swindon."

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