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Big backing for Council’s Bus Boulevard bid

Major landowners and transport organisations have thrown their support behind Swindon Borough Council’s plans to transform the area around Fleming Way.

Published: Friday, 22nd May 2020
Bus Boulevard flowers

The final business case to create a new bus interchange and gateway into Swindon Town Centre has just been submitted to the Government’s Future High Streets Fund after making it through the first stage of the bidding process last year.

The proposed £33m Bus Boulevard scheme developed by the Council would see Fleming Way completely transformed to include a new public open space on the north side with a green central spine to reflect the old canal that used to run along the road.

The project will also feature much-improved pedestrian and cycle routes and the removal of the current Fleming Way underpass creating an attractive route from the train station into the town centre, encouraging further investment in the area.

The Council’s bid has been strengthened following significant backing from two of Swindon’s major landowners.

Property company FI Real Estate Management, which asset manages the Brunel Shopping Centre and several large office blocks in the Town Centre, has written a letter in support of the Council’s plans.

Mark Adams, Head of Development at FI Real Estate Management, wrote: “The proposals put forward by Swindon Council for a new Bus Boulevard and enhanced public realm will create an inviting gateway to the shopping district and encourage pedestrian movement between these strategically important parts of the town.

“The proposed public realm will ‘raise the bar’ for Swindon and be commensurate with other competing towns in the region.

Meadow Partners, which recently acquired The Parade shopping precinct and nearby Falcon House, is also firmly behind the regeneration proposals.

Andrew McDaniel, of Meadow Partners, said: “As an investor and developer Meadow is active in all asset classes from residential regeneration through to hotels, retail and commercial space.

“We have historically primarily focussed on London, but we are increasingly looking at opportunities across the UK. In the case of Falcon House, we purchased the site and are looking to invest further in Swindon, precisely because of the proactive vision that is demonstrated by the Bus Boulevard project.

“When realised it will transform connectivity across the town and in doing so it will directly assist our ambition to regenerate our site.”

As part of the Bus Boulevard plans, all national and local bus services would be incorporated along Fleming Way, improving the experience of bus users and pedestrians, while the new road layout would complete the link between the Eastern and Western Flyer cycle routes.

Both of Swindon’s main bus operators have also backed the new designs for the new bus facilities. Rupert Cox, Managing Director of Stagecoach West said the Bus Boulevard would “result in more footfall to the town centre”.

He added: “This high quality public realm scheme will improve the accessibility of the Town Centre for everyone (in particular vulnerable user groups).”

Alex Chutter, General Manager at Swindon’s Bus Company, said the bid would “improve the connectivity between the rail station, central shopping and employment areas” adding that it “offers the opportunity to significantly improve the attractiveness of Swindon Town Centre”.

Swindon Cycle Campaign, Swindon Taxi Association, inSwindon, Zurich and both the town’s MPs also lent their support to the bid.

The new bus interchange is being developed to complement other town centre regeneration schemes, including the Kimmerfields development to the north of Fleming Way. As part of this development, the existing bus station will be demolished after the new transport hub has been completed enabling the Council to deliver new homes and offices which will bring more people to live and work in the Town Centre.

It also supports the vision for the town centre, which states that ‘By 2030, Swindon town centre will be the beating heart of the local community. A place to set up home and business, where people stay longer, spend more and keep coming back’.

The Council has applied for £25m in funding from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund to create the new bus facility after making it through the first assessment phase last year. The final bid for funding was submitted in early May this year, and the Council expects to find out if it has been successful in the autumn.

Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) has contributed £3m to progress the design of the scheme, to carry out the necessary site investigations and begin the British Telecom diversion. The Council’s Cabinet has also approved a contribution of £5m in capital funding to this project.

Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, said: “The new bus station has been talked about for 10 years but there hasn't been the money to deliver it. Until now. This is the final hurdle.

“The whole country is going through an incredibly difficult time with COVID-19, but it has reinforced that our plans are correct for transforming our Town Centre and making it a place businesses want to invest in, and where people want to live.

“Don't just take my word for it, look at who is backing this bid. Everyone recognises that the Town Centre must change, and this project is a key piece of the jigsaw. The sooner the Government confirms the funding, the sooner work can start.”

Further information on the plans is available at: www.swindon.gov.uk/busboulevard

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