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Ambitious plan to improve Swindon’s country parks to go before Cabinet

A new waterside restaurant and café at Coate Water could form an important part of a four-year strategy to improve Swindon’s much-loved country parks.

Published: Monday, 30th November 2020
Old Boathouse South Cerney

Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet will meet next Wednesday (2 Dec) to discuss whether to develop the strategy, which has been put forward by Councillor Dale Heenan, the Cabinet Member responsible for the Borough’s parks.

The Strategic Improvement Plan aims to turn Swindon’s country parks into viable and sustainable assets using funding from developer Section 106 contributions, grants and other funding sources, in order to benefit the health and wellbeing of local residents and boost the town’s overall recreational offer.

The focus of the strategy will be on Lydiard Park and Coate Water as the two largest and most visited country parks in Swindon, but the Borough’s remaining parks including Stanton, Mouldon Hill, Shaw Forest and Barbury Castle will also be included.

In order to develop the strategy, the Council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve a four-week consultation during spring next year to allow local residents to identify key improvements they would like to see in the parks as well as provide feedback on potential options.

On Wednesday, councillors will also be asked to approve three significant improvements at Coate Water.

A new waterside restaurant and café, a brand new accessible play area and a proposal to clean the iconic diving board have been identified as key priorities.

Councillor Dale Heenan said: “Swindon's country parks are critical to the health and wellbeing of local residents and families.

“We have championed our parks for a long time, but when I took on responsibility for them in May as part of my Cabinet portfolio, I wanted to see a change in our approach. Visible improvements are already happening in our parks now.

“Now I want to see an ambitious four-year strategy which outlines how each of our country parks can be improved. A strategy which local residents will have an opportunity to provide ideas and feedback on.

“In addition, I am asking Cabinet to agree three priorities for Coate Water. Build a new accessible play area and sensory garden within six months, the cleaning of the Diving Board for the first time in decades, and to construct a new waterside restaurant and cafe to replace the existing kiosk!

“South Cerney has the very successful Boathouse restaurant and bar, and the Gateway Cafe, overlooking the water. I recently walked my beagle at Westonbirt Arboretum, and you sit down at the cafe with great views of the fields and woods. St James Park in London also has its own lovely cafe.

“There are lots of examples, and you look at them and think why can't we do this at Coate Water? We can. If there is a will, there is a way, and our ambition is for Coate Water to become a destination for Swindon.”

Local ward councillors Jenny Jefferies and Brian Mattock have been pushing for investment in Coate Water for some time and helped secure Section 106 funding for the park.

“Coate Water is a wonderful park and deserves to see additional investment,” said Cllr Jefferies. “We have seen over the last eight months how important our parks and open spaces are for people’s wellbeing and we need to look after them and ensure they continue to provide enjoyment for families in the years to come.

“I am really pleased this strategy for our country parks is being brought before the Cabinet and I look forward to working with Cllr Heenan and engaging with park users so we can give Coate Water the upgrade it deserves.”

Picture: the Old Boathouse bar and restaurant overlooks the lake at South Cerney. Picture courtesy of Emma Pocock

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