The picture above (double-click to enlarge it) is of Cavendish Square on the Parks estate in Swindon. You could be forgiven for thinking that it looks like a derelict building site. But what you are looking at is the result of the “regeneration” of the area by the Tory Council. The buildings on the right of the picture are the new shops which the “developers” built. The building to the left is the Reuben George Hall which is boarded up and out of use. The decaying concrete in the foreground is the base of the old Co-op shop which is being used as an impromptu car park. This should have been new retail units but the developers have been unable to get anybody interested in them.
The developers started the “regeneration” with the money maker – the housing that was planned for the site. In the modern style these are rabbit hutches with tiny gardens. This was Phase 1. Phase 2 was the shops. Phase 3 was to be the new retail units and turning the square into a covered area.
The old Co-op site is dusty and dirty, and in parts breaking up. It floods when it rains. It is a safety hazard. It makes the area look like a slum. We are told that we are supposed to wait for an “upturn in the market” for further retail units to be built. From the point of view of local people the current situation makes a mockery of the idea of “regeneration”. How long are we supposed to wait?
The situation is complicated by the fact that the Council, in its wisdom, handed over the square to the developers. Of course, when you privatise public space then the Council loses control of it. It tells us that it cannot do anything because it doesn’t own the land! The people who were gifted the land, the developers Lee Hampton have recently sold the shops to another private owner.
Parks & East Walcot Forum and SWAP (Swindon Walcot & Parks Community Group), two local groups, have said that local people should not be expected to live with these conditions indefinitely. We are campaigning for the owners to resurface the old Co-op site, in the absence of any prospect of the ‘regeneration’ being completed.
We are collecting signatures on a petition which calls on the owner of the old Co-op site to rectify the situation, and for the Council to press them to do so. You can download the petition below.