Author Topic: Swindon Regeneration: Eastcott Residents Question Regents Circus Development  (Read 29052 times)

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Offline Geoff Reid

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In this TSTV video feature, Tobes discusses Eastcott residents concerns over the proposed redevelopment of the old Swindon college site at regents Circus. When Swindon College moved out of its Regents Circus buildings Swindon Borough Council was outbid for the site, (by a considerable amount), by Ashridge Land.  Ashridge propose to develop the old college site in partnership with Parkridge Developments.

More details below the TSTV video console.  (please let me know if you encounter problems with the video console)


[stream=475,325]http://www.talkswindon.org/tstv/regentscircus/Regents%20Circus3.wmv[/stream]


More local history & background to this subject are available on Talkswindon in the 'Regents Circus - Unanswered Questions' and 'reaching for the sky' topics although I will add some specifics here:

Although this part of the Regents Circus regeneration falls outside the scope of the 'Promenade' scheme, the New Swindon Company website describes it thus:

Quote
The development includes a multi-screen cinema along with upmarket restaurants, cafes and bars, an hotel, high quality supermarket, offices, town centre apartments, a new public square and covered car parking.

Regent Circus will help bring evening family entertainment into the town centre with a range of well-known and independent quality restaurant. A contemporary hotel will cater for the town's ever-growing and thriving business community.

The Victorian building that was the former Technical College on Victoria Road is being preserved whilst a practical change of use is proposed. Lower levels will be converted to a 30,000 sq ft retail food store. Upper floors will become prestigious town centre offices preserving the building's character.

Quieter residential areas will provide more of the much needed contemporary, town centre apartments within easy reach of local amenities and transport links. A public square will be sensitively landscaped creating public space for events, festivals and markets.




Ashfield Land's Public Relations Company, Blue CLick PR say this about the development:

Quote from:  Blueclick PR
The planning application for Regent Circus, Swindon’s newest destination for families, food connoisseurs and entertainment enthusiasts has been submitted to Swindon Borough Council. Regent Circus is on the site of the former Swindon College and it is a mixed development of vibrant leisure and food retail with quality housing, a supermarket and an exceptional 800 car parking spaces. At the head of The Promenade, Swindon’s proposed cultural quarter, a new cinema will become the focal point for leisure and the early evening café culture which has been lacking in Swindon. This scheme fully complements the retail scheme at Regent Place and together, both developments will further strengthen Swindon’s regeneration.

Over the past twenty years, Swindon has suffered from ‘the doughnut effect’ as retail parks were built on the outskirts. The New Swindon Company and Swindon Borough Council are working hard with the developers to bring Swindon’s town centre to life again, both in the daytime and with evening attractions. With the cinema at the heart of Regent Circus and over 45,000 square feet designated for quality restaurants, the entertainment and leisure focus means developers will be able to attract much more upmarket restaurants that have never seen Swindon as a viable location before. National brands such as Café Rouge, Wagamama, Zizi, Strada or Ha-Ha are all being targeted.

Ashfield Land and Parkridge Developments set up a joint venture in 2006 to deliver a £125 million regeneration of the site, branded by the Council as a ‘gateway’ to the town. Covering nearly five acres, the development strengthens links between Old Town and the town centre. The old 1960’s concrete tower (formerly Swindon College) will be replaced by a stunning, elliptical tower, sweeping round a corner up into Rollesten Street, near the well-known Beehive pub. Pedestrian access through the site will be restored, providing a direct link between Old Town and Swindon’s retail shopping centre.

The red brick Victorian Building (former Technical College) will be sympathetically restyled to house a 30,000 square feet, well-known foodstore. The character of the upper levels of the building is to be retained and prestigious offices will be available for small businesses.

The residential element of the scheme includes 265 one, two and three-bedroom apartments.

There are currently 94 ‘pay-and-display’ parking spaces on the site and in the initial proposals, 300 spaces were planned. However, in a very bold move this has more than doubled to 800 spaces following feedback from the public consultation in July. The developers observed the plight of local residents as reported in the local press and felt it was important to improve parking in the area.

Chris Hitchings, Director of Development, The New Swindon Company, ‘We are delighted that an application has been submitted that in due course will allow the eyesore that was the former Swindon College building to be removed. The plans are particularly interesting as the old Engineers Buildings have been effectively incorporated into the design allowing one of Swindon's landmark buildings a new lease of life yet still retaining the character and charm of its Victorian facade.’

The second public consultation will be later this month. Because the developers own the freehold of the site, construction could begin as early as Autumn 2007 and the first units will open for business in late 2008. Ashfield Land is eager to deliver this part of Swindon’s regeneration swiftly to support the Council’s vision for a vibrant cultural quarter that underpins the changing perception of Swindon for the world at large.



Ashfield Land's website doesn't seem to have been updated in a while and still says this:

Quote
Regent Circus, Swindon

Our outline planning application for this exciting mixed use development has been submitted to Swindon Borough Council.

The scheme will comprise a 30,000 sq ft supermarket, multi screen cinema, restaurants and cafes, an hotel, offices and 265 residential units. In total the scheme will provide approximately 800 car parking spaces.

The application is due to go before committee during late summer with start on site an achievable in early 2008.



Appointed agents for the scheme are:

King Sturge
Tel: 020 7087 5600
Contact: Mark Rudman

GVA Grimley
Tel: 0121 236 8236
Contact: Chris MacKaness



Offline concerned_of_Old_Town

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Interesting and well made video Geoff/Toby

You made a good point about the bingo hall and Cinema.  However I'm guessing that a cinema be key attraction and will be instrumental in getting a footfall too tempt people into the bars and restaurants either before or after.  I'm guessing that if it was across the road a lot of people will just go home after watching a film.  I have heard a rumour that the Apartment looking to move into the building.  Can anyone confirm?

It made me laugh looking at the snippet from the blueclick PR site when they talk about first units been ready in late 2008!  As mentioned in previous threat this  PR job must be the easiest job in the world as they clearly don't do anything!  The general lack of information is the thing which annoys me and the unwillingness to engage and seem to be doing anything.  I seem to recall reading somewhere that the money was ringfenced is this still the case?






Offline komadori

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There is an answer already available to one (but only one) of Tobes questions, and that is the one of how the roads will cope with the increased traffic. According to the Central Area Action Plan, a large proportion of the traffic in the town centre is through traffic. The intention is to divert that away, leaving the central area less congested (or at least, once all the development is finished, not as bad as it would otherwise have been).

One other factor is that the proposed planning rules will not allow new flats in central Swindon to have any parking space and it will be a condition that the occupants do not have a car (I paraphrase somewhat, but that was the basic idea), so the new flats shouldn't generate any extra traffic. Whether they can find hundreds of people that want to live in a flat and not own a car is another matter.
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Offline concerned_of_Old_Town

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I seem to remember that Halcrow were due to complete a report for Swindon council in the autumn (ie nowish) looking at traffic.  Widely rumoured (although denied by people in the know) it will recomend closure of Westcott Place and replacing it with a canal - but that's an entirely different thread!!

I knew forgot something in my previous thread!  and that was the issue which komodori raised of car parking (or lack of it).  I predict that streets round toby could be especially busy with illegal parking especially if the Granville Street development takes off (although my prediction is that they will close/board Granville street for 2-3 years before they decide what too do!)

Offline James

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Have you sent a copy of this video to the developers?

As they haven't responded to your other attempts, maybe they'll respond to that.


James


PS
Nice summary of the problem with that development btw.
Good job.

Offline Tobes

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Given that I asked the question directly to their PR company - and that there are a huge number of 'guests' who read that thread and have viewed this - I don't think that'll make much difference. I don't think they care about residents concerns as anything other than an irritation or obstacle.

Funny, isn't it, given that one would imagine that the 'extensive and ongoing consultation' was a two-way process? Still, where there's time, there's hope.
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it - [attributed to] Voltaire... 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessita' - William of Occam.... 'You have a right to feel offended, but just cos you are offended doesn't mean you are right'

Offline concerned_of_Old_Town

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Not sure if noticed my thread on New Swindon Company but NSC looking at some kind of local forum of interested local people might be worth signing up?

Offline Simon

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(please let me know if you encounter problems with the video console)

Only a little problem, but I found initially the picture was decidedly jerky and wasn't keeping up with the audio track. I stopped the player and went to make a cuppa, and found once it had downloaded completely it played just fine. It just doesn't seem to like playing while it's still downloading.

I'm using Firefox 3.0.1 on Windows XP.

Good film, illustrates the concerns about the new through route very well  O0
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Offline James

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I heard this evening that the aim of the new bit of road was to make the area more "Porous" (or something like that).

To enable people to get from old town to the library and everything.

Have the developers ever actually walked around that area?

It needs to be "porous" as much as it needs drunks smashing wing mirrors off, keying paintwork, chucking litter in front gardens and throwing up on the pavement.


James

PS
Given how good the film is, could one be done for Coate Water, to show people whats being suggested...

Offline Mellon

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Excellent video tobes, the point about the old cinema was cracking and the through point was very strong .
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Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Swindon Regeneration: Eastcott Residents Question Regents Circus Development
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2008, 02:55:13 PM »
 
Given how good the film is, could one be done for Coate Water, to show people what's being suggested...

I reckon an afternoon wandering around the fields at Coate would be quite pleasant. So, providing Jean is up for it .....why not?

Offline Jean

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Re: Swindon Regeneration: Eastcott Residents Question Regents Circus Development
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2008, 03:32:33 PM »
Sounds good to me, Geoff.
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Offline NothingCleverOrFunny

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Re: Swindon Regeneration: Eastcott Residents Question Regents Circus Development
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2008, 11:42:36 AM »
An interesting watch. Tobes – I don’t always agree with your posts but this does make your point well and I hope the planners take the time to look at this.

A couple of things though – I don’t see why there’s such confusion about the NSC’s various ‘Regeneration zones’. I think there’s enough information available which makes it pretty clear? I imagine the parties involved have to be relatively vague as the exact areas / buildings involved will change over time.

Also, not sure I really understood your point about the old bingo hall being re-established as a Cinema – is that what you meant? My personal view on the building is that it’s a bit of an eyesore and people want something ‘bigger and flashier’ than and old building with a flat tin roof?! Shallow maybe, but that’s how I see it. I think you’d be missing the point if you saw the cinema as just a building where you can watch a film?

I actually don’t believe this development will ever materialise. It seems the developers have been trying, unsuccessfully, to get tenants for a couple of years and I would bet that the old college building will not be pulled down any time soon. My bet would be that the land is sold at some point and the whole process of flashy pictures, consultations, planning applications will start all over again…..but nothing will actually be built for quite some time.

I’d also bet that almost everyone involved wishes that these developers hadn’t bought the land in the first place. As far as I’m concerned, the Regent Circus development has done little more than provide competition for the Regent Place development competing for a cinema, similar bars and restaurants etc. I firmly believe that if it weren’t for the college ‘development’ the Regent Place scheme would be far more advanced than it currently is – the RP developers were expecting to be on site in summer ’08, then the college developers cam along, no doubt tried to poach tenants and the rest is history.

As for the college developers communication – a complete joke. The next thing we hear from them will be ‘So long Swindon, nice knowing ya’.  :censored:

Offline Tobes

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Re: Swindon Regeneration: Eastcott Residents Question Regents Circus Development
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2008, 01:36:27 PM »
Lets start with the things we agree on:

Quote
As for the college developers communication – a complete joke.
  O0

Quote
I don’t always agree with your posts but this does make your point well and I hope the planners take the time to look at this.

Thank you - I do too... but I'm increasingly less hopeful as days have blended into weeks and months... ho hum.

Moving on:
Quote
I don’t see why there’s such confusion about the NSC’s various ‘Regeneration zones’. I think there’s enough information available which makes it pretty clear?

Well, if you think its clear, you're the only person I know that does! None of the diagrams show street names - basically what plans there are show little more than a pastel shaded area of buildings and a few words of puffery including the shibboleth, 'vibrant'! None of the plans I've seen show the consitution of the development - ie, where the cinema, car parking, tower etc. are actually placed onsite. They don't show which buildings are scheduled for CP/demolition. They're almost devoid of any meaningful detail. In the case of Regents Circus,  a thin oblong green strip doesn't actually demonstrate to an interested member of the public that its actually a new path and pedestrian through route! (yet this is the only indication we've had that the underlying plan is to create a new 'permeable' site). In fact, things have been left so unclear that it smacks of deliberate obfuscation.

Quote
I imagine the parties involved have to be relatively vague as the exact areas / buildings involved will change over time.

Clear but vague? Am I alone in thinking that those words contradict?

Quote
Also, not sure I really understood your point about the old bingo hall being re-established as a Cinema – is that what you meant? My personal view on the building is that it’s a bit of an eyesore and people want something ‘bigger and flashier’ than and old building with a flat tin roof?! Shallow maybe, but that’s how I see it. I think you’d be missing the point if you saw the cinema as just a building where you can watch a film?

My personal view on the NEW building is that its going to be a bit of an invasive eyesore (in fact in terms of the tower, one which people will be able to 'enjoy' as far back as junction 15)... As a point of fact, the old cinema roof is vaulted - not flat... besides which, who EVER EVER EVER has determined whether they're going to watch a film according to the external architctural aesthetics of the building they're entering??!! Whether it looks clean and warm and whether the right title is over the door is pretty much the only criteria I apply. (Has anyone even noticed the architectural qualities of the Greenbridge or Shaw Ridge cinemas?!) What point am I missing? The cinema within the new development will be hidden away somewhere within - its not defining the aesthetics.

It would therefore seem to me that the people who want something 'flashier' want it so for completely un-related reasons. Its not whether people want a cinema or a suitable building to put it in for altruistic or progressive reasons, merely that its part and parcel of the whole on-site package. Like I said, if there's a requirement for a cinema and an audience for a cinema in that area, then there is in fact a perfectly servicable building which could be refurbished which was PUPOSELY designed to serve that function - irony of ironies, right across the road from the development! Funny isn't it, than planners and developers ram the green-wash message down people's throats whilst actually ignoring the basic logic of the philosophy? Reduce, reuse recycle...

Quote
The next thing we hear from them will be ‘So long Swindon, nice knowing ya’.

Perhaps it explains the lack of engagement....? (thats actually the nicer option, given that the only other conclusion has to be that they simply don't care)




I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it - [attributed to] Voltaire... 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessita' - William of Occam.... 'You have a right to feel offended, but just cos you are offended doesn't mean you are right'

Offline NothingCleverOrFunny

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Re: Swindon Regeneration: Eastcott Residents Question Regents Circus Development
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2008, 02:18:43 PM »
Clear but vague? Am I alone in thinking that those words contradict?

Fair point, you've got me! The point I was (poorly) trying to make was that the general regeneration areas are, to me, quite clear. I know where the Exchange / Union Square will be, I know the difference between Regent Place and Regent circus etc etc. I think, and i could be wrong as i watched it sometime ago, that in the video you inferred the difference between Place and Circus was unclear and that is what i believe is clear. Again, i could be wrong but this is what I recall?

To highlight the general areas, I think the shaded map is pretty acceptable. If the alternative were to give detailed grid references, I'd prefer the shading as this gives a decent overview.

As an aside, if you want to know which buildings will be demolished for the RP development - the CPO Map is quite useful and easy to find on Google.

As for the old cinema building - clearly you're right in that you don't judge the architectural merit of a cinema before deciding whether or not to go. However, I believe that given the choice between going to the old, reopened cinema, or the 'Cinema de lux' (ala Cabot circus Bristol) the majority of people would rather the 'lux' version. No, i'm not speaking for everyone, just giving my opinion on what I believe would be the case.

As for lack of demand, all I can assume is that the developers have done their homework!

Anyway, like i said, can't see it happening anyway!

Offline Tobes

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Re: Swindon Regeneration: Eastcott Residents Question Regents Circus Development
« Reply #15 on: September 24, 2008, 03:38:50 PM »
Quote
As an aside, if you want to know which buildings will be demolished for the RP development - the CPO Map is quite useful and easy to find on Google.

I rather think you're hoist by your own petard there! What on Earth is a CPO? As an ordinary member of the public, I'd have to know what that was to be able to use Google to search for it! As it is, I don't have a clue... By definition
, thats not clear or available information!

Are you an 'ordinary member of the public' - or do you have some advance professional knowledge which might be leading you to misunderstand how the majority of the population see - or don't see - whats happening?
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it - [attributed to] Voltaire... 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessita' - William of Occam.... 'You have a right to feel offended, but just cos you are offended doesn't mean you are right'

Offline Tobes

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Re: Swindon Regeneration: Eastcott Residents Question Regents Circus Development
« Reply #16 on: September 24, 2008, 03:46:28 PM »
Ooops... being dim... CPO = Compulsory Purchase Order?

Still, the fact remains that probabbly the majority of the public don't even know what that means even when not in acronym!
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it - [attributed to] Voltaire... 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessita' - William of Occam.... 'You have a right to feel offended, but just cos you are offended doesn't mean you are right'

Offline NothingCleverOrFunny

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Re: Swindon Regeneration: Eastcott Residents Question Regents Circus Development
« Reply #17 on: September 24, 2008, 04:18:45 PM »
Are you an 'ordinary member of the public' - or do you have some advance professional knowledge which might be leading you to misunderstand how the majority of the population see - or don't see - whats happening?

Ha ha - alas, I'm a 'normo'. C'mon Tobes you should know I wouldn't bother communicating if I had a professional interest! As for my understanding - or lack of - I only understand how I see it which will obviously affect my expectations of how others see it, rightly or wrongly!


Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Swindon Regeneration: Eastcott Residents Question Regents Circus Development
« Reply #18 on: September 24, 2008, 08:21:28 PM »
 
 

To highlight the general areas, I think the shaded map is pretty acceptable. If the alternative were to give detailed grid references, I'd prefer the shading as this gives a decent overview.

As an aside, if you want to know which buildings will be demolished for the RP development - the CPO Map is quite useful


Thanks for reminding me to do this!

I mentioned to Toby just a few days back that I had some more Regents Place stuff to publish.

Here it is: http://www.talkswindon.org/index.php?topic=3689.msg20797#msg20797

Thanks  :)

Offline PAV

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Re: Swindon Regeneration: Eastcott Residents Question Regents Circus Development
« Reply #19 on: September 25, 2008, 10:28:45 AM »
Fair point, you've got me! The point I was (poorly) trying to make was that the general regeneration areas are, to me, quite clear. I know where the Exchange / Union Square will be, I know the difference between Regent Place and Regent circus etc etc. I think, and i could be wrong as i watched it sometime ago, that in the video you inferred the difference between Place and Circus was unclear and that is what i believe is clear. Again, i could be wrong but this is what I recall?
Unfortunately, my knowledge of Swindon (from the air) clearly isn't as good as yours. Also, the names don't help. Regent's Circus is the old college, Regent's Place appears to refer to the Commercial Road Pay and Display car park area!

Don't even get me started on Exchange, North Star etc. etc!