Author Topic: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??  (Read 156862 times)

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Offline Del

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Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« on: June 02, 2006, 03:55:11 PM »



Shouldn't this be a crime?  This is a 2* listed building, meaning it's in the top 6% of recognised important buildings in the UK, and yet it's rotting before our very eyes.

This building is an important part of our heritage, not just locally but nationally.  The NHS was based on some of the work performed by the orginal Institute back in the 1840's, and it was lending books 9 years before the first Public Library opened in Manchester. 

In my honest opinion, if the railway was the heart of the town, then this building represented it's soul and shows what can be done when people come together for the common good, rather than self interest.

So what is going on with the Institute? Does anyone here know?  Do any of the Councillors who post here have a view as to the future of this building?



Offline Simon

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2006, 06:23:14 PM »
I believe it's currently owned by someone called Matthew Singh, who wanted to turn it into a hotel, complete with a great big glass tower growing out the top of it.



That planning application was subsequently withdrawn and I don't think Mr Singh has announced any new plans.

Meanwhile the New Mechanics Institute Preservation Trust are trying to get the building turned over to the community.

For as long as I can remember, this building has been derelict, fenced off and boarded up, and it is an absolute crying shame.
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Offline Tobes

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2006, 06:47:27 PM »
I think its a crying shame and a continuing civic embarassment. A cynic might be tempted to wonder whether the various parties involved are just sitting back, waiting for it to decay to a point at which it'll be unsafe and condemmed... Then 'someone' will be sitting on a nice piece of real estate - for guess what? Another souless Swindon high density flat development, or a bunch of bars, rendering the place a no-go area for anyone without a can of mace after 9.00pm. I hope all parties can come to a sensible compromise which will allow some changes to the building whilst preserving its overall character. At least if its USED it won't just simply rot into the ground.

I've a book of photo's of old Swindon here - and this place at the turn of the century was a pretty red bricked town, full of tree lined avenues and interesting buildings. It seems anything will be sacrificed on the altar of short term greed - I hope anyone who's had a hand in the major planning decisions of the last fifty years is tortured with guilt when they walk the litter strewn and grey concrete streets that their shortsightedness has bequeathed us. No wonder the kids treat their surroundings with such complete contempt. Whenever I see the 'Swindon and Proud of it' campaign, I can't help hoping for their sake that its supporters have poor eyesight, because when it comes to the destruction and decay of pleasant architecture, Swindon must plumb the bottom of the polls. I'm not proud of the look of the place - and I can't imagine anyone is...

What a shame that those responsible for what's happening over at Coate haven't learned the lessons of the past eh?

Come on councillors, why can't you finally resolve this long running issue?
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Offline Del

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2006, 02:29:54 PM »
It's embarrasing whenever friends of mine who aren't local see this building, because they always ask what it is and why it's in that state.  After I tell them I always feel a little ashamed because the state of the Mechanics Institute reflects on out town as a whole, and how people see the town.

I also notice our elected representatives have not posted in here (yet)

Offline johndoyle

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2006, 10:12:19 PM »
a great shame that this building is left to rot. A bit of railway/town history.  All that money being earmarked for town centre redevelopment and they can't seem to fit it into the plans in any imaginative way.

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mjad

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2006, 06:38:55 AM »
until Matthew Singh decides he wants to sell it there is nothing SBC can do in reality as it's his building (sadly!)  :bash:

as for my views - ask Martha Parry - she will tell you i have always been in favour of doing something positive over this

the plans for the hotel were just bad news & i did speak out at the planning meeting on this (as well as on BBC Swindon) - we only get 1 go at this & must get it right.

Offline Del

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2006, 07:26:24 AM »
Thanks for your reply Michael.

Your post does however raise a few points:

 - Has SBC approached Matthew Singh and offered to buy the building from him?

 - Given it's status as a 2* listed building, can the council or some other body (National Trust maybe?) go down the Compulsory Purchase route if he doesn't want to sell?




Offline kecl

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2006, 11:24:47 AM »
until Matthew Singh decides he wants to sell it there is nothing SBC can do in reality as it's his building (sadly!)  :bash:

as for my views - ask Martha Parry - she will tell you i have always been in favour of doing something positive over this

the plans for the hotel were just bad news & i did speak out at the planning meeting on this (as well as on BBC Swindon) - we only get 1 go at this & must get it right.

mjad,  what would you as one of our Central Cllrs.  like to see happening to the mechanics?
Maybe you could invite Martha to partake in this discussion.

Personally I think the Mechs. Trusts plans for the building look great and as John Doyle pointed out with all the developments going on in the town centre there must be pots of money flying around.  Surely it's not impossible for the council to redirect cash, 106 monies maybe,  in the direction of the Mechanics? 
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Peach

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #8 on: June 09, 2006, 11:28:33 AM »
there must be pots of money flying around.  Surely it's not impossible for the council to redirect cash, 106 monies maybe,  in the direction of the Mechanics? 

How about the £26 million that's been earmarked for new council offices?  I know where I'd rather see the money spent.

mjad

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2006, 12:02:02 PM »

mjad,  what would you as one of our Central Cllrs.  like to see happening to the mechanics?

i would like to see the building being used for something community based, although there may be some need for some commercial activity to pay for the conversions

Quote
Maybe you could invite Martha to partake in this discussion.

Personally I think the Mechs. Trusts plans for the building look great and as John Doyle pointed out with all the developments going on in the town centre there must be pots of money flying around.  Surely it's not impossible for the council to redirect cash, 106 monies maybe,  in the direction of the Mechanics? 

at the moment it is owned by Singh & until he is prepared to sell it there will be nothing happening.

Perhaps John Doyle would like to tell us why the labour group did not buy it for £1 when they were in control if he / they are so interested in saving it?

IMHO it would cost millions now (got a rough idea how much Singh brought it for & what the costs to date would have cost & how much work is urgently needed)

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2006, 12:10:15 PM »

....hmmmm, if the Legislature & Regulatory Reform Bill gets through Parliament it's entirely possible Annie could Annex the Mechanics Institute and take it under the wing of Snelgrovia, (formerly known as 'Swindon').

It would make an imposing seat of feudal power........

Alternatively, add £5 per swindon resident to nexts years council tax and purchase it on our behalf.

Offline Del

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2006, 01:04:49 PM »

Alternatively, add £5 per swindon resident to nexts years council tax and purchase it on our behalf.

I quite like this idea, however I fear many Swindon residents may not feel quite so civic minded.   :(

As far as commercial uses as pointed out by mjad, why not allow some of the businesses in Swindon to pay to use areas for conference/meeting/training facilities?  Once the building is restored, it will probably be one of the most prestigious buildings in the town, and will be a great way to showcase what Swindon and any business in Swindon is about.


Offline kecl

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2006, 01:05:01 PM »


at the moment it is owned by Singh & until he is prepared to sell it there will be nothing happening.

Perhaps John Doyle would like to tell us why the labour group did not buy it for £1 when they were in control if he / they are so interested in saving it?

IMHO it would cost millions now (got a rough idea how much Singh brought it for & what the costs to date would have cost & how much work is urgently needed)

I noticed in the adver a few weeks ago there was to be a meeting with SBC, Mechanics Trust,  Anne Snelgrove and Mr Singh but i haven't seen the outcome of this meeting,  do you have any details mjad?
 
The politics of who could or should have purchased the building in the past is to me not relevent, it wasn't purchased for whatever reason and nothing can change that.  What is important is 20 years down the road since its closure, nothing has happened except the slow decay and destruction of a once fine building (excepting the tower which looks hideous) and nothing seems to be happening now. 
Surely if this Towns image is to improve the Council should be forcing ways forward to see the renovation of this building, there's plenty of effort and money being put into upgrading the town centre,  or is Swindons railway/working class past best swept under the carpet? ::)
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mjad

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2006, 03:52:42 PM »

I noticed in the adver a few weeks ago there was to be a meeting with SBC, Mechanics Trust,  Anne Snelgrove and Mr Singh but i haven't seen the outcome of this meeting,  do you have any details mjad?

was invited to this meeting, but could not make it as was at work.  not been told of the outcomes.
Quote

The politics of who could or should have purchased the building in the past is to me not relevent, it wasn't purchased for whatever reason and nothing can change that.  What is important is 20 years down the road since its closure, nothing has happened except the slow decay and destruction of a once fine building (excepting the tower which looks hideous) and nothing seems to be happening now. 



Surely if this Towns image is to improve the Council should be forcing ways forward to see the renovation of this building, there's plenty of effort and money being put into upgrading the town centre,  or is Swindons railway/working class past best swept under the carpet? ::)


i really would like to see the history of the town saved - esp. the railway history as one born in the town (even though none of my family were inside)!

Offline johndoyle

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2006, 06:32:34 PM »

Perhaps John Doyle would like to tell us why the labour group did not buy it for £1 when they were in control if he / they are so interested in saving it?


some time before my involvement in local politics I'm afraid so no idea about the whys and wherefors. Does seem to be a bit of a mistake if it was available for £1. Generally though, a £1 deal has some other strings attached.

Bill Cullen bought Renault Ireland for £1. Whilst he bought the brand, assets etc he also bought millions of debt with it and had to work extremely hard to make the deal work for him.

I can only surmise that there was perhaps more risk than would have been acceptable to a Council. The usual phrase perhaps applies - if it looks too good to be true, it is.

Today though, we have a huge scheme in place to re-generate the town centre.  Seems a shame not to try and include the Mechanics Institute in some way.

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #15 on: June 09, 2006, 06:59:10 PM »
john - i am not letting this go, but it's very much a long game!  there is decades of history around the whole Railway Village being let go - so trying to reverse some of the less succesful decisions is not easy - e.g. the bed sits

Offline johndoyle

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #16 on: June 09, 2006, 07:25:26 PM »
there have definitely been some bad decisions here. It would be good to get all parties working to agree a joint policy on history and heritage.

I'm not overly sentimental about Swindon's Railway past - it's not quite the golden age put across - but the Railway Village and the Mechanics Institute stand out as something special. At the same time the Mechanics Institute also stands out as a political sore that we all need to do something about.
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mjad

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2006, 07:52:54 AM »
at least with Rod Bluh leading the council we have someone who is interested in doing something positive about the area - let's hope we can get some movement soon

Offline Simon

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2006, 03:53:40 PM »
Perhaps John Doyle would like to tell us why the labour group did not buy it for £1 when they were in control if he / they are so interested in saving it?

IMHO it would cost millions now (got a rough idea how much Singh brought it for & what the costs to date would have cost & how much work is urgently needed)

Can anyone explain why it was on sale for £1, what it would cost now to buy, and what investment Mr Singh has made in the site since purchasing it (besides clearing away the undergrowth which used to take up all the space between the building and the fence)? Any difference between the original £1 and any current asking price ought to be accounted for by work he's done on the building since then.
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Offline Mellon

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Re: Mechanics Institute - Just what is going on??
« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2010, 08:52:28 AM »
I didn't think Mr Singhs Investment was in question? Mr Singh has wanted to develop the site and invest into it but he's been denied the right to by the council and another body......
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