Steph Exell: Proposals to safeguard the future of Swindon’s railway heritage

I grew up in St Albans, Hertfordshire but chose to make Swindon my home in the 1980s and have raised my family here.

My teenage son was born in Swindon and loves the Steam Museum and all the railway history. Some of you may be aware that St Albans, like Swindon, has a historical significance.

So when I arrived in Swindon I was delighted to discover that the town had an equally proud heritage in its deep railway roots. The beating heart of any town or city is always the legacy of those who laid down the foundations for all future generations to follow. Therefore, it is also imperative that those responsible for the forward planning process in Swindon continue to safeguard the future of Swindon’s historic environment and heritage assets.

Swindon Borough’s Draft Local Plan sets out the town’s development needs until the year 2026. The government inspector came to Swindon in April for a hearing to establish the soundness of this plan. The hearing rather aptly took place at the Steam Museum. The inspector recommended that amendments were made to the Local Plan policy (EN10) that sets out the future of our heritage assets.

I am delighted to see that these amendments strengthen the town’s resolve to protect its heritage. Amongst the amendments are the following:

  1. Planning permission will not be granted where a proposed development will lead to substantial harm to or total loss of significance of a designated heritage asset… (EN10 a.)
  2. Any alterations, extension or changes of use to a listed building, or development in the vicinity of a listed building, shall not be permitted where there will be an adverse impact on those elements which contribute to their special architectural or historic significance, including their setting. (EN10 c.)
  3. To support a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the Borough’s historic environment the Council will: Encourage heritage led regeneration, particularly within the historic railway area, and support the conservation of heritage assets to strengthen the Borough’s distinctive identity and attractiveness… (EN10 4.378)

We should be grateful that the inspector understands the importance of heritage and has taken steps to protect the beating heart of Swindon. Let’s hope that the all these amendments are adopted in the Local Plan.

Steph Exell, candidate for Mannington & Western