Council leader David Renard announced that the purchase of that part of Cavendish Square which it does not own would be suspended owing to the impact of Covid-19 on retail values. He said the situation would be reviewed when the situation had “settled down”. Below is a statement by community groups calling on the council to stick to its commitment to buy back the main body of the square and the shops.
“Swindon Council must stick to its promise of buying back Cavendish Square
The announcement that Swindon Council is not proceeding with the purchase of that part of Cavendish Square, which it does not own, is deeply disappointing news. Local people have been campaigning to rectify the parlous state of the ‘new’ Cavendish Square for a decade.
The problems go back to the way the Council oversaw the development in the first place. For example, they allowed the original developer to leave the square without drainage even though they had failed to roof the area, bequeathing us the infamous Cavendish Square lake.
The local community has had to fight every step of the way. For example, the council allowed the derelict, dirty, unsafe, old Co-op site to remain an eyesore. It took community groups two years of effort to secure the car park to replace it.
David Renard’s statement that they have decided not to proceed because of the impact of Covid on retail values ignores the fact that the case made to the Council by local people for buying back this area was not only based on the commercial value to the Council. It was also because of the persistant difficulty of holding private owners to account to make good the state of the Square. Why spend public money on privately owned premises, thereby increasing the value of private property, at public expense?
It was clear that the outstanding problems – flooding, lighting, decaying fencing, unsafe floor – could only be resolved if the council bought the land and put these things right. More than £30,000 of a bond put in place for the roof (which was never built) was used to pay for the second car park. Nearly £90,000 is left to pay for any works requiring to be done.
In a recent statement Robert Buckland said that the council was seeking permission of the owner to “undertake third party work”. We continue to oppose spending public money to enhance the assets of a private company.
David Renard’s statement that the council has decided not to proceed because of the impact of Covid on retail values misses the obvious possibility of negotiating the original price lower. Obviously Covid is a material factor which cannot be ignored. Yet, given the ongoing crisis of the retail sector, which predated Covid, the owner might be amenable to a lower price. They may want to extricate themselves from this site. Rather than abandoning the proposal to buy it, we call upon the Council to negotiate a lower price.
The Council, having sold off the land, has a moral duty to rectify the situation for the sake of the local people to whom they ought to be accountable. The last ten years have shown the only way to do this is to take the land back into Council ownership.
Linda Fletcher, Vicar St Johns Church Parks & St Andrews Walcot
Martin Wicks, Secretary Parks & East Walcot Community Forum
Tom Jeffery, Chair Parks & East Walcot Community Forum
Carole Brownlee, Secretary SWAP Community Group
Carole-Anne Bond, Chair SWAP Community Group
Adrian Cooper, Treasurer SWAP Comunity Group
Julie Broad, Chair The Shop, Cavendish Square”