Wiltshire

Swindon's Railway Village announced as Heritage Action Zone

Railway Village
Image caption The Railway Village was built by Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel for railwaymen in the 1840s

An historic but neglected part of Swindon is to be regenerated in a heritage project.

The town's Railway Village has been announced as a Heritage Action Zone by Historic England.

Historic England and the local authority are to "breathe new life" into the area by jointly investing £7.6m in regeneration works.

The Railway Village was built by Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel for railwaymen in the 1840s.

Improving the condition of the town's Health Hydro and refurbishing the Grade II listed former public house the Cricketers' are amongst the proposals.

Historic England also wants to "secure a sustainable future" for a former rail building which has been derelict since 1986.

More than 2,000 people recently signed a petition to save the Grade II listed Mechanics Institute after so-called "urban explorers" entered the building and posted a video of its "poor state".

Dale Heenan, from Swindon Borough Council, said the "number one priority" for the project was for it "to do something about the Mechanics".

"If there isn't a plan of action for a sustainable future for the building in five years time - and it might take a while - then this will have failed."

Image copyright Google
Image caption The council is working with Historic England to find "a sustainable future" for the Mechanics building

Sally Hawson, from Save Swindon's Heritage, said although she welcomed the plans, she feels "over optimistic promises" are being made given that the building is "still in private hands".

Historic England's Rebecca Barrett said: "We want to see the heritage action zone as leading the regeneration of the area, bringing more people in, making it a thriving hub once again.

"It's so important to Swindon, and it has such wonderful buildings - it would have been full of people and buzzing with life at one time. We want this project to be a major part of returning that life and vitality to this amazing area."

Council leader David Renard added: "The success of this project will be a future for the Mechanics' but also this area as a thriving, busy place where people want to be."

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