Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Power of Ignoring Facts ; Mack Flicks Off Flicker Con Campaigner

Part of Honda's award-winning advertising campaign on restarting car production after their recession shutdown at the South Marston plant.

One of the main concerns of those opposing the Honda wind turbine plan has finally been exposed as non-applicable to a campaigner on the radio.

As Swindon Centric pointed out after a bit of very light digging, the possibility of 'shadow flicker' by the turbines on the east side of town has been eliminated by Ecotricity.

Now, BBC Wiltshire presenter, Graham Mack informed a campaigner on his Breakfast Show of this fact, but they didn't really seem particularly informed. Listen to it here, skip to 19 minutes 45 to listen to the interview.

Swindon Centric Says ; A big tip of the hat to Graham Mack. As campaigners keep saying, there's strong feeling about this proposal, there should be equally strong feeling about getting the facts right about it.

And that's a fact, a Mack Fact!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wi-Failed ; Death Held Off For Truth To Come Forth

Pages Councillor Perkins?

The automatic striking off of Swindon's wi-fi company (taken £400,000 of our money and showing us precious little for it) would have allowed answers to questions to be buried for ever.

Mr Richard Symonds has written and objected to the striking off, which will now be postponed until the end of February.

Swindon Centric Says ; Coming soon, those long-overdue Digital City accounts (and where that money went and what it was spent on)... Maybe?

Isn't it great what the written word can, and may yet, achieve?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Truth Makes It Safely To Other Side Of Crossing

No, they didn't claim credit for this one.

Selective memory 'Swindrome' strikes again in Swindon!

This time, the Lib Dems repeatedly claimed credit for installing the Kingshill Crossing has been found to be wrong.

Swindon Centric Says ; Looks like Swindon's Lib Dems will have to look at their own achievements in the area to use in next year's election leaflets, which include... well... they got the.... erm, well good luck with that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Top Ten Things Overheard On Swindon's Buses Last Week ; 217

The scene on Lexington Avenue, New York, yesterday with a reflection of the Chrysler Building on an empty bus lane. All public transport, subways, buses, trains and ferries shut down yesterday at noon in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Irene.

Click here for the original at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

10. It's pasta, it's not going to happy slap you.

9. You forget, I spent six weeks on contract at the Cardiff office, I'm a veteran.

8. Move or I will move Sandra's desk with you sat at it.

7. We've had correct change since, at least, the days of Churchill.

6. Stephen Fry, would I be the first to say I don't find him interesting?

5. It was a Saturday night, I'm not responsible for your actions after a pitcher of that.

4. They're MC Hammer pants, I hear he's on his way with the fashion police to claim them back.

3. I'm not eating granola again, it's like road grit with fruit.

2. She's not settling for anything less than everything.

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1. I heard she had lied, then again, she told me she hadn't, I'm confused, or am I?

Overheard something we've missed? Then email or leave a comment and your phrase could make it onto next weeks list!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wi-Failed : Closest To Accountability We Got (So Far?)

Cast your mind back to March last year, and to a sparse House of Commons chamber, then MP for Swindon South, Anne Snelgrove, raised the questions about the wi-fi scheme for Swindon that's now dead. Her words are as relevant now as they were nearly 18 months ago.

Swindon Centric Says ; Justin Tomlinson and Robert Buckland, MPs for Swindon North and South, what are you waiting for?

Where's the questions, concern and accountability from them?

Wi-Failed ; Death Of The Digital City

The company Swindon Borough Council residents funded to the tune of £400,000, is in the process of being wound-up. Click on the above image for a bigger version of the winding-up order from Companies House.

Swindon Centric Says ; Cue spinning that this was all part of the plan and a 'potential investor' is soon to announce...

No flowers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bats (& Democracy) In The Belfry Blamed For College Demolition Delay

The view down Rolleston Street towards the proposed Regent Circus development.

The saga of pulling down the former Swindon College building in Regent Circus has moved onto bats, democracy and a dateless phase.

The last few years have been filled with promises of demolition dates, all of which have been missed.

Now Council Leader Rod Bluh has dispensed with a demolition date (very wise), but has rambled on to blame the inaction on bats living in the older part of the building on Victoria Road and also local residents. Blaming them for giving feedback to the plan for the area, which required amendment and, according to his comments, added to the delay.

Swindon Centric Says ; Blame the wi-fi failure on Swindon residents, blame a regeneration stalling on Swindon residents, what next?

Brunel Has The Builders In, Eventually

Repairs to the splaying concrete on the exit delivery ramp appears to be complete, with painting part-way through.

Regular readers will recall the story from last year about the dodgy-looking state of the delivery ramps of Swindon's Brunel Centre, it's nearly taken a year, but it would appear that Brunel Centre owners CIT Group (a private equity company) have invested in repairs.

Swindon Centric Says ; Let's hope the excellent standard of upkeep within the Brunel Centre now becomes the norm outside as well (plus the painting of the grey concrete in white is a simple but very effective smartening-up move).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Walcot Waits For Plan As Time Is Called On Pub

Swindon Borough Council is about to take ownership of The Bulldog pub in Walcot, in anticipation of demolition for redevelopment.

No plan is forthcoming from the council for the future of the site. The purchase of the pub is part of a desire to redo the entire Sussex Square area. The fewest of details about the plan are that a supermarket may be to go on the site.

Swindon Centric Says ; Purchasing buildings as a prelude for demolition, for a redevelopment plan that few people know details of...oooh, not the best way to go about it. Publish any and all plans for the area and get a dialogue going with those in Walcot, besides they're the ones who will have to live with whatever gets built in The Bulldog's place.

That North Swindon Developers Monies In Full (Sort Of)

Something as boring and everyday as the minutes to a meeting can reveal the most extraordinary of things. In Swindon's case, this includes the whereabouts of the Section 106 monies from the developments in North Swindon.

The minutes from the Haydon Wick Parish Council Meeting of Tuesday 16th August confirm a few things ;

- The processes surrounding Section 106 monies are not transparent. From the negotiations, to the final amount, allocation and spending, the criteria employed and the ease of understanding is not that at all.

- The money originally due to be spent on the road to link the southern end of Thamesdown Drive with the Bruce Street Bridge area of Great Western Way has been reallocated to be used on the Great Western Way improvement work.

- The council seem to be keen to allocate money from developments that haven't happened, as point 56.1.2 shows, with regard to the Tadpole Development, keen to move the money out of the development area to somewhere else in Swindon.

- The £250,000 that was allocated for youth provision in Moredon, seems to have been lost.

Swindon Centric Says ; As much of the public space improvement in Swindon town centre is scheduled to take place under the use of Section 106 Monies, it seems like Swindon Borough Council needs to make it's process for negotiation, allocation and spending clearer, much, much clearer.

Which councillor will take up this baton? We're waiting...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wi-Failed ; Company Founder Declares Bankruptcy

The twists in Swindon's dalliance into publicly-funded wi-fi takes a further twist with today's news that former Digital City (the company charged with rolling out a wi-fi mesh throughout Swindon Borough using public money) Director Rikki Hunt filed for bankruptcy on 8th of March this year.

Swindon Centric Says ; Millions of questions for Councillor Garry Perkins, the Director of Digital City now and at that time. Did he know and when did he know it? And the other 999,998 questions he should answer as well...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Top Ten Things Overheard On swindon's Buses Last Week ; 216

10. I love Ryvita so much, it's cracking.

9. There's only so many times you can watch a circling pigeon for entertainment.

8. Your use of the word perspicacity is intriguing to me.

7. I have the key and you've got the security code.

6. You seem sure of his guilt, he's not a looter you know?

5. A set of those scales were hidden behind a pillar, so I used them.

4. Why risk your livelihood when you could just dob in the prefect?

3. It tastes like something I recognise, but can't place.

2. He writes like a drunken JP.

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1. Why are you so hostile to my breasts?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Spacious Station Forecourt Given The Right Away

Work on Swindon's railway station forecourt will start within a few weeks after contracts were signed on the £1.75 million scheme.

The plan will include a far-greater pedestrian space, smaller taxi rank, the return of the Jubilee Clock to the town centre after being cleaned and repaired and greenery.

Swindon Centric Says ; The amount of money is relatively small, but will make a big difference to one of Swindon's most important gateways, we'll keep you updated on the work.

Forward Swindon Makes Worthy Nod To Richard Jefferies Past

Swindon's literary son, Richard Jefferies is to gain a piece of long-overdue official appreciation on Monday in the form of something he would have been wholly in favour of, a footpath.

Led by our town's regeneration company, Forward Swindon, a simple footpath linking Coate Water with the Richard Jefferies will be formally opened by Mayor Ray Ballman.

The footpath is part of a longer-term plan to preserve, protect and promote the many links Swindon has with the author and naturalist, Richard Jefferies.

Swindon Says ; "I began to breathe a new air and to have a fresher aspiration..."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Welcome To Grubby Swindon (& How To Clean It Up)

Is there something strange, in your neighbourhood? Who ya gonna call?

StreetSmart, that's who!

Some areas of Swindon are looking decidedly grubby, an increase in the amount of graffiti that's lingering for far longer than it should, overgrown paths and cycle tracks and litter.

But Swindon Borough provides services to rectify all these.

If there's graffiti on your house, you can have it removed, FOR FREE! Just download a disclaimer for the work to be done and send it back in and they'll do the rest.

For other issues, cutting back trees, cleaning up litter, moving abandoned cars, etc, you can email

The department page, with specific links for the way to get things done on them is here.

Swindon Centric Says ; Let's get Swindon clean!

Coate Water To Have Its Day(s) In Bristol

The decision on whether to allow houses to be built near Coate Water will be made at a planning hearing which is due to start in Bristol on Tuesday 15th November.

Swindon Centric Says ; Is Coate Water as we know it living on borrowed time?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Does Swindon Need To Follow Twitter?

Twitter has become the latest tool in communicating news and reaction to the news. But the revolution in communication is passing some of Swindon's most prominent names by.

Swindon Borough Council has a small collection of twitter accounts, but are infrequently used.

The regeneration arm of the Borough Council, Forward Swindon, had a twitter account that was updated up until around a year ago, but the trace of which isn't anywhere on their revamped website.

Thamesdown Transport and Stagecoach don't have twitter accounts, which compares to the excellent use of the service by First Great Western.

The praise for the best twitter account goes to Swindon Borough Council's Local Studies & Family History section, always diverting and intriguing.

Swindon Centric Says ; Are companies and organisations in Swindon missing a huge trick by ignoring social media and thinking that it'll just go away?

UPDATE : Thanks to the Wyvern Theatre for letting Swindon Centric know about their excellent Twitter account, to be found at @ WyvernTheatre or by clicking here.

Top Ten Things Heard On Swindon's Buses Last Week ; 215

Click here for the original at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

10. He used to make models out of mashed potato.

9. There's salad in the fridge, but that's not a meal.

8. Keep going and I'm sure you'll show her pants to be the designer fakes they are.

7. When we get home I'm locking it in the cupboard, we're never using it again.

6. Sarah's changing her job, never understood what she's been doing anyway.

5. Conform and you die.

4. She bought those shoes, then returned them after her birthday.

3. Disaronno smells like something you'd eat.

2. If they moved them to the corner by the main doors, then increased the height of the fixture, we'd have massively more room for bleach.

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1. 7 years old, 10 years old and 25 years old, they must have got busy before they got busy.

Overheard something we've missed? Then let us know.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Does Swindon Need A Fanfare For The Common Land?

The Coate building decision is now in the hands of officials in Bristol, the Core Strategy response stunned the council, so now's time to step back and consider the bigger picture.

Swindon needs to expand, for a collection of reasons, but sustainability is increasingly coming to the fore. Is now the time for Swindon to seek to designate land as 'common land' and prevent development or inappropriate use of it for the long-term?

Our town has many pockets of land that the Borough owns, Coate Water, Lydiard Park, Lawn, the open spaces of the post-war developments at Covingham, and Nythe, the list goes on. But should we now consider letting a ring around our town to stay as it is, green and made public for all?

Swindon Centric Says ; Swindon does not have a greenbelt, but that doesn't mean we can't protect those areas of land that the town wants to protect. It would make a statement about our town's environmental credentials.

Thoughts anyone?

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Regeneration Now Arriving... Is Currently At A Stand

The first part of the massive Union Square development for the Fleming Way/Corporation Street area is delayed whilst the plans are fine-tuned before being submitted.

Muse, the developer for the area are working on something called 'design development', altering the arrangement and appearance of the buildings of the scheme.

Swindon Centric Says ; So we wait til autumn and hold our breath.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

White Elephant Election School For Old Town

The plan to build a school at Croft in Old Town makes no sense to anyone except, you've guessed it, the ruling councillors at the top of Swindon Borough Council.

The school would be in an established part of Swindon, so the roll of pupils would be bussed in from other parts of town (which the council has tried to cut down on in recent years). In May this year, a local school was publicising it had places available for pupils and, the new school is in a part of town that top Conservative councillors are widely expected to stand as candidates in May's election.

Swindon Centric Says ; How reliable is the information that Swindon Borough Council is basing it's decision on of building a new school in an established area with questionable demographics?

Does Section 106 money from the Haydon area play a factor in being spent in Old Town?

How watertight is this decision?

Top Ten Things Heard On Swindon's Buses Last Week ; 214

Click here for the original at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

10. Funding is now a dirty word.

9. I want more for less, how did you know?

8. This isn't worth the screen it's written on.

7. It's typical she's got one of those, it's the only place she shops.

6. For the indoors I though a teal for the TV wall and an aqua for the rest.

5. Hating that song right now, put some Skrillex on.

4. Studies show that I don't care.

3. Careful, don't eat that, it'll go all over me.

2. We're in East Swindon, where's that?

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1. Go and get me a box of Krispy Kreme things, and if you eat just one, it better be the custard one.

Overheard something we've missed? Then let us know.

Swindon's Opinions Incinerated With Lack Of Light

Proposals to dot Swindon with a set of high-tech waste-to-energy plants has raised far more questions than answers.

The most concerned are the residents of Oakhurst, who have been informed that the Tadpole Farm housing plan contains a proposal to build such a facility. So you'd expect a flurry of public exhibitions, an open dialogue with community groups and residents?

But this is Swindon and we have to do everything differently, from diesel hydraulic engines, to wireless internet, to local government accountability and engagement.

The technology is rather involved to go into, but is a tremendous step-up from a crude rubbish incinerator, through a process called pyrolysis.

Some have questions about the tech involved, but most concerning is the attitude of 'don't worry, we know best' being released into the atmosphere from Swindon Borough Council.

Swindon Centric Says ; Rod Bluh, do not make this into Wi-Fi Mark II, start publicising this plan to residents now, all over town, start a conversation, if you want to take Swindon into the future, you'd better take the residents there too.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Dim View Of PR Greenwash

With the trial of switching off lights along various stretches of roads in East and West Swindon, those included have been furnished with the above yellow signs.

So why doesn't the sign state the truth? The reason for the switch-off is to save money, the environmental benefit, as virtuous as it is, is simply an added bonus from Swindon Borough Council's point of view.

Swindon Centric Says ; Who signed off on the wording on the signs, because it's to save money, plain and simple. A poor attempt at greenwash.

As an aside, the accusations by taxi-drivers that it will make it more dangerous to drive, are ridiculous.

Locarno Merry Dance May Be Over Soon

The will to prevent the former Corn Exchange and Locarno in Old Town from slipping down the abyss of Mechanics'-derelict proportions seems to have gained a few more footholds in recent weeks.

A meeting between the council and the developer will happen on Tuesday of next week (9th) to whittle-down a set of options to a few that suit both parties that can then form the bulk of a new planning application and get something done.

The scale of the saga on the Locarno is similar to that of the Mechanics' Institute, except the threat of demolition has come sooner, after the owner and developer rightly lost patience with the council.

Swindon Centric Says ; It's almost surprising how quickly things can move when the will is there to get things done. Let's hope next Tuesday marks the beginning of the end for the pontificating about the Locarno.

The site of the owner and developer can be found here, a wealth of information.

Swindon Engages - Council Stunned - Bloggers Delighted

The huge response received by Swindon Borough Council on the Core Strategy has stunned the Council.

After the extension of the deadline for consultation, a flurry of late submissions on Coate were expected, but nothing on this scale. The majority areas that will have been received will concern the Tadpole Farm development, the Coate Water area development and the Eastern Development Area. The EDA will be an interesting one to follow as some of the Swindon ruling Conservatives jumped on the scaling-down of the proposed housebuilding numbers for that area as a political win, when it's actually a small reduction in the number of houses to be built. Indeed it was a two-faced spectacle to see some councillors appose house building of a hundred or so houses next to Lydiard Park whilst shrugging shoulders about housebuilding at Coate and in the EDA (all that happened around election time last year, no connection of course).

Now the real work will begin, with a redrawing of the planning of the town up until 2026, when this Core Strategy covers and many of those 'well, isn't a shame we can't save this countryside' councillor shrugs get thrown-out with this public response.

Swindon Centric Says ; Elections of every single Swindon Borough Council seat happens next May, it'll be interesting to see how councillors who've got involved in planning decisions change, disavow or forget what they said as the planning landscape politic has changed beneath their feet.

The Prince, The Council & The Mechanics' Mystery

The air over Swindon is thick with claim and counterclaim regarding the latest plan for the Mechanics' Institute.

Swindon Borough Council has been in discussions with the Prince's Regeneration Trust since 2010 about getting something done with the Railway Village building. The problem of perception seems to have dominated, with the Council refusing to come out with even a scant outline of what they're trying to achieve with this charity.

However, if we dig a little, we may find something. Several councillor have already mentioned, been mentioning the organisation's name in reference to the Mechanics' for months now, but with the same vagueness for specifics. Back on Wednesday 13th July, at that day's cabinet meeting, there was a reference to the Mechanics' in that meeting (if you've clicked on the link you'll need the bottom of page 28), which went like this... (please be aware the context this part was in the section about the possible transfer of the Council's housing stock to another organisation and the proposed ballot that would take place)

'The consultation on future housing options extends an opportunity to explore wider improvements to the Railway Village area. Preliminary work has been undertaken by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust initially
looking at the Mechanics Institute as an integral part of the area. Whilst acknowledging that it is in private ownership and that a solution for the building currently resides with the owner. There is nonetheless the scope to explore possible joined up options for taking forward the Prince’s Regeneration Trust’s proposals alongside the transfer offer. These particular costs would not fall on the Housing Revenue Account. Furthermore the ballot would not prevent consideration of a solution for the Mechanics that took into account the wider Railway Village.

Quite a meaty passage isn't it? However, if we combine it with what we already know, it tells us a great deal. There is no-way the Council will pay for full or even partial restoration of the Mechanics' and at the same time, it's keen (and actively seeking) to rid itself of it's council housing stock, as it costs a great deal to maintain and upgrade. Plus, we know that the Mechanics', the Railway Village houses and the former Works site are collectively known under the loose term, 'Great Western Historic Area'. So, when the transferring of housing stock occurs (there seems to be no other option being tabled) is it not sensible that a Railway Village house will be deemed and treated differently to a non-listed council house?

Swindon Centric Says ; Is Swindon Borough Council proposing having the Railway Village housing stock deemed separate and of special interest and combining it's transfer to another organisation with the other side of the bargain being long-term restoration of the Mechanics', whilst the lucrative asset transfer of the Railway Village houses occurs?

Thoughts anyone?

Whilst I await feedback, I'll have a cup of tea and a Duchy Original Oaten Biscuit.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Honda - The Power of Nightmares & The Foolhardy Turbine Fear Factor

The issue of Honda being allowed to install turbines at it's South Marston plant seems to become a cloak with which to wear late at night and stalk the dreams of the local populace, if the words of some are to be taken at face value.

For the leader of Swindon Borough Council to state (and others jumped onto the runaway carriage too), or allow himself to be interviewed into a corner and come out with the statement that the Council does not have an economic plan in the case that Honda leave Swindon is either a slippery piece of political sabre-rattling or a schoolboy error.

One side shows it could be a clever piece of politicking, as the planning committee meeting decision on the turbines has been rescheduled after a record 496 people attended the meeting, the decision has yet to be taken.

However, most of the ticks seem to be in the 'error' column.

The recent Coate Water decision seems to show that the Planning Committee has 'gone rogue' (as the recommendations from officers weren't taken into account), therefore any political opinion proffered seems to be pointless in the final decision of the committee.

Then there was the news/PR blitz that happened in the days after, first that Honda's vehicles are the UK's most reliable.

Then the massive broadside that Honda will be building two new models, both in Swindon.

And the last deadly blast from the dead-wrong cannon, that Honda made, despite the impact of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami (and 88% less in it's first quarter profits), £248 million, it raised it's full-year earnings forecast by 35%.

Swindon Centric Says ; So, short of Honda repainting the roof of it's plant with the slogan, 'Honda Loves Swindon' (though the award-winning ad campaign, shown above, extolling the virtues of the day-to-day routine when the plant reopened was near-enough), there seems little prospect of the manufacturer leaving the town any time soon. At the other end of this, saying stupid things, or scaring people is never a trait that will win people's respect, or support.

Perkins Pre-Election Political Posture Pure Pomp & Puffery

The allegation of bad conduct by the former leader of the Labour Group in Swindon has been dropped by Councillor Perkins, the Deputy Leader of Swindon Borough Council.

The allegation related to the release of a document about the Mechanics' Institute, for which basis was paper-thin at best. Since the document with the details which some deemed confidential, was discussed at a council meeting that members of the public attended and the document was available for them, the situation took on a farcical theme.

A further enhancement to the sitcom-like premise, was the threat to the Swindon Advertiser not to run the story, which they were tipped-off about by the ruling Conservative Group itself.

Swindon Centric Says ; The cherry on top of this act is the quote the Swindon Advertiser have from Councillor Perkins, "No hard feelings - that's politics." A rather groundless allegation, mixed with double-talk and topped off with a non-sensical decoration.

The unexpected scene after the long roll of the credits in this story is... Swindon will have full local council elections next year, with every single council seat up for grabs.

But that's just politics, isn't it?

Top Ten Things Heard On Swindon's Buses Last Week ; 213

For fellow Twittee (still think that's wrong) @Runnin4u, and in answer to the question, the bus in question in 'The Mummy Returns' is an AEC Regent III, details here

Click here for the original and still the best at this brilliant idea, here's our own version for Swindon's buses from last week.

10. If they build it I'll have to send my washing to a cleaner, and, well, you've seen my pants... exactly.

9. Don't think they'll actually listen, they're as deaf as a coalition underwater.

8. I can't listen to that song without thinking of him and being 95% creeped-out, the other 5% is just regret.

7. Yes, that's right barbecued chicken is on the menu, along with e.coli for afters children.

6. Martina now believes I didn't tell anyone, I swear she must think magical fairies spread the story about her and Steve.

5. Collect up all the glass, wrap it up in a piece of cardboard, tape it up and bury it in the garden.

4. I objected to the traffic implications, the view, the smell, the noise and the fact I don't want a conservatory next door.

3. Isn't Core Strategy something to do with yoga or pilates?

2. She's moving up the street to where those new houses with the smaller gardens but bigger husbands are.

And the number one overheard phrase on Swindon's buses from last week is...

1. I fully expect when he arrives home to have found that all the locks have been changed, his car's been sold and his manhood will be neatly packed and awaiting collection on the doorstep.

Overheard something we've missed? Then let us know.

Milton Road Adds To Deep End In Burst Pipe Bother

Milton Road back in the day, not sure which one though, maybe a Tuesday? Looks like a Tuesday.

Swindonian's heading home on the evening commute would do well to avoid the centre of town as Milton Road has been shut to repair a burst water main.

Swindoncentric Says ; Other jokes/conspiracy theories that the burst main is a test of how Westcott Place would cope with having the canal back through town should be left with other cynical thoughts in your changing room locker (50p).