For decades Swindon has always been regarded as something of a boom town. Our unique location makes us an attractive place for businesses and, with the completion of the electrification of the Great Western Mainline approaching, I am confident we will be even more attractive for companies.
So it was pleasing last week to hear the comments of John Watkins, Director of Seven Capital Plc, who echoed that confidence when speaking to the local media about how his company would work with the Council to invest more than a quarter of a billion pounds into North Star.
As many of you will have seen or read last week, Seven Capital has stepped in to take up a Development Agreement that will see a regional leisure destination built, complete with indoor ski slope, IMAX cinema, bowling alley, a major trampoline centre and hotel complex, along with a mix of bars and restaurants.
Swindon’s proximity to London was not lost on John as he described how the development would cement the town’s position as a real hotspot. Indeed, the indoor ski slope operator who has been working with John and his team said that if he could stick a pin in a map of the UK for where he would want to build his next indoor ski slope, the location he would choose would be Swindon.
It is not surprising we are so well regarded. Our town is ranked as the UK’s 7th most investable town or city and our Economic Strategy sets out our ambition to grow the town’s economy from its current value of £6.6bn to £8.4bn by 2026 – an increase of 27 per cent. The North Star development will play a big role in this and, as John Watkins pointed out, many of the mixed-use projects Seven Capital have been involved with have acted as catalysts for wider regeneration.
Some of that regeneration is already firmly in the pipeline and next week a public display at the Central Library will give an update on a number of the projects that will breathe new life into our town centre, not least our exciting plans for a new Museum and Art Gallery.
From Thursday, 20 July through to Sunday, 23 July displays of the plans to transform Aspen House, North Star and the Carriage Works and other sites will be on show and there will be the chance to speak to experts about the progress on each of the projects.
We will have a detailed model of the town centre to pinpoint to members of the public exactly where each of the proposed developments will be taking place in what will be a chance for people to revisit the town centre masterplan. It will also be a chance for people to see for themselves that Swindon is very much still booming.