Fresh hope for future of Old Town landmark

By Nick Batten on 9 March, 2023

Plans to rejuvenate one of Swindon’s most historic buildings have taken a significant step forward.

Swindon Borough Council has agreed to sell two of its car parks to help facilitate the regeneration of The Corn Exchange and Old Town Hall buildings, better known locally as the Locarno.

The Council has been working with the owner of The Corn Exchange, local businessman Gael Mackenzie, on a proposal to bring the much-loved landmark back into use.

Under the plans, The Corn Exchange and The Planks and Dammas Lane car parks, would be sold jointly as a regeneration opportunity to prospective developers.

Both parties will now decide a joint sale agreement, prior to marketing and selling the combined sites on the basis that acceptable offers are received.

The Council has been actively trying to give the Corn Exchange a new lease of life for a number of years.

In November 2016, the Council entered into a development agreement with Gael and Swindon Corn Exchange Limited, to turn The Corn Exchange and surrounding council-owned land into apartments, restaurants and mixed commercial uses.

However, after Swindon Corn Exchange Ltd missed several deadlines to bring forward the scheme, including a final opportunity to submit a planning application by September 2019, the Council decided to terminate the development agreement due to the lack of progress.

It is hoped a joint land disposal will lead to the successful regeneration of this important area of Old Town.

Councillor Matty Courtliff, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Heritage, Leisure and Town Centre Experience, said, “This is an extremely positive development and I was only too happy to authorise the sale of the two car parks as without them, any regeneration scheme would not be possible.

“I am very optimistic we now have a realistic way forward for The Corn Exchange, which has looked desolate against the Old Town landscape for far too long.

“I’d like to thank Mr Mackenzie for engaging with us constructively so we can begin the process of giving this iconic building and the surrounding area a new lease of life.”

Gael added, “I am pleased to be working with the Council directly on this and look forward to a successful outcome for both parties in the near future.”

Pictured above: Councillor Matty Courtliff, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Heritage, Leisure and Town Centre Experience, outside The Corn Exchange in Old Town