The first stage in a long-term plan to restore a listed building which has been derelict for almost 40 years goes before councillors on Tuesday (February 7).

The Grade II* – listed Mechanics’ Institute in Emlyn Square, Swindon, which was built in 1855, expanded in 1893, but closed in 1986 along with the railway works, has been a long-standing eyesore in the town and is currently classed as ‘at risk’ by the Theatres Trust. It was built as an educational resource for railway workers.

Now Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet will be shown a plan, devised in conjunction with Historic England, to restore and bring it back into use.

Due to its condition, costs are likely to be well into the tens of millions and timescales likely to run in to several years.

Key points to be discussed on Tuesday include:

  • Securing a viable and sustainable new use
  • Identifying funding
  • Addressing the ownership of the building

The plan also asks for £110,000 in potential funding to support the project. The council plans to work with Swindon Heritage Preservation Trust (formerly the Mechanics’ Institution Trust) and Historic England in progressing the scheme.

Cllr Marina Strinkovsky, cabinet member for heritage, art and culture, said: “The Mechanics building has played a huge role in the history of Swindon and it’s a crying shame it has been empty and disused for so long. It’s time we took the necessary steps to secure a future for it back at the heart of the community.

“While the building’s restoration is undoubtedly a huge task, this new roadmap clearly sets out what we need to do in order to bring it into use.

“I look forward to taking on this challenge and to finally seeing the Mechanics and the Railway Village alive and thriving anew.”

Bob Wright, chairman of the Swindon Heritage Preservation Trust, said: “We believe the cabinet paper proposals are the best chance that Swindon has had to deliver a restored Mechanics since the formation of the trust.

“This paper is the culmination of all the work given by many to achieve a restored Mechanics’ Institution.”

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