Swindon office block plans create argument

Posted on by John Cronin

Plans for competing city centre office blocks in Swindon have started an argument between the rival developers.

Property development company McAleer and Rushe have shelved their existing plans for an apartment block next to the Jurys Inn Hotel in Fleming Way, Swindon due to the lack of demand for city centre, residential property. Instead they have now submitted plans for a large office block to be built on the site. McAleer and Rushe now plan to construct a 7 storey office block on the land.

Union SquareBut objections to the new plans have been lodged by Muse, the developer chosen by Swindon Council to construct the large urban redevelopment project named Union Square (artists impression). Forward Swindon (formerly New Swindon Company) an economic development company for the city have published the objectives of their Union Square proposals on their website.

Occupying the land between Fleming Way and the railway station, including the former police station station site, Union Square is planned as being a large, mixed-use development. Along with retail outlets, homes and new public transport facilities Union Square will offer 550,000 sq ft of office space.

Muse and their consulting partners GVA Grimley have both submitted letters of objection to the McAleer and Rushe plans. Their reasons for opposing the plans include:

1.The site is a significant distance from the railway station and not within the prime office core;

2. The current application will severely impact upon the delivery of an office-based scheme at Union Square;

3. By permitting office use at the Jury’s site, it will prejudice the development of Office Use at Union Square, which is a significant issue to support refusal of the application;

4. Changes in Government legislation regarding payment of commercial rates, developers and investors less willing to speculatively develop office buildings due to the increased holding costs of void properties, meaning that very little development will be seen in Swindon Town Centre without pre-let agreements in place.

Arguments for the proposed development put forward by Knight Frank & Alder King, acting on behalf of Muse Developments include:

1. The wider the choice, the more chance Swindon has of landing deals within its central office core and of creating the critical mass required to create a dynamic office market;

2. Currently limited good quality office stock in Swindon. Station Square is the only high quality office building capable of being occupied in the immediate future, however it is not brand new and will not suit all enquiries;

3. The scheme can be delivered relatively quickly in comparison to office development at Union Square.

The complete set of planning documentation submitted by Muse Developments can be found in .pdf format here.

The recommendation made by the committee is that The Director of Planning and Transport be authorised to GRANT Planning Permission subject to various, specified conditions. If by the 30th December 2010 the outstanding issues have not been satisfactorily resolved the application may be refused.

The committee concludes:

“Any refusal of this application on the basis that it would prevent the future deliverability of other schemes would be very difficult to defend at appeal, primarily as currently there are no alternatives capable of being delivered within a short time frame.”

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