A commission that aims to develop a long-term economic vision for Swindon has been launched. The Swindon Futures Commission, which brings together business leaders, wider stakeholders and local representatives, is spearheaded by Business West.
It aims to publish its report in early 2024, paving the way for future growth and investment.
The 12 commissioners have experience spanning urban research, development, diversity, equity and inclusion, sustainability, and finance.
They are led by Martin Boddy, emeritus professor of urban and regional studies at the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol.
The non-political commission has secured cross-party political support and is working closely with Swindon Borough Council.
The evidence-gathering process will include workshops where local and national stakeholders will debate issues affecting the town.
The commission is focused beyond the immediate, short-term horizons and will look beyond the constraints and current contexts, local and national – of policy frameworks, politics, economy, and mindsets.
The commission also plans to raise the profile of the town nationally with both government and potential investors.
“Swindon has an outstanding history as one of the strongest performing urban areas nationally in economic terms, attracting international investment and providing jobs, high quality, affordable housing and local facilities for its fast-expanding population,” said Martin.
There are challenges. The flow of international investment has shrunk back – as it has nationally. There are communities on some of the older estates which have clearly missed out on the benefits of past success. Much of the town centre and main shopping area is no longer fit for purpose and crying out for new investment.
Looking to the future however, Swindon has fantastic potential to attract new businesses and new investment, to expand opportunities for its established communities and to meet the challenges of climate change.
“The commission will work to develop a vision, a framework for future possibilities; shaping plans, boosting investment, raising Swindon’s image and profile and providing opportunities across the whole town.”
Colin Skellett, chairman of Business West and chairman of the Swindon Futures Commission said: “Swindon is a town that has several challenges when it comes to economic growth, yet there are also significant opportunities.
“For example, its redevelopment potential, the transport infrastructure, affordable house prices and job opportunities. We hope this commission will provide a launch pad for the next generation of investment, businesses and jobs. This would serve to build back the sense of pride in place alongside delivering outstanding economic performance.
“Social mobility, or lack-of, is a key issue facing this country. Here is a town that potentially has the means to attract and retain talent, create sustainable and inclusive economic growth. What we need now is a long-term evidenced-based vision that enables Swindon to propel itself forward.”
Sir Robert Buckland, MP for Swindon South, said: “I have long championed the potential of Swindon and its people, and am committed to building on the investment, both domestic and international, that we have attracted over the years.
“That is why I am proud to have helped devise the Swindon Futures Commission and look forward to its vital work. Swindon is a town with a great history and a great future.”
And councillor Jim Robbins, leader of Swindon Borough Council, said: “Swindon’s future is not just a local issue. The town has played such a significant role in the UK’s economy.
“I’m excited to help our town secure quality jobs for our residents, and the economic and social benefits that come from a thriving Swindon.
“This much-needed Commission convenes a group of stakeholders across politics, community and business to identify what we need to do – in the long term – to enable Swindon to reach its potential.”