A disused Swindon office campus – built during its 1980s ‘boom years’ and once home to some of the town’s most prestigious companies – could be torn down and replaced by an Aldi supermarket and up to 70 homes.
Westlea Campus was one of Swindon’s showpiece schemes during the western expansion of the town in the 1980s and early 1990s. Its prominent position close to the iconic Spectrum (formerly Renault) building meant it became a magnet for blue-chip organisations and one time it was occupied by the Training and Enterprise Council as well as hi-tech companies and service firms.
However, it began to lose out to newer office parks closer to the M4 such as Windmill Hill and, more recently, Lydiard Fields and has been vacant for several years.
Now its owner, London-based Picton Capital, says the site has become obsolete and believes there is insufficient demand from office-based companies to justify the costs of refurbishing it to modern standards.
As a result Picton and Aldi are bringing forward a planning application to convert the site, which includes three office buildings and a car park in landscaped grounds, to retail and residential uses.
Picton’s head of asset management Jay Cable said: “The market has demonstrated that there simply isn’t the demand in Swindon for the large-scale office accommodation that the Westlea Campus offers.
“We want to bring the site back into use and are proposing a high-quality mixed-use development in its place. I am proud of what we have created and I am looking forward to showing the plans to local people and getting their feedback on what we propose.”
The Aldi outlet, which Picton describes as a ‘neighbourhood foodstore’, would be the German group’s fourth in Swindon and would take it closer to its target of seven branches in the town.
Aldi recently invested £35m in its regional distribution centre and head office at South Marston Park, taking the size of the state-of-the-art facility to more than 560,000 sq ft. The site employs around 500 people and an additional 250 jobs will be created over the next year.
Aldi Swindon property director Ben Shotter, who is leading the redevelopment of the Westlea site, said: “Our business is going from strength to strength and we are expanding on the back of strong customer demand. We currently have three Aldi stores in Swindon and are searching for more sites in the town for our customers. The Westlea Campus site is perfect for a new Aldi store. It’s in a great location and will allow us to bring our unique proposition to West Swindon – an area where we are currently under-represented.”
The plans will be on public view between 3pm and 7pm this Thursday at West Swindon's Link Centre Library. Aldi's development team will be on hand to explain the plans and feedback forms will be available for registering comments.
Aldi and Picton intend to submit a planning application to Swindon Council for the redevelopment of the Westlea Campus this spring.
Their scheme is the latest to explore re-using business locations in the town for residential-led mixed-use developments. Plans have been drawn up for a major redevelopment of Cheney Manor, Swindon's oldest industrial estate.