Talks to start over future of Locarno
Swindon Advertiser – Thursday 2nd June
THE first tentative steps have been taken towards a solution for the Locarno.
The developer of the iconic but crumbling Old Town building has suspended his legal action against the council, after the two parties agreed to enter talks.
Steve Rosier’s Bach Homes company had threatened the council with a £1m-plus lawsuit after its planning committee threw out his plans to regenerate the site in February.
There has been deadlock ever since, with Mr Rosier even applying to demolish the building.
But now the warring parties are to get round the table to resolve their differences.
Mr Rosier said: “What I’m hoping we can achieve at the meeting is an open and frank discussion, and a detailed look at what is the solution for the Locarno site.
“Let’s find a commercial solution, that’s what I want to be talking about.
“What that means and what comes of that, I don’t know.
“But I think that’s what the meeting needs to review, because fundamentally that’s what’s in everyone’s interests.”
Since the council’s decision to refuse his blueprints for the site, Mr Rosier has launched broadsides against the council and ward councillor Mike Bawden (Con, Old Town and Lawn) individually, claiming they had backed the proposal fully right up until February’s U-turn.
He and the council even had a high-profile public spat over a chain of posters, depicting Mr Rosier’s timeline of the failure to regenerate the Locarno, which he had pasted to the outside of the Locarno hoardings.
The council then blocked them out with black paint, claiming they were illegal flyposters.
Mr Rosier responded by billing the council for the cost of printing new ones.
He also acknowledged that in the wake of the council’s refusal of his plans his actions probably didn’t help create the right environment for talks at the time.
Mr Rosier has now had a preliminary meeting with the council, and expects that a full meeting with himself, building owner Gael Mackenzie and council officers will take place before the end of the month.
Coun Dale Heenan (Con, Covingham andNythe) who last month took over control of the planning committee, said: “The council takes this matter very seriously and wants to see something happen, which I’m sure the developers would want to see as well.
“When the last application was refused I did insist a design brief was put together with possible options of what would be acceptable in the Locarno. That report is due in August.
“We’ll have to see how it goes. We’re taking the first tentative steps to sort this out.”
The council said in a statement: “We had a meeting with Mr Rosier to explore the possibility of us working together to reach a mutually acceptable arrangement for the future of the Locarno.
“The meeting was positive and it ended with our agreeing to meet again to discuss some potential ways forward.”
The time for Bach Homes to appeal the council’s refusal runs out in August.