Care for the Oasis a mirage

18th September 2021

Road to nowhere

In the desert of austerity, carrying the baggage of fear, isolation and demoralisation, the years have taken their toll. Folorn, drug-addled, run-down, grim... the painting of oppressors permeates this grey, loveless landscape. But hope springs eternal, flowers spring through the cracks. From a shared vision born of care, a beautiful Oasis comes into view lifting the spirits of weary travellers. Splashing water, bubbling community, people laughing, beautiful green grounds... Moving closer, the images fade, a mirage. Destitute, unloved, boarded up, dumped... For all the aspiring, sanitised hogwash, this is the reality of the selfishness core to our economic system. A buildng left to fester, a rubbish dump strewn with McDonalds packaging, beer cans and water bottles, and building rubble dumped in bushes...

Pile of rubbish bags by a tree next to the football pitches

After our last Oasis blog, the Adver ran with the story. Finally Seven Capital promised to clean up the site. Collaboration of organisations and people led to an online consultation for its future which around 1500 people participated in. The outcome was that the public wants an Oasis that is affordable and made fit for purpose asap. It seemed that the future of the Oasis was to be bright, a demonstraton of the power of collective action / care. As the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs attests, there truly is power in the union.

Empty words

Despite Seven Capital's promise and, indeed, contract to keep "any landscaped areas of the Property reasonably well tended" and the borough council's promise to work with them, the situation has gotten worse. Josie Lewis visited the site, informing me that the site was filthy. She set up a meeting with members of Central North Swindon Parish Council, the borough council and myself. We looked around the site and discussed what has gone on and what can be done.

The road around the Oasis site is a public highway yet the borough council have not maintained it. There is a large pothole in it, bushes are overgrown, impeding traffic. We learnt that the borough council were told of the huge pile of rubbish that has accumulated by the football pitches but wouldn't collect it. What's their game? It is noted that it has taken the borough council months to respond to enquiries for Keep Swindon Tidy and Plastic Free Swindon. We needed to make several complaints and write blogs to get any kind of response. Is this how we get representation? Is this the support we get for campaigns to deal with plastic pollution and to clean up the town?

Scrutiny required

The public good is not being served, questions need answering.

  • Who are Seven Capital?
  • Why did the borough council provide such a long lease, 99 years, to Seven Capital?
  • What does the contract entail?
  • How long and why do Seven Capital get to keep breaking their contract without the borough council taking appropriate action? If this was a council house tenant, they would have long been evicted. Why the lack of parity?
  • Whose interests do the borough council serve? The public's or Seven Capital's?

An Oasis closure task group has been set up which will hopefully answer these questions.

Profit at any cost

Seven Capital want to build hundreds of flats on the land next to the Oasis site. Given the neglect of the Oasis buildings and site, how can they be trusted and granted permission to do that? I was talking about housing developments the other day with a person who renovates housing to high standard. He said that many new housing developments are about profit not provision. Businesses obtain land and build housing. But, as property prices increase, they don't want to sell it, instead seeking to acquire more land to build further. This is the dark heart of the largely unaffordable housing developments being pushed on us by central government. The building of 20,000 more homes is proposed for Swindon. This is another case of profit coming before our best interests. Habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity and climate change are being driven by unnecessary developments on greenfield sites rather than sharing and redeveloping the housing we have. I digress but it's all important, and all connected.

Be the change?

The borough council are promoting their "Be the Change" campaign. The term, 'be the change' is about setting a good example. What kind of example are the borough council setting the Swindon College students next door to the Oasis?

Part 6

Blog by Ben Bell