Swindon’s Railway Village has long been the source of pride for many people in the town. It was built to house employees at the Great Western Railway Works who, in turn, built nationally significant buildings such as the Health Hydro, often described as the forerunner of the NHS.

In order to promote the town’s heritage, Swindon Borough Council has appointed design partnership HemingwayDesign and CTConsults to identify and promote the true character of the Heritage Action Zone that remains rooted in the history and stories of the area.

The Heritage Action Zone, which covers the Railway Village, Health Hydro and the Carriage Works, was launched in 2019 as a partnership between Historic England and Swindon Borough Council to revitalise the town’s unique heritage and unlock its economic potential.

Over the next 18 months, HemingwayDesign, CTConsults, the Council and key partners will work together on the place brand project. The goal is to define a set of shared values, common goals and a ‘personality’ for the area to articulate what the Heritage Action Zone stands for and how it will help promote Swindon as an attractive place to live, work, visit and invest in.

Railway Village Swindon

Already, a consultation process has taken place over the past few months to find out what residents and visitors think of the Heritage Action Zone, what it means to them and how they picture its future.

The results of the consultation, which included one-on-one interviews, workshops, field surveys, vox pops, and desk research will be set out in an Insights report, along with some early recommendations for the development of the Heritage Action Zone place brand.

The report results and recommendations will then be used to develop the place brand which will inform the council’s strategy and planning, and make sure the Heritage Action Zone stays true to its values and unique character as it evolves.

What is place brand strategy?

Place brand strategy is used by successful places across the world to influence better planning, decision making, partnership working, communications and positive growth.

The HemingwayDesign and CTConsult teams have worked on place brands all over the UK, including in cities such as Manchester and York and heritage destinations including Berwick-upon-Tweed and Crewe.

A little closer to home, HemingwayDesign has recently been involved in rejuvenating the abandoned Tropicana venue at Weston Super-Mare. The company created a ‘Tropicana possibilities’ document which showcased the work that can be done to make a once-loved attraction the centre of the town again.

The goal is for the Swindon Heritage Action Zone place brand to help create a positive perception of the area as it develops, as well as creating a shared understanding of the values and vision.

Councillor Robert Jandy, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Heritage, Leisure and the Town Centre Experience, said: “I’m pleased to see us work with such accomplished companies on bringing the Heritage Action Zone to life."

“The area has such a deep-rooted history in Swindon and it’s something that everyone in the town should be proud of. I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome of the initial report and the progress over the next 18 months.”

Wayne Hemingway, from at HemingwayDesign, said: "Having spent time in Swindon and the Heritage Action Zone and heard so much from locals through the engagement process, we’re very excited about what this place brand could achieve, not just for the HAZ itself but for wider Swindon."

“Place brands are a powerful tool for guiding growth, shaping perceptions and improving the experience of a place and there is fantastic opportunity to achieve those things in Swindon Heritage Action Zone.”