Report will recommend development of key sites along bay
Decisions which could alter the seafront in Swansea forever are due to be taken this week.
Cabinet members will consider a report which recommends appointing an agent to advertise two of Langland’s six tennis courts for sale or to let.
Design briefs could be ordered for land at the bottom of Sketty Lane and for the Blackpill Lido site.
And detailed examination of plans by Mumbles Community Council to build a new skate park at the current half-pipe site in West Cross has been recommended.
To develop, or leave alone?
It’s the million-dollar question for any seafront city – and we’ve been here before in Swansea.
Twelve years ago the Swansea Bay Strategy Action Plan, commissioned by the council and Welsh Government, was published.
And this what it proposed
- City Waterfront – an opened-up Civic Centre, with new visitor facilites and beach activities, and an upgrade of properties along Oystermouth Road.
- St Helen’s – Retain the cricket and rugby ground in tandem with some potential development at the ground, a development brief for the adjacent Rec, plus beach activites.
- Sketty Lane – An adrenaline sports centre, and a strengthening of Swansea University’s sports village on the landward side of Oystermouth Road.
- Blackpill – Improve the lido as a year-round visitor attraction, improve links to Clyne Country Park and Clyne Gardens, and a new cycle and pedestrian bridge marking the start of Gower.
- Mumbles – Develop retail and visitor facilities at Oystemouth Square, revitalise the area between the square and Knab Rock, and enhance Oystermouth Castle as an attraction.
- Mumbles Pier – Refurbish the pier, promote water trips between the pier and Swansea Marina, and encourage redevelopment of land fronting the pier and beach area.
Also proposed were new cycle hire facilities, an extended land train service, more signs, better lighting and new toilets and showers.
What did the strategy say about Swansea Bay?
“If Swansea is to take its place as a European waterfront city, it must make the most of its strategic assets,” it said.
“The bay is Swansea’s premier strategic asset and it must play a more positive role in the economic development and vitality that the city has to offer.”
It added: “It should be the destination for culture, art, good food, quality places and a place to meet people. The bay should be a symbol of the quality of life that Swansea can deliver for residents and visitors.
“It is city life at the water’s edge.”
On a windswept winter’s day, most people could do without city life at the water’s edge in Swansea.
It is a different story when long, lazy summer days reign supreme.
With a new decade under way it feels odd that so little has changed. The seafront essentially looks the same.
Kitesurfing was all the rage for a while, and seven-a-side beach rugby kicked off – in one or two cases quite literally – on the beach.
Has there been much change?
The Civic Centre was opened up to some degree, with a new-look library and west-facing ground floor cafe created.
The 360 Beach and Watersports facility – now The Secret Bar and Kitchen – was built opposite St Helen’s, and summer time volleyball there is popular.
The prom has been widened further towards Sketty Lane and beyond, Oyster Wharf has delivered new cafes and restaurants in Mumbles, and there has been investment in the castle.
Mumbles Pier is being refurbished, and new cycle hire stations have been installed on the seafront.
Grass-covered sand dunes have also been created on the beach near the Civic Centre to help protect against coastal flooding.
What the Lib-Dem council leader of the day, Chris Holley, recalls of the Swansea Bay Strategy.
“The piece of work was paid for by the council, which was part of a bid for European and Welsh Government funding to provide new restaurants, cafes and toilets around the bay,” he said.
“It was clear during the study that the best way to develop the bay was only develop what was there and not add anything else on the shoreline.
“Blackpill to be upgraded to provide an all-weather playground and water park for children, with new restaurants/cafe and toilets and parking opposite at the bottom of Clyne Valley.”
So why didn’t more of the strategy materialise?
Cllr Holley said: “As council leader at the time we had high hopes that the Welsh Government would back these plans to enhance our city, but no funding came forward but a small amount for the building of the cafe opposite St Helen’s.”
He said there was resistance from other political parties, while a proposal to create multi-storey parking at the Quarry car park in Mumbles was thwarted by concerns about rare plants on the quarry faces.
Cllr Holley added: “Other parts of Wales have had millions invested in their infrastructure and tourist destinations.
“We in Swansea wanted the same level of investment – and with that, private investment would have followed, much like the current city deal is hoped will do.”
Any other recollections?
Businessman Meirion Howells was one of several Swansea Bay Strategy consultees.
“The ‘string of pearls’ included the development of the 360 Beach and Watersports, and that was a success,” he said.
“At the time we were looking to develop St Helen’s into a bigger sporting venue.
“It was just after the Liberty Stadium was built, and Glamorgan County Cricket predominantly going to Cardiff didn’t help.
“We were looking at student accommodation for the clubhouse (at St Helen’s), with a new clubhouse the other side of the ground.”
Mr Howells, of West Cross, said a lack of money and an absence of commercial operators for the sites stymied progress.
“At the end of the day, you have got to have an end user in the commercial seanse,” he said.
“But I don’t think having a strategy is a bad thing. It gets people talking about what you can do.”
Mr Howells recalled a previous strategy in the 1960s, which involved the council buying up foreshore land and knocking down properties to create green spaces and promote open views across to Mumbles.
“From my point of view, this should be retained,” he said.
What else has been planned along or near the seafront?
Planning permission has been granted for foreshore flats and a headland building at Mumbles Pier, but no work has started as yet.
A new seawall is proposed from the Dairy car park, Mumbles, along to the Knab Rock area.
Contractors have started on the indoor arena at the LC car park, which aims to help reconnect the city centre with its marina and beach.
In the years ahead, the Civic Centre site could also face wholesale redevelopment.
Meanwhile, campaign group The Return of the Slip Bridge has put forward proposals to reattach the deck of the bridge to its abutments at St Helen’s and build a new cafe on the seaward side of the structure.
Plans for a Swansea Bay tidal lagoon remain in play, despite the UK Government giving the scheme the cold shoulder.
Any final thoughts?
Cllr Holley said he felt the best place for a skate park would be the Big Apple end of Bracelet Bay car park, where there are toilets and refreshments nearby.
He said the Blackpill Lido site should be upgraded as per the 2008 strategy, with a dome to make it a year-round attraction.
He added: “The car park at the bottom of Sketty Lane should have a facility like the 360 Beach and Watersports.”
More beach huts, toilets and parking, he said, would be suitable for the two side-by-side tennis courts at Langland.
Mr Howells said he opposed the West Cross skate park plan, but backed a bigger cafe at Blackpill.
He added: “I would like to see the pier (including the flats and headland building) developed, and I hope to goodness they get on with the new seawall in Mumbles.”
The Local Democracy Reporter Service approached the Welsh Government for comment, but none was forthcoming at the time of going to press.