From 'council cock up' to "it's looking very nice', according to councillor
Public opinion on The Kingsway is shifting from “another council cock-up” to “it’s looking very nice”, according to a Swansea councillor.
Cllr Terry Hennegan told a scrutiny panel that taxi drivers he spoke to said the new road layout was easier to drive along than before.
Council officers, who were giving updates on major city centre projects, said the £12 million scheme to redesign The Kingsway and some surrounding streets was on budget and on time.
Huw Mowbray, development and regeneration strategic manager, said contractors would start on new pavements and roadway along the northern stretch of The Kingsway once those along the south side were completed.
“The feedback has been pretty good in terms of the roadworks,” said Mr Mowbray. “We are working on a daily basis with businesses and other users of The Kingsway.
“Nothing is perfect in this world but things are going reasonably well.”
He said the pavements would be wider than previously, and that new trees would be planted.
Referring to public feedback, Cllr Hennegan said: “It’s gone from ‘another council cock-up’ to ‘it’s looking very nice’.”
The new layouts on The Kingsway, Orchard Street — plus Mansel Street, De La Beche Street, Grove Place, Alexandra Road and Belle Vue Way — are all due to be finished later this year.
“It will change the whole area significantly — the reason is to stimulate private investment,” said Mr Mowbray.
The Oceana site
He added that architects were producing designs for a new tech-led office development at the Oceana site on The Kingsway, and that demolition of buildings to create a link to Oxford Street would be completed shortly, although the link would only open when the office development was built.
Demand for the new office development was being explored with universities and businesses, and workshops have been held.
Mr Mowbray also revealed that Wales’s counter-terrorism police unit was being consulted on the council’s big regeneration schemes to ensure public protection.
These schemes include the 3,500-seater indoor arena planned south of Oystermouth Road.
Mr Mowbray said the council had selected a main contractor, which would work with the council on the next stage of design.
Warranties still need to be signed off by arena operator Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), which will maintain the building, but Mr Mowbray said there was no reason why this would not happen.
Work on the arena will start this year and kick-start the £130 million Swansea Central phase one project, featuring a new park, multi-storey car parking, commercial and residential units, and a pedestrian bridge across Oystermouth Road.
The council will borrow to fund much of this £130 million development, although £22.5 million is due to come from the City Deal for the region.
But City Deal funding will only be released once the relevant business cases are signed off, and a separate City Deal governance review is concluded.
Also proposed next to the arena is a hotel, which would be paid for by the private sector with top-up funding likely from Welsh Government’s tourism arm Visit Wales.
Mr Mowbray said he expected hotel bids to be submitted by the end of January.
Panel chairman, councillor Jeff Jones, asked if the business case was holding up the delivery of Swansea Central phase one.
“No, not at the moment,” said Mr Mowbray.
Swansea Central phase two
He added that experts were looking into how Swansea Central phase two could create an “experience economy” due to the difficulties facing the retail sector.
Councillor Chris Holley asked if “click and collect” venues, like those proposed by online giant Amazon, could be explored.
“Retail is virtually dead everywhere,” he said.
Mr Mowbray said retail was in difficulty but that city centres were not dead. “There is a way forward,” he said.
Proposals to build a gondola ride, luge runs and zip wire on Swansea’s Kilvey Hill would benefit the ecology of the area, according to a council officer.
New Zealand company Skyline Enterprises is looking into a £50 million-plus investment, which would also result in a new hill-top restaurant and cafe.
Skyline bosses have met Swansea Council chiefs, the Welsh Government and environment body Natural Resources Wales (NRW).
Huw Mowbray, Swansea’s development and regeneration strategic manager, told a councillor scrutiny panel that many of the trees on the hill weren’t native.
“The ecology is not that great at the moment,” he said.
NRW and the council, he added, had very few resources.
He said: “Frankly it (Kilvey Hill) has not got a future at the moment.”
Mr Mowbray said Skyline Enterprises had a good track record of improving the ecology of sites it ran elsewhere in the world, albeit new buildings and tracks for luges were required.
If the Kilvey Hill scheme progresses, negotiations would have to take place with landowners including the Duke of Beaufort.
The preferred location for the base of the gondola ride is the Landore park and ride overflow area.
Mr Mowbray said a wider parking strategy for the city was looking into the idea of moving this overflow facility to Swansea Vale. “It’s early days,” he said.