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The Future of Green Living in City

Artist's impression of the new biophilic building on Oxford Street

Check out the plans for this massive city centre development

Greenhouses in the sky and ground floor fish tanks are planned as part of an eye-catching building in Swansea city centre.

Providing flats, shops, offices, educational spaces and a courtyard, the development would stretch from Oxford Street at the front to Picton Lane at the rear.

It would comprise the former Woolworths building joined to a new 12-storey tower, and feature rooftop solar panels, battery storage, gardens and living walls and roofs.

What also sets its design apart is an urban farm-style greenhouse set over four floors.

Plants and vegetables in the south-facing greenhouse would be grown in water and nourished by waste pumped up from fish tanks at the bottom of the building.

The waste water would then be filtered and chaneled back to the fish tanks.

The idea is that a community organisation would use the large greenhouse, while residents could grow produce at two single-storey greenhouses lower down the building.

The plans for the living – or biophilic – structure have been put forward by Swansea-based Hacer Developments, which owns the former Woolworths building.

David Dolman, the company’s development manager, said: “We need to rethink how we live and work in the urban environment.

“We are trying to explore new ways of bringing nature in, and encourage a sense of community.”

The company is seeking financial backing from the Welsh Government and has been working with Swansea University, Swansea Community Farm and Swansea Council.

The planned 44 flats in the new tower would be sold to a social housing provider, but it is too early to say how much the development would cost.

The building’s ethos fits with a new green infrastructure strategy for the city, developed by Swansea Council and Natural Resources Wales, which aims to create more green spaces.

Hacer Developments intends to submit a planning application to the council next month and could start the two-year project in the spring if it gains the necessary consents.

The planned courtyard at the rear – to be called Picton Yard – would host events such as pop-up markets, cinema screenings and concerts, with four vast umbrellas providing cover.

The scheme has been assessed by Design Commission for Wales, which backed the ambition but queried where the community interest for the urban farm concept would come from.

The commission also said full visual testing of the building’s scale was needed.

A planning statement on behalf of Hacer Developments said the scheme would be compatible with the surrounding cityscape and would “not materially impact on neighbouring residents”.

Meanwhile, the council is leading separate plans to build a large office development a stone’s throw away between Picton Lane and The Kingsway, where the Oceana nightclub used to be.

This council-led scheme would also link to Oxford Street via a new opening which has been created opposite Plymouth Street.

Swansea Council leader Robert Stewart likened Hacer Developments’ biophilic building to a living laboratory and said the scheme was big statement for city centre biodiversity.

“It is a really interesting concept,” he said.

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