Gondolas, arenas and new shops: the big new developments coming to Swansea

Gondolas, arenas and new shops: the big new developments coming to Swansea

There’s plenty going on in Swansea at the moment. Just drive along The Kingsway and you’ll see some of the work going on there. But that’s just one small part of all the schemes and projects being developed by Swansea Council in partnership with others. Here’s the state of play with the big developments we can hopefully look forward to in the city…

The team behind a Kilvey Hill gondola ride, luge runs and a hilltop restaurant are returning to Swansea from the other side of the world to flesh out their proposals.

It will be New Zealand-based Skyline’s third visit to the city after earmarking Swansea for its first leisure development in Europe.

The proposals remain at an early stage — and Swansea councillors heard that Skyline had appointed new consultants after original costs were higher than expected.

Swansea’s property development manager Huw Mowbray, told the scrutiny panel that the Skyline team was now more comfortable with the anticipated costs.

But there is still much to do before any planning application is submitted, potentially including negotiations with the Duke of Beaufort.

This is because the duke owns part of the Tawe riverbed and is entitled to a payment — or easement — if the gondola ride crosses the river en route from land near the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks to the top of Kilvey Hill.

Councillor Wendy Fitzgerald, who supports Skyline’s proposals, raised the landowner issue.

She said: “Do we have any further information on that? I suspect he (the duke) is hoping for a substantial remuneration from the council.”

The council has previously paid the Somerset Trust, which helps manage the estates of the Duke of Beaufort, a £281,000 easement to build a pedestrian bridge across the river to the Liberty Stadium.

Mr Mowbray said the trust had originally requested £3 million.

Councillor Chris Holley said he felt such payments were “disgusting” and reckoned the council shouldn’t pay a penny.

But Mr Mowbray said the council had not opened discussions with the trust yet, as one option would be for the gondola ride not to cross the river.

Skyline has leisure operations in New Zealand, Canada, Korea and Singapore, and its chief executive Geoff McDonald said in June that he sensed real enthusiasm in Swansea.

He said the Kilvey Hill project would cost “probably north of £50 million” and create 80 to 120 jobs.

“The location in Swansea was good, but what really appealed was the interaction we have had with the council,” he said.

Mr Mowbray said the council would provide services up to the boundary of the site but not all the way to the hilltop.

“I think it is one of the most important things that we’ve got for Swansea to create a tourism offering,” he said.

Hafod-Morfa Copperworks

Progress is being made to revamp the former Hafod-Morfa Copperworks.

An announcement on the council’s £3.75 million Heritage Lottery Fund bid to restore the site’s powerhouse building and part of the rolling mill is imminent.

The plan is for Penderyn Whisky to set up a new distillery there, including tours and whisky tasting sessions, in conjunction with public exhibition space.

Mr Mowbray said the site had been marketed but that there was no private interest, although Penderyn, which is based near Hirwaun, had expressed interest several years ago.

Swansea University has worked with the council to research the historic 12-acre site dating from 1810.

Council chiefs hope more businesses will locate to the area, although a new drainage system would need to be provided.

The Kingsway road scheme

The Kingsway, whose layout is being changed again
The Kingsway, whose layout is being changed again
The £12 million scheme to redesign the layout of The Kingsway and surrounding roads is on budget, according to Mr Mowbray.

There had, he said, been a “few issues” such as tidiness which were being addressed.

Once completed, The Kingsway will remain two-way but only have one lane in each direction. It currently has two lanes heading east to west.

There will also be wider pavements, cycle paths, and more greenery and better landscaping.

New patches of lawn have just cropped up along Alexandra Road, which will become a two-way road again

The phased work will also create two-way lanes in Orchard Street, Alexandra Road, Mansel Street and Christina Street, and is due to be completed next summer.

Mr Mowbray said BT was laying fibre optic cables while The Kingsway was dug up, and that ducting would be installed along the north of the busy road so that more cables could be installed to “future proof” the site.

Office block at the Oceana site, known as the Digital Village

Consultants are also developing proposals on behalf of the council for a big office block where Oceana used to be.

These offices would be aimed at high-tech businesses, and Mr Mowbray said there had been initial concerns that the development would be too big for the demand.

“They (the consultants) are now absolutely convinced this has the potential to be a real success,” he said.

It follows discussions with Swansea University and High Street-based TechHub.

Mr Mowbray said two TechHub businesses now had more than 100 employees and that within a couple of years one of them was expected to have 250.

He said the office block, known as the Digital Village, was expected to be built by 2021 and cater for 400 workers.

Decent space was also needed, he said, for graduates and entrepreneurs from Swansea’s two universities.

“All these people will need office space, or they will move to Bristol and Cardiff,” he said.

Part of the funding for the office block, which will have a cafe and roof garden, will come from the city deal for the Swansea Bay City Region, although business cases still need to be signed off by the UK and Welsh Governments.

Councillor Peter Jones asked for assurance that the greenery pledged for the new-look Kingsway and office block would materialise.

“I think we can,” said Mr Mowbray.

The planned indoor arena
The planned indoor arena

The Indoor Arena

Design work on the 3,500-seater arena at the Swansea Central site off Oystermouth Road is also said to be moving forward.

Interior designs will be signed off, said Mr Mowbray, by the arena operator Ambassador Theatre Group among others.

The arena is due to be completed by the end of 2020 and will sit above a car park and alongside a new park.

Mr Mowbray said a handful of Swansea Marina residents whose “right to light” would be affected by the arena development would be entitled to compensation.

The council will have to borrow money to finance much of the arena, which will be linked by bridge to a new commercial and apartment building — including a multi-storey car park — the other side of Oystermouth Road.

Councillors were told there was no private developer interest in the flats and that the authority had chosen a housing association which would buy them once built.

Artist's impression of how a revamped Swansea's Castle Square could look
Artist’s impression of how a revamped Swansea’s Castle Square could look
A hotel is also proposed near the arena, which could attract Visit Wales funding if it is four-star or above.

The council is not allowed to build hotels, but Mr Mowbray said 13 hotel companies had expressed an interest in taking on the construction job.

He said more council officers were needed to work on the regeneration project, known as Swansea Central, as two staff had left.

The first phase of Swansea Central is estimated to cost £124 million.

“This is one of the biggest projects in the UK at the moment,” said Mr Mowbray.

Castle Square

Swansea’s Castle Square is another council-led regeneration project.

It could lead to a new restaurant or commercial units being built, more events and potentially more green space — and the square would remain in public ownership.

The council has spent £50,000 on feasibility work and is expected to appoint a development partner in the first quarter of 2019.

Revamping the square is estimated at £7 million-plus.

Source: Wales Online

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