South West Wales

Small businesses look to new plans for Swansea centre

The 29-storey Meridian Tower block on the seafront is thriving Image copyright Swansea council
Image caption The 29-storey Meridian Tower block on the seafront is thriving

A business group has backed the decision to end a five-year deal which was to have delivered a £1bn transformation of Swansea city centre.

Retail property developer Hammerson, which was leading the regeneration, pulled out last week.

The council is now looking at a "fairly radical departure" for the centre.

Chair of Swansea Bay Federation of Small Businesses Julie Williamson said they "had the confidence to think things will move forward now".

"We are pleased to think that something is going to be happening," said Ms Williamson.

"I don't quite know what the council has in mind but I'm sure they have got everything in hand.

"There must have been quite a few issues there that perhaps we are not aware of."

There were concerns among council officials about the lack of progress with the deal agreed in 2008 and the deal was ended by mutual agreement.

Niche businesses

The council is now carrying out a major review over the next step for the city centre.

Council leader David Phillips has said the authority is now looking for a "fairly radical departure" from the standard city centre development option.

As well as wanting to attract more independent traders and niche businesses alongside big high street names, offices and housing are also included in the options.

Swansea has struggled to find a way of successfully regenerating the centre following the collapse of the long-time proposed Castle Quays development in 2004 which suffered several false starts.

It also lost the David Evans department store with the resulting shopping centre built on the site taking time to be fully let, although the Salubrious Place project at the bottom of Wind Street has been successful.

The SA1 waterfront development on the east of the River Tawe and the 29-storey Meridian Tower block on the seafront are thriving, as are out-of-town complexes in Fforestfach and Morfa.

What has added to Swansea's retail problems though is the opening of the £675m St David's shopping centre in Cardiff four years ago which attracted 36m visits in its first year alone.

Ms Williamson added: "A shopping development isn't the be all and end all. People don't just come into town for a shopping complex - Swansea has got so many other things to offer.

New approach

Image caption Swansea's city centre, particularly High Street, has come in for much criticism

"Where else have you got a shopping centre where we've got the bay a few minutes walk? And we have a fantastic market which is the largest in the country."

Swansea Market is receiving a £2m upgrade while the purchase and demolition of the St David's Shopping Centre and Oldway House sites has been completed ready for any future development.

The first phase of the £8m Boulevard Project to create a tree-lined city street between the River Tawe bridges and Princess Way is due to be completed in November.

A two-day conference will be held in the new year to work out what the new approach should be. National and international experts will tackle issues such as on-line shopping and its impact on the high street.

A competition will also be held for architects and students to design a modern and welcoming city centre combining retail, residential and office developments.

Meanwhile, Hammerson is due to submit a planning application for the Parc Tawe development which it owns.

It will include a new anchor tenant, restaurants, and better pedestrian links with the city centre.

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