A million people a year are expected to visit Swansea’s new arena and proposed zip wire, gondola and luge ride attraction, according to council leader Rob Stewart. He said the indoor arena was expected to attract 310,000 people and the planned Skyline adventure park on Kilvey Hill 750,000 people. These would be visitors, he said, that the city didn’t already have.
Cllr Stewart gave the figures while setting out Swansea Labour’s new policy commitments at a meeting of full council – the first non-ceremonial one after May’s local Government elections. The commitments covered education, care, climate change, housing, regeneration, attractions and communities. “I will continue to give everything and deliver for the people of Swansea,” said Cllr Stewart.
He said Swansea Labour had fulfilled nearly all of its manifesto commitments in 2012 and 2017, and he was critical of the legacy left by the Liberal Democrat-led administration prior to 2012. This prompted a rebuke by Lib-Dem leader, Cllr Chris Holley, who described the commitments as a “wish list” and quipped that they promised everything except clean drinking water for the world.
Cllr Stewart said education remained the administration’s top priority and that £150 million would be invested in new and upgraded schools, including a new special school, while high education standards would be maintained. He said more services would be delivered by the council’s in-house care teams and that people would continue to be helped by the council’s local area coordinators, who help mainly elderly people live at home for as long as possible.
On energy and climate change, Cllr Stewart said average household bills would likely exceed £3,000 per year this autumn. “It will simply be unaffordable for many families,” he said. Cllr Stewart said this showed the energy system was broken and that fossil fuel reliance should end as quickly as possible. He said the council would build a solar farm at Tir John landfill site, Port Tennant, plant thousands of trees and support the Blue Eden lagoon and housing project at Swansea docks, among other low-carbon measures.
On regeneration he said the new innovation hub planned on The Kingsway, at the former Oceana nightclub site, would be home to 600 well-paid jobs from late next year when the new building was completed. He said he was informed by officers that there was already one tenant lined up to move in.
He said negotiations for a new occupier of the privately-owned Debenhams building, Quadrant Shopping Centre, were at a “sensitive stage” but that details would be shared as soon as they could be.
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Other commitments included a £10 million road upgrade programme, more low-energy council house-building and retrofitting, a state-of-the-art replacement CCTV network, and a new central hub at the former BHS store on Oxford Street where the central library and archive services will be based. “We take our responsibilities to Swansea very seriously,” he said.
Opposition leader, Cllr Holley, pointed out projects and attractions which he said his administration prior to 2012 had been responsible for, such as major investment in the Guildhall and the Wales National Airshow. Cllr Holley said the way the air show was delivered may have to be looked at, given the council’s 2030 “net zero” carbon pledge.
Cllr Lyndon Jones, whose Conservative party had taken some direct hits during the Labour leader’s speech, said he welcomed some of Cllr Stewart’s plans for the city but added that it was the UK Government which had protected 34,100 jobs in Swansea during the Covid pandemic and supported 7,000 self-employed people. The UK Government’s vaccine programme, said Cllr Jones, had delivered 485,000 jabs to the county. Addressing Cllr Stewart, he said: “I think these are things you need to recognise or else you are living in a silo.”
Cllr Jones also said he supported more council-house building but called on the right-to-buy policy to be reintroduced – an idea rejected by Cllr Stewart, who said it had led to 4,000 council homes being lost from the council’s stock and the money from the sales going to the Exchequer, not Swansea.
Four honorary alderman nominations approved but a fifth nominee declines it
Four long-serving former councillors in Swansea are to be conferred with the title of honorary alderman or alderwoman, while a fifth has turned it down.
The councillors who will have the title conferred on them “in recognition of their eminent service” to the council are June Burtonshaw, Mark Child, Gareth Sullivan and Des Thomas. Former Lord Mayor of Swansea and leader of the council, Lawrence Bailey, has declined, a meeting of full council was told.
Presiding member, Cllr Jan Curtice, who chairs the meetings, said the item had been amended. She said Mr Bailey “stated that while he is greatly honoured by the intention of the council to confer him with the title of honorary alderman he must respectfully decline at this time”.
His proposed nomination had been opposed by Swansea Conservatives, who wrote to the current council leader Rob Stewart before the meeting to say they would put in an amendment to only support the other nominees.
Uplands party leader, Cllr Peter May, said the devil was normally in the detail of policy commitments. He supported the tree-planting plans while calling on the council’s existing tree maintenance capability to be strengthened. Cllr May said he wanted assurance that no more litter bins would be removed and queried Swansea Labour’s proposal to replace dog waste bins with multi-use bins which accepted dog faeces and general waste.
Cllr Stewart said any proposed bin removals – due to people depositing household waste in them – would be discussed with councillors beforehand. On the current dog bins, the leader said some pet owners thought they were full when they weren’t and left their bags on them, and also that the bin collection round was separate to general waste bin collection. He added: “No wards should have any less bins as a result.”
The Skyline attraction referred to by Cllr Stewart is planned by a New Zealand company, Skyline Enterprises. In March the company said it was is in the final stages of completing its due diligence, and that it is aimed to open the scheme in 2025, subject to planning approval.
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