Work set to start on site at Swansea city centre local services hub

Work set to start on site at Swansea city centre local services hub

A big step is about to be taken in the creation of a new central Swansea location for the city’s main library and other key services.

The Swansea city centre building being transformed into a community hub

Contractors are set to begin preparatory work in the former BHS/What! building next week.

In under two years it is due to be a local services hub. Current proposals are that it will offer easy access to council services, including the library that’s set to move from the Civic Centre. It’ll be joined by a range of other services – and the hub could offer access to the West Glamorgan Archive Service.

The hub, along with other city centre work hubs, will protect or create thousands of jobs and increase footfall in the city centre over the coming years.

The proposal for the local services hub – currently including a new central library and other key services – is being developed by Swansea Council. When open in 2023 it will be visited by thousands of people every week.

The council is also making progress on innovation hub 71/72 Kingsway – where building work is due to start this year – and on a public sector work hub between the eye-catching new Copr Bay bridge and St Mary’s Church.

The Swansea city centre building being transformed into a community hub

Council leader Rob Stewart said: “Progress is being made on these three major employment hubs that will bring people to our city centre; the public sector hub alone will create and protect thousands of city centre jobs.

“At the former BHS building – right next to Castle Square, which we also plan to revitalise – work crews are set to go in from next week. They will carry out important tasks to prepare for the building’s transformation in the months to come.

“We want residents to have easy access to all council services – such as the library – and to bring more people to the heart of the city centre.

“Our public services hub will do that. It’ll be accessible, conveniently located and digitally enabled; the former BHS is ideal as it’s within minutes walking distance of city centre shops, services, car parking and public transport routes.

“It’ll provide access to all and provide a range of services in a welcoming environment where people can meet and participate in social activities, learning and support groups.

“There’ll be agile accommodation for third, public and private sector companies that endorse the ethos of a community hub. Flexible, collaborative space will encourage a coordinated approach in improving the quality of people’s lives.

“By converting an existing building, we avoid the cost of putting up a new structure, reduce overheads and help revitalise the city centre that’s already undergoing a £1bn regeneration.”

A team of leading property professionals is working with the council on the project. They are experts in design, architecture, engineering, project and cost management.

Led by project and cost management specialists Coreus Group, the local services hub team includes architects Austin Smith Lord, mechanical and electrical engineers SDS, structural engineers Jubb and principal designer PHD Property Advisory.

It will secure jobs in the city centre, increase footfall for nearby businesses and give long-term use to a prominent building. It will help the city tackle the economic shock of the pandemic.

Further public consultation on the project is due to take place in the coming months.

The preparatory work will mean the temporary closure of the lane between Marks & Spencer and the former BHS and of a small number of bays in Park Street East car park. There are hundreds of parking spaces nearby – www.bit.ly/CityCentreParking

More: www.swansea.gov.uk/communityhub

Swansea Council

Market shoppers set to enjoy a stunning new attraction at famous venue

Market shoppers set to enjoy a stunning new attraction at famous venue

An exciting new era for Swansea Market is set to start soon.

How the market’s new eating, meeting and greeting area – the Market Garden – will look

The iconic venue is about to become yet more welcoming to people who shop, work and live in the city centre.

Construction work is due to start next week on a creatively designed new area at the heart of the market where people can eat, work and enjoy themselves.

The work will take several weeks, with disturbance kept to a minimum and the market remaining fully open. Transparent fencing will go up around the construction area to keep people safe and to maintain sightlines for neighbouring stalls.

The green-themed Market Garden – due to open in good time for Christmas – will feature more than 170 plants together with an assortment of comfortable, garden-style tables and chairs for visitors to enjoy food and drink bought from a wide variety of market stalls.

Operated in line with latest Covid guidelines, it will have free public Wi-Fi, power charging facilities, recycling bins and a water station to refill water bottles.

Highchairs will be available to those with young children. There will be warmers for baby bottles and food – and there will be a toddlers’ play table.

For the first time, dog lovers will be able to bring their well-behaved pets to the market. Dogs will be able to enjoy a bowl of water at Swansea Jack’s kennel – as long as they follow the market’s new “doggie rules.”

The market, run by Swansea Council, attracts more than four million shoppers a year in non-pandemic times and is the permanent home to more than 100 businesses.

The Market Garden logo

Council cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said: “The Market Garden is part of a £440,000 improvement programme at this wonderful venue.

“It will help the market play a key role in Swansea’s great future, being led by our £1bn regeneration scheme.

“The new feature will be accessible, inclusive, well managed and will bring new footfall for traders to benefit.

“It’s designed for the benefit and enjoyment of all customers – for meeting friends and family, catching up on emails and enjoying the fantastic range of food available from the Market.

“It’s set to become a popular destination and is a flexible space that can also host events and exhibitions which will help attract a broader audience.

“These are exciting times for the market and the wider city centre.”

The Market Garden, which will be next to the famous cockle stalls, will be visible from every direction due to its 7.5m-high pergola, the shape of which mirrors the market’s monumental domed roof.

The new attraction’s design and name were decided by the public as part of a consultation exercise this year. Traders had an input too.

Key for the traders was maintaining sight lines across the market. This was achieved by designing an open pergola without any walls but onto which decorative features can be hung to add greenery and create atmosphere.

Once built, The Market Garden will stand on an under-used and relatively unattractive space in the centre of the market. It currently has tables rented by the day by casual traders.

They will cease trading in that area after this Saturday but will remain in the market, hiring space at a smart new area a few yards away and still next to the world-famous stalls that sell cockles, laver-bread and other delicacies.

More: www.swanseaindoormarket.co.uk

How Swansea’s Market’s casual trading area looks now

Swansea Council

Go ahead for new team to deliver transformational Afan Valley resort

Go ahead for new team to deliver transformational Afan Valley resort

A new delivery team has been given conditional planning approval to take forward the transformational Afan Valley leisure resort project which could create hundreds of jobs and provide significant social and environmental benefits for communities in the area.

The new team led by the Salamanca Group, a privately-held merchant banking business and home to experienced investors with a proven track record in delivery, were granted permission to progress the project to its next stages by members of Neath Port Talbot Council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday.

Now named the Wildfox Resort Afan Valley, the adventure resort will encompass a hotel, hundreds of lodges, cafes, bars and facilities for skiing, hiking, cycling and other outdoor pursuits.

Martin Bellamy, Chairman and CEO of the Salamanca Group confirmed: “We are creating a new team with the expertise, finance and capability to deliver the Wildfox Resort to achieve positive social and environmental benefits for local communities. We appreciate the complexities of this project, the frustrations and disappointments of the past and understand what is required to turn it around.”

Neath Port Talbot Council Leader, Cllr Ted Latham, said: “This is an exciting proposal with potentially huge benefits for our residents in the Afan Valley and for the County Borough as a whole.”

Peter Moore, who developed Center Parcs in the UK, said: “I am delighted to be working with the new team to bring this project forward and remain passionate about the potential of the resort.”

Karen Jones Chief Executive of Neath Port Talbot Council, added: ‘The council has been working with the applicant and their agents for some time to ensure sufficient information was submitted to enable the council’s Planning Committee to thoroughly assess the proposed development. As part of this process, officers have been providing advice and guidance and I now look forward to working with the new delivery team to ensure benefits associated with the proposed development are maximised and potential impacts minimised.”

The planning committee’s resolution follows a period of uncertainty after the original decision to grant planning permission in March 2019, including significant matters of concern raised in the national press and on television concerning a director of Afan Valley Ltd.

The company subsequently went into administration, but with the support of Council Members and Officers, positive discussions with Peter Moore and Duff and Phelps (who were appointed administrators and interim managers of the leisure resort project) led to the submission of the new business plan, and at its Tuesday meeting, the council’s planning committee passed a further, final resolution confirming it was content the Wildfox Resort Afan Valley development is deliverable.

Neath Port Talbot Council

Market management job is dream role for Darren

Market management job is dream role for Darren

The man just appointed to manage Swansea Market says it is his dream role.

Swansea-raised Darren Cox is eager to make the iconic venue as welcoming and engaging as possible to traders, neighbours and customers.

He became market supervisor after a 27-year career in private sector businesses.

He now heads a market that, in non-pandemic times, attracts more than four million shoppers a year.

Managed by Swansea Council, it is the permanent home to more than 100 businesses, hosts casual traders and puts on regular events.

Darren said: “The market is so close to my heart that I’m thrilled to get this role – it’s a dream come true.

“Retail around the UK hasn’t had it easy for the past few years but I’m confident that the market can help traders – and the city – come back strongly as we work our way out of the pandemic.

“Swansea Market gives shoppers something that online shopping can’t – the human touch – and I want to ensure that all who visit feel safe, secure and welcome.

“We have strong relationships with our neighbours such as the Quadrant and the fantastic new arena and we’ll help Swansea as it continues to develop in such a positive way; the progress made on regeneration through the pandemic has been remarkable.”

Council cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said: “I welcome Darren to this pivotal role – he’s passionate about Swansea, the city centre and the market.

“He’ll be a vital source of help and information for traders, and is thinking hard about how to build upon the market’s success, retain existing customers and attract new shoppers.

“Our award-winning market is a beating heart of the city centre and Darren has a major role to play in that.

“He joins the market with improvements on the way – a venue that’ll become increasingly popular and busy as our £1bn city centre regeneration work evolves.”

Darren was raised in Sketty, educated at Olchfa School and vividly remembers being taken around the market by his parents as a young boy.

His first job – soon after graduating from University College Birmingham – was in Tenerife as a holiday rep. He then worked on the island for 25 years in roles such as commercial and operations management.

Before joining the market he was operations manager with the Swansea-based La Braseria group for two years.

Darren lives in Swansea with his partner Natasha and her daughter. He also has an adult son and daughter.

At the market, he replaces John Burns who retired as supervisor in the summer.

Last year the venue was named Britain’s best large indoor market by the National Association of British Market Authorities.

Market online: www.swanseaindoormarket.co.uk

Swansea Council

Energy Positive Bay Technology Centre on track for completion by end of 2021

Energy Positive Bay Technology Centre on track for completion by end of 2021

Neath Port Talbot Council’s Bay Technology Centre, sited on one of Wales’s premier business parks in the heart of South Wales, is on schedule to be completed in December of this year.

The £7.9m three-storey office and laboratory space, located at the M4-side Baglan Energy Park in Port Talbot, will host different size units for start-up companies, indigenous businesses and inward investors looking for a base to set up and grow their operations.

The centre, being built by contractors Morgan Sindall Construction, will offer 2,500 square metres of mixed use space for flexible office and laboratory work as well as a reception area and spectacular atrium on the first floor.

Innovative design and use of materials, including specialist photovoltaic panels made to look like cladding, will provide a sustainable building which is energy positive. The design also means the ‘thermal mass’ of exposed precast floor slabs can store and transfer heat from the building providing a cost effective heating solution.

Outside will be a new car park for staff and office users, as well as a cycle shed to encourage use of environmentally friendly transport methods. Landscaping will also be carried out to install a mix of grass and wildflowers to the site. Following ecological assessment, construction has been timed to avoid disrupting local wildlife and ensure the site’s biodiversity is protected.

The initiative has been part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Welsh Government and UK Government through the recently approved £58.7m Supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth Programme, part of the £1.8bn Swansea Bay City Deal regional investment project.

Neath Port Talbot has an increasing number of ongoing developments being progressed supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth, including SPECIFIC, (an innovation and knowledge centre), the Hydrogen Research Centre, The Flexible Integrated Energy Systems Project (FLEXIS) and the TWI Technology Centre (Wales).

The area has strong links with and access to academia (at HE and FE level), with a number of established innovation research centres with national and international links, specialising in hydrogen, energy systems, life sciences and manufacturing; covering a range of areas from composites, propulsion, material engineering, training and skills, metallurgy and coatings, and, state of the art non-destructive testing (NDT) methods with cutting-edge inspection technologies.

The Bay Technology Centre comprises:

  • Fibre Connectivity.
  • Ample car parking.
  • Easy access to M4, road, air, sea and rail networks.
  • High-specification security access system.
  • Access to on-site conference facilities, meetings rooms and break-out areas.
  • NPT Council economic development support, for networking, growth and investment.
  • Innovative ecosystem with collaborative space.
  • Energy positive design.

Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainable Development, Cllr Annette Wingrave, said: “We are close to completing a state-of-the-art, hybrid building the design of which ties in perfectly with the council’s Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy (DARE) Strategy for a cleaner, greener future for everyone.

“We look forward to working closely with start-ups, indigenous businesses, inward investors and others looking to move into the Bay Technology Centre.”

Firms and organisations interested in the facilities on offer at the Bay Technology Centre can register their interest by email using business@npt.gov.uk and a brochure can be downloaded here: https://www.npt.gov.uk/media/16095/final-baglan-bay-innovation-centre-sales-brochure-stp-lr.pdf?v=20210818154952

Neath Port Talbot Council

Gower College Swansea to get world-class skills boost

Gower College Swansea to get world-class skills boost

Gower College Swansea is to get a world-class skills boost after being selected to join an elite training programme.

The College is one of 12 leading institutions (colleges and Independent Training Providers) to have been selected to join the skills revolution by becoming part of WorldSkills UK’s Centre of Excellence.

The Centre of Excellence – partnered and funded by educational charity and awarding body NCFE – will see more than 40,000 young students and apprentices, from all socio-economic groups across the UK, armed with world-class skills.

The Centre aims to supercharge the quality and delivery of technical and vocational training by transferring world-class expertise and knowledge to help develop educators and learners.

Building on recent success at Welsh and UK skills competitions, Gower College Swansea applied to become part of the Centre of Excellence to further enhance their delivery of excellent vocational education and training across subjects, but with a specific focus on STEM areas.

This prestigious programme will create opportunities for five staff members to participate in extensive professional development under the guidance of a WorldSkills UK training manager and disseminate the training with colleagues throughout the College.

Gower College Swansea is one of 12 institutions entering the Centre this year to join the first wave of 20 colleges selected last September, when the three-year pilot project was launched.

Educators at the colleges and training providers will receive exclusive train the trainer sessions and 60 hours of intensive continual professional development.

Educational institutions inducted this year are:

  • Gower College Swansea
  • Blackpool and the Fylde College
  • City of Glasgow College
  • Coleg Cambria
  • Firebrand Training (London)
  • JTL
  • New College Durham
  • Northern Ireland Consortium (six colleges)*
  • Oldham College
  • Solihull College and University Centre
  • Waltham Forest College
  • Weston College

In its recent Skills for Jobs White Paper for England**, the Government cited the WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence, in partnership with NCFE, as a prime example of how it wanted organisations with the relevant expertise to provide high-quality training and development for teaching staff.

“We are so proud to be a part of the Centre of Excellence,” said Mark Jones, Principal of Gower College Swansea, “Skills development has been a strong focus of the College and our learners have benefitted greatly from the WorldSkills competitions, enjoying great success in them. We are excited to be able to utilize the knowledge from both WorldSkills UK and NCFE to further enhance our expertise and deliver top-class training.”

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, CEO of WorldSkills UK, said: “In order to deliver the world-class skills that employers demand to be internationally competitive, we need to invest in the educators that are training young people for the future.

“The Centre of Excellence is a radical new way of bringing global best practice to local economies. Mainstreaming excellence in training standards and delivering it directly to tens of thousands of young students and apprentices at their places of learning is key to levelling up the economy and attracting inward investment.

“This new phase of the project means that we are now supporting young people the length and breadth of the UK.”

The programme covers three strands:

  • Train the trainer modules
  • Harnessing of international industry best practice through current preparation for WorldSkills Shanghai 2022
  • Influencing setters of training standards

The effectiveness of the programme will be tested by measuring impact on learners, educators and institutions in order to continually develop and innovate. This level of insight will help the organisations involved to develop a programme which will give more young people, irrespective of background, better work and life opportunities, and help boost economic productivity.

The three-year partnership deal is the single largest investment ever made by the NCFE Group.

*

  • Belfast Metropolitan College
  • Northern Regional College
  • Southern Regional College
  • South Eastern Regional College
  • North West Regional College
  • South West College

** Page 67

Gower College Swansea