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.


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

Award winning company appointed to lead £750m Swansea regeneration

Award winning company appointed to lead £750m Swansea regeneration

Proposals, worth £750m, that would further transform Swansea city centre and develop new homes and attractions along the coast and riverfront have taken a major step forward.


Swansea Council has announced it has appointed award winning regeneration company Urban Splash as its preferred development partner for a number of key sites, including the Civic Centre, Swansea Central North and a plot of land running alongside the River Tawe in the St Thomas area of the city.

We are really interested to hear that a development partner has been appointed and we look forward to understanding more about their vision for Swansea. At 4theRegion, we are focused on how people, communities and businesses can get more involved in shaping the future of our region, including the design and construction of major developments and strategic investments like this. We want to make sure that major regional projects are delivered in a way that provides economic, social and environmental benefit over the long term, and ensure that the well-being of people and planet is at the heart of decision-making.

Early ideas for each site have already been proposed, and these will now be worked up in more detail. We are pleased to hear there will be plenty of opportunities for local people to give their feedback and help shape the plans.

Early proposals, which will be delivered by the private sector, include:

  • The transformation of the 23 acre seafront Civic Centre site into a new city waterfront district for Swansea. A mixed use destination anchored by the beach is proposed, with new homes and a strong leisure and hospitality focus, generous civic spaces and plenty of greenery. Other proposals include a new walkway to the beach and a mix of permanent and seasonal uses and events to create an all season visitor destination
  • New office buildings, new apartments for residents and shared workspaces on the 5.5 acre Swansea Central North site located at the former St David’s Shopping Centre site. We are pleased to hear, capitalising on the major growth in demand for craft based goods, that space for small creative businesses to make and sell their products could also feature
  • A residential led regeneration of a 7.5 acre riverfront site in St Thomas, featuring family homes, apartments, new public spaces and a new terraced river walk providing direct access to the river for the first time in over 150 years.

The council said their appointment of Urban Splash followed an extensive search for a preferred development partner as part of the Shaping Swansea initiative.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council, said: “The appointment of Urban Splash is a significant private sector vote of confidence not just in Swansea’s enormous potential, but also in the huge amount of regeneration work led by the council that’s already happening in the city, including our £135m Copr Bay phase one district. This work has acted as a catalyst to attract a company of Urban Splash’s quality and experience, and is part of a £1bn regeneration story unfolding across Swansea that’s transforming the city into one of the UK’s best places to live, work, study and visit.

“The regeneration of these three key sites will help take Swansea to the next level by creating thousands more jobs for local people, hundreds more new homes for local families and a mixed-use, vibrant city centre destination with the footfall it needs to thrive.

“Although subject to consultation in future to ensure people’s views are taken on board, the early proposals will help realise these goals, while also giving the stunning Civic Centre site on our world-class bay back to Swansea people and visitors to the city.

“We look forward to working with Urban Splash on further developing these exciting proposals for the people of Swansea to consider, along with ideas on how best to regenerate other key sites forming part of our Shaping Swansea plans.”

Urban Splash have developed over 60 regeneration projects across the UK in the last 25 years. These include the Royal William Yard project in Plymouth where the company has transformed a collection of Grade I and Grade II Listed waterfront structures into apartments, workspaces, galleries, bars and restaurants. The company is also undertaking the redevelopment of the Grade II Listed Park Hill in Sheffield into a mixed use cultural quarter, featuring hundreds of homes and workspaces – many of which are complete and fully occupied.

Jonathan Falkingham MBE, Urban Splash co-founder, is an award-winning architect who helped establish the regeneration company in 1993. In a press release, he said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working alongside Swansea Council and all of the partners involved in this fascinating project.

“I have a longstanding affiliation with this brilliant city, attending school here in my younger days. I’m pleased to be back in Swansea to help deliver such an exciting new era for the city. We have plans for a world-class environment of great architectural quality, that recognises and enhances the existing historic fabric of the local area and its beautiful location. We hope to achieve this through multi-authorship and partnering with brilliant designers to evolve the most appealing and sustainable designs for each area of this new neighbourhood.”

Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash Chairman, said: “For almost three decades now, Urban Splash has worked hard to transform the fortunes of towns and cities, breathing new life into places through applying great design ideas, and working with the local community to create beautiful buildings and spaces that are sustainable for all.

“We have been really impressed with the ambition and vision of Swansea Council and look forward to working in partnership with this amazing city on the beach, using our experience, capital and resources to strengthen their vision and deliver exceptional living, working and leisure spaces to help more people live well by design.”

We understand future proposals will also cover opportunities to develop other key sites across Swansea.

World class rail centre will transform area says Leader

World class rail centre will transform area says Leader

The Global Centre for Rail Excellence (GCRE) at the head of the Dulais and Swansea valleys will have a transformational effect on the area and the wider region, the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Ted Latham, said on a visit to the site on Friday August 6th.

L-R, NPT Council Deputy Leader, Cllr Leanne Jones, Celtic Energy CEO, Will Watson, NPT Council Leader Cllr Ted Latham and the council’s Chief Executive Officer Karen Jones at the site of the planned GCRE at the Nant Helen open cast mine

Accompanied by Deputy Leader Cllr Leanne Jones and the council’s Chief Executive Karen Jones and Director of Environment and Regeneration Nicola Pearce, Cllr Latham said the GCRE would create high quality jobs and help attract new investment.

Speaking at the site of the planned rail testing centre on the former Nant Helen open cast coal mine, Cllr Latham said: “After granting planning permission for this important project this council is now gearing up to support the GCRE as it moves towards its next phase of development.

“When completed, this centre will provide a unique capability in the UK and Europe to support innovation in the British and international rail industry.

“Very much in line with this council’s Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy Strategy (DARE) the centre will involve the testing of cutting-edge technologies making future rail transport cleaner and greener.

“It will have a transformational effect on the surrounding area and also the region as a whole, creating high quality new jobs and opening the way for further investment.”

A planning application for the construction of the was GCRE approved by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Planning Committee on 27th with Powys County Council approving the application two days later.

The Welsh Government has been working in partnership with Neath Port Talbot and Powys councils to develop proposals for the GCRE. The Welsh Government has pledged £50m to the project with £30m funding announced by the UK Government. Other funding will come from private investors.

The GCRE will cover an area of around 475 hectares and will consist of two looped test tracks, one being an electrified high speed rolling stock track (6.9km long) and the other being a low speed infrastructure test track (4.5km).

There will also be a dual platform test environment, operations and control offices, staff accommodation, shunter cabins and facilities for research and development, education and training.

Neath Port Talbot Council Chief Executive Karen Jones said: “This project will provide invaluable support to our recovery post Covid and it will also offer further economic development opportunities in the field of sustainable technologies associated with the rail sector such as electric, battery and hydrogen powered trains.”

Neath Port Talbot Council

Welsh bathing waters top destination this summer

Welsh bathing waters top destination this summer

As Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease in Wales, and thoughts turn towards enjoying holiday destinations closer to home this summer, visitors to Wales’ beaches can be assured that they have met rigorous quality standards according to the findings of a Natural Resources Wales (NRW) report.

For the third consecutive year, the Wales Bathing Water Quality Report 2020 found that there have been no poor classifications of designated bathing waters in Wales, with one additional excellent classification being awarded in 2020 compared with the results in 2019.

The bathing water sampling season usually runs from the 15 May to 30 September and tests all 105 designated bathing waters around Wales on their water quality.

Water samples are taken away, analysed in a specialist laboratory and assessed against a set criteria.

At the end of the season the results will be compiled for each bathing water and used to assess the water as ‘poor’, ‘sufficient’, ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.

The report found all 105 designated Welsh bathing waters met the rigorous Bathing Water Regulations 2013 stringent water quality standards. 84 were found to be excellent standard, 14 achieved a good standard and 7 were classified as the minimum, sufficient, standard.

For the third season running no designated bathing waters were classified as poor.

Executive Director of Evidence, Policy and Permitting at Natural Resources Wales, Ceri Davies said:

“Never more so than over the past year have blue spaces and being out in nature been so important for our mental health and wellbeing. Here in Wales we are blessed with beautiful beaches, and those living in the surrounding communities or those visiting for the day naturally want to be assured of the quality of the water before they dip their toes in.

“NRW has an important role to play in ensuring the quality of our bathing waters, sampling the areas for two types of bacteria which indicate pollution from sewage or animals, both of which can have impacts on human health, such as causing stomach upsets and diarrhoea if swallowed.

“The 2020 results are very reassuring and shows that we, together with Dŵr Cymru, Local Authorities, farming organisations and landowners are achieving our goal to protect and enhance our natural resources.”

Due to the impacts of coronavirus on working practices, completing the 2020 programme posed considerable challenges. The monitoring season, which usually runs from May to September was delayed after it was found that the pandemic would impact on the ability to undertake water sampling fully and safely.

Sampling was eventually completed at the end of September  and the findings of the process have been published on the NRW website.

Ceri Davies added:

“The results show how hard we and our partners worked both locally and nationally last year during very challenging times, and the tremendous dedication that our organisations have to an important environmental service.

“Several of Wales’ beaches such as Barafundle and Tenby, are regularly voted Britain’s best with activities such as swimming, surfing, angling and rockpooling being very popular all around the coastline. Our aim now is to ensure that this high standard is maintained, and we’ll continue to work with our partners to achieve this target.”

The Wales Bathing Water Quality Report 2020 is available to view here, Natural Resources Wales / Wales bathing water quality report 2020.

You can also check the bathing water quality of each designated area here:

If you are planning on visiting some of Wales’ coastlines or inland rivers and lakes this summer, please ensure that you take extra steps to keep yourself  and your family safe around water, by assessing the risks before you enter the water and paying more attention to what’s happening around you.

Find out more on how to have a safe and enjoyable time outdoors at Adventure Smart UK, and follow the advice in the Waterside Code and the Wild Swimming Code – part of the Countryside Code family.

Natural Resources Wales

Green light for £150m Global Centre for Rail Excellence

Green light for £150m Global Centre for Rail Excellence

A planning application for the construction of a world class rail testing facility at the head of the Dulais and Tawe Valleys has been conditionally approved by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Planning Committee.

The train, rail infrastructure and technology testing facility known as the Global Centre for Rail Excellence (GCRE), will provide a unique capability in the UK and Europe to support innovation in the UK and international rail industry, including the testing of cutting-edge, green technologies.

The Welsh Government has been working in partnership with Neath Port Talbot and Powys councils to develop proposals for the GCRE, which will be located on the site of the Nant Helen open cast mine operated by Celtic Energy and the Onllwyn Washery Distribution Centre.

Powys County Council will consider the planning application, submitted by the Welsh Ministers, later this week.

The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Ted Latham, said: “This is a fantastic investment in jobs and technology, not only for our valley areas but the County Borough and the South West Wales region as a whole.

“It will also showcase Neath Port Talbot on a national and global scale and has the strong potential to support wider investment and boost the economic regeneration of the area.”

Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainable Development, Cllr Annette Wingrave, added: “This will be a driver for the creation of high quality jobs in this area and it will also help to test and develop more environmentally friendly rail technologies helping us achieve our ambition of cleaner, stronger communities.”

The GCRE, to be based at the Nant Helen Open Cast site and the Onllwyn Washery Distribution Centre, will cover an area of around 475 hectares and will consist of two looped test tracks, one being an electrified high speed rolling stock track (6.9km long) and the other being a low speed infrastructure test track (4.5km).

There will also be a dual platform test environment, operations and control offices, staff accommodation, shunter cabins and facilities for research and development, education and training.

Members of Neath Port Talbot Council’s planning committee which granted conditional approval of the GCRE on Tuesday, July27th, were told in a report the proposal had the full support of the council’s Economic Development Section.

Image: Welsh Government

The report said: “The GCRE Offers an opportunity for significant rail investment in Wales. This would benefit Neath Port Talbot and Powys and complement the Transport for Wales focus and commitment to revitalising the rail network by providing new services and rolling stock (trains and carriages), innovative solutions and a significant programme of station investment.

“It will also support recovery post Covid – the UK Government having emphasised the importance of infrastructure spending to help kick-start the economy and ensure long-term economic recovery. It will also provide further opportunities for sustainable technologies associated with the rail sector (electric, battery, links to sustainable generation etc).

“With key innovation assets such as the Hydrogen Research Centre, Flexible Integrated Energy Systems (FLEXIS) and other academic innovation centres in the Neath Port Talbot area, the GCRE will provide key strategic RDI (research, development and innovation) linked opportunities for this form of economic development.”

Neath Port Talbot Council