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  • Whiterock Wales

Lifestyle changes drive the property market

According to the dictionary, synergy is what you get when things combine to produce an effect potentially greater than the sum of the individual parts, or something like that.

Anyway, it’s a nice concept and you could argue that two recent announcements affecting the Swansea Bay region represent ideal ingredients.

The first is the submission of plans for a £37 million student development opposite Swansea’s High Street station.

The other is a ground-breaking £6.5m Wales-wide agreement which will create construction training for 1,100 people per year.

I know that there’s been some mixed reaction to proposals by Varsity Projects Limited for a 725-bed scheme on what is currently Mariner Street Car Park.

Yet we have to accept that as investor confidence in Swansea grows so we will see more urban sites like this attracting interest.

Where the synergy bit comes in how the construction industry needs to create additional capacity to meet growing development demand.

The sector already faces a significant skills shortage. In fact, getting hold of sufficient numbers of trained people is cited by many firms as among the biggest inhibitors for growth.

Last week however saw the unveiling of the planned Construction Wales Innovation Centre at SA1 Waterfront.

The centre is a joint venture between the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and a consortium led by University of Wales Trinity Saint David. The aim is to provide state-of-the-art facilities and world-standard training for individuals and construction companies.

I’m not suggesting that this is an entirely neat fit between the proposals or even a timely one - but it does illustrate which way future trends are headed.

Big lifestyle changes are already upon us. While many of us still aspire to the traditional housing solution in the suburbs, the optimum for a growing number of people is self-contained, shared accommodation close to local amenities and transport links.

Provincial city living is fast becoming the answer for a generation of young people whose dependency on mum and dad doesn’t include the necessity to live with them.

Developers and letting agents largely see this as a win-win phenomenon in terms of new build and a viable private rented sector.

This outlook runs parallel with professional differences of opinion as to how a bigger supply of modern accommodation will make itself felt on the market.

It’s been suggested that older residential properties previously converted for multiple-occupancy could revert back to family homes.

Most property bods scoff at this prediction although a few reckon they see signs of re-gentrification in Bristol and Cardiff as relative demand levels balance out.

I guess it’s all literally a matter of whether you’re buying or selling.

One downside is that no-one quite has a handle on the ripple effect of the Chancellor’s decision to bring in stamp duty on second homes and how much buoyancy it has taken out of the buy-to-let market.

For now, what appeals to me is the idea that, locally at least, the next generation of construction experts could soon be living in the kind of new accommodation they will be helping to provide in the future.

Working towards the full package

I was very lucky to actually get a seat at a well-attended meeting of the SA1 Waterfront Business Club last week.

It could have been the excellent buffet provided by Café TwoCann that drew the crowd at Technium II, but I rather think it was guest speaker Professor Medwin Hughes who made it standing room only.

As expected, the UWTSD vice-chancellor treated his business audience to a full-on exposition of the university’s academic, social and economic mission.

Despite a reference in his talk that prompted the younger element in the room to Google the word “polytechnic”, this was no dry discourse about higher education.

The passionate message is one of growth, opportunity and partnership.

As he put it, world-class university research happening at one end of Fabian Way merits the support of top-flight technical expertise from just down the road.

In that same context, the Swansea Bay region deserves nothing less than the full package.

It’s still a team game

I’ve had a few emails asking my opinion on current events affecting the Swans. There are a lot of strong feelings out there and I'm hesitant to add to the discussion.

It’s no exaggeration to say that watching the Swans is often hard work, even on a good day. The commercial turmoil that sometimes besets the club can be no less tough on the nerves.

Helping to find the money to build a new stadium when league football looked all but finished in Swansea was an act of faith on my part. It took combined effort and you can decide for yourself if the action was justified.

While there’s many a premiership club that claims to be part of the community, there’s none that can match Swansea’s boast that the community is an intrinsic part of the club.

It’s still a team game and it would probably serve all concerned well to remember that.

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