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  • Whiterock Wales

How green is my Kingsway?

I find myself quite taken with the greening proposals for Kingsway. Maybe that’s because what’s on offer looks a lot like - dare I say it - what most of us would call a boulevard.

Naming it “Central Park” is probably a spin job too far but what’s in a name anyway. Call it what you like; it’s the substance that matters.

Kingsway has traditionally been an east-west connection for city centre through-traffic and a link to handy off-street parking. All that changed when the Metro scheme arrived and navigating your way around town became a nightmare.

It's time to move on from the yah-boo stuff about the Bendy Bus and all that followed. Whatever the genuine intention lay behind the plans, they never worked beyond making traffic move in mysterious ways and throttling passing trade.

Untangling the mess is not going to be particularly easy but the proposals look promising. That’s especially true when they’re talking about re-instatement of two-way traffic along surrounding roads including, Alexandra Road, Mansel Street, Orchard Street, De La Beche Street and Belle Vue Way.

A succession of generations has seen Swansea's commercial and retail heart gradually drift south. High Street was once the focal point but that changed with post-war redevelopment which created Kingsway and upper Oxford Street. Then came the Quadrant with its bus station, and shopping patterns switched again.

Once key anchor operations like Tesco and the Post Office relocated elsewhere and Wind Street became a hub for the city’s night-time economy, it was effectively game over for the Kingsway.

The ‘Swansea Central’ regeneration plans, which are also out to consultation, represent another southward shift that puts the city centre within touching distance of the sea-front. Accordingly, it’s important not to repeat the mistakes of the past by allowing development to happen at the expense of what we already have.

Relocating council staff and enticing commercial ventures to a newly created Kingsway Business District is a clever counter-balance in terms of footfall. We’ve seen the same principle at work with the Urban Village at High Street.

Providing the new commercial district with a green, tree-lined environment is not just a people-friendly addition. It’s also a move away from the thinking that insists on featureless expanses of paving as an accompaniment to any new scheme. At least I hope that’s the case.

I’m glad the Kingsway proposals have been published so that they can be seen in the context of complementary plans to bring back Castle Gardens as an urban feature.

What with the developments I’ve mentioned, plus the revamp at Parc Tawe and possible pedestrianisation of Wind Street, there’s definitely a lot going on - and maybe too much to be all taken in at once.

Something which helped me get an overall perspective of what’s planned is a ‘fly-through’ video that’s currently undergoing the finishing touches. I expect it to become publicly available soon.

Meanwhile, it’s good to see a local authority practising the principle that you can get more out of engaging the public than by treating the city-centre like a giant Lego set.

I’m sure it will pay dividends.

Out of the shadows

The joke around Westminster is that a revolving door is about to be installed at the office of Labour’s shadow Welsh Secretary – which is meant to reflect that there’ve been four different occupants in just under two years.

You'd best not repeat the comment within earshot of the latest post-holder though. Neath MP Christina Rees, who took up the reins last week, is not just a qualified barrister but also a judo black belt.

Labour will need someone tough. With significant by-elections looming this month, the mass-movement party is an opposition clinging on to its heartlands.

Ms Rees will probably be looking to get up to speed before impending announcements are made on the Swansea Bay City Deal and Tidal Lagoon.

Whatever her length of tenure, the expectation is that she will perform in the same way she replaced her constituency predecessor - without too much bother and a lot less fuss.

Speaking out

There’s been a bit of a reaction to how Commons Speaker John Bercow effectively vetoed any suggestion of Donald Trump addressing both houses in the Palace of Westminster.

For the record, my view is that when one of the first acts of a US president is an apparent attempt to undermine the same constitutional freedoms he swore to uphold then we should all be worried. But when those actions become discriminatory to the point of being racist then it’s time for all of us to speak out.

The invitation made by Theresa May for Trump to make a UK state visit was clearly an enticement aimed at securing a quick post-Brexit trade deal. To many people, the action is no different than selling off peerages for party donations or arms deals.

The undisputed role of Speaker on the other hand is to uphold the authority of Parliament. I think he’s done his job admirably.

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