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  • Lawrence Bailey

Swansea’s skyline is about to change

Big things stem from small beginnings - and as much as marketing people throw around buzzwords like ‘transformational’, it’s hard to think of a better description for Swansea’s regeneration aims.

Speaking last week at the Federation of Small Businesses annual meeting, major projects boss Rob Francis-Davies took his audience through an impressive list of planned developments.

Around £340 million in construction-related spending represents the biggest single rebuilding programme for 70 years. Modest actions such as rejigging the Kingsway are a precursor for some serious activity.

Connecting the city centre to the waterfront has been a long held ambition. It finally looks likely to succeed through an innovative bridge design with an entertainments arena enticing people to cross. It may sound like basic stuff but you’d be surprised how hard it’s been to put the two together.

Thankfully we’ve seen a step change in local leadership priorities. The Kingsway is a case in point. Instead of wringing their hands, the people in charge are doing something to correct one of the biggest blunders ever committed in the name of civic improvements.

This same pragmatic approach, plus a few backroom insights from public-private sector sources, has enabled a joint approach whereby partners are able to work to their own particular strengths and ambitions – not least of which is providing city centre retail with new customer footfall.

One property expert described the ‘Swansea Central’ project to me as the kind of insightful masterplan that gives private investment outfits the incentive to put time and resources into collaboration.

As last week’s FSB event revealed, development opportunities also extend to the Tawe riverside with exciting plans to boost the residential, leisure and tourism markets. Neither should we forget the potential of the tidal lagoon.

Other cities have adapted their commercial culture so that the local authority gives a lead but business interests move things forward. Swansea seems to be learning the same trick.

It won’t be long before we see cranes on the skyline and more scaffolding than you than wave a spanner at. My guess is that we’ll also be hearing a string of complaints about dust, noise and traffic disruption.

I can hardly wait.

More budget blues on the way

We’ve had plenty of advance blurb about tomorrow’s budget but, if recent events are any indication, the most likely outcome is that something will prove hugely unpopular and get dumped before the week is out.

Notwithstanding banana skins, Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s big problem is that although more people may be in work, it hasn’t made Britain (or Britons) any wealthier. If anything, incomes, inflation and economic growth are all headed in the wrong direction.

The really depressing aspect is that no one, including his own party, expects the Treasury to let their man do anything to reverse this trend beyond a bit of fiscal tinkering.

We learned last week that Theresa May’s own policy chief is warning how Conservatives risk being seen as the party of “nostalgia, hard Brexit, austerity and lazy privilege”.

The challenge for the PM and Chancellor is that a substantial proportion of tory MPs and their supporters appear quite happy with things staying that way.

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