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  • Lawrence Bailey

City anniversary should be about the future

Swansea celebrates its 50th anniversary as a city this year. The royal announcement in July 1969 came just days before the newly invested Prince of Wales was due to visit the town at the mouth of the Tawe.

Although hardly a hotbed of nationalism, there were enough folk bemused by the archaic goings-on that seemed to underline Wales’ subjugated status. As such, speculation grew that the heir to the throne would be confronted by noisy protests and possibly worse.

Accordingly, the establishment, who enjoyed greater anonymity in those days, demonstrated some neat footwork in releasing the news of impending city status – and thus the visit passed with smiles and cheering all round. This particular anecdote wasn’t one those shared at Liberty Stadium during last week’s launch event.

Mal Pope did a sterling job in fronting up a #Swansea50 presentation that appeared to be mainly work in progress, although mention was made of recognising individual contributions.

Given that things are at a formative stage, I’d like to suggest that we might be better served by acknowledging of the collective way we’ve moved forward as a city. By that I mean all the people who live, work and learn here. A celebration of our half-century should encompass all the communities, old and new, geographical and cultural, who make up the City of Swansea - and not just a glam-fest restricted to the professionals and the networkers.

Let’s record how each part of Dylan’s ugly, lovely town has seen its share of transformational change, most of it good; but less so for others.

I’ve spent the last few days scouring our loft in search of the commemorative Prince of Wales investiture stamp collection presented to me along with every other school kid in back in 1969.

No-one complained about the cost or called it wasteful at the time, as I recall. I hope that a similarly optimistic gesture can be made for every Swansea pupil this time too.

Let’s draw on the hopes that we had for future generations fifty years ago and maybe in doing so, also open our eyes to what we can yet become as a city.


How to save the city’s green fields

There’s been understandable concern at the proposed extent of green land allocated for new housing in the Swansea area.

The debate is a complicated one but a factor often overlooked is that the city and its environs also possess a large number of smaller so-called “brown-field” sites suitable for development. It’s thought they could account for up to a thousand new houses a year.

Big-name firms consider such development unprofitable but they are bread and butter business to smaller outfits who can provide buyers with affordable homes within their own communities.

The problem is that officialdom isn’t geared up to recognise that building on a previously developed site is inherently more expensive and complex than digging up a field on the fringes of the city.

Something other is needed than the current one-size-fits-all approach which disadvantages smaller firms who work on tighter margins and rely far more on cashflow.

Delays in getting official sign-off can be lethal, but the problem isn’t so much one of bureaucracy as a lack of capacity caused by staffing cuts in planning and highways departments

No-one involved in house-building can afford for approval stages to be merely rubber stamp activities. Even so, there is scope for streamlining.

Swansea city council has recently joined with smaller house-builders and professionals to look at solutions. Seems like a win-win option to me.

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