I’ve been following the social media ‘uproar’ over Swansea council plans to look at third-party development of seafront sites.
Given the headlines involved, it’s understandable how people might think the local authority is squandering the city’s birthright.
Of course it’s a matter of opinion as to whether you think waterfront development is desirable – or commercially viable - but it’s hardly a new idea.
Go online, and you’ll find something called the “Swansea Bay Strategy Action Plan”. This was jointly commissioned by the council and Welsh government back in 2008.
Consultants were tasked with looking at development opportunities along the 8.5 kilometres of waterfront of Swansea Bay stretching from the West Pier in the east to Mumbles Pier in the west.
They came up with a series of foreshore locations including the City Waterfront, St Helens, Sketty Lane, Blackpill, Mumbles and Mumbles Pier. The proposals were then adopted by the council of the day.
One of the sites became the 360 Beachfront. Another was the Mumbles Pier regeneration project – a scheme which I’ve been associated with for some considerable time.
The new digital arena complex will occupy the City Waterfront location identified in the strategy.
Things have moved on and the council is sensibly taking a fresh look at matters in terms of sites and approach. However, it’s a stretch to equate this with flogging off the family silver.
For one thing, I expect some stringent design and planning controls to be applied on any development. There’s also the intention for the council to retain site ownership.
That last point might prove a deterrent for potential developers and/or operators. It’s a tough trading world out there and you only have to look at the number of empty establishments to recognise the challenge involved in setting up a new business.
Anyone who’s read my views on the city boulevard scheme will know that I’m hardly a champion of development for development sake.
Yet, as anyone in the tourism industry will tell you, you need to invest in your product if you want the visitors to keep coming back. I’d expect a local authority to be doing no less.
A digital divide we can readily close
Despite a few personal misgivings over the advance of digital technology, I’m under no illusions about how the future of employment very much lies in that direction.
More importantly, the skills needed to operate in this new environment will be in huge demand.
According to Jayne Brewer of Gower College, around 1.2 million new technical and digitally skilled people are needed in the UK by 2022.
It makes sense for employers (and self-employed) to take a look at the brand new, fully-funded, professional digital qualifications that the college has to offer.
Their courses include Social Media for Business, Digital Marketing, Digital Learning Design, Digital Applications Support, Information Security (Cyber), IT Software, Web & Telecoms and Data Analytics.
It’s a pretty comprehensive range so I’m not surprised to learn that the courses get quickly taken up. Use the ‘Find My Course’ option on the Gower College website (https://www.gcs.ac.uk/) and select ‘Digital Skills’.