City centre plans show a sense of purpose
When I write about the city centre regeneration in this column, its usually with a sense of mild frustration.
So, it’s great to comment on a solid milestone that's being reported to Swansea’s cabinet today. Specifically, I'm talking about a strategy to reshape what's on offer by exploiting around £1 billion in investment.
A renowned military strategist once observed that no plan survives contact with the enemy. You need only look at the way a pandemic has forced a massive rethink of how we live and work to draw the same conclusion.
That said, the practical thread that runs through the range of “repurposing” proposals is evidence that we're ahead of the curve for once. With several improvement schemes already in hand, I guess there's no better time to capitalise on achievement.
There’s admittedly a tricky bit of town planning involved which requires balancing key commercial factors with over-arching stuff like the Local Development Plan and the Swansea Central Area Regeneration Framework or “SCARF” – you’ve gotta love those acronyms.
Hopefully, the result will be a culture shift that enables market trends – as well as the planners – to create a viable mix of what works best in the right location.
Getting a good blend between events-led tourism and a broad cultural offer is already one of Swansea’s strengths. Linking venues through a series of existing and proposed multi-functional spaces makes sense.
Love it or hate it, no-one can argue that Kingsway isn’t a lot greener. Repeating that treatment elsewhere has to be a good move for the environment as well as the economy.
But the bump in the road is still going to be accessibility. Visitors may want to walk in traffic-free surroundings, but they’ll also want to get here by car and park as nearby as possible. The arena project came up with an imaginative solution. It can be done again.
It may be the nerd in me that’s gets a buzz from seeing a report with a focus on nuts-and-bolts aspects of regeneration but there’s no doubt that things are happening.
I get it that some people are unhappy with the pace – especially the detractors – but whatever your view, the city is seeing the result of a leadership style that has stuck to its guns over what’s needed and how to go about delivering it.
Put another way, a city with a sense of purpose is definitely going places.
Are we all together now? Not really
I’ve seen it written somewhere how facing up to a global contagion has the potential to bring us all together. Hmm.
I’ll admit that I witnessed one or two small acts of consideration last year and which raised my flagging spirits. However, my general experience in 2021 is that we're quickly gone back to our divisive ways.
One of these was when someone I once genuinely respected posted on social media that people who refuse to be vaccinated and subsequently contract COVID should be “forced to die at home”.
Another instance was when I was accosted by a stranger in the street who thought it was acceptable to shout at me that I didn’t need to wear a (expletive) mask outdoors.
It took me a few shocked seconds to realise that I’d forgotten to remove it after just leaving a shop. By then though he had moved on and was having a go at someone else.
I have no idea what purpose those people thought they were achieving or who’s freedom they’re defending. I just know they don’t act or speak for me.
If saying that makes me divisive too, then I don’t really care.