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  • Lawrence Bailey

One foot in the Palace ….

A few years ago, I remarked that heritage pundits often confuse ‘conservation’ with ‘preservation’. By that I mean the first is a form of protection whilst the second is about putting dead things in jars.

I also flagged up how an imaginative make-over of a famous former London venue was a useful renovation template for Swansea’s Palace Theatre.

Shortly afterwards, council leader Rob Stewart quietly drew me aside to share his thoughts on plans already in the pipeline about revitalising the 132-year-old iconic building. I’ve been keenly following his progress ever since.

Let’s be clear. Putting together a workable plan in conjunction with cast of passionate volunteers, faceless agencies, uncompromising officials and statutory bodies is no mean feat. In fact, it’s a role most senior politicians would choose to avoid rather than embrace.

Furthermore, when so many other contemporary conversions of Grade II listed buildings never even get off the drawing board, an agreement to remodel a theatre as the home for "exciting young tech and creative businesses" is an impressive first act in any production.

I’m particularly taken with the aim of providing workspace for more than 130 people while keeping as many historic features as possible..

It all gives the stalled rejuvenation of upper High Street fresh impetus. Ever since the area was excluded from city centre planning strategies it has been a place for piecemeal development only. That’s clearly changing on Rob Stewart’s watch.

It feels that we’re implementing an approach last seen in Swansea’s Alexandra Road where you will find evidence of sensitive practical transformation. The re-purposed former police station, central library and art college all show that this is a city that cares about heritage but is not overly precious about the past.

The problem however is that there are over 560 listed buildings in Swansea alone. It often needs time and extended investment to put a solution together for just one of them. You won’t find either commodity readily available among private owners and developers.

So, until the present rigid set of rules that limit the commercial scope of redevelopment are changed then schemes like the Palace project will remain the exception rather than the norm.

That makes no sense in anyone’s definition.


Quit your conspiracy theories – I ain’t buying

Am I alone is getting irritated by all the survivalist babble on social media feeds?

I’ve just no time for the anti-face mask, anti-vaccine, anti-lockdown diatribes that attempt to manipulate a health crisis into a conspiracy. I have a straightforward evidence-based outlook: this coronavirus crap can kill you, simple as. There is no clinical cure, no pills to make you better. If it goes bad then the best you can hope for is for someone to stick a tube down your throat and that your body can somehow fix itself. So quit telling me that it’s all a government plot and that washing your hands and keeping your distance is pointless if your number’s up. That’s like saying; Oh well, I’d never survive being knocked over by a bus so I won’t bother checking the traffic before I cross the road. To all you freedom-fighters out there, I honestly don’t care how reckless you are. I also accept that if you don’t give a toss about your own well-being then you’re unlikely to have any consideration for mine. Fair enough. Just stop trying to convince me that you make any kind of sense.



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