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  • Lawrence Bailey

Restoration and regeneration working well together

The quiet week I was expecting soon disappeared as the briefing notes and releases about Swansea developments started landing in my inbox.

Bids have been agreed, deals are in motion, the wraps are coming off and there is altogether a fine sense that we are gearing up for a busy time of things.

What’s been noticeable about an increasing number of city schemes is that the practice of “repurposing” existing buildings & locations is now firmly established.

With the tarpaulin finally down, the new-look Orchard House is an impressive example of what’s possible given the right investment and imagination.

It’s also great to see plans for the former Palace Theatre get a lift. A heads of terms for development agreement with a notable tech-savvy outfit is set to quite literally give the iconic building a new lease of life. We’re likely to see a new flexible workspace for young and growing businesses in the tech, digital and creative sectors opening later this year.

Another step forward is the proposed conversion proposals for the 156-year old Albert Hall into a 800-capacity music and entertainment venue. Given the track record of the firm involved then I think the city is onto a winner.

However, the big news has to be the announcement that the former BHS store could become a new Central Library and archive hub. The idea is out to consultation. Sometime ago I was fortunate to attend an advance briefing on city centre regeneration plans. My view at the time was that it was important to match the energy going into new projects with actions that prevented the commercial heart from “drifting” further south.

We’ve seen in decades past how High Street lost out to new retail outlets centred around the Quadrant. That’s why it’s important to have an anchor location such as a library in Oxford Street that will consolidate footfall patterns.

Finally, I’ve been reading how a Wind Street bar is looking to broaden its offer to include a bakery and coffee shop. It’s not such a novel idea. Before a deluge of liquor licenses turned the place into what the press like to call a “notorious nightspot”, the idea was to establish a café quarter.

With the kind of planned infrastructure spending about to go into this area, we may yet see that original concept finally realised, come the other side of lockdown. I can’t wait.


Flags aren’t always what they seem

I couldn’t help but smile at the response given by a UK minister who, when asked why he had a Union Jack in his office, claimed it to be “a symbol of liberty and freedom that binds the whole country together”

Forgive me for being a trifle picky but I can think of several dozen nations around the world who would disagree with that allegory - if only because quite few went through a bloody time in liberating themselves from the tyranny which that same flag once embodied.

As for binding the whole country together, the current version which was adopted in 1801 incorporates the crosses and saltires of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick but has no Welsh representation.

Admittedly there was once an attempt to incorporate the St David’s Cross into the Union emblem. The idea got short shrift, not least because the claimed historical origins of the black and yellow banner are slightly dodgy.

Accordingly, we should remember that not everything about flags is what it seems - or indeed what some folk would have you believe.




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