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Boulevard: same question, same answer

June 10, 2014

 

Last July, I kicked off this column by asking that if a boulevard in Quay Parade was seen as an answer then what on earth was the question.

 

I was quite serious at the time and even more so today.

 

The word conjures up pictures of a leafy avenue suitable for a promenade and maybe a spot of people watching from a kerbside café. Something similar to Las Ramblas in Barcelona, perhaps.

 

So let’s get that misconception out of the way first. In urban design terms, a boulevard is typically a large road running through a city. It has one sole purpose and that is to improve traffic flow.

 

The word ‘boulevard’ is a French term which in turn derives from the Dutch word ‘bolwerk’ – a defensive measure designed to keep people out.

 

So far, I’d say that it’s doing a decent job in that respect. I expect that it will eventually be equally proficient in speeding up through-traffic.

 

As I sat in my car during the 15 minutes it took me to get from the Tawe Bridge to the Marriott hotel last Friday, I wondered how this scheme will help city centre regeneration.

 

The answer of course is that it won’t.

 

There is no new connection to the waterfront. Victoria Road has gone from four lanes of traffic to five. There are no new entry points to planned future retail development.

 

What we seem to have after several years of inconvenience to traders & motorists is a very expensive bus lane and acres of new paving – which replaced slightly less newer paving.

 

Let’s be honest, improved access to the city centre was never a big part of the project. I still can’t work out why it was necessary to remove the mini-roundabout at the lower end of Princess Way.

The same goes for the logic behind closing off the right-hand turn into Wind Street for traffic coming into Swansea from the east.

 

Last time around I stated that I had not spoken with one person in the business community who thinks the scheme will generate trade or boost future investment. Nearly a year on, I find that nothing has changed.

 

I feel sorry for the folks behind the Big Heart of Swansea branding campaign who are desperately trying to attract new custom. All they seem to have ended up with is the wrong kind of by-pass.

 

Getting people into a city centre requires better access, better parking and an attractive location with the right facilities.

 

I’m not pretending that there is an easy solution but one thing at least is clear; a boulevard is definitely not the answer.

 

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Sixty-five and counting

                 

For most of us, reaching the 65 year point is a time where the brakes start to get applied.

 

Not so with Swansea Bay Business Club, who commemorated their founding in 1949 with an enjoyable lunch event last week.

 

It was immensely fitting that the guest speaker should be historian Peter Stead, who mapped out the evolution of Swansea. His talk evoked the words of a 19th century visitor to the town who had remarked on the ‘Spirit of Intelligence’ he encountered.

 

Passionate as ever about his re-adopted city, Peter’s entertaining canter through the changing face of Sweyn’s Eye reminded us of how the region has moved progressively with the times, often for the good and occasionally for the worse.

 

In the same vein, I’m glad to see that the Business Club is in the process of reinventing itself to become more of a mover & shaker in the local commercial world.

 

I wish them well. Here’s to the next 65 years.

 

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Making a real difference

 

I suppose it’s true to say that ever since its creation, critics have questioned the worth of the Welsh Government. The comment I hear most often is whether it makes any real difference.

 

Well perhaps an example for them to note is the commendable action by ministers in acquiring the former Remploy site at Fforestfach and leasing the building to a co-operative set up by ex-employees.

 

Like many others, I was never convinced by the arguments put up by the UK government in their decision to abandon supported employment.

 

As it happens, seventeen former workers felt the same way and pooled their redundancy payments into creating Accommodation Furniture Solutions Ltd (AFS) at the Swansea West Industrial Estate.

 

The support package from the Welsh Government means that their 54,300 sq ft facility can be upgraded. That will allow them to focus on meeting a target to increase the workforce in coming years.

 

That’s what I call making a difference.

 

 

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