It came as a bit of a shock to realise how it’s almost five years to the day since I started this column. Time definitely flies when you’re busy pontificating.
I started things off by getting shouty over Swansea’s new ‘boulevard’ – then under construction. I described it as a solution to a problem that didn’t exist.
Nothing has changed that opinion.
Although hyped as a city centre boon, it’s basically intended for through-traffic on its way to somewhere else. What’s more, it has widened the divide between the city centre and the waterfront from four lanes to six.
That’s the funny thing about Swansea. Location is supposed to be everything but it sometimes feels that a visitor would have to be in a tall building or halfway up Constitution Hill before they realise this is a city by the sea.
People love living by the water. That means they’re willing to cough up a premium to be able to do so. As happened in a lot of other coastal cities, the approach has been to regenerate derelict dockland with a coastal barrier of lucrative multi-storey housing.
That’s fine at first but then you discover that any subsequent thoughts of associated commercial development are considered ‘detrimental’ to residents.
I’m greatly taken by plans for a new digital arena on the seaward side of Oystermouth Road. It’s the kind of destination that will be worth the walk over the new bridge from a rejuvenated city centre.
It’s also an opportunity to create something like Cardiff’s lively Mermaid Quay with its cafes, restaurants and bars all facing the water.
It would be marvellous to see clusters of popular venues along Swansea’s waterfront and wide attractive walkways bursting with the vibrancy that planners so often talk about.
We’ve already seen what can be achieved in schemes such as Oyster Wharf in Mumbles. The growth in the food and hospitality sector is no fluke. Nor is it a poor relation in terms of commercial acumen.
If we’re serious about regeneration and attracting visitors then we really have to start playing to our strengths.
Holding on but not in control
Theresa May has her hands full. It’s hard enough keeping a grumpy cabinet in check after force-feeding them an unappetising Brexit agreement without a visiting US president adding his own baloney. Yet she’s still there, plugging away.
Consensus among lobbyists is that the PM is holding on to her job (at the time of writing this anyway) because her critics are in as much disarray as the government.
Maybe so, yet it’s remarkable how she’s coped with a senior cabinet resignation every six weeks or so since the last election – and that only two of those have been over Brexit.
“Taking back control” has proved to be one of those concepts that sounds great if you say it quickly and don’t allow any awkward questions. Actually coming up with a safe means of doing it has confounded the good folks of Westminster.
My guess is that we may yet find ourselves back at the ballot boxes, one way or another.
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