It’s an acknowledged trait, according to sociologists, that large-scale developments intended to promote economic optimism are just as likely to bring out the negativity in people.
It’s natural I suppose. Big changes are unsettling but it sometimes feels to me that Swansea has managed to turn nay-saying to an art form over the years.
For every complaint that nothing is ever done you get a protest that the city is a building site. Every development is somehow the wrong type or in the wrong place or should have been done in a nicer colour altogether.
I’m no fan of vanity projects or pointless ‘boulevards’ but I get very tired of the old favourites trotted out as to how Swansea is a city of artists’ impressions or that the council is no better than Hitler’s Luftwaffe, etc.
I sometimes wonder if people travel along Fabian Way with their eyes shut in order to avoid seeing the massive scale of what’s been built there in the last decade.
“It’ll never happen” is another comment seen on social media about major projects like the new arena.
The thing is though, I remember the exact same predictions coming out about the Liberty Stadium, the Waterfront Museum, the Quadrant bus station, the National Pool and SA1, just to mention a few.
However, having laboured the point that there’s nothing new about all this criticism, I’ll admit that I’ve never heard someone complain before that too much cash is going into improvements.
Apparently the District Auditor is concerned the city might be over-doing things. Yet what actually appears to be happening is that Swansea is taking advantage of cheaper borrowing to finance new projects – in much the same way that the government plans to increase its spending.
I’ve watched the Swansea Central project evolve from a few outline plans into something hugely impressive. Yes, it’s ambitious and probably bigger than anything previously attempted, but it undoubtedly puts Swansea in a position to capitalise on niche entertainment and visitor markets.
Anyone who attended last week’s successful Swansea Bay Tourism Awards will already know just how big a contribution the hospitality and leisure sectors already make to the region.
No doubt, the good news that this economic trend looks set to grow will also upset someone. Too bad.
How to make a meaningful impression
What we need to remember about artist impressions is that they’re just one person’s interpretation of what something might look like in terms of size and scale. They seldom resemble the finished item.
My experience is that simply putting a design out into the public domain without context rarely achieves anything positive.
That’s why I’ve been encouraged by the approach adopted in Swansea in recent times which has acknowledged that the council isn’t an expert in all matters commercial.
Accordingly, they persuaded experienced professionals to give up their time, free of charge, to advise on how the right level of public-sector ‘heavy lifting’ can lever in substantial and sustained private-sector investment.
Known as the Development Advisory Group, this cross-sector body has been a useful sounding board for strategic development. They’ve also seen much of their feedback incorporated into schemes. Only then did the actual designs start to emerge.
While it’s prolonged the overall process, I guess it proves that you have a better chance of getting things right first time when you put everyone in the picture.
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