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£34m Skyline development plans submitted to Swansea Council

(Pic: Skyline Enterprises)

PLANS to create a leisure attraction on Kilvey Hill featuring a gondola ride, downhill karting and mountain bike trails have been submitted to Swansea Council.

The Skyline development, as it is known, would also include a zipline, sky swing, walking trails, a children’s park, picnicking areas, and a restaurant and bar.

Visitors would pick up a gondola from a base station at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site across the River Tawe and ride up the 193m hill to the attractions at the top. The gondola would be accessible to mums and dads with prams and wheelchair users.

Skyline Enterprises – the New Zealand-based firm behind the plans – said existing footpaths and access points to the hill would remain, with free and unhindered access continuing for those who use it for recreation.

The company’s chief executive, Geoff McDonald, said he and his colleagues “fell in love” with the site on their first visit in 2017. The views from the hill, he said, were spectacular.

Mr McDonald said the downhill karting – or luge – rides would be all-weather, wheelchair-accessible and suitable for all ages.

He added: “Complimenting the luge would be other firsts for the UK which include a new zipline technology developed in New Zealand, plus a giant sky swing. Like the luge, both of these attractions are accessible to all.”

If given the go-ahead, it would be the tourism company’s first project in Europe. While there has been a lot of support for the Swansea proposal, which is estimated to cost around £34 million, a march against it took place in the city on October 28. Those taking part were concerned about a loss of nature and quiet space.

The Welsh Government has said it would invest £4million in the project, subject to conditions being met, with £1 million of that sum repayable. The council, meanwhile, has approved funding of £8 million in principle, but said it would get this back in full as part of a commercial agreement with Skyline Enterprises.

On Monday November 13, Senedd members considered a petition signed by 3,051 people which called on the Welsh Government to “stop wasting” £4 million on the project. The petition by Neil Jones, of Friends of the Earth, claimed there was a risk of environmental damage and no guarantee of success in the long run, that project job creation and visitor numbers were “too ambitious”, and that conserving and enhancing the hill’s woodland and biodiversity was the better course of action.

Speaking at the petitions committee meeting, Rhondda MS Buffy Williams suggested that a letter should be sent to the council to signal the petition’s strength of feeling, and this was approved by Senedd colleagues.

In March this year, when the Welsh Government announced its £4 million contribution, Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden, said: “This project is significant in the further development of Swansea as a vibrant city destination. It complements other regeneration projects in the area as well as supporting economic growth and all year-round jobs.”

Skyline Enterprises has estimated that the scheme would create 80-plus permanent jobs in its first year of operation and contribute £84 million to the local economy over the next 15 years.

The company said Swansea Skyline would include tree planting, wildflower and grassland planting, and habitat protection measures. Lighting schemes, it added, would be a wildlife-friendly design.

Mr McDonald said: “But overall, our business is all about putting smiles on people’s faces, and that’s what we’d hope to do by bringing this globally tried and tested leisure destination to Swansea.”