THE FUNDING which Swansea City Council might provide for the planned Skyline attraction is geared towards making the project profitable quicker, a council meeting was told.
New Zealand-based company Skyline Enterprises wants to build a gondola ride from the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks area to the top of Kilvey Hill, St Thomas, where there would be luge runs, a zipline, sky swing, biking and walking trails, and food and drink outlets.
The Welsh Government announced last weekend that it would invest £4 million in the project, with conditions, and said the council was in advanced discussions about a funding proposal of its own.
While the council has helped with land and planning-related matters, there had been no previous indication that it would contribute financially.
Speaking at a scrutiny panel meeting, Cllr Peter Black said it was his understanding – based on an update held in closed session – that Skyline was a private sector project with the possibility of a Welsh Government contribution.
“And now it looks as if we are going to put our hands in our pockets,” he said.
Huw Mowbray, the council’s development and regeneration strategic manager, said there was an “ongoing discussion” about funding.
Mr Mowbray said the project would cost close to £40 million, that Skyline Enteprises was investing £36 million, and that the Welsh Government was providing a £3 million grant.
Cllr Black said this sounded like the total amount, and added: “Is this (project) dependent on money coming from Swansea Council or is that just their wishful thinking?”
Mr Mowbray explained that there was a requirement for public money to be invested.
He said Skyline Enterprises had a budgeting premise for the Kilvey Hill project to earn back in revenue in 10 years what it cost to build, which is known as the internal rate of return. But he said its calculation now was that it would take longer – 13 years – and this was why the council’s contribution was being sought.
“They need this money to meet the internal rate of return and justify their investment from their perspective,” he said.
Cllr Black asked if the council’s offer would be a loan or a grant, and if the latter whether the authority would share in some of the returns.
“That is part of the ongoing discussion,” replied Mr Mowbray.
Cllr Black, who welcomed the Welsh Government contribution, said he felt a further report was needed – in closed session if necessary.
Public consultation events about the Skyline project have taken place this month, and Mr Mowbray said he expected a planning application to be submitted to the council around July.
He said there had been a very large turnout at the events, and added: “The positive response was quite resounding from what I understand.”
Swansea residents would be offered a discounted £40 annual Skyline pass for adults, with people and children priced at just £20.
Children under five would be free. The pass would entitle residents to a year of unlimited rides on the gondola.
The scrutiny group was given updates about other major regeneration schemes under way or planned in Swansea, including a hotel next to Swansea Arena. It’s early days for the hotel, although the council has appointed Cairn Group as the preferred bidder.
Mr Mowbray said the private sector would not fund all the costs of a hotel which might be £21 million to build but only worth £8-9 million on the day it opened.
He said the council had a loan, via the Welsh Government, at the ready to support the hotel project. “We’re almost there to make it a viable solution,” he said.
He added that the hotel would meet a significant demand for conference accommodation space in Swansea.
Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said the hotel would be a quality development.
Earlier in the meeting he welcomed the sizeable number of public and private schemes in the city.
He said there was ambitious leadership in Swansea, and that the number of projects compared to other cities was “quite staggering”.