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How much income Swansea Council has received from its flagship Copr Bay project

Swansea Arena and the new park it's set in at Copr Bay (Pic: Richard Youle)

SWANSEA Council received income of around £1.5m from its flagship Copr Bay development last year while it also subsidised Swansea Arena’s energy bills by £210,0000.

The £135m scheme by Oystermouth Road features a park, cafe, and car park with electric vehicle charging points as well as the arena plus flats and an as-ye- unfinished multi-storey car park and empty commercial units on the other side of the road.

The arena is operated by a private company, Ambassador Theatre Group, which pays the council rent. The flats have been leased to social housing provider Pobl Group. Car parking and electric vehicle charging revenue goes to the council.

Copr Bay includes a new yellow bridge across Oystermouth Road and flats, a multi-storey car park and commercial units beyond (Pic: Richard Youle)

In a response to a freedom of information request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service the authority said it received in the region of £1.5m in income from Copr Bay in 2023-24. It declined to list the specific amounts for each source of income for commercial sensitivity reasons. The money raised goes to operational costs including a “sinking fund” – a pot of money usually set aside to cover future repair costs.

While the arena opened on time and has been widely welcomed the multi-storey car park was hampered by problems with the paintwork on the steel structure and then the demise of the main contractor, which went into administration. The council would have received more income had the multi-storey car park and adjacent commercial units been completed and occupied.

The council’s response to the freedom of information request said: “The income currently received for the completed elements is in line with the expectation. When the uncompleted parts of Copr Bay are complete we’d expect income to be in line with expectations for the overall scheme.”

Empty commercial units at Copr Bay (Pic: Richard Youle)

Turning to the arena’s energy bills cabinet members agreed in May last year to provide up to £210,000 in subsidies to Ambassador Theatre Group as energy costs had soared post-Covid and following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The cabinet report said the arena’s energy bills were nearly £700,000 in 2022-23 – more than four times what had been anticipated prior to the global disruption.

A revised estimate for the arena’s energy bills in 2023-24 was just over £400,000 which, while an improvement, was still nearly £210,000 above budget. The council, which also agreed to provide £1.2m energy bill subsidies to the not-for-profit operators of its leisure centres and the Wales National Pool, Sketty, has now confirmed that it contributed the full £210,000 to Ambassador Theatre Group for the arena.

Speaking in May last year when cabinet agreed to step in council leader Rob Stewart said: “While swimming pools and leisure services elsewhere have been closing due to soaring energy costs we’re playing our part in making sure that doesn’t happen to partner-operated council facilities in Swansea.”

Two months later, in July 2023, Ambassador Theatre Group venue director Lisa Mart said the council would get a share of the arena’s profits in due course as well as rent and a percentage of ticket sales. She said the first full year of operation had been “an absolutely great success”.

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The council, meanwhile, also said it received £4.9m for the 125-year lease awarded to Pobl Group for the 33 flats across from the arena.
Work to complete the multi-storey car park and other elements of Copr Bay has restarted using a different contractor.