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Major regeneration and development plans for Swansea city centre altered

Land in Swansea city centre, where St David's Shopping Centre was, where new a public sector hub and other commercial buildings are planned (Pic: Richard Youle)

PLANS for a major office and commercial development in the heart of Swansea have been altered the day before planning permission expired.

Councillors on the planning committee approved an application to increase the height of one of the proposed new blocks between Oystermouth Road and St Mary’s Church by 10m, and change it from apartments on the upper floors to office use.

The block is to be a public sector hub set across four floors, said a council planning officer, with commercial units on the ground floor.

The hub is part of a wholesale redevelopment of land planned around St David’s Priory Church and up to St Mary’s, and would follow on from the construction of the nearby Swansea Arena, coastal park, pedestrian bridge, flats and multi-storey car park.

There would be new shops, cafes and restaurants as well as offices, with St David’s multi-storey car park demolished to make way for one of the buildings. Outline plans were first given the green light in June 2019, since when the council has appointed a development partner called Urban Splash to take the project forward. The deadline to submit a detailed planning application was due to expire on Wednesday, June 5, but committee members have extended it. This means there’s still some way to go as no work can start before a detailed application is submitted and approved.

The proposal to increase the height of one of the blocks from 22m to 32m was criticised by a member of the congregation at St David’s Priory Church, who claimed in an email to the planning department that “the spiritual nature and sanctity of the church is under threat”.

Another objector was city centre resident Gordon Gibson, who bemoaned the loss of the green space and play area where the 32m block is planned. He said that he, as a neighbour, should have been consulted and that he’d only found out about the plans when he spotted a “weather-beaten” notice. He also felt it was very difficult for the average person to understand the “extremely complex planning matters” contained in the documentation.

Mr Gibson said the proposed higher block and the use of it as offices rather than flats were, in his view, big changes. Referring to the green space and play area currently there, he urged councillors to see it for themselves. “It’s the most popular and by far the most successful space the council has built in the city centre,” he said. “There are always people there and kids playing. Here we are, covering it all up.”

A planning officer said the public notices displayed by the council had complied with the relevant legislation, and that the green space and play area were and had always been temporary. The proposed new block in its place hadn’t moved – it would just be taller. He added that a new park had been created by Swansea Arena and that the council was also going to revamp Castle Square into more of a green space.

The officer said the redevelopment of the land between Oystermouth Road and St Mary’s Church would “further economic growth and regeneration” in the city centre and that although the proposed increase in height of the block in question would have an impact, it “is considered to be minimal”.

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