THE ONGOING restoration of Swansea’s famous Hafod-Morfa Copperworks area has received a multi-million pound boost, but the city missed out on three other bids it had submitted for UK Levelling Up Fund cash.
The good news is that £20 million is coming the city’s way, which will be spent on three linked projects:
– The revamp of more heritage features at the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site, following on from work carried out so far. The money will help breathe new life into listed buildings, releasing them for business use and private sector investment. The council said the site would also become better connected to local people to help tell the story of Swansea’s industrial legacy.
– Improving links between the River Tawe and the copperworks site and creating better links to the city centre. Victorian-era railway arches are being re-used to enable access to public transport by bus, rail and river.
– Upgrading Swansea Museum by improving access and increasing exhibition and learning spaces. The council said the investment would protect the museum and enable important elements of collections currently stored at the former rolling mill of the copperworks to be brought to the city centre building. This in turn will release the rolling mill building for further mixed-use regeneration.
Council leader Rob Stewart said: “This project will build on all the work that’s taken place in recent years to help further preserve the city’s historic Hafod-Morfa Copperworks site, while creating innovative new spaces for local businesses, job opportunities for local people and better links between the site and the city centre.”
The £20 million project was one of 11 in Wales which came up trumps and shared £208 million in the latest round of Levelling Up Fund handouts.
Swansea Council had submitted a bid to support a planned large-scale regeneration of land north of Oystermouth Road up to St Mary’s Church, but it wasn’t successful. Neither were bids to improve infrastructure on Fabian Way and boost Port Eynon, Gower, as a visitor destination.
The Conservative Government’s Levelling Up Fund is now in its third year, with £3.8 billion allocated over two rounds to scores of UK projects. A further round has been confirmed.
There has been criticism of where some of the money goes – and Cllr Stewart reacted to a newspaper article of a £19 million award to a project in Rishi Sunak’s Richmond constituency in Yorkshire by tweeting: “It can’t be levelling up if money is directed to areas like this.”
Swansea Conservatives leader, Cllr Lyndon Jones, welcomed the £20 million coming the city’s way.
“This is a significant investment in Swansea by the UK Government and is great news for local people, providing facilities for them to enjoy, as well as new job opportunities,” he said. “It will also be a big boost for the tourist industry.” He added: “Sadly, as with all funding opportunities, not all bids were successful, but those will need to be re-worked and a new bid put in.”
Opposition group leader, Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Holley, said he too was glad of the £20 million award, but he felt what Swansea really needed was investment to create well-paid manufacturing jobs and better transport infrastructure.
He felt Swansea and South West Wales was being turned into a “theme park”, and that the Levelling Up Fund was a way “to pacify the electorate” and make Conservative MPs “feel good about themselves”.
Levelling Up money focuses in particular on transport projects, town and city regeneration, and cultural investment. Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said the latest funding would revitalise areas which had historically been overlooked.
“This new funding will create jobs, drive economic growth, and help to restore local pride,” he said.
Carmarthenshire Council had significant success first time round by securing funding for a new community hub at the former Debenhams store in Carmarthen, and money for the Towy Valley cycle path linking Carmarthen and Llandeilo. But it didn’t receive any of the latest money.