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Work is on track on a two-year project to ignite the fortunes of Swansea’s historic Palace Theatre building.

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Since Swansea Council acquired the structure – in a horribly distressed state – in the months before the pandemic struck, officers and partners have made progress to ensure it is ready for a smart overhaul.

The council took action to secure the building for future generations after years of private ownership which saw the building deteriorate. 

Surveys have been carried out, potentially important heritage elements have been safely retrieved, unsound areas of flooring and roofing have been made safe and scaffolding has been put up to offer access.

The dilapidated interior of the Palace Theatre (Image: Swansea Council)

Last month, plans were submitted to see the 132-year-old six-storey structure become home to tech, start-up and creative businesses. If planning permission and listed building consent are granted, the council aims to start the search for a main contractor early in the new year.

The application for planning permission and listed building consent show the building’s structure maintained with the retention and restoration of original historic features and the reinstatement of other historic features.

Remnants of previous life as a nightclub (Image: Swansea Council)

Work will include the reinstatement and restoration of the auditorium balustrading. A section of tiered seating would be retained to form social seating and presentation space, with the ability to accommodate small scale events.

The interior retains the existing floors that look down towards a stage – as theatre audiences once would have done.

The vision for the wedge-shaped grade two listed city centre building includes workspaces for more than 130 people.

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Artists impression of how the Palace Theatre could look (Image: Swansea Council)

The plans have been assisted by the public through the Friends of Place Theatre Group and a dedicated Facebook page and by others through engagement with Welsh historic monuments body Cadw, council officers, the Theatres Trust and the Victorian Society.

On behalf of Swansea Council, GWP Architecture is leading the Palace project.

Funding is being sought from the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Government, via the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns programme.

The Palace Theatre in it’s heyday (Image: Swansea Council)

Council leader Rob Stewart said: “A lot of preparation work has taken place inside the Palace. It was is a terrible state inside but we want to preserve this landmark building for future generations.

“It will be an important part of the city centre’s £1bn transformation over the coming years – and a strong connection with Swansea’s proud cultural past.

“Other work we’re carrying out to protect our heritage includes a multi-million pound project at the Hafod Morfa Copperworks and significant help with a scheme for the Albert Hall.”

Hoardings celebrate theatre’s history and past performers (Image: Swansea Council)

Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “I applaud those who have worked safely and to strict government guidelines at the Palace through the pandemic.

“There is still a long way to go to achieve the new-look Palace but progress so far has been tremendous.”

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The site stands close to Swansea’s High Street Station at the heart of the city centre.

The Palace Theatre staged performances by stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Sir Anthony Hopkins. It was last used 14 years ago as a nightclub. The council bought the building from private owners this year.

If planning permission is granted, transformation work could start next year with it opening in 2022.

The hunt is already on for a lead tenant to run the building – www.bit.ly/PalaceLease.

Recollections of the Palace can be shared with the project’s Facebook page – www.facebook.com/PalaceTheatreRedevelopment/.

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(Lead Image – Palace Theatre hoardings: Swansea Council)


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Charity

Tesco shoppers in Swansea help to provide £1million boost to health

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People in Swansea have been thanked for contributing towards the £1million raised for
three life-saving charities as part of Tesco’s ‘Helping you to live healthier’ initiative.

Tesco customers reached the landmark total for Cancer Research UK, the British Heart
Foundation and Diabetes UK from 13-26 September by rounding up their shop in store to
the nearest £1.

The funds raised will now help the three charities continue their vital work to save and
improve lives.

In addition to the £1million donated, the campaign raised awareness in Swansea about
the importance of people making sustainable lifestyle changes that can help lower their
risk of cancer, heart and circulatory diseases, and type 2 diabetes.

This was done with the help of trusted health information and advice, which was shared
to empower Tesco customers to take small steps to help improve their health.

Oonagh Turnbull, Head of Health Campaigns at Tesco, thanked Tesco shoppers in
Swansea for their generosity, which will make a significant difference to many people’s
lives.

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She added: “It has been inspiring to see our customers really engage with the work we
are doing together, and we hope that we have played a part in raising awareness for
these conditions, as well as life-saving funds.”

The campaign was part of the Health Charity Partnership between Tesco, Cancer
Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK, which aims to inspire and
support Tesco colleagues, customers and their families to make healthier food choices
and live healthier lives.

On behalf of the charity partners , Claire Sadler, Executive Director of Marketing,
Fundraising and Engagement at the British Heart Foundation, said
: “We have been amazed by the incredible generosity of Tesco customers and colleagues
and would like to thank everyone who donated during September.

“Your donations will help to empower millions of people to make healthier choices that
lower their risk of heart and circulatory diseases, cancer, and diabetes. It will also help
our charities provide vital support to millions of people at a time it’s never been more
needed, and it will fund research with the potential to save lives.”

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Swansea

City clock to be back in action soon

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Specialist engineers plan to work on Swansea’s historic Guildhall clock from next week.

They aim to undertake essential maintenance to ensure the timepiece – on the historic building’s prominent tower – is back in action in the coming months.

Swansea Council has been waiting for a number of months for engineers to become available.

Cabinet member and joint deputy council leader David Hopkins said: “We thank people for being patient as we’ve made pandemic actions our priority.

“We’ve also waited for specialists to free up the necessary time to do this important work. It’s important we got the right team in to do the job. There are few of these specialists available and, like all businesses, they’ve been affected by the pandemic.

“The clock means a lot to the people of Swansea – and they’ll be glad to see it once again providing its invaluable service.”

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It is planned that the Cumbria Clock Company will begin work next week. They will first remove hands from clock face; its internal mechanism will also go for factory maintenance.

It’s planned that the clock will be back up and running in good time for Christmas. Access to the Guildhall will not be affected during the work.

The Guildhall opened in 1934. Its innovative design and unique features were widely copied in other municipal buildings during the two decades following its completion and the building has proved to be functional as well as architecturally celebrated.

It has functioned as a focal point of local government and justice, is the focus for civic ceremony and is one of Swansea’s principal centres of social and cultural life.

Lead image: Swansea’s Guildhall and its clock tower. (Image: Swansea Council)

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Clydach

Historic canal route set to welcome more cyclists and walkers

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black and blue bicycle handle bar

An historic canal route in Swansea, already popular with walkers and cyclists, is set to be upgraded.

Swansea Council has secured funding to upgrade a 1.4km section of towpath along Swansea Canal.

The route between Clydach and Pontardawe is already part of the national cycle network (NCN 43) and sees many people using it to walk and travel by bicycle. Overgrown vegetation and an ageing surface under foot has prompted the council to seek further funding to make it more user-friendly.

A £250,000 investment via the Welsh Government Active Travel programme has now been secured and will result in a major upgrade to the route.

Mark Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environment Enhancement and Infrastructure Management, said: “Our aim will be to widen the existing path along the canal and provide an improved surface for walkers and cyclists.

“We will be working with the Canal and River Trust to make this route a safer and an even more popular walking and cycling route. We also want to continue the improvements already completed by the neighbouring local authority along their section, link up with it and maximise the regional benefits.”

The latest funding features as part of a report to the Council’s Cabinet, recommending approval of the scheme along with further investment in walking and cycling infrastructure, totalling £696,000.

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Part of the funding (£245,000) will also help create a new 1.4 km link between the communities of Clydach and Craig Cefn Parc.

Additional investment will be spent on the introduction of locally produced artwork along existing sections of the city’s network.

Cllr Thomas, added: “We’re extremely grateful for the support from the Welsh Government in enabling us to expand and improve our current walking and cycling infrastructure.

“We want more people to consider the options of walking and cycling to travel around Swansea and to use a car less often. Making sure we have good quality routes which link up communities and give people confidence to travel safely is key to achieving this.”

Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with a responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “We know that getting people out of cars for short journeys to cycle or walk is an ambitious agenda, but if we’re to meet our net zero carbon emission target by 2050 we need to take action now.

“Having the right infrastructure in place is key to encouraging more people to feel safe to walk and cycle and that’s why we’ve committed to investing significant funding in active travel this year.”

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(Lead image: Markus Spiske / Pexels.com)

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