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Affordable housing agreement signed as part of Swansea regeneration

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Swansea Council has signed an agreement with Pobl Group, Wales’ largest Registered Social Landlord, to manage 33 affordable apartments as part of Phase One of the Copr Bay regeneration project.

The £135 million mixed-use scheme is one of several imaginative developments within an ambitious £1 billion city-wide programme, making it one of the largest urban transformations currently underway in Europe.

Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council, with Amanda Davies, Group Chief Executive of Pobl Group at the site of the Copr Bay development (Image: Swansea Council / Pobl)

Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council, commented: “When complete, the combined regeneration projects across Swansea will collectively generate a boost of an additional £128m for the local economy.

“Copr Bay Phase One will create more than 2,000 new jobs during construction and from opening. We expect at least 70 per cent of these to be filled by local people.”

Robert Francis-Davies, Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, added: “This scheme is helping us realise our ambitious plans for jobs, economic benefit, and homes within an appealing and sustainable environment.”

Pobl is a not-for-profit organisation that has over 15,000 homes under its management across Wales. The group currently has 36 developments ongoing with the construction of 1,234 homes in progress.

In Swansea, Pobl’s development of 52 apartments in Orchard House is scheduled for completion in March, while it is anticipated that the innovative Biophilic Living scheme, which will see 50 apartments built on the site of the old Woolworth store, will get underway in the spring. Work is about to commence on a collaborative project with Coastal Housing to develop a new community of 144 zero carbon homes to the west of the city. 

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All the apartments in Copr Bay Phase One will be affordable homes, targeted at those working in Swansea city centre, particularly key workers. Funded by Pobl Group and the Welsh Government, the homes will consist of 13 one-bed apartments for up to two people, and 20 two-bedroom apartments for up to three people. Copr Bay Phase One is being funded by Swansea Council, and is centred around a 3,500-capacity live performance arena and conference centre which is part-funded by the Swansea Bay City Deal, a £1.3 billion investment fund set-up for major transformation projects in this region of South Wales. The arena will be operated by the global leader in live theatre, The Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG).

Copr Bay, the newly revealed permanent name for the development previously called ‘Swansea Central’, uses the Welsh spelling for copper to herald the city’s world-leading contribution during the industrial revolution, and celebrates its world-famous coastline. It will bring together culture, entertainment and leisure, and links the city centre to the marina and the expansive sandy beach via a new statement bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, combining improved permeability with iconic design.

As well as the coastal park and bridge, the scheme includes a 3,500-capacity live performance arena and conference centre, a hotel with up to 150-rooms, further restaurants, spacious public realm and the new homes. The scheme is being delivered by Swansea Council working with development manager RivingtonHark, one of the leading city and town centre real estate transformation specialists.

Amanda Davies, Group Chief Executive of Pobl Group, said: “The Copr Bay development is an important addition to the city. It is within the city centre’s Castle ward that has a strong need for more affordable housing and emphasises the Council’s commitment to address the accommodation needs of the region. The new homes are in a great location, close to the new coastal park, and will provide much needed quality accommodation for the local community.”

Swansea Council aims to double the city’s green infrastructure over the next ten years, including a ‘green artery’ that will connect Swansea Station to the beach and the marina through planting and soft interventions, including Copr Bay’s 1.1-acre coastal park.

The scheme adheres to the Well-Being of Future Generations Act. This law, unique to Wales, requires public bodies to consider the long-term impact of decisions to reduce poverty, health inequalities and climate change.  This underpins Swansea Council’s goal to be a net carbon zero organisation by 2030, and an ambitious vision for the city to be net carbon zero by 2050, a target that was agreed by the council’s cabinet in November 2020.

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The new coastal park is the first park to be built in the city since the Victorian age and will provide attractive green spaces plus facilities for outdoor events. It will extend the green artery in the city, creating a home for local wildlife and a place for local residents to relax. Plans are in-hand for WIFI across the scheme, including throughout the coastal park, making it ideal for the growing trend of remote working.


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Construction

Construction tips for pupils at Copr Bay visit

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Pupils from Swansea’s Pentrehafod Comprehensive School have visited the city’s Copr Bay phase one development to see progress on site with their own eyes.

The year ten and 11 pupils, who are ambassadors for a business class that Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd runs with the school, saw how features of the scheme including Swansea Arena and the new coastal park are coming along.

Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd leads on the construction of the £135m Copr Bay phase one project, which is being developed by Swansea Council and advised by development managers RivingtonHark.

The business class visit was the latest of a number to the site, where pupils take photos of changes, learn more about the construction industry and report back to their classmates on latest developments.

Representatives from Swansea Council, Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd and Careers Wales were also present at the visit.

Young people from Pentrehafod School with representatives from Swansea Council, Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd and Careers Wales (Image: Swansea Council)

A spokesperson for the Pentrehafod School business class said: “It was incredible to experience what it would be like to work on a building site. 

 “It was also amazing to get to see how much progress has been made since the first visit.”

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “The Copr Bay phase one district is for the people of Swansea, so it was a pleasure to welcome these local schoolchildren on site where they could see up-close the huge amount of progress that’s been made in recent months.

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“It’s their generation who will benefit from facilities like the arena and coastal park for many years to come, but these visits also enable an insight into the construction industry at a time when there is so much redevelopment on-going to transform our city into one of the UK’s best places to live, work, study and visit.

“Visits like these can inspire the next generation of construction professionals by showing how school subjects can equip our young people with the skills needed to progress into the industry.”

Young people from Pentrahafod School are shown around the new Arena site (Image: Swansea Council)

Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd was recently shortlisted for the Best Ongoing Relationship with a School Award at the Careers Wales Valued Partner Awards.

Susan Jones, Major Projects Social Value Manager at Buckingham, said: “It has been a pleasure working with Pentrehafod School over the past two years. Having applied for their positions, 14 pupils were selected to become Buckingham Ambassadors on Copr Bay phase one.  They have proven to be excellent ambassadors, working with myself and the site team, monitoring progress throughout the build of this iconic project.”

Construction of Copr Bay phase one will be complete later this year, with the arena, to be run by the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), opening its doors in early 2022.

Copr Bay phase one also includes new apartments, the new bridge over Oystermouth Road, new car parking and new spaces for leisure and hospitality businesses.

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The arena feature of Copr Bay phase one is being part-funded by the Swansea Bay City Deal as part of the Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District project that also includes the new office development soon being constructed at 71/72 The Kingsway.

The bridge over Oystermouth Road is part-funded by the Welsh Government’s Active Travel fund.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Property

Minister launches ‘Ending Homelessness Action Plan’ with new funding for private rented sector to play their part

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The Welsh Government say their commitment to end homelessness will be made clear in the Senedd later today as Climate Change Minister Julie James launches the Ending Homelessness Action Plan.

The Minister, who says that when homelessness occurs it should be ‘rare, brief and unrepeated’, will also announce a new £30million funding pot over five years for local authorities. 

Under the Private Rented Sector Leasing Scheme, private property owners will be encouraged to lease their properties to local authorities in return for a rent guarantee and additional funding to improve the condition of their property.

Local authorities can then use these properties to provide affordable and good quality homes for people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness.

Tenants will benefit from the security of long-term tenures of between five to 20 years and help to maintain their stay in a long-term home, such as mental health support or debt and money management advice.

This sits alongside the Welsh Government’s ambitious plan to build 20,000 low carbon, good quality and affordable homes for rent over the next five years.

The Homelessness Action Plan builds on the unprecedented work undertaken by local authorities, social landlords, public services and third sector partners, who have provided accommodation and support for more than 15,000 people experiencing or threatened with homelessness during the pandemic.

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The Plan has been shaped by the recommendations of the independent expert Homelessness Action Group, reflecting the changes required to prevent homelessness and make the shift to rapid rehousing so that people are in temporary accommodation for the shortest possible time.

The plan makes clear the need to prevent the problems that lead to homelessness from happening in the first place so homelessness can finally be ended in Wales.

The causes of homelessness extend well beyond access and availability of affordable homes. Ending homelessness is a cross-sector, cross-government priority relevant to health, social services, education, criminal justice, community services and our wider economy.

All this is recognised within the Action Plan, as is the need for wide-reaching legislative and policy reform.

Yesterday the Minister met Jonathan Lewis, 42, from Swansea. Jonathan has overcome huge challenges throughout his childhood, teenage and adult life and has finally been able to find and thrive in a secure home.

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As an adult, Jonathan found himself sofa surfing or sleeping in his car for extended periods of his life.

After receiving a network of support, Jonathan now lives in a good quality and affordable one bedroom home rented to him by Caredig, and works full-time for the Wallich, helping homeless people like he once was, into supported housing.

Jonathan says: “The last few years have been the hardest and most rewarding I have ever had.

“I’ve never had a house, I’ve never had my own property – it’s given me the push I needed – it’s given me something I don’t want to lose. Someone has put that trust in me, that I’m worthy enough to have something decent in life.

“I pinch myself that I’ve come from a bedsit to something so beautiful. I used to sofa surf or sleep in my car, but now I have my own home. And I pay for this with the money I earn. It makes me really proud. I keep it spotless!

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“In my new job I support people in the situation that I’ve also been in, to show them that life can be different and here’s how to make it better. I just want to help people like I’ve been helped.”

Minister for Climate Change Julie James said: “Meeting Jonathan today – who really is an inspiration – just shows the importance to every-one of a decent, affordable and stable home. As well as all the hard work Jonathan has put in, services have worked together to give him the support he needs. This means Jonathan is now in a good position to provide this support to others facing hardship and potential homelessness.

“I want to say thank you again for the extraordinary work of those working in homelessness and housing support services across local authorities, registered social landlords and the third sector. Each and every day they work to help and support those without a home.  They transform lives, they offer hope and they have undoubtedly saved many lives throughout this pandemic. They should be proud of all they have done and continue to do. My priority now is to build on our successes to prevent homelessness and ensure that when it does, it is rare, brief and unrepeated”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “It was a privilege to meet Jonathan today and hear how after being supported into his own home, he has truly flourished. Everyone should have that same opportunity, so we welcome this bold and vital plan to end homelessness in Wales. 

“The Welsh Government-led response to the pandemic has not only delivered decisive action to prevent and reduce homelessness during the public health emergency but has laid strong foundations for ensuring the long-lasting, positive impact of the progress made over recent years.  

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“This plan rightly recognises that the work done to ensure no one is left out of support must continue, as must the joined-up approach across services in ending homelessness as a public health issue. It shows how we can put the measures in place to prevent homelessness wherever possible and respond as quickly as possible when people lose their homes. We look forward to working with the Welsh Government, councils, health services and other charities in putting it into action.”

Liz Green, Consultant in Public Health, Policy and International Health at Public Health Wales, and co-author of new Health Impact Assessment report, ‘No place like home?’, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic, and measures to reduce transmission of the virus, has had many wide-ranging impacts on the population of Wales, and has led to many people spending more time in their homes, highlighting the importance of good quality, affordable and secure housing.

“The need for security in relation to having, and keeping, a home and being surrounded by a safe and consistent home environment, and its impact on both physical and mental health and well-being has long been recognised. During times of uncertainty, such as in the COVID-19 pandemic, a home can provide a secure and stable base for individuals and households in order to help them live and work through and ultimately recover from the pandemic and its effects.

“The action plan will be timely for tackling inequalities, particularly those exacerbated by the pandemic.”

Jonathan’s Story

Jonathan Lewis, 42

Jonathan had a shaky start in life. His much-loved ‘Nana’, who he lived with alone, sadly passed away when Jonathan was just seven. He then experienced domestic violence within his family home at a young age.

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He was exposed to shoplifting and petty crime in his day-to-day life growing up. Jonathan’s step-dad even used to take him on outings to break into cars at night. Though he says he has fond memories [aged eight] of eating beans on toast in the police station with his brother after his step-dad had been arrested, he ponders over how it all felt ‘completely normal’ to him at the time.

Jonathan put himself into care at 12 years old when home became ‘too much to handle’. As a result of this early trauma, he started using drugs.

At aged 15, Jonathan was sent to a young offenders’ institute for the first time.

Though Jonathan had briefly settled at aged 20 to have children, without support to address his early trauma he continued to use drugs to numb the pain of his past.

His mental ill health resulting from his past trauma were further compounded by homelessness, as he found himself sofa surfing and sleeping in his car. He was at an all-time low aged 30. Jonathan turned to heroin to self-medicate, resulting in further offending- for which Jonathan is very remorseful- and a longer spell in prison.

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In prison, Jonathan worked hard, with access to support, to turn his life around. He signed up to a twelve-step drugs recovery programme and soon gained qualifications after taking part in cookery and other courses that were offered to him.

On leaving prison, Jonathan was helped to access supported housing for people dealing with past trauma and mental ill health, and picked up work here and there in kitchens and on building sites.

In 2018, Jonathan was given the keys to his new home. A one-bedroom property leased to him by Caredig.

Thanks to his determination, access to stable housing and support to address his early trauma, he’s been able to turn his life around.

Now, Jonathan works full-time for The Wallich, where he helps people experiencing homelessness, just like he did, into a permanent home, with the support they need to fulfil their potential.

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Jonathan says: “The last few years have been the hardest of my life as I’ve had to mentally adjust. I don’t have drugs to numb the pain anymore so I have to face head on what has happened to me and the impact I have had on others too. They’ve been the hardest but the most rewarding I have ever had.

“I’ve never had a home, I’ve never had my own property – it’s given me the push I needed – it’s given me something I don’t want to lose. Someone has put that trust in me, that I’m worthy enough to have something decent in life.

“I pinch myself that I’ve come from a bedsit to something so beautiful. I used to sofa surf or sleep in my car, but now I have my own home. And I pay for this with the money I earn. It makes me really proud. I keep it spotless!

“In my new job I support people in the situation that I’ve also been in, to show them that life can be different and here’s how to make it better. I have so much thanks for all the people that have given me a chance, trusted and enabled me to turn my life around. Now I just want to help people like I’ve been helped.”

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Business

Swansea estate agency scoops silver at leading industry awards ceremony

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Belvoir Swansea has scooped Silver within the Welsh Agency of the Year category at the UK-Wide Negotiator Awards 2021.

The Award Ceremony, which is the pinnacle for UK residential agencies, recognises the innovative agencies that go above and beyond for customers and communities; with this year’s awards focussing on adaptability during COVID-19.

Belvoir Swansea achieved the award following its most successful year to date (2020-21) since launching the business in 2010.

During what was a challenging time for businesses across the country, Belvoir bucked the trend and opted to further invest in the business. In September 2020, it opened its third office in the heart of Sketty, in November 2020, it re-located its Castle Street office to Swansea Marina, and relocated its Mumbles office in July 2021 to a more prominent location at 101b Newton Road.

Ben Davies, Managing Director of Belvoir Swansea, said: “It was an honour to win Silver. We were up against another six excellent agencies from across Wales, so we were really blown away to have won. The past 18 months has been difficult for businesses of all sizes and nature, so to win silver in such challenging times means even more to us.

“We have grown significantly over the past 11 years. We began as a husband-and-wife duo in our Castle Street office, and now employ 18 members of staff across three prime locations in Swansea. In that time, we have expanded our offer from just lettings to sales and have a brilliant portfolio of properties across the whole of Swansea.

“I’ve lived in Swansea my whole life and I am passionate about supporting the causes that mean a lot to our clients and the local community; from supporting local schools and sports clubs, to raising money for Action for Children.

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“We look forward to growing the business further across the coming years and look forward to experiencing the changing face of Swansea, as the redevelopments take shape across the city. It will undoubtedly attract more businesses and residents, which can only be a positive for the region.”

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