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Griffiths announced as contractor for major Wind Street improvements

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South Wales contractor Griffiths is to undertake Swansea Council’s work to make the city centre Wind Street a more family-friendly environment.

The well respected firm was selected by the council in a competitive tender process and is due to start redevelopment work shortly in line with government pandemic guidelines.

Griffiths stepped in to work on the council’s widely praised Kingsway infrastructure scheme in 2019 after the original main contractor went into administration. That project is nearing completion.

Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “I’m pleased that a Welsh firm will carry out our Wind Street transformation.

“We’ve worked closely with Griffiths over the years to deliver a range of highways maintenance and improvement programmes as part of the Swansea Highways Partnership; we know they’ll do a great job in Wind Street.

“We want Wind Street to be a family-friendly, high quality hospitality environment.

“Planning work has continued through the pandemic; this has included consultation with traders and with environmental, disability and residents’ representatives.

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“Our reimagining of Wind Street is a key element in our £1bn transformation of the city centre. Work that’s already well advanced on locations such as Copr Bay and The Kingsway – and our plans for other significant city centre locations – means that Swansea will lead the way out of the pandemic.”

Griffiths project manager Leighton Rees said: “Griffiths is delighted to continue being part of the regeneration of Swansea. We look forward to transforming Wind Street over the coming months.”

Russell Greenslade, chief executive of Swansea BID, said: “This is very welcome news in the latest stage of Swansea city centre’s regeneration journey. Swansea BID has worked very closely with the council to help deliver this project and drive change in this part of the city, improving the economy and vibrancy of the area.

“We are constantly striving, on behalf of our BID area businesses, to assist Swansea Council in its regeneration of the city centre to develop more vibrancy and attract more footfall.

“We are proud to see plans like these come to fruition and we will continue to work in partnership with the council on such projects to attract new investment to the city, whilst supporting our existing, much valued BID businesses through the regeneration process as much as we can.”

The Wind Street project will see the street become more accessible to pedestrians and more attractive to businesses wishing to trade outdoors.

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The aim is for Wind Street to be a family-friendly all-day café quarter with traffic restricted to 7-11am for business loading only.

This means that the street will be free of vehicles during the daytime and evening trading periods.

Transformation work, to be carried out through this year will include green-landscaped new entrances to the street.

Existing natural stone paving and kerbs will be taken up and re-used. Stone will be laid in a way that reduces future maintenance costs.

The re-use of existing footway material will reduce the need for new materials, making the project more sustainable and reducing its carbon footprint.

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The road will be brought up to the same level as the pavement to improve accessibility for all and to provide a flexible space for events and other activities. There will be new greenery and informal seating.

To help those with mobility issues, there will be a clear accessible route close to the new outdoor trading areas.

A new blue badge parking/dropping area will be created in Salubrious Passage, which will also benefit from new lighting.

Advance work already undertaken includes tree management that makes the area’s historic architecture more visible. More light now reaches pedestrians and people in the buildings. New street lights have been installed and new coloured pea-lights on trees now provide a vibrant backdrop to the street’s seasonal activities and activity through the year.

Funding sources include the council’s capital budget and the Welsh Government’s Targeted Regeneration Initiative.

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To allow the work to be undertaken swiftly and to offer construction personnel a welfare area and compound, the nearby Worcester Place car park will temporarily close for the duration of the works.

Other council-managed parking is available nearby on-street and at car parks in The Strand, Park Street and Pell Street.

Lead image: Marking the appointment of the Wind Street project’s main contractor are, from left: Russell Greenslade, chief executive of Swansea BID; Leighton Rees, Griffiths project manager; Carwyn Davies, Griffiths contract manager; Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism. (Swansea Council)


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Welsh and UK Governments agree to establish Freeports in Wales

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The Welsh Government has reached agreement with the UK Government on the establishment of Freeports in Wales.

Welsh Ministers have agreed to support Freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement to meet the Welsh Government’s demands that UK Ministers provide at least £26m of non-repayable starter funding for any Freeport established in Wales, which represents a parity with the deals offered to English Freeports.

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The UK Government have agreed to meet a number of other demands – including that both Governments will act on the basis of a ‘partnership of equals’ to deliver any Freeports in Wales.

In addition, both Governments have agreed a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated clearly it will operate in a manner that aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work and environmental sustainability, including the commitment to Wales becoming a net-zero carbon nation.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Following considerable engagement between our Governments, I’m pleased we have been able to reach agreement with UK Ministers to establish Freeports in Wales. The agreement we have reached is fair to Wales, and respects the Welsh Government’s responsibilities in devolved policy areas.

“However, we have made it clear to the UK Government that a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated, using robust evidence and analysis, that it will support our fair work agenda and deliver long-term, sustainable benefits for Wales, and value for money for Welsh taxpayers.

“I very much hope that the UK Government’s willingness to work with the Welsh Government as equals on Freeports can provide a positive model for future co-operation between our governments on other initiatives.”

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The UK Government’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said: “I am delighted that Wales is the latest area in the UK set to benefit from a new Freeport.

“The UK Government’s ambitious Freeports agenda will help to level up our coastal communities and create new opportunities for people right across the country.

“Together with the Welsh Government, I look forward to seeing innovative proposals come forward that demonstrate tangible benefits for the people of Wales.”

In addition, Welsh and UK Ministers have agreed that the UK Government will provide tax incentives for Freeports in Wales in parity with Freeports in other parts of the United Kingdom for the reserved taxes that have been designated to advance the policy aims. The Welsh Government will design tax reliefs from local and devolved taxes (Non-Domestic Rates and Land Transaction Tax) to support the policy aims.

Both Governments say they will remain open to the possibility of a multi-site Freeport in Wales. In recognition of Wales’ unique economic geography and the Welsh Government’s aspirations for economic development in Wales, the UK Government is willing to relax the 45 km boundary limit for a multi-site Freeport solution, should there be a sufficiently compelling case for doing so.

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Both Governments will also remain open to the possibility of allowing more than one Freeport in Wales, should they be presented with a sufficiently compelling business case.

As with English Freeports, a fair and open competitive process will be used to determine where the policy should be implemented in Wales. Both Governments will work together to co-design the process for Freeport site selection, and both will have an equal say in all decisions throughout the implementation process. This includes the final decision on site selection.

Both Governments have begun the process of designing the bid prospectus for the competition and further details about the timing of next steps will be released in due course.

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Swansea digital agency iCreate enters the metaverse with bespoke digital environments

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Swansea-based creative agency iCreate is entering the metaverse by creating 3D visual environments for Dubai-based NFT boutique Jumi – a new outlet for curated digital art.

The metaverse hit the headlines last year when Facebook’s parent company rebranded to Meta, reflecting the growing potential of the internet to offer an interactive virtual world through AI and 3D digital animation.

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The metaverse offers social connection through technology, interaction with brands and businesses, and online recreation.

It encompasses everything from online video games to virtual shops where you can digitally try on items before you buy them, and bespoke venues for online events of all kinds.

It’s expected to expand into an online world where people will have their own virtual avatars which they take from one virtual environment to another, purchasing virtual products for them and housing them in virtual homes.

This is where iCreate – which specialises in creating digital environments – comes in. The company provides CGIs, 3D flythrough animations, VR tours and marketing brochures to the off-plan property sector.

From interactive, customisable home interiors that enable buyers to plan every detail of their dream home, through to large-scale digital animations of new housing developments, iCreate is adept at creating virtual environments that look and feel like the real thing.

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Now it’s teaming up with Jumi and other partners to create digital environments that will never be built in the real world, but will exist in the metaverse, where people’s avatars can explore and socialise in them.

A key aspect of the metaverse is non-fungible tokens (NFTs): digital assets that can be bought and traded. These are increasingly hitting the headlines as everyone from independent artists to big brands creates and sells digital-only products, music, artwork and more.

Dawn Lyle (right) and the team at iCreate

Jumy, which completed a $1.2M seed funding round last year, is the ultimate NFT boutique marketplace for exclusive digital art. All artworks are curated from the world’s most creative digital artists, to guarantee outstanding quality.

The platform is the world’s first to offer a fully integrated digital art experience where visitors will be able to purchase pieces with payment cards, trade their NFTs, order NFT frames (digital frames for NFT art) and flex their NFTs on metaverse – all in one place.

By collaborating with Jumi, iCreate will make beautiful, exclusive digital environments for displaying NFTs in the metaverse. From here, it’s expected that a new market in bespoke virtual homes and offices will develop over the coming years, as more aspects of all our lives are lived in the metaverse.

Dawn Lyle, iCreate’s co-founder, said: “We’re delighted to have formed this new partnership with Jumi and to be taking our bespoke digital environments into the metaverse.

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“The metaverse offers such a wealth of possibilities, and over the coming years it will become increasingly common to play, meet and do business with people all over the world in virtual settings.

“We’re excited to be creating stunning digital environments in which these activities can take place; in the metaverse, there are no limitations and it’s possible to bring dreams to life, creating astonishing virtual places that delight and surprise. It gives us the opportunity to put all our creative skills to use in exciting new ways and we can’t wait to get started.”

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River Island launches its brand new Swansea concept store this weekend

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Fashion chain River Island is revealing its brand new concept store at Morfa Retail Park in Swansea on Saturday (7 May).

Located at the former New Look store at Unit 6 on the Brunel Way shopping centre, the new store is just a few doors down from its previous outlet, although promises to be an even bigger and better boutique shopping experience.

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Located across two floors, the 8,253 square foot store has been specially curated to the tastes of Swansea shoppers according to the fashion chain.

Set across one level, womenswear will occupy just over half the space, with the remainder split between menswear and kidswear, stocking kids, mini and baby.

To celebrate the new opening, River Island will be hosting a launch event weekend in-store on the 7th and 8th of May, where shoppers can expect to hear celebratory sounds with in-store DJ sets, whilst the first lucky 100 customers through the doors will receive a £10 gift card which can be redeemed in-store or online.

Frances Baker, River Island Property Director said: “River Island is thrilled to be relocating and open ing a new boutique store in Swansea, Morfa as part of our segmentation programme.

“We are excited to introduce our concept store to our existing loyal customers, with exciting opportunities to acquire new customers with our new look-and-feel store.”

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River Island say the store upgrade strengthens its 300 strong estate and solidifies its message of “standing by the high street”, a campaign set up in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to show solidarity with other high street brands negatively hit by the effects of the pandemic.

The fashion chain say that by investing in finding ways to encourage and entice customers to return to in-person shopping it hopes to “enhance and improve the shopping journey for its customers”.

(Lead image: River Island)

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