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Controversial Welsh Government plan to freeze new road projects to be discussed by climate change and transport panel

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The Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS has announced the Chair and Panel that will be carrying out the Welsh Government’s controversial Roads Review.

The Panel consisting of climate change and transport specialists from across the UK, will be led by Dr Lynn Sloman MBE, a transport consultant based in Wales and board member of Cycling England, who has previously been part of the Lord Burns Commission.

The panel will consist of:

  • Julie Hunt – A Chartered Civil Engineer, Chair of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (Wales) and Chartered Environmentalist.
  • Professor Glenn Lyons – University of the West of England, specialising in Future Mobility.
  • Geoff Ogden – Director of Planning, Development and Advisory Services at Transport for Wales and Chartered Environmentalist.
  • John Parkin – Professor of Transport Engineering and Deputy Director of the Centre for Transport and Society at the University of the West of England.
  • Professor Andrew Potter – Cardiff Business School expert in freight, logistics and operations management.
  • Helen Pye – Carbon-neutral farmer and Head of engagement at Snowdonia National Park Authority with involvement in traffic and parking management.
  • Eurgain Powell – Climate change expert and Transport specialist with the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner.

Following the Welsh Government’s declaration of a climate change emergency, the panel will be asked to consider whether new roads are the right solutions for transport problems, or whether there are alternative sustainable modes of transport that would work better.

The move to freeze road building has been criticised by the Welsh Conservatives as a blow for the recovery of the Welsh Economy after the pandemic.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Transport Minister, Natasha Asghar MS said: “Many roads across Wales are not fit for purpose and have had a damaging impact on our economic fortunes, environment and public safety. Regular traffic jams deter investment and have contributed to Wales having some of the worst air quality in the UK.

“Ministers seem hell-bent on letting our roads deteriorate and forcing everyone onto public transport, despite major doubts over the ability of the network in Wales to cope after years of poor management and under-investment by Labour.

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“Welsh workers and businesses urgently require more information about the scope of the review and the Welsh Labour Government’s long-term intentions for our transport infrastructure.”

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Lee Waters, The Deputy Minister for Climate Change and former chief executive of cycling organisation SUSTRANS said: “Transport generates around 17% of all our emissions, so must play its part if we are to reach our target of net zero emissions by 2050.

“We need to move away from spending money on projects that encourage more people to drive, and redirect this money on maintaining our existing roads and investing in real alternatives.

“We recognise that these decisions throw up tensions, but we have to confront that if we’re going to make a real difference. We’re not saying this is the end of road construction in Wales, but the panel of experts that I have announced today will ensure that this is no longer the default response to a transport problem.

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“Instead money saved by not building new roads will be used to improve existing infrastructure, helping to create new bus and cycle lanes that give people a meaningful alternative choice for travel.”

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Panel chair Dr Lynn Sloman, who is a board member of Cycling England and previously worked as a researcher on science and environmental issues at the House of Commons Library said: “The Panel will bring a wealth of experience and diversity of perspectives to this Review. The climate emergency makes it imperative that we avoid any investment that increases carbon emissions, especially in the next 15 years when most cars on the road will still be petrol and diesel vehicles.

“But we also need to understand the problems that road schemes have been designed to address – whether safety, air quality or unreliability – and consider how those problems can be tackled without increasing carbon.”

The Roads that will be excluded from the Roads Review are:

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  • A465: Dowlais Top to Hirwaun (Sections 5 and 6)
  • A465: Gilwern to Brynmawr (Section 2)
  • A483: Llandeilo
  • A487: Caernarfon to Bontnewydd bypass
  • A487: new Dyfi bridge
  • A494: River Dee bridge
  • A55: Abergwyngregyn to Tai’r Meibion improvements
  • M4: J48 Hendy – Pinch Point scheme

The Panel will provide its final report next summer.

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Construction

Towering crane shows progress at the Palace

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Swansea has a new tall crane on the cityscape, showing that progress is being made on the transformation of the historic Palace Theatre building.

The temporary new landmark is part of work by South Wales-based contractor R&M Williams Ltd on behalf of Swansea Council.

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The 134-year-old grade two listed building is being transformed sensitively into a home to tech, start-up and creative businesses.

The six-storey flatiron-shaped structure was acquired by the council from private owners around two years ago; it had fallen into disrepair and was in danger of being lost.

Work began on site in the autumn and the building could reopen next year. The project is being assisted with funding from the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns programme.

The council has appointed Tramshed Tech as the lead tenant to run the building.

Council leader Rob Stewart said: “It’s great to see another towering crane on Swansea’s skyline – it shows that regeneration here is moving at pace, making Swansea a place where business, families and individuals want to be.

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“This excellent council project will bring new life to one of the city’s most iconic buildings.”

Palace Theatre prior to the start of renovation work starting (Image: Swansea Council)
Artist’s impression of what the interior of the Palace will look like (Image: Swansea Council)

Cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said: “I’m delighted that work on prestigious project is progressing well.”

As a theatre, the Palace staged performances with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

However, under private ownership, it fell into disuse; it became derelict.

It is being transformed sensitively by R&M Williams Ltd who have a track record of working with heritage buildings, including £4m refurbishment projects at the grade two listed Penarth Pier Pavilion and Empire House, an iconic 1920s Cardiff landmark.

Early work being assisted by the crane includes installing a temporary roof.

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This will enable the removal of the existing, dilapidated roof and, in due course, the installation of a new roof. 

The temporary roof will provide protection to the building once the existing roof is removed.

The crane is also assisting with lifting materials to high levels due to the restricted access around the site.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Social Housing provider given go-ahead for two new developments in Margam and Neath

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Tai Tarian has unveiled plans for two major housing developments. 

The Neath Port Talbot-based social housing provider has had the go-ahead to build a total of 77 new homes across two sites. 25 properties will be built at Pant Celydd in Margam whilst a further 52 will be built off Meadow Road in Neath. 

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The Margam development will see a variety of property types built including flats, and family homes. Local builders, CJ Construction will build the properties with work due to start in the spring and expected to take around 18 months to complete. 

At Eaglesbush Valley, just off Meadow Road in Neath, Tai Tarian and their partners Jones Brothers will build a total of 52 new properties, in what is one of the organisation’s biggest developments to date. Once again, the project will consist of a variety of properties, including flats, large family homes and bungalows. 

As with all recent Tai Tarian builds, the new properties will be environmentally friendly, containing features such as high levels of insulation, highly efficient heating systems and integrated solar panels. They will also feature extra ventilation and LED lighting. 

As well as starting work on these two new projects, work is also continuing at five other sites. 

At Sandfields in Port Talbot, a major refurbishment is underway of the County Flats on Aberavon seafront. This landmark project is seeing the housing provider build 55 new flats and completely renovate a further 72. The project will use innovative technology and cutting-edge construction methods to create some of the most sustainable homes in Wales. 

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Elsewhere, work is continuing at Cae Nant Terrace in Skewen and Windsor Road in Neath, whilst developments at Melin Close in Melin and Llys Wern in Caewern are nearing completion.  

Speaking about the new developments, Tai Tarian Chief Executive, Linda Whittaker said: “Building new, sustainable homes for rent is a big part of what we do. Over the past few years, we have built almost 100 homes and I am delighted to see that our programme will be continuing in 2022 with these two new developments. 

“There is a demand for affordable, energy efficient homes and by building a range of houses, flats and bungalows we can ensure that the needs of the people in our communities are met. 

“We are also pleased that local construction companies CJ Construction and Jones Brothers are undertaking these projects. This ensures that as much of our investment as possible remains in the local economy and benefits our communities.  We also know the homes they build will be of the highest quality.” 

(Lead image: Tai Tarian)

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Foundation works start at major new Kingsway office scheme

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Foundations are now being laid for a landmark new net-zero office development that will provide space for 600 jobs at the former Oceana nightclub site in Swansea city centre.

The work will help pave the way for the start of constructing the building’s concrete frame in the coming months as The Kingsway’s transformation takes another step forward.

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Swansea Council is leading on the scheme, with Bouygues UK as main contractor.

Due for completion in the summer of 2023, the five-storey scheme will be carbon zero in operation and worth £32.6 million a year to Swansea’s economy when finished. It will include 114,000 square feet of commercial floor space with flexible co-working and office opportunities for businesses in sectors like tech, digital and the creative industries.

A roof terrace, a new link between The Kingsway and Oxford Street, public access and balconies overlooking the city centre and Swansea Bay will also feature.

The development is part of the Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District project being part-funded by the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay City Deal. It is also supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

To enable the arrival of concrete on site, traffic management will be in place on part of The Kingsway for the next fortnight or so. This will not impact on any of the environmental enhancements introduced there in recent years as part of a major improvement project.

Artist’s impression of the new office building (Image; Swansea Council)

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “This work shows yet another artist’s impression in Swansea will soon be transformed into reality, following-on from a major improvement of The Kingsway that’s created a greener, more pleasant area for business and investment.

“Despite Covid and the trend towards more home working it’s led to, we know there’s still a major demand for high-quality office space of this kind in Swansea – a working environment that’s fit for modern times by combining co-working opportunities and flexibility with the kind of digital connectivity businesses need to thrive.

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“We also know businesses in sectors like digital and tech have had to leave Swansea in the past to find the office space they need, so this development will help address that in future while also creating more footfall and spending for our city centre businesses.”

An online event was also held last month, giving local businesses the opportunity to find out more about work packages forming part of the development in areas like tiling, flooring, masonry, landscaping and specialist joinery.

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “As well as further improving the city centre and retaining business talent, this new office development will also boost the local economy through benefits for supply chain businesses in the local area.

“As building work gathers pace, construction workers on site will also benefit the city centre because of the money they’ll be spending in our shops, restaurants, pubs and other businesses, with this development also acting as a catalyst for further investment, jobs and opportunities for local people.”

John Boughton, Regional Managing Director of Bouygues UK, said: “We are thrilled to be working alongside Swansea Council in the construction of Kingsway.

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“This innovative, landmark and sustainable building aligns so closely to our climate ambitions with its bold ambition to be net-zero in operation. In addition it gives us the opportunity to engage with the local community and offer social value initiatives to help regenerate Swansea city centre.

“We are so excited to be laying the foundations of what promises to be an extremely valuable addition to the city.”

Access to businesses nearby will be maintained throughout the construction works. Temporary surfacing has been deliberately laid in front of the development site, with permanent paving to be installed there once main construction work has finished.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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