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Urban Splash named as Swansea’s £750m city redevelopment partner

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Swansea Council have appointed regeneration company Urban Splash as its preferred development partner for a number of key sites, including the Civic Centre, Swansea Central North and a plot of land running alongside the River Tawe in the St Thomas area of the city.

The Council say early ideas for each site have been proposed, which will now be worked up in more detail before plenty of opportunities for local people to give their feedback and help shape the plans.

The proposals are part of a £750m transformation plan for Swansea and will see new homes and attractions developed along the coast and riverfront.

To be delivered by the private sector, the early proposals include:

  • The transformation of the 23-acre seafront Civic Centre site into a new city waterfront district for Swansea. A mixed-use destination anchored by the beach is proposed, with new homes and a strong leisure and hospitality focus, generous civic spaces and plenty of greenery. Other proposals include a new walkway to the beach and a mix of permanent and seasonal uses and events to create an all-season visitor destination.
  • New office buildings, new apartments for residents and shared workspaces on the 5.5-acre Swansea Central North site located at the former St David’s Shopping Centre site. Capitalising on the major growth across the UK in demand for craft-based goods, space for small creative businesses to make and sell their products could also feature.
  • A residential-led regeneration of a 7.5-acre riverfront site in St Thomas, featuring family homes, apartments, new public spaces and a new terraced river walk providing direct access to the river for the first time in over 150 years.
The Swansea Central North site is adjacent to the emerging Copr Bay development on the site of the former St David’s Shopping Centre and car park (Image: Swansea Council)

The council’s appointment of Urban Splash follows an extensive search for a preferred development partner as part of the Shaping Swansea initiative.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “The appointment of Urban Splash is a significant private sector vote of confidence not just in Swansea’s enormous potential, but also in the huge amount of regeneration work led by the council that’s already happening in the city, including our £135m Copr Bay phase one district. This work has acted as a catalyst to attract a company of Urban Splash’s quality and experience, and is part of a £1bn regeneration story unfolding across Swansea that’s transforming the city into one of the UK’s best places to live, work, study and visit.

“The regeneration of these three key sites will help take Swansea to the next level by creating thousands more jobs for local people, hundreds more new homes for local families and a mixed-use, vibrant city centre destination with the footfall it needs to thrive.

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“Although subject to consultation in future to ensure people’s views are taken on board, the early proposals will help realise these goals, while also giving the stunning Civic Centre site on our world-class bay back to Swansea people and visitors to the city.

“We look forward to working with Urban Splash on further developing these exciting proposals for the people of Swansea to consider, along with ideas on how best to regenerate other key sites forming part of our Shaping Swansea plans.”

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Urban Splash have developed over 60 regeneration projects throughout the UK in the last 25 years. These include the Royal William Yard project in Plymouth where the company has transformed a collection of Grade I and Grade II Listed waterfront structures into apartments, workspaces, galleries, bars and restaurants.

The company is also undertaking the redevelopment of the Grade II Listed Park Hill in Sheffield into a mixed-use cultural quarter, featuring hundreds of homes and workspaces – many of which are complete and fully occupied.

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Jonathan Falkingham MBE, Urban Splash co-founder, is an award-winning architect who helped establish the regeneration company in 1993. He said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working alongside Swansea Council and all of the partners involved in this fascinating project.

“I have a longstanding affiliation with this brilliant city, attending school here in my younger days. I’m pleased to be back in Swansea to help deliver such an exciting new era for the city. We have plans for a world-class environment of great architectural quality, that recognises and enhances the existing historic fabric of the local area and its beautiful location. We hope to achieve this through multi-authorship and partnering with brilliant designers to evolve the most appealing and sustainable designs for each area of this new neighbourhood.”

Tom Bloxham MBE, Urban Splash Chairman, said: “For almost three decades now, Urban Splash has worked hard to transform the fortunes of towns and cities, breathing new life into places through applying great design ideas, and working with the local community to create beautiful buildings and spaces that are sustainable for all.

“We have been really impressed with the ambition and vision of Swansea Council and look forward to working in partnership with this amazing city on the beach, using our experience, capital and resources to strengthen their vision and deliver exceptional living, working and leisure spaces to help more people live well by design.”

Further proposals in future will also cover opportunities to develop other key sites across Swansea.

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Dance

Doctors prescribe dance classes to keep patients on their feet

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet.

Five of the health board’s clusters – groups of GP surgeries working together within a geographical area – are backing the scheme as the exercise to music is proven to aid falls prevention.

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Each class is led by a trained dance teacher with participants encouraged to follow a range of routines, designed to develop their strength and balance, with the option of using a chair for support if their mobility is limited.

The Dance for Health programme is a collaboration between the health board, clusters, local authorities, and Aesop, an arts focused charity.

Alyson Pugh, Programme Manager at Aesop, said: “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the health sector to improve the health and wellbeing of people aged over 65 through the medium of dance.

“During each class participants will move to a variety of music from all around the world. The classes are fun and vibrant, increasing fitness, mobility and strength.

“Afterwards, participants will have a good chance to get to know one another over a cup of tea or coffee. No previous experience is needed, everybody is welcome.”

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So far classes are held in Pontardawe, Morriston, Seven Sisters, Cwmavon and Briton Ferry, Upper Killay, Reynoldston, Mumbles and the Waterfront Museum.

Alyson said: “The health board asked for 12 classes across Swansea Bay and funded the management side while the GP clusters are funding the delivery of the classes. They wanted it to be grass roots up.

“Anyone can walk in but they wanted the main referrals to come from the virtual wards and local area coordinators and social prescribers, a whole community approach.”

Lizzie MacMillan (Image: Swansea Bay HNS)

Dance artist Lizzie MacMillan (left), a development officer for Dance for Health, said: “It’s for older people and people who are struggling a little bit with perhaps balance issues, mobility issues as well, so we are not expecting them to foxtrot along the floor on the first class or anything like that. It builds up over the weeks.

“We start off quite gently, just seeing where everyone is in the class – I like to gauge the class first of all to see if people are having problems with balance or perhaps giddiness or joint problems. I like to get to know each person in the class so that I can look after them and know their capacity for movement.

“We use the chairs quite a lot if someone is unsteady on their feet. They can still do a variation using the chair for support. We also do a standing variation if people are a little fitter or a little bit more able to push themselves further in the class.”

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Over 65s in Swansea Bay are being encouraged to attend dance classes in a bid to keep them on their feet. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Mike Garner, Cwmtawe Cluster lead, said: “We are delighted to be participating in this programme as it fits in perfectly with our goal of improving well-being and helping people remain fit and healthy.”

One participant, Pauline Anderson, said: “I’ve been to four or five classes. I thought I would try it to see what it’s like and it’s been very good.

“As you get older you become more immobile. I’ve been struggling with my knees and joints, so I have found it helpful.

“I would advise anyone thinking about it to just come along.”

Another participant, Betty Didcock, said: “I try to keep active as much as I can. I used to enjoy dancing when I was younger. I’ve made friends here. If you’re a bit shy, it’s a wonderful place to come to get used to talking to people. I’m a quiet one. I don’t always do it right but I have a go.”

While Amber Davies said: “I thought I’d come along to see what it was like. It’s important to keep busy and remain active. It’s also a good way of meeting new people.”

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(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Swansea

Swansea’s popular land train is back – and you can even take your dog for a ride!

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Taking your family for a day out along Swansea prom? Now your four-legged friend can join in the fun too by hitching a ride on the land train!

Officially known as the Swansea Bay Rider, the 72-seater land train runs along Swansea’s prom from Blackpill Lido to Southend Gardens in Mumbles giving passengers an incredible view of Swansea Bay as they travel along.

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Run by Swansea Council, the land train has been a feature of summer holiday trips for many years – whether it’s to soak up the sights in style, or hop on for a relaxing journey after a day of fun in the sun.

But did you know that dogs are allowed on board too?

The council has highlighted the little known fact that four-legged friends are welcome to ride the land train with their owners, as long as they are wearing a lead and are under control.

With more people than ever taking their dog on holiday or on days out, the land train is another fun activity that all the family can enjoy.

The Swansea Bay Rider is also fully accessible to wheelchair users.

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The land train runs every weekend from 23 April to 4 September, and daily during the school holidays between 30 May and 3 June, and again between Friday 15 July and Sunday 4 September.

The 30 minute ride from Blackpill to Southend runs 7 times a day at 10.30am, 11.30am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm from Blackpill.

Return journeys from Southend are at 11am, 12pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm, 4.30pm and 5.30pm.

Can’t get enough of riding the land-train? How about becoming its driver!

Swansea Council are recruiting a land train driver on a zero hours contract for £19,264 per annum (pro-rata). Applications are open until 24 May on the council’s website.

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Books & Literature

Author uncovers the lost tale of Swansea fairground legend

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From Swansea Bliz survivor to fairground strongman – an author discovers his grandfather’s fascinating story as The Welsh Hercules.

In the early half of the 20th Century, Jack Lemm was a household name in Wales. As the Strongman star of fairgrounds and Music Hall, he was famed for his feats of strength, wrestling and his dangerous headlining act, The Whirl of Death.

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Times and entertainment trends change, however, and now the once-famous showman is almost forgotten.

For one man, however, the story of the strongman had special meaning. Glaswegian Steven Blockley had always thought that his Great Grandfather deserved to be better known.

“I never actually met Jack,” he says. “I grew up listening to my uncles and aunts telling fascinating stories about all his incredible achievements around the Swansea area and I always knew I wanted to write a book to bring them to a wider audience. As I dug further into his past, however, even I was surprised by what I found.”

Looking into the background of Jack, Steven and co-author David J Thacker uncovered a rich life story and the perfect antidote to our troubled times.

Steven continues, “Jack lived through some harsh years – he was on HMS Lion at the Battle of Jutland in World War 1 and was a survivor of the Swansea Blitz in the Second World War – but his focus was always to put family first and to provide for everyone at home, even if doing so took him away from them.”

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David takes up the story. “Jack came from a Greek family and his given surname was actually Lamnea, but his exploits on stage and at fairs all over the UK, including at Neath, were not always popular, especially with his authoritarian father.

“A lot of the tension in our book comes from that relationship, of a son trying to live up to the ideals of his father.”

The resulting book, The Welsh Hercules, took over a year to research and write but in doing it Steven found a kind of resolution.

“While we were writing the book, I turned 60. At that age, Jack was still doing 40 shows a day at the fairgrounds and even after he retired, he was helping roadworkers outside his house to fix the roads!

“Age really was just a number for him and I think that’s a great attitude to have.”

The Welsh Hercules tells the story of Jack, from his humble beginnings on Swansea Docks through to becoming a renowned boxing coach and fairground star. It takes him through two World Wars, as a survivor of the Battle of Jutland and the Swansea Blitz, and introduces a whole new world of showmen, acrobats and colourful characters.

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But at its heart, Jack’s story is one of family – of the challenges met, the hearts won and the enduring romance of a Showman and his wife.

The Welsh Hercules is available in paperback on Amazon priced at £11.99

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