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New images show plans for greener Castle Square Gardens

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A greener, more welcoming future for a major Swansea focal point could move a big step closer next week

Swansea Council’s cabinet is set to discuss a smart new concept for the city centre Castle Square Gardens – one that introduces more greenery, fun and reasons to visit.

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Public consultation this year saw 95% of people back a council concept for a space with more trees, grass and other greenery.

A detailed design has since been drawn up – and this will be presented to the cabinet on December 16.

Members will be asked to commit capital finance funds to support the development over the next two years.

If members agree to funding, the plans will go through a formal planning process next summer. This will be another chance for the public to have their say.

An artist’s impression of the new greener Castle Square Gardens (Image: Swansea Council / iCreate)

If plans are approved, the new gardens could be in use by late 2023. The upgrade forms part of Swansea’ £1bn regeneration, linking in with the new-look Kingsway and Wind Street, with Copr Bay and with other forthcoming multi-million pound schemes in locations such as the Civic Centre site.

Together, they will see thousands of jobs retained and created in the city centre and Swansea become a place where more people want to live, work, study and spend quality free time.

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The city centre will also benefit from the newly launch PSPO (public space protection order) which helps to tackle antisocial behaviour.

An artist’s impression of the new greener Castle Square Gardens (Image: Swansea Council / iCreate)

The latest plans for Castle Square Gardens show more greenery, with a planting scheme developed to incorporate new trees, green roofs, raingardens, and more accessible landscaped areas. It will reflect the council’s green infrastructure strategy. Biodiversity would increase and existing trees would remain, with new trees planted.

There would be two café-restaurant pavilions, with one in the current stepped area and the other near the Zara shop.

The current water feature will go. Instead, there will be water jet features at ground level.

The council say that central to the design is a highly patterned floor using existing stone plus new granite insets. Modern lighting and digital art features are also planned.

New seating and outdoor dining areas could also be introduced in Temple Street and Princess Way.

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The vision, which the council say takes into account public opinions expressed over the past few years, has been drawn up by respected architects ACME and development managers Spider.

An artist’s impression of the new greener Castle Square Gardens (Image: Swansea Council / iCreate)

Council leader Rob Stewart said: “Our greener, more welcoming Castle Square Gardens will play a key role in Swansea’s big future. This 21st Century concept has a keen eye on the location’s green past.

“People will want to spend more time in Castle Square Gardens, host events there and enjoy its more active, distinctive look.

“It will be much more family friendly – a Castle Square Gardens for the 21st Century.”

Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “Castle Square Gardens will be accessible to all, a pivotal focal point for gatherings.

“The extra greenery will have multi-functional benefits for residents and contribute positively to creating an attractive destination space for visitors.

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“The new water features will mean a new visual attraction and play feature.”

The work would be funded in a number of ways, including from the council budget. Revenue would include income from leases on the food and drink units. The big screen would remain.

(Lead image: Swansea Council / iCreate)

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Education

Council to review Swansea Valley ‘Super School’ decision made by previous administration

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A reprieve could be on the cards for Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg Primary schools as Neath Port Talbot’s new coalition administration say they want to review the decision made to create a new ‘super school’ in Pontardawe.

The new administration says it wants to establish if an alternative way to bring 21st Century School standards to the Swansea Valley can be achieved, which would be more acceptable to the community.

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The decision to establish a new £22.7m English-medium 3-11 school and specialist Learning Support Centre for pupils with a statement of Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Pontardawe to replace Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg Primary schools was taken by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet on October 20th, 2021.

The controversial decision triggered a process of communicating with local schools around the next steps and general planning for the construction of the new school and swimming pool.

A successful tender exercise took place to secure a contractor to begin stage one of a two stage process.

Neath Port Talbot Council say that under its own procurement rules, it says it has been necessary to approve the appointment of the contractor to undertake Stage 1 contract works only, with no obligation on the council to proceed to the second stage. Stage 1 includes developing the design information; carrying out assessments of traffic and site conditions; ground investigations; and obtaining planning approval.

The council say that this first stage contract does not commit them to the construction of the school and pool, with a further contract being entered into at Stage 2, which is the actual construction phase. 

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It adds that allowing stage 1 works to progress will ensure that the opportunities to meet the timescales of the October 2021 decision could still be realised if a review does not highlight any changes are needed to the project.

This will avoid further anxiety for the school staff and families due to unnecessary delays, particularly important for those pupils in Godre’rgraig Primary School who are currently educated in temporary accommodation awaiting the new school.

Neath Port Talbot Council say they will now start discussions with Welsh Government Ministers to establish what information they might require from the council. This will inform the consultation process which the council will undertake with stakeholders.

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Books & Literature

Carmarthenshire author’s Carmarthen Crime series hits the bookshelves

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Ferryside author John Nicholl is celebrating the re-release of his Carmarthenshire-based detective books as the Carmarthen Crime Series.

His new publisher, Boldwood Books – winner of Publisher of the Year in the 2022 Independent Publishing Awards – has repackaged the four books with a strong emphasis on the Carmarthenshire setting and covers depicting local locations including Carmarthen, Dryslwyn Castle and the Tywi Estuary.

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The first two books, The Carmarthen Murders and The Tywi Estuary Killings, are on sale now, with the other two – The Castle Beach Murders and The Dryslwyn Castle Killings to follow soon.

The books focus on DI Gareth Gravel, an accomplished, old-school policeman affectionately known as Grav, who feels out of step with the modern world as he approaches retirement.

“Grav is something of a legend within the West Wales Police Force, liked and respected by the rank and file but not so much by the top brass due to his sharp tongue and a willingness to bend the rules to get results,” says Nicholl, who lives in Ferryside.

“Grav is overweight, loves rugby, drinks too much, particularly since the loss of his wife, and is struggling with chronic health issues. The job matters to him, victims matter to him, and he often goes the extra mile to protect the vulnerable victims of crime, particularly women and children, who he has a strong inclination to protect.”

The books draw on Nicholl’s own experience as a police officer and then as a child protection officer in Carmarthenshire. He started writing fiction after his psychologist recommended it as a way to process traumas he had witnessed during his career, which left him with PTSD.

He self-published his first book and it became an online bestseller; he went on to get signed by a publisher and now has 11 bestsellers behind him. His focus is on crime and the darker side of human nature, with a strong empathy for victims of abuse.

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“The four-book Carmarthen Crime Series, while fictional, draws on my real-life experiences as a police officer and child protection social worker,” he says. “I hope this gives the stories a gritty realism readers will enjoy.”

He adds that he is delighted to see the books republished as the Carmarthen Crime series.

“I grew up, live and write in west Wales, and so I’m delighted my publisher has given the books a strong Welsh identity, with stunning covers featuring some of the beautiful locations I know so very well,” he says.

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Port Talbot

Port Talbot RNLI shop open again for business

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Following refurbishment, visitors to Port Talbot will once again be able to visit the shop located at the lifeboat station at Aberavon seafront.

The shop refit marks the start of a new era. The shop was opened in loving memory of the previous shop manager, Phil Jones, who sadly passed away in early 2021.

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Phil had kept the shop open single-handedly for over twelve years with much success. Phil’s wife and daughter kindly agreed to officially open the new shop on Sunday 12 June when many memories were shared and there were plenty of best wishes for the future.

RNLI shops started out as simple cake stalls run by volunteers to raise money for their local station. Around 1920 commemorative RNLI products were added and shops were selling souvenirs and Christmas cards, all profits helping to save lives at sea.

The RNLI now has over 170 shops around the coast and inland all of which are run by dedicated volunteers: Port Talbot is no exception.

The shop volunteer team has grown since April 2021 from a team of one to thirteen and is also involved with fundraising.

New Shop Manager Kirstee David says: “It has been amazing watching the shop team develop over the last twelve months and to see how passionate the team is about developing what we offer – and about the RNLI!”

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(Lead image: Port Talbot RNLI)

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