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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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Swansea

Kevin Johns nominated for Honorary Freedom of Swansea

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Swansea icon and panto star Kevin Johns MBE is set to get Honorary Freedom of the City – oh, yes he is!

Mr Johns is being honoured for his charity work and for being one of our city’s best-known ambassadors. A report going to Full Council next week will ask councillors to endorse the proposal.

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If they do Mr Johns will follow Catherine Zeta Jones, rugby legend Alun Wyn-Jones and a host of others who’ve had the honour down the years.

Rob Stewart, Leader of the Council, said: “Kevin Johns is one of Swansea’s best-known and best-loved characters.

“Kevin has used his profile to support many local charities and promote our city to others. While he’s in the public eye a lot, there’s also much Kevin does behind the scenes to support people in need and that’s one of the reasons why he deserves this accolade so much.

Cllr Stewart said: “Kevin was panto dame at the Grand Theatre this year and he’s been the show’s biggest star for many years.

“He’s a fixture at the Liberty Stadium on Swans match days and is a brilliant broadcaster.  

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“When we celebrated our city’s 50th anniversary a couple of years ago it was Kevin who topped the public poll to name our Swansea Icon. That just goes to show how popular he is in his home city.”

Kev Johns receiving the Swansea Icon Award as part of the city’s 50th anniversary celebrations (Image: Swansea Council)

While Mr Johns is probably best-known for his starring roles at the Grand Theatre panto, he’s also played leading roles with the Wales Theatre Company and the Fleullen Theatre Company.

He was also directed by Michael Sheen in the National Theatre of Wales’s production of The Passion, appearing as the MC of the Last Supper.

As a supporter of many local charities, Mr Johns is president or patron of Swansea-based charities including the Rising Starts Theatre Company, Swansea Male Chor and Friends of Stepping Stones.

He was awarded an MBE for his services to charity in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2010 and collected his medal from Her Majesty The Queen at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

If Council approves the proposal, a ceremonial event will take place at a later stage to celebrate the honour.

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Mr Johns will follow in the footsteps of people like President Jimmy Carter, composer Sir Karl Jenkins MBE and football great Chris Coleman. Others to have been honoured include HMS Cambria, HMS Scott, The Welsh Guards and, most recently, the Swansea branch of the Merchant Navy Association.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Business

Covid grant scheme for Swansea businesses that don’t pay business rates

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photo of black cab on cobblestone road

An emergency grant scheme is now available for Swansea businesses in the leisure, tourism, hospitality and retail sectors that do not pay business rates.

Funded by the Welsh Government and run by Swansea Council, the Emergency Business Fund grant scheme is aimed at helping support businesses impacted by current Covid restrictions which are not eligible for the Economic Resilience Fund.

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Covering business impacted from Monday December 13 to Monday February 14, online applications are now open which cover two levels of grant award:

  • A £1,000 cash grant payment for hospitality, tourism, retail, leisure or related supply chain businesses which do not employ anyone apart from the owner, and do not have a property
  • A £2,000 cash grant payment for hospitality, tourism, retail, leisure or related supply chain businesses who employ staff through PAYE (in addition to the owner)

Also covering freelancers in the creative sector, both these grants are aimed at supporting businesses with an annual turnover of less than £85,000.

Businesses which may be eligible are asked to visit https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales/businesssupport where the Business Wales eligibility checker must be completed before applicants are able to access the application form.

All applications must be submitted by 5pm on Monday February 14.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “It’s important all businesses in Swansea impacted by the current Omicron restrictions have access to financial support, with this latest grant scheme aimed at supporting many businesses that may not be eligible for the other support schemes already in place.

“We’re doing all we can as a council to assist our business community during these extremely challenging times, with more than £150m having been allocated to provide support since the onset of Covid.

“I’d encourage any business that may be eligible for emergency financial support to fill out an application. Council officers will do all they can to process payments for successful applicants as soon as possible.”

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A grant scheme for hospitality, tourism, retail and related supply chain businesses which are liable to pay non-domestic rates is also now live. This means these businesses could be entitled to grants of £2,000, £4,000 or £6,000, depending on their rateable value.

More information, eligibility criteria and both registration and application details for that grant scheme are available at www.swansea.gov.uk/CovidNDRbusinessgrants 

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Swansea Building Society appoints new non-executive director

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Swansea Building Society, ranked the most profitable building society in the UK last year, has appointed a new non-executive director – Malcolm Hayes.

Hayes comes to the role with extensive executive and board level experience gained within several major UK clearing banks, a specialist lending group, an ethical bank, and a large mutual credit union.

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After starting his career with NatWest, Hayes went on to spend over 25 years in Lloyds Banking Group, where he held senior risk and credit positions in the bank’s business and commercial divisions.

His 40-year career has seen him hold executive positions as chief risk officer, operational risk & compliance director, control function director, head of credit audit and head of enterprise-wide risk management.

Having retired from executive roles in 2019, following five years as the chief risk officer of Paragon Banking Group, Hayes currently also holds non-executive director roles at Reliance Bank Ltd and as chair of the board of directors of Citysave Credit Union Ltd.

He also has previous board experience as a director of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation PLC and AMC Bank Ltd – wholly owned subsidiaries of Lloyds Bank PLC – and served as a board director of a Lloyds Bank subsidiary established to undertake residential property development.

Hayes’ new non-executive director role with Swansea Building Society sees him sit on the Society’s audit committee, risk committee and asset & liabilities committee.

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Malcolm Hayes, non-executive director at Swansea Building Society, said: “I’m very excited to be taking on this new non-executive director role with Swansea Building Society. The Society’s vision and ethics are truly inspirational, and the success the Society has achieved in recent years is a tribute to its customer-focused, common-sense approach to lending. I hope that the experience I bring to the role can help the society continue its success and allow it to help even more people build a better future for themselves and their families.”

Alun Williams, chief executive officer at Swansea Building Society, added: “We are delighted to welcome Malcolm to his new role of non-executive director. Malcolm has extensive experience, over many years, which will be invaluable in helping Swansea Building Society build on our success and achieve our business aims.”

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