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Council set to extend pandemic help for hospitality trade

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Swansea Council looks likely to serve up another boost to the city’s cafes, pubs and restaurants as the pandemic continues.

Its ruling cabinet is being asked to continue to provide licences for outdoor dining areas free of charge until the end of March next year.

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The move – which follows the suspension of fees for Pavement Café Licences since summer 2020 – would help businesses as they operate within pandemic restrictions. It will help continue to bring life and vibrancy to the city’s streets and other areas.

The move – saving business around £50,000 a year – would be part of the council’s wider multi-million pound recovery fund to help businesses and communities recover from the pandemic.

Council joint deputy leader and cabinet member David Hopkins said: “There’s a market for outdoor hospitality.

“Whilst keeping people safe, we want to help business as best we can at this challenging time.

“We’ve learnt important lessons from the changes we’ve made to date, including the fact that we must strike a careful balance to ensure stakeholders are engaged. Safe and accessible routes should remain for pedestrians.

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“By removing some costs for the whole of 2022 and into next year we can save businesses many thousands of pounds.

“The move will help keep people in work and give residents more options for eating and drinking safely away from their homes in line with Welsh Government guidelines and regulations.”

Measures the council took last year to help hospitality businesses included launching a fast-track license application process and removing traffic from Wind Street for much of the day. Around £1.2m was committed by the council in grants for outdoor furniture.

The council’s cabinet is due to discuss outdoor hospitality on January 20. Members will be asked to approve a review of the businesses that have extended – with council approval – onto roads and to extend these agreements as appropriate.

The council remains happy to discuss ideas from businesses for the use of other outdoor areas for eating and drinking.

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All businesses wishing to create an outdoor seating area on the highway – and those who wish to continue use their existing seating areas – must apply for a licence via the council’s website.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Fourth-generation Haverfordwest jeweller invests in 155 year old family business

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Fourth generation jeweller Paul Howells has completed the refurbishment of his 155-year-old family business, bringing an adjoining retail outlet back to life and safeguarding four jobs in the market town of Haverfordwest.

Established in 1866 by Paul’s great-grandfather, Howells Jewellers occupies a prime position on Quay Street in Haverfordwest.

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A six-figure loan from the Development Bank of Wales and funding from Pembrokeshire County Council’s Houses into Homes Empty Property Scheme, designed to bring empty properties back in to use, has enabled the refurbishment of the double fronted shop and creation of four new apartments.

Offering views of the river, each of the two-bedroom apartments are to be rented to local people looking for quality accommodation in Haverfordwest.

Paul Howells said: “We’re really proud of our family business and enjoy the job that we do; helping our customers to choose the perfect jewellery. However, our building was in a bad state of repair and needed refurbishing in-order to secure the long-term success of the business and give the property a new lease of life. The funding from the Development Bank and Pembrokeshire Council has enabled us to restore the building with a smart new shop-front and four new apartments, safeguarding our future and helping the town to prosper.”

Paul Howells, Howells Jewellers

Richard Easton is a portfolio executive with the Development Bank of Wales. He said: “Buying jewellery is still one purchase that most people want to do in person rather than on-line so there remains strong demand for high-quality high street jewellers like Howells.

“With a very loyal following, Howells has been an integral part of Haverfordwest for over 155 years. Our investment has helped to protect this legacy, safeguard jobs, create new homes and support a sustainable and successful future for a long-standing and highly respected local business.”

The Wales Business Fund is part-funded by the ERDF through the Welsh Government. It was created specifically to support businesses with fewer than 250 employees based in Wales and those willing to move to Wales with loans and equity packages from £50,000 up to £2 million.

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(Lead image: L-R Paul Howells, Howells Jewellers, Richard Easton, Development Bank of Wales)

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Over 70 exhibitors already confirmed for city centre conference at new Swansea Arena

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From small independent businesses to entrepreneurs, large companies and developers, over 70 exhibitors have already been confirmed for a major event taking place in the spring.

Being held at Swansea Arena on Thursday March 17 from 10am to 8pm, the Swansea City Centre Conference and Exhibition 2022 will give an opportunity for city centre retailers, regional businesses, social enterprises, community projects and not-for-profit organisations to raise their profile and make connections.

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Organised by 4TheRegion in partnership with Swansea Council, the event will also give an opportunity to celebrate the city and the region and find out what’s happening both now and in future.

Exhibitors and all in attendance will hear from decision-makers and city leaders, helping shape the vision for coming years. There will also be discussions, breakout sessions, workshops and a business hub for networking and masterclasses.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “This event – the first conference of its kind to be held at Swansea Arena – will celebrate everything that’s great about Swansea and the region, from our fantastic local businesses to the major projects that are transforming both the city and South West Wales as a whole.

“The combination of our businesses and entrepreneurs with the regeneration that’s either complete, under way or planned means we’re in a strong place to quickly bounce back from the economic impact of the pandemic.

“The Swansea City Centre Conference and Exhibition 2022 will enable everyone in attendance to network, raise their profile and find out more about exciting plans for the future that will deliver a city and region that combines world class facilities with high-quality jobs and opportunities to meet the aspirations of all.”

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As well as Swansea Council, Pobl Group and Coastal Housing are on board as the main sponsors for the event, which will feature five zones:

  • Development and investment, sponsored by Swansea Business Improvement District (BID)
  • Destination, travel and tourism, sponsored by Morgans Swansea
  • Circular economy, energy and environment, sponsored by Pobl Group and Coastal Housing
  • Creative economy, culture and digital, sponsored by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David
  • Connecting the region, sponsored by the Swansea Bay City Deal

Dawn Lyle, founder and chair of 4TheRegion, said: “Two years ago, we had to cancel this event when the world went into lockdown. After the difficult time we’ve all had since then, it’s time to come back together and look to the future of our wonderful city by the sea and all the exciting things that are happening here. 

“We can’t wait to showcase all the businesses, people, organisations and projects that make this city great – and we hope everyone will take this opportunity to come and have a look around the fantastic new arena too.”

Email zoe@4theregion.org.uk for information on exhibiting.

You can also visit https://www.swansea-arena.co.uk/events/city-centre-conference-4theregion to register to attend the city centre conference for free.

(Lead image: Copr Bay / Swansea Council)

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Neath based Ministry of Furniture unveils growth plans for 2022

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Its plans include a move to bigger premises, an investment in systems and streamlining its offering

Ministry of Furniture, the company which emerged from Remploy Furniture, has unveiled exciting growth plans for 2022, which include a significant investment in systems, a planned move to larger premises and the launch of a new product line.

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The business will also streamline and simplify its offering in line with its core skillset – the design, manufacture (and remanufacture), and installation of furniture. As such, it has completed the divestment of Ministry Graphics, its division offering graphics and signage, which has been sold to its original shareholder.

Ministry of Furniture first invested in Ministry Graphics, originally called Sign and Print Systems, in 2019. Having grown the business substantially, the company has been sold back to Matthew Anderson, the original owner and MD of that business. He will continue to develop the business, to be renamed Sign Inc.

The move will allow Ministry to focus on offering exceptional customer service around its core furniture and interiors offering. This approach will also allow it to expand that offering by launching a fitted furniture range in 2022, complementing the strong links it has developed with the commercial, construction and education sectors.

The company’s growth trajectory has also prompted it to seek bigger premises. In an exciting move for the company, it has signed heads of terms to move into part of the Metal Box Factory in Neath.

Ministry of Furniture plans to take a substantial chunk of the iconic 250,000 sq ft site, which once housed one of the biggest workforces in the area, has been regenerated in recent years by Neath Port Talbot Council and the J.G. Hale Group.

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In line with these plans, the company will also make a six-figure investment in a bespoke set of communications and workflow system designed to streamline the company’s working practices and enhance its customer service.

Ministry of Furniture has enjoyed a period of sustained growth since it was founded from the UK governments closure of Remploy Furniture in 2013. Now, it is eyeing growth and diversification in line with its values and aims as a company in 2021 – and is investing in the people, systems and skills to allow it to leverage that. This also includes anticipated growth in the commercial, construction and education sectors over the next 12 months.

Having realigned the company’s working practices and offering in the past 12 months, it now offers clients a seamless journey over the timeline of a big project – from concept to completion. In Wales, as a framework supplier for The National Procurement Service (NPS) for Wales, it can offer its suite of services to all public sector bodies.

Graham Hirst, Ministry Group CEO

Graham Hirst, Ministry Group CEO, said: “We are delighted to outline this set of exciting plans for the company as we commit to an ambitious vision designed to facilitate continued profitable growth for the business while also putting our customers first and committing to our core values as a company. While the plans will allow us to increase capacity and the scale of our offering, they also mean we remain focused on our core offering – doing what we do best for our clients.

“The move to new premises represents a very exciting new chapter for the business, as does the investment that will go hand-in-hand with that and our launch of a fitted furniture range. In terms of our divestment of Ministry Graphics, we feel that is the right move at the right time for both businesses.

“We’re delighted to have contributed to the growth of the graphics and signage business over the past two years and to be able to pass the business in great shape back to Matthew. Matthew is a good friend to the Ministry Group and takes the business with our very best wishes and encouragement for the future.”

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Lead image: CGI representation of the new Ministry Offices, created by the Ministry of Furniture Interior Design Team

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