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Swansea Building Society posts record-breaking results

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The Society saw unprecedented demand for its flexible, tailored mortgage products

Swansea Building Society posted its best-ever set of results in 2021 as it helped to enable more individuals and families to realise their goals than ever before.

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Its total assets, mortgage balances, savings, capital and profits all reached record highs last year. This was partly achieved on the back of keeping its branch offices open for face-to-face and telephone/e-mail contact, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing it to welcome many new savers and mortgage customers.

For the 12 months to December 31, 2021, the Society’s total assets increased by £49.1 million to £463.5 million, a 12% increase on the previous year’s figure. Its mortgage balances grew by £58 million to £360.9 million, a growth rate of 19%. This record growth was driven by the Society completing lending of £114.7 million, an increase of 71% from the £67.1m achieved in 2020.

The Society’s savings balances grew by £44.5 million, a growth rate of 12%, to reach £431.3 million. This increase in retail savings balances helped to fund the rise in net mortgage lending.

The Society’s growth was supported by record profits before tax of £5.2 million, compared with the previous record of £3.3 million made in 2020. This is vitally important to the Society, as it provides the mutual organisation with greater capital reserves to support members to achieve their financial goals.

The Society remains one of the few financial institutions in the UK that receives no wholesale funding or support from the Bank of England in the form of cheap funding. Its balance sheet is funded entirely by customer savings balances and its own capital reserves built up from retained profits over many years.

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The Society continued with its ethos of ‘opening not closing’ branches, in contrast to most financial institutions, and kept all branches open for every business day of the year. This benefitted it through the pandemic as more customers sought a personal, friendly and local service, and many savers, worried by economic uncertainty, also looked to spread their assets.

Alun Williams, Chief Executive of Swansea Building Society, said: “Throughout the pandemic, our customers have rightly looked to the Society to step up when required and I believe that the Society has risen to the challenge and delivered whatever support that our customers have needed, whether that be help and guidance with mortgage payments or access to cash and other payment services. It is our aim to enable individuals and families to realise their goals of a better and more secure future and the way we supported communities throughout the pandemic has fitted well with that.

“The customer is at the heart of everything the Society does. The Society carries out regular customer satisfaction surveys and consistently scores above 90%, even during the various lockdowns and the Covid-19 pandemic. We are pleased that this reflects the positive way that our employees are engaged and know how to meet the needs of our customers.

“As ever, as a mutual, our profits will be reinvested into the business, strengthening our capital base so that we can continue to support our members and offer competitive savings rates and a personal, tailored and common-sense approach to mortgage lending with competitive mortgage products. They will be used for the future development of the Society as we consider further expansion and new branches across Wales.

“We continue to invest heavily for the future of the business in terms of people, IT and premises as we ready ourselves for a further period of sustainable growth. Our budgets for 2022 indicate we will continue to grow our balance sheet and capital reserves as a result of the increasing volume of mortgage assets that the Society now holds.

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“The Economic Environment, particularly the impact of inflation on the UK Economy, continues to be uncertain. Despite this, we do not believe that it will have a significant negative impact on the Society and its business model. The Society will continue to be resilient in meeting future challenges such as potential further interest rate increases along with the increased cost of living and inflation. Our goal is to deliver first class services, whatever delivery channel is chosen by members, whilst growing our balance sheet and capital in a controlled manner.”

The Society will hold its annual general meeting at the Swansea.com Stadium on Thursday, 28 April 2022. Members can vote ahead of that meeting and the Society will donate a pound to Maggie’s cancer charity for every vote received.

Lead image: Alun Williams Chief Executive at Swansea Building Society

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Sport

New Townhill all weather-pitch is ready for kick-off

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A new all-weather pitch that will benefit thousands of players in the years to come has been fitted at the Phoenix Centre in Townhill.

Swansea Council provided the funding that also included an upgrade to the floodlights at the popular venue.

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The council is also improving the nearby multi-use-games-area as part of the project that represents an investment of up to £300,000.

The centre’s former pitch was laid around 20 years ago and was well used by the community including local sporting clubs.

Council Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, Robert Francis-Davies, visited the site this week to check on progress that has also seen new netting and fencing installed.

He said: “Sport is such an important part of so many peoples’ lives so I’m really pleased we’ve able to use part of the council’s Economic Recovery Fund to make these improvements.

“The council recognises sport has huge physical, mental health and general wellbeing benefits and that is why we do all we can to provide modern and accessible facilities for all.

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“This pitch will benefit thousands of players of all ages and is just the latest all-weather pitch we have funded or provided support towards in recent years following on from investments at Penyrheol, Morriston, Pentrehafod, Gowerton, Bishopston, the Elba Sports Complex and at Dylan Thomas Community School.”

The work at the Phoenix Centre was carried out by Blakedown Sport and Play and old pitch has been recycled by a company working in the golf industry.

The Phoenix Centre is a flagship community enterprise centre run and managed by Hill Community Development Trust.

Manager Leanne Dower said: “We are very much looking forward to welcoming our existing and new users to this great new facility.

“The pitch will create opportunities for local children to try a variety of sports and have a safe space to play. We are very grateful to all involved for supporting us.”

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Pembrey & Burry Port

Pembrey Country Park most awarded Blue Flags in Wales

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Pembrey Country Park has won more Blue Flags than anywhere else in Wales.

Cefn Sidan has secured the prestigious Blue Flag status once again making it the most awarded Blue Flag site in Wales since 1988.

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It has won on consecutive years since 2009, apart from 2020 when the awards were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cefn Sidan was also the first Welsh beach to win the international accolade.

The Blue Flag award is only given to beaches, marinas and harbours that have the highest quality of water, environmental education and management, safety and services. It is an is an indication of a world class visiting experience and attraction site for local people and visitors to Carmarthenshire.

The popular tourist attraction has also won the Green Flag award for the last four years for its inspiring green space, having the highest possible standards, being beautifully maintained and boasting excellent visitor facilities.

Carmarthenshire County Council Cabinet Member Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, Cllr Gareth John said: “I am delighted and proud that we continue to achieve these standards year on year. Pembrey Country Park and Cefn Sidan Beach is one of Wales’ top tourist attractions and has something to offer everyone. This award symbolises quality and provides assurances to visitors and tourists when looking for a place to visit.”

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(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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Construction

Construction work soon to start on Swansea’s ‘living building’ at former Oxford Street Woolworths site

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With main construction work due to start in the coming weeks, city leaders have visited the Swansea site where a major new ‘living building’ project will soon be taking shape.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, and Julie James, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change, were talked through details and timescales for the development, which will be located at the former Woolworths unit on Oxford Street.

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Earmarked for completion by the end of 2023, Swansea-based Hacer Developments is behind the scheme, which is one of the first of its kind in the UK.

Made up of the former Woolworths unit and a new adjoining 13-storey structure, the ‘living building’ will include green walls and green roofs, an educational facility, retail, offices, a landscaped courtyard, rooftop solar panels, battery storage and gardens. Pobl Group will manage 50 affordable apartments forming part of the scheme.

Other scheme features include an urban farm-style greenhouse set over four floors. Plants and vegetables will be grown in water and fed by waste pumped from fish tanks at the bottom of the building.

A green walkway including seating through the building will link Oxford Street to a new public space leading to the 71/72 Kingsway scheme being developed by Swansea Council.

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, and Julie James, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change, were talked through details and timescales for the development, which will be located at the former Woolworths unit on Oxford Street. (Image: Swansea Council)

Stripping-out and demolition works have now been completed at the ‘living building’ site, paving the way for main construction to begin.

The visit also included a tour of the new 33-apartment building at the city’s Copr Bay district developed by Swansea Council, which is set for completion this summer.

To be run by Pobl Group and located close to the new bridge over Oystermouth Road, the affordable apartments will cater for local people working in the city centre, with a particular focus on key workers. 

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Climate Change Minister Julie James said: “What we have seen through this work is an excellent example of the affordable homes we need to build in Wales.

“These new homes in the heart of Swansea city centre will make a huge difference to the quality of living for so many people.

“We need to see more projects like this delivered across the country as we strive to become a stronger, greener, fairer Wales.”

Cllr Stewart said: “Led by Hacer Developments, the exciting ‘living building’ scheme follows on from our work to transform the look and feel of The Kingsway.

“It will create jobs for local people while helping Swansea in its drive to become a net zero city, complementing the nearby office development at the former Oceana nightclub site that will be carbon zero in operation.

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“The residential element of the scheme will also meet the city’s accommodation needs by creating more affordable living opportunities in the city centre. This is also the case for the apartment building at the Copr Bay district developed by the council, which will benefit from excellent links with the new coastal park adjacent to Swansea Arena.”

Carwyn Davies, Managing Director of Hacer Developments, said: “We’re delighted that main construction work will soon start on the highly innovative ‘living building’ project, but it wouldn’t be possible without the support of the many partners involved, including Swansea Council, the Welsh Government, Pobl, the Development Bank of Wales, Swansea University and Cardiff University  – as well as our fantastic design and site team.”

The visit also included a tour of the new 33-apartment building at the city’s Copr Bay district developed by Swansea Council, which is set for completion this summer. (Image: Swansea Council)

Claire Tristham, Director of Developments at Pobl Group, said: “Pobl has a growing reputation for delivering forward-thinking housing solutions that push the boundaries.

“We are excited to be working with Hacer on this innovative project that will deliver much-needed, high-quality, affordable homes for Swansea and support the council’s wider regeneration plans for the city centre.

“Support from the council and Welsh Government has been critically important to this development, so we were delighted to able to welcome the Minister on site to officially launch the start of work on this truly unique project.”

The ‘living building’ is being funded by a mixture of private sector funding and funding from the Welsh Government’s Innovative Housing Programme, Pobl and the Development Bank of Wales.

Set to accommodate 600 workers, the nearby office development at the former Oceana nightclub site – due for completion in the summer of 2023 – is being funded by Swansea Council and the Swansea Bay City Deal. It is also being supported by the European Regional Development Site through the Welsh Government.

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The Copr Bay phase one district has been developed by Swansea Council, supported by development managers RivingtonHark. Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd is leading on its construction.

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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