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£5.5m funding support for Swansea city centre’s new public hub

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A high-profile Swansea Council scheme to bring more key public services to the heart of the city centre has received a major funding boost.

A £2m grant from the Welsh Government has been provided – and a further £3.5m is available to the council to develop the former BHS store as a public focal point.

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The funding is being provided under the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns initiative that provides support to improve town centres across Wales.

Council leader Rob Stewart said: “This substantial funding will help us deliver an outstanding venue for people to meet and to access a range of public services that are important to them.

“The Welsh Government has confidence in our plans for our city centre as we forge ahead with our city’s £1bn regeneration.

“The public are already telling us how excited they are about having this new community hub in such an accessible, central location.”

Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters said: “I am pleased we have been able to support this significant scheme in Swansea city centre.

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“Reusing buildings in a way that increases access to services is a fantastic example of how our Transforming Towns programme delivers real change by focusing on the diversification and sustainable growth of our town and city centres.”

The hub, in Oxford Street’s former BHS and What! store, could be visited by thousands of people every week.

The former BHS and What store on Oxford Street prior to work beginning (Image: Swansea Council)

The aim is for the building – which could open next year – to be a welcoming base for services delivered by the council and other organisations.

Council services being considered to relocate there include Swansea Library, the West Glamorgan Archive Service and the Contact Centre.

All are now accessed by the public at the Civic Centre which is due to be redeveloped as part of the city’s council-driven regeneration.

Other services due to move to the hub include the council’s Revenue and Benefits service, Housing Options and Tenancy Support Unit (TSU), Employability, Life-long Learning and Local Studies and Family History services. The hub will also provide an integrated community and activity space to be accessed by voluntary and community groups from across Swansea.

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Council staff and the public are being kept up to date on plans. The council continues to consider options for their future locations of other Civic Centre-based services.

Artist’s impression of what the building will look like once complete from Princess Way (Image: Austin-Smith:Lord Ltd)

Council cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said: “The Transforming Towns grant is an important step for our community hub plan.

“The hub will be of great use to the public – and easily accessible to all.

“Many services will be easier to access in a more welcoming environment – and no services will be lost in the move.

“The development will bring increased footfall for city centre businesses, creating and maintaining city centre jobs; it’s a key factor in our aim to regenerate Swansea.”

The council made a series of policy commitments in June to deliver support – in the subsequent 100 days – to communities that will make a real difference to people’s lives. Continuing to deliver a £1 billion regeneration of the city centre was one of those commitments.

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Plans for the hub reveal a striking fresh design just yards from a new-look Castle Square Gardens, Kingsway and Wind Street. It’ll be a short walk from the Quadrant bus station and other public transport services.

(Lead image: Austin-Smith:Lord Ltd)

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Gardening

Hospital’s flower power proves big success with patients

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A summer of sun and extra flower beds have blossomed into the perfect partnership for patients’ wellbeing at Singleton Hospital.

The recent prolonged sunny spells – the hottest recorded for Wales in 30 years – have provided ideal conditions for hundreds of begonias to bloom.

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This year, the health board has invested in additional raised beds around the hospital to increase the positive impact on the wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors.

Betty Foley has worked at Singleton as a volunteer for over 15 years.

Seeing a large number of patients, staff and visitors during each shift, she has heard a lot of positive patient feedback for the flower features.

She said: “I deal with a large number of patients and visitors coming into Singleton and a lot of them have passed comment on how lovely the flowers look around the hospital.

“A lot arrive through the main reception and they’re welcomed by a really colourful bed of flowers, which can give you a bit of a boost when you’re going into hospital for treatment.

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“I’ve been told countless times recently by patients that they sit in front of the hospital where the benches are and the flowers take their mind off things.

“Small things like that can really make a big difference to your day.”

Christian Berndsen, gardening maintenance, and his team put the bedding plants in at the end of May.

He said: “We’ve used a lot of different types of begonias as they have a variety of bright colours that really catch the eye.

“The flowers have benefited from a great summer of sun.

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Nick Davies, and Christian Berndsen in front of one of the flower beds (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

“I’ve had a lot of comments while we’re around the hospital, which is nice. The intention was to give anyone who uses the hospital a nice, bright collection of flowers to look at around the site.

“Seeing bright flowers such as the begonias can give you a bit of a lift, so it’s been lovely to hear that patients love them as it shows it’s having a positive effect.”

Singleton has also benefited from a wooden sculpture of an oak dragonfly, which features on the Crush Hall roundabout which is situated between the main entrance and the maternity and child health building.

That has been funded by Biophilic Wales and designed by local sculptor Simon Hedger, and adds to a creative corner in the hospital grounds.

Nick Davies, Estates Officer at Singleton Hospital, added: “The flowers and sculpture certainly improves the appearance of the hospital. As we have a lot of patients, visitors and staff coming to this hospital we firmly believe that first impressions are very important.

“If you’re waiting for an appointment or are visiting family or a friend, it’s nice for people to see and offers a little lift. In addition, it’s a natural habitat for small wildlife such as bees and butterflies.

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“Christian and the gardening team have done a great job brightening up areas around the hospital, and we’re really pleased it’s impacted patients in a positive way.”

Lead image: Volunteer Betty Foley, Nick Davies, Estates Officer at Singleton Hospital and Christian Berndsen from gardening maintenance at the Crush Hall roundabout display. (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Comedy

Welsh legend Max Boyce is coming to Swansea Arena

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Following a sell-out tour in 2022, Welsh legend Max Boyce is coming to Swansea Arena with a special 50th anniversary concert.

The iconic Welsh comedian, singer and entertainer is due to play Swansea’s newest concert venue on Saturday 4 March 2023.

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Glynneath-born Max rose to fame in the 1970s with a musical comedy act rooted in his passion for Welsh rugby.

His very first recordings were made at the Valley Folk Club in Pontardawe in 1971 and featured several tracks that became his signature tunes including including Hymns and Arias, Duw it’s Hard and Slow – Men at Work.

At his brand new Swansea Arena show he will be performing a musical version of his lockdown poem When Just the Tide Went Out for the first time. Since its release in 2020 it has been something of an internet sensation and been viewed nearly 8 million times. It was titled ‘Pick of the Week’ on Radio 4 and features in his number 1 best-selling book, Hymns and Arias.

Max will also be performing some of his other famous songs which have endeared him to both young and old alike. Don’t miss the chance to see this inspired, and inspiring entertainer, whose songs and stories have become part of Welsh Legend.

The one-off show is hard to miss, and definitely one that for years to come you’ll be able to say: “I was there!”

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Max Boyce performs at Swansea Arena on Saturday, March 4th 2023. Tickets go on pre-sale Monday 15 August at 10am with general sale online from 12pm.

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Food & Drink

Swansea rated the best place in the UK for a Thai Takeaway

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person eating using chopsticks

A new study has revealed that Swansea is the best place to find a top quality Thai takeaway in the UK.

This is from HouseholdQuotes who analysed Just Eat data in 523 locations across the UK to discover the best places for 20 cuisine types.

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While coming top for Thai takeaways, Swansea ranked a solid 146 out of 523 UK towns and cities for its overall takeaway offering.

While other Swansea Bay towns didn’t rank quite so highly, if you’re after a different kind of cuisine Port Talbot placed 29th for Pizza.

Indian is Llanelli’s speciality takeaway of choice, with the town ranking 72 in the UK.

Bridgend take-out lovers head for fish and chips, with the town coming in at 225 out f the 523 UK towns and cities surveyed.

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