Massive regeneration of Swansea city centre approved

Swansea city centre is set for a huge transformation after the city council approved a masterplan that will transform the area.

The opening phase of the £500 million Swansea Central Scheme will include the transformation of the St David's Shopping Centre into a retail and cafe area, with a cinema and a new indoor arena close by.

This will enable the centre to move away from the model of large 1960s and 70s shopping malls developed in many cities across Britain, opening up the area. Moreover, the new arena will enable Swansea to compete for events with the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff.

Swansea City Council backed the plan despite a report saying that it would be hard to attract a department store in the current climate.

The 3,500 seat indoor arena would sit next to a 13-storey building, which will either be a hotel or residential block. Whichever it is, this will create plenty of work for shower room and insulation fitters, who will also be kept busy by other aspects of the project. The arena would sit on the south side of Oystermouth Road, with the regeneration of the St David's site taking place to the north of the road and a new footbridge being built to link the two parts of the development.

A new ice rink is being considered as part of the masterplan, but new student housing will not be, as this possibility has now been discounted.

Director of place at the council Martin Nicholls called the plan "a major step forward" in reviving the city centre.

He added: "This approval means we can now especially push on with our plans for the site that's south of Oystermouth Road, which will form the first phase of the overall development."

When the plans are finalised, a formal planning application will be required, but it is hoped work could start on the southern part of the site in 2018.

The second phase of the whole project would certainly provide much more work for waterproofing specialists, with a new aquarium being developed down near the seafront. Led by Trebor developments, this part of the 11-hectare scheme would see the building of a digital science centre and the creation of a beach for the city, with the civic centre being demolished to make way.

It is not just the feasibility of including a new department store that has been questioned. The entire project came under scrutiny last year following the Brexit referendum, amid concerns that the ending of EU regional funding could starve the plans of cash.

However, this was dismissed by city council leader Rob Smart, who told BBC Wales in the wake of the vote: "None of the funding we [the council] are looking at is coming directly from Europe.

"The thing that could affect it is the level of uncertainty over Brexit but we don't see a significant impact from that at present.

"There's still a significant amount of interest in Swansea."

"We've got a significant amount of interest from key retailers and I'm meeting with a couple of those in September."

The Swansea masterplan has, therefore, some way to go and the impact of the Brexit negotiations remains to be seen. But the project has the potential to give the city a significant boost for its future, as well as providing plenty of work across various areas of the construction sector.