South West Wales

Experts called in to revamp Swansea city centre

Oxford St, Swansea Image copyright Pierre Terre
Image caption Swansea city centre has seen many businesses close over the last decade

Swansea is calling in international experts to help regenerate its city centre.

A conference next month at the city's National Waterfront Museum will hear from delegates who have turned around the fortunes of Sydney, Australia, and Antwerp, Belgium.

It is being organised by the Design Commission for Wales in partnership with Swansea council.

One council leader said Swansea must rethink what makes a city successful.

It follows a series of shop closures across the city centre in recent years, followed by the loss of a £1bn project to transform the shopping district, when developers plumped to invest in the out-of-town Parc Tawe instead.

Creating a 'buzz'

Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea council's cabinet member for enterprise, development and regeneration, said they needed to examine what makes a winning city.

"Shopping is a major part of the city centre offer here, but a lot more needs to be available to generate the footfall our traders need," he said.

"The city centre has to become a place that people want to go - a destination that's both easy to get to and offers a range of events that will create a buzz and attract people."

Initiatives have already begun to try and lure people back into town.

Image copyright Hammerson
Image caption Out-of-town Parc Tawe trumped the city centre when it came to investment from developer, Hammerson.

This week retailers have been invited to take to the streets on temporary market stalls in order to drum up passing trade with a variety of themed events.

Last weekend saw the re-launch of the Big Heart of Swansea loyalty card which offers discounts at participating stores within the city centre's Business Improvement District (BID).

'Boost traders'

According to Russell Greenslade, chief executive of Swansea BID, around 500 shoppers snapped up the offer on its first day.

"The beauty of the loyalty card is that discounts can only be redeemed in-store," he said.

"This helps attract more visitors into the city centre and boosts our traders. It's one of many schemes on which we work closely with Swansea council to benefit our city centre businesses."

But Julie Williamson, who chairs Swansea Bay's Federation of Small Businesses, said the success of the city lay with all businesses - not just the shops.

"Of course we need a healthy retail sector, but what keeps those shops going is the workers from other offices and businesses coming into town every day, and shopping in their lunch breaks and after work. And it's those other businesses which are leaving in increasing numbers."

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