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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A question of leadership

I have no brief for any developer in Swansea but I am concerned with ensuring that we get the investment we need. That means working with developers and sometimes compromising to get things done.

I was concerned therefore last Thursday to find the redevelopment of the unsightly and failing Parc Tawe complex being knocked off track by the intransigience of planners and a lack of leadership on the council itself.

The difference of opinion centred on what can be sold in what is classed as an out-of-town shopping centre so as not to compromise another development nearby that is barely on the drawing board.

Council planners wanted an exclusion clause relating to a specified list of products to last 12 years, whilst the developers argued that any more than 5 years would make the scheme commercially unviable. I argued that we needed more time to get agreement but the Labour leadership insisted on sticking with the planners' recommendations.

What is worse the council leader in my view, failed to grasp the strategic advantages of getting this scheme underway as soon as possible so as to attract more investors. Instead he rambled on about trees and plastic bags in one of the most incoherent contributions I have ever heard from a person in his position.

He and others argued that the developers were bluffing when they said they might pull out altogether and he then launched into an unprecedented attack on people who are prepared to invest substantial sums of money into Swansea.  The BBC takes up the story:

Mr Phillips said: "We wanted to ensure this development didn't torpedo any city centre development before it gets off its feet.
"It's a pity that Hammerson didn't show the same energy when they were our agent as they have with their own development."
Hammerson's development manager Russell Beresford, defended the firm's actions.
He said: "It's a strange day when a leader of a council desperate for investment chooses to unfairly criticise a major landowner and potential investor in the city, and we very much hope his approach doesn't put off anyone considering investing in the city.
"We remain very keen to invest in Parc Tawe but as we told the committee we can't do so with the conditions attached to the permission; we are therefore considering our options."

As the BBC says, Swansea has struggled to find a way of successfully regenerating the centre following the collapse of the long-time proposed Castle Quays development in 2004. In fact I can trace this failure back to the late 1980s. With this attitude from the council leadership we are going to struggle for much longer.
The man has become an embarrassment to his own party. Time this arrogant, self-indulgent poseur was escorted from the building.
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