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What can Swansea learn from other towns and cities’ waterfront developments?

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: October 15, 2013

What can Swansea learn from other towns and cities’ waterfront developments?

The Queen Elizabeth II liner sails into the River Mersey and docks in front of the Liver Building in 2008.

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How can Swansea really connect with its waterfront? Post reporter RICHARD YOULE finds out more about the Liverpool and Cardigan experience in the second of a three-part series about Where Waters Meet, a two-day maritime festival starting in the city tomorrow.

IT has top flight football, two universities, a working port, revamped docks, a dual carriageway near its waterfront — and is "a bit of an edgy city".

Liverpool, as described by the city council's head of design and heritage Rob Burns, has similarities to Swansea.

Of course, with a population of some 460,000, two Premier League teams, a huge range of museums and galleries, and what was once arguably the second most important port in the British empire, Liverpool does things on a bigger scale than Wales's second city.

Oh, and it had a four-piece pop rock combo that sang about a yellow submarine and did rather well in the sixties.

"We have a love-hate relationship with The Beatles," admitted Mr Burns, who is giving a talk tomorrow at the two-day Maritime Heritage Wales Ltd conference in Swansea.

The urban designer has seen Liverpool city centre and its waterfront area, which is a world heritage site, change significantly. The Albert Dock was redeveloped from the 1980s onwards, incorporating Tate Liverpool and the Merseyside Maritime Museum among others, while a city centre planning blueprint in 2000 focused on re-connecting with the waterfront.

This blueprint coincided with the days of plenty, up until the economic slump eight years later. "The timing was very good," said Mr Burns.

"It is slightly different now."

He said reconnecting a town or city with its waterfront took the form of physical improvements, such as "super-crossings" (more on that later), giving docks buildings new planning uses, and changing people's perceptions about what was there. "It's about putting it on the map," said Mr Burns.

"But I don't know if I could say what works for Swansea.

"You have to have a unique selling point.

"What is it about Swansea that makes it different?

"I think the most important thing is getting visitors and then investors, who bring their own ideas.

He said the authorities in Liverpool had tried to steer clear of "gentrifying" the waterfront area.

"Liverpool is a bit of an edgy city," he said. "It has an exposed environment, open to the elements. There is that little bit of discomfort — same as any dock city.

"And that's part of its attraction."

The super-crossings are basically extra wide pedestrian crossings that allow people to walk all the way across Liverpool's "urban dual carriageway" to the waterfront area. Two are in situ and four are planned, said Mr Burns.

"It has not led to any massive traffic hold-ups," he added.

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8 comments

  • SAswan  |  October 15 2013, 7:46PM

    Hope questions will be asked to why the lock gates for the SA1 marina haven't been built yet ?

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  • Jiffy  |  October 15 2013, 7:01PM

    Who would expect a NEWS paper to give details of this talk !! http://tinyurl.com/o2a6yg9

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  • SAswan  |  October 15 2013, 3:47PM

    where and when is this talk ?

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  • IanKillay  |  October 15 2013, 3:14PM

    It's a real shame what consecutive councils have done to Swansea over the years. From being one of the first cities in the UK to have the Quadrant and a fantastic marina, to being overtaken by towns like Llanelli. Now we have this ridiculous pavement scheme which is supposed to link the city with it's waterfront, like the Ramblas in Barcelona. The difference is, Barcelona has an underpass for all through traffic, leaving just local traffic to use the area around the Ramblas. We have turned an already busy dual carriageway into, at some points, an eight lane super highway. Also, if you compare Bristol Harbourside and Cardiff Bay in particular, they are not particularly well linked to their respective city centres, but they are hives of activity because the mix is right between commercial, entertainment and residential. Get that right and people will come, not because we have extra wide pedestrian crossings!

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  • westcoastswan  |  October 15 2013, 2:07PM

    Liverpool albert dock has shops, galleries, museums, restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, leisure attractions,indoor arena and much more. Swansea waterfront has soulless developments of flats, house and offices where the planners and designers have no thought whatsoever for the waterside locations and have created residental estates instead of vibrant destinations. SA1 is turning into another soulless development with house and flats lining the dockside and offices lining the tawe riverside when the waterside should be lined with coffee shops, restaurants, bars, attractions, etc Copper quarter is just all flats along the river without any units underneath the flats for cafes along the riverside. Millions spent on a boulevard yet it's still going to be a nightmare to cross a busy dual carriageway because no pedestrian flyovers are being built. The city centre one way system is shocking. Parc tawe is dreadfull and is the redevelopment going to make the most of it's frontage onto quay parade boulevard and be lined with restaurants and shops. Liverpool has grand buildings like the three graces yet swansea knocked down the weavers building. Mumbles train, north dock, swansea canal, slip bridge have all been lost. All these grand plans for swansea waterfront yet no vision to allow room for a light railway or tram to be built in the future let alone get an old steam train running again like in bristol harbourside. No bus services between west and east. Great potential to develop the eastside of swansea, yet the councillors vote against swansea university new campus and also try and stop new offices being built by amazon. It's swansea councillors and the planning that always been the problem !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • richie2803  |  October 15 2013, 1:57PM

    Open up ferry links to north Devon on a regular basis for tourism

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  • BarryStir  |  October 15 2013, 11:33AM

    Oystermouth Road/Victoria Rd/Quay Parade/Fabian Way with their heavy and noisy traffic provide a real barrier between the centre and the waterfront and are likely to get much busier with new developments like Bay Campus which will encourage far more cars between Singleton and the new site (only 16 out of 5,100 staff and students are expected to arrive by bicycle!) Let's hope that Swansea planners have the confidence to follow Liverpool's lead in giving priority to pedestrians and cyclists over cars by providing 'super crossings' and similar initiatives. Alarmingly traffic on Fabian Way is expected to increase 90–100% by 2022 due to development already given planning permission and this will inevitably make traffic on Oystermouth Road and the other links much worse than at present. How did Swansea (and NPT planners) allow this absolute dominance of traffic to happen? Urgent action is needed to provide more sustainable transport links for SA1 - including a direct cycle track through SA1 to Bay Campus - if Swansea is really serious about sustainability, quality of life and making the best use of our wonderful beach and waterfront facilities.

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  • Jiffy  |  October 15 2013, 11:32AM

    Yet another conference! How much is being thrown at this talking shop? Has anyone bothered to look at a map and compare Liverpool's vast river frontage, with that of Swansea? As for planning - since when has SCC made long term plans that make sense, let alone work?

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