NOTES | Swansea maritime redevelopment | Planning strategy

NOTES | Swansea maritime redevelopment | Planning strategy

"By 1975 a Planning Strategy had been prepared"


Planning Strategy

By 1975 a Planning Strategy had been prepared which included a regeneration programme and identified economic, social and environment policy objectives.

Developing the Marina – aerial view Developing the Marina – aerial view

Land acquisition, clearance and installing the necessary infrastructure took another 5 years, before redevelopment could go ahead.

This work involved creating new sea defence works, clearing the dock basins of debris and the installation of moorings for a new marina. More efficient lock gates were fitted, and a new swing bridge was constructed and the quay sides were paved to form a new public walkway around the dockside.

Of the £13m of public expenditure on infrastructure works, £6.1m was obtained by way of grants. More recently, the Tawe River Barrage was completed for a further £17m. All this has created two marina and an attractive waterside environment for a new development.

Development Process
The quality of urban design has been achieved using the Council’s planning powers and its ownership of land to ensure that individual developments reflected the Council’s plan for the area. This plan not only provided a context for design submissions but ensured that a mix of land-use was introduced.

The redevelopment process involves the preparation of design or development briefs. These identify the public routs and spaces, the suggested form and scale of development and recommended materials that would blend in with adjoining projects. the adoption of a design brief enables the Council to take a balanced view that gives full consideration to good design, as well as the financial and social dimensions of any given scheme.

Industrial Wasteland

The South Dock’s decline set in after World War 1, due to the world-wide disruption to trade that was caused.

Industrial Wasteland Industrial Wasteland

Cheaper imported copper, particularly from the America’s and little diversification at home, all contributed to the decline of the port.

The North Dock closed in 1928 and the South Dock followed in 1969.

The whole area now known as the Maritime Quarter was then bought for a nominal sum by the City Council.

At first the area was considered as a route for a new relief road that would have taken traffic now on Oystermouth Road; it would also have required a new crossing of the Tawe.

However, following Local Government reorganisation in 1974, a reassessment of the land use policy was undertaken by the newly-created Planning Department and the seeds of the present Maritime Quarter were sown.



This section explains in more detail the infrastructure projects undertaken by the Council to facilitate new development.

Yachts in Pockets Wharf Yachts in Pockets Wharf

The Yacht Marina
Since opening in 1982 the Marina has welcomed vessels from all over the world.

In anticipation of these and in line with the mixed use philosophy, the former City Council built 5 light-industrial units on Fishmarket Quay in 1983. These provide support services for the boating community.

Access to the marina is from the river via the Barrage sea lock (capacity 25 yachts) and an inner (smaller) lock that allows access to the Marina proper.

The Marina’s overall capacity is 365 berths adjacent to pontoons that provide access to electricity and water. The maximum size vessel that can be accommodated is 100 ft overall x 27ft beam x 14ft draft.

Overlooking the Tawe basin lockgates is the Marina Administration and Boat Store in which can be found berth holders toilets, showers and a laundrette. A boat storage yard and a repair shed can be found to the rear of this building.

Public Walkways
A unique feature of the Maritime Quarter is the continuous access to the waterfront enjoyed by the public. Unlike may North American marinas or similar private developments in the UK, public access begins at the quayside and continues around the whole of the South Dock.

The Tawe River Barrage completed in 1992 converted the tidal river into a linear lake. This stimulated the upgrading of the river area with the restoration of long-abandoned jetties and the creation of pedestrian footpaths and cycle paths.

Public Walkways Public Walkways

Such improvements not only add to the river’s new visual appeal, they also make adjacent land more attractive. As the Tawe is navigable as far upstream as the Addis works, future leisure uses might include canoeing and small-scale recreational boating.

Promenade Promenade

Sea’s Edge
A sea defence wall and promenade was constructed in 1986 by Swansea City Council at a cost of £1.2m. This was to protect the exposed southern edge of the Maritime Quarter and to reclaim additional land from dereliction and erosion.

The lower level takes the form of a splash wall, while the upper level forms a walkway and retaining wall to the new promenade.

Changes of level and direction were included in the design, as were ramps to allow for people in wheelchairs.

The names of vessels registered in Swansea over a 100 years ago are inscribed on the seaward side of the retaining wall.

The main beach access point is called ‘Seagate’ and is marked by twin Portland stone pylons that flank two pavilions. On the higher level there are two Seagate feature seats which act as architectural signs marking beach access.

Building the barrage – aerial view Building the barrage – aerial view

The Tawe River Barrage
The origins of the Tawe River Barrage go back as far as those of the Maritime Quarter.

The idea was first put forward in 1974 and was re-examined in 1978, but limited resources and other priorities contrived to keep if off the agenda until the late 1980’s.

The contract for the Barrage was let for £17.5m in January 1989, and it qualified for an EEC grant of £6.5m.

Completed in July 1992, it now retains water in the river at roughly half-tidal level, forming an inland linear lake that has a strong visual impact at the main gateway’ to the City Centre. The River Tawe, that has for so long divided Swansea east from west, can now unite the two halves by becoming a leisure amenity for both.

Improvements to the river banks and the continued recovery of derelict land will help to stimulate new investment overlooking the water, especially near the former docklands area around the river mouth.

Development Projects

The best and only way to view the Maritime Quarter is on foot.

This said, the next section outlines the principal development projects in a clockwise direction starting with Arethusa Quay, Victoria Quay, Industrial and Maritime Museum, Pumphouse and Quay , Mannheim Quay, Pockett’s Wharf, New Moorings in the Tawe, Pilot House Wharf, Tower of the Ecliptic, Abernethy Square and Quay, Ferrara Square and Quay, The Maritime Village, The Hotel, Sites 10 and 11, Site 12 Spontex and Port Tawe River Frontage – SA1.

Alpheius the River God Alpheius the River God

Arethusa Quay
The whole process of redevelopment began in 1982 when the City Council built a 49-unit public housing scheme to re-house the existing Paxton Street community.

This 2-3 storey red brick development to the west of Arethusa Quay included 14 flats for the elderly persons, cost £0.9m and was designed by the Swansea City Council Architects Department. The adjoining quayside was then developed by Ratehealth Limited to provide 67 flats at a cost of £1.8m in 1985. Arethusa Quay is named after H.M.S. Arethusa and was opened by Rear Admiral R.A, Snow on 3rd August 1984.

Victoria Quay
Development on Victoria Quay began in 1983 and was completed 3 years later. Built at a cost of £5m by Whitegates Ltd, the development provides 72 flats, shops, wine bar, ice cream parlour and a public house / restaurant.

The stone carvings at ground floor level all relate to the history and development of steam railways. The various stones depict Trevithick’s Pen-y-Darren (1804), Stevenson’s Rocket (1829) and the LMS logo, among others. The plaque facing the Maritime and Industrial Museum depicts a Webb 2.4.2 locomotive in Victoria Station. Victoria Quay derives its name from the Victoria Railway Station, that stood for nearly 100 years on the site of the Leisure Centre.

Marina through arches Marina through arches

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Maritime and Industrial Museum Maritime and Industrial Museum

The Industrial and Maritime Museum
The Industrial and Maritime Museum was housed in converted Coast Lines Warehouse, which was built around 1900 and extended to the west around 1914.

It was leased for some 30 years by Swansea Harbour Trust to Coast Lines Limited, who ran regular sailings from Swansea to most British ports.

The warehouse now forms part of the National Waterfront Museum. A suite of new exhibition galleries, a little to the north of the warehouse and a central foyer that connects the two main buildings complete the new museum. Much care has been taken by the Architects to complement the historic warehouse through materials, structure and overall design.

The new museum tells the story of Wales’s industrial and maritime history, highlighting the dramatic effect of industrialisation on the people and the landscape. The museum also reflects the important role played by Swansea and its hinterland, in the ultimate development of Wales as the world’s first industrial nation.

The latest computer technology has been used to enhance the museum with audio visual and interactive displays throughout the 15 galleries.

National Waterfront Museum (Illustration) National Waterfront Museum (Illustration)

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Sunset over Pumphouse Sunset over Pumphouse

Pumphouse and Quay
This Quay owes its name to the former Hydraulic Pumphouse, whose tower has dominated the South Dock since the beginning of the 20th century. Built in 1900 to supply power for the new swing-bridge and locks, the building replaced the early machinery fitted by James Abernethy and Sir George Armstrong.

The building was used for the last time in 1971, when the last vessel left the South Dock. By the late 1970’s it had been vandalised and the machinery so badly corroded by rust that it had to be removed in 1981. Essential work was undertaken to make the structure sound following the designation of the Conservation Area the previous year.

It was marketed for leisure use in 1984, converted at a cost of £200,000 and opened as a steak restaurant in 1985. In 1987 the Pumphouse was given Grade 2 listed status, as a building of historical and architectural interest

Mannheim Quay – Phase 1 & 2 Mannheim Quay – Phase 1 & 2

Mannheim Quay – Phase 1 & 2
Named after one of Swansea’s twin cities, Mannheim Quay is overlooked by an ambitious public housing development. The first phase was designed by Swansea City Council Architects Department and was completed in 1988. It cost £1.5million and provided 50 sheltered flats, shops and a chemist, and retail units. this phase also involved the rehabilitation and conversion of Gloucester House, a former office building.

The second phase by Shaw Homes, involved the construction of a further 100 units of social housing with 60 flats for sale. This 4-storey development incorporates the use of a timber frame system, and cost £4.5 million.

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Pockets Wharf
This is a mixed-use development consisting of forty, 2 and 3 bedroom flats and commercial floor space which includes a major high street bank.

It was built by Lovell Urban Renewal in 1993 and is composed of a continuously-linked block of three structures, in a dog-legged plan form. The tallest element is 152 feet high and a major landmark at the seaward entrance to the Maritime Quarter.

The materials used in the design of Pockett’s Wharf blend with the rest of the area and are ochre facing brick, reconstituted stone and metal balconies.

Yachts in Pockets Wharf Yachts in Pockets Wharf

Pontoon and Boats Pontoon and Boats

New Moorings in the Tawe
One of the first to benefit from the river’s new status as a linear lake, with lock access to the sea, was Swansea Yacht and Sub-Aqua Club, located on Burrows Road.

In a move that has had the effect of extending the yacht marina out into the river, they added 200 new berths on pontoons which are anchored to the bed of the river just outside the entrance to the Marina. The new births were formally declared open in December 1992 by Robin Knox Johnson and were immediately snapped up by yachtsmen.

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Pilot House Wharf
The Pilot House served the needs of Swansea’s sea pilots for the greater part of the 20th century. Before the development of radar in the 1930’s, the castellated tower served both as look-out and a small weather station.

Pilots have been working out of Swansea ever since sea trading routes were established in the early Middle Ages, although they were not properly established by committee until the late 18th century. A small carved stone on the north facing wall of the new public lavatories celebrates the architecture of the Pilot House tower, buoys and waves.

The Tower of the Ecliptic
This is the name given to the Public Observatory built by the City Council, with the aid of a 50% grant, made available by the European Regional Development Fund.

The Tower acts as both a focal point for the grand sweep of the Swansea Bay and is a visible statement of he City’s edge. Both landmark and functional structure, it rests on an octagonal plinth lapped (and occasionally lashed) by the sea. The upper levels act as a viewing gallery and observatory, the latter is equipped with a 500mm reflecting telescope, the largest in Wales.

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Abernethy Square and Quay
These new dockside spaces were named after James Abernethy, the prominent Victorian engineer who designed the South Dock and Half Tide Basin in the early 1850’s.

The new development was built by Kingdomwide Housing in 1986 and provides 258 flats for sale and rent. It is the largest housing association development in the Maritime Quarter and cost £7.4m. Only 155 units of this development are traditional housing association stock, the rest are for direct sale. Additionally, six shop units were designed into this scheme, one of which is located in Abernethy’s refurbished hydraulic engine house on the square itself.

Ferrara Square and Quay Ferrara Square and Quay

Ferrara Square and Quay
The Northern Italian city of Ferrara is twinned with Swansea and the naming of this square celebrates that fact. Ferrara Square is formed by the western side of Kingdomwide development, while the Quay is overlooked by the £11 million Lovell Urban Renewal development.

Numerous stone panels in and around the Square acknowledge Ferrara’s Renaissance heyday, further details of which can be found in the Stoney Stories heritage guide to the Maritime Quarter

The statue in the centre of Ferrara Square is of John Henry Vivian (1779-1885) and is made from cast bronze sculptured by I Evan Thomas. John Henry Vivian was the founder of a copper smelting works on the bank of the Tawe, and Swansea’s MP for six successive parliaments (23 years).

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Maritime Village
The Maritime Village is one of the largest development sites within the Maritime Quarter, containing 265 housing units and six shops.

Built by Lovell developments at a cost of £11 million in 1988, it is located between the seafront and the South Dock Basin. It overlooks the Ferrara Quay development in the east and ends shortly before the Ramada Jarvis Hotel in the west.

The Maritime Village The Maritime Village

Aerial view of Marriot Hotel Aerial view of Marriot Hotel

The Hotel
Marriot Hotels operate a 4-star, 117 bed hotel which was completed in 1989 at the western end of the Maritime Quarter. It cost £6.5 million to build of which £2 million came from an Urban Investment Grant. Facilities include restaurants, bars, a swimming pool and a conference room for 300 people.

This 5-storey structure makes a maximum use of its location, with most bedrooms overlooking the water, either in the form of the South Dock or Swansea Bay.

As a building, it forms a visual stop to one end of the dock basin and is finished in two-tone brick to match other developments in the Maritime Quarter. The northern face is completed as a brick tower that echoes the Pumphouse at the other end of the dock, while the southern seaward gable is ornamented by a piece of public art called ‘The Siren’.

Detail on Marriot Hotel Detail on Marriot Hotel

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Sites 10 and 11
There are two prominent development sites that enjoy any for of relationship with the South Dock Basin.

They straddle Trawler Road, with Site 10 looking directly into the South Dock and Site 11 on slightly higher ground, level with the promenade and facing Swansea Bay. This land has been reserved to attract major leisure uses and create a focus for the public activity.

Site 12 Spontex
Now that the industrial use of this existing site has ceased, the 15-acre site forms an important extension to the Maritime Quarter. It will provide an opportunity for residential, leisure and commercial redevelopment together with public open space and public parking

Port Tawe River Frontage – SA1
The Barrage and the stable river level it ensures has improved the development potential of this area. As a result it enjoys the benefit of river views and subsequent new buildings will have to respond strongly to such a waterside setting.

The aim is to create a lively riverfront environment that is enlivened by water-bourne activity, whose diversity of use is encouraged by a mixed development and animated by continuous public access.


Conservation and Renewal

In 1975 a conservation area was proposed by the City and County for Cambrian Place and the Assembly Rooms, which was granted an ‘outstanding’ category by the Welsh Office. This was extended by 1980 to cover the entire historic core of the Maritime Quarter. Since then the Council has facilitated a refurbishment programme of the key buildings within the area.

Re-use of Historic Buildings

The Old Guildhall The Old Guildhall

The Council began the conversion of the former Coast Lines warehouse into the Industrial and Maritime Museum in 1975. The former Hydraulic Pumphouse built in 1901 was partly renovated by the City Council in 1981. A former Seaman’s Chapel was converted into an art gallery and a former garage became the Dylan Thomas Theatre.

This image is of the old Guildhall, a Grade 2* listed building which was refurbished in 1995 to create the Dylan Thomas Centre, the architectural centrepiece of the UK Year of Literature celebrations in 1995.

The Georgian Terrace in Cambrian Place was converted into 34 flats by the Gwalia Housing Association, who have added another 66 flats since.

The Assembly Rooms is a Grade 2 listed building built after 1810, the facade of which has been retained as part of a £700,000 housing association development.

Late Georgian Terrace Late Georgian Terrace

The Environment Centre, Pier Street
Opened by HRH Prince of Wales on the 12th April 1995, the first Environment Centre in Wales is housed in a converted 96 year-old former city telephone exchange.

Located in the heart of the Conservation Area, it is the result of an alliance between the City Council, the Countryside Council for Wales and the Prince of Wales Committee. The Centre offers a range of conference, administrative and meeting areas for use by local and regional organisations. Its role is to raise public awareness of environmental issues, to encourage involvement in environmental projects and to demonstrate practical energy efficiency measures. Workshop space for artists in residence has been provided and a cafe and shop are planned.

Environmental Enhancement
Perhaps the most original features in the Maritime Quarter is the amount of public space decorated by sculpture and carved-stone panels, set into and around the new buildings..

This was all part of a Council-sponsored programme that operated between 1985 – 1990 and was designated "architectural enhancement". Conceived to focus attention on the main public walkways, its aim was to arouse interest and give pleasure.

The "enhancement" was not intended to be simply decorative. It is an important element of the whole project and every developer had to agree to its incorporation as part of the planning conditions for the site. Once agreement had been reached, the City Council then organised the design and manufacture of the artwork for the developers to install as part of their building programme.

Environmental Enhancement Environmental Enhancement

The Globe Sundial The Globe Sundial

The first example can be found in St Vincent Crescent and is the Globe sundial by the artist Wendy Taylor. It is a cast bronze sphere whose axis lies parallel to the axis of the earth. and reproduces in miniature the way the earth is bathed in sunlight. The time is indicated by the fin which casts the least shadow.

Lighthouse Tower Sculpture Lighthouse Tower Sculpture

A second example is the Lighthouse Tower Sculpture by Robert Conybear. This sculpture has a painted and galvanised steel, brass and polycarbonate superstructure. It sits atop a Portland stone column that is hung with both static and flashing neon lighting.
The Mermaid The Mermaid

The third sculpture, by George Young, was carved from a single massive block of Woodkirk sandstone and is called the Mermaid. It can be found immediately behind the Tower of the Ecliptic Public Observatory, at the most easterly end of the promenade. All three sculptures were installed between 1987 – 1988.

Tower of the Nets
The name has classical origins and refers to the Tower of the Winds at Athens. This small hexagonal structure is something between a free standing monument and an orthodox small building.


The Future

A number of very significant development opportunities still exist.

Apart from those sites still owned by the Council there remain two sizeable pieces of land not in Council ownership.

The first is the 15-acre Spontex site that faces both to the sea and the river,

while the second is on the opposite side of the river which is owned by Associated British Ports.

Tawe Wharf Tawe Wharf

Site 3 Design Brief
Tawe Wharf has been created from reclaimed land and lies immediately alongside the River Tawe below New Cut Bridge.

Its western boundary is defined by East Burrows Road and it has a built-up edge comprised of a major supermarket, the Dylan Thomas Centre and Cambrian Place.

The site has real potential as a leisure destination and it is accessible both from Oystermouth Road and via the footpath that stretches all the way along the riverside up to New Cut Bridge and on up the river valley. In this way the river’s new status as a linear lake can be exploited to further improve the City’s tourism offer.

Site 9 Pau Square
Pau Square lies due north of the public observatory and is a prime seafront residential site of 0.36 hectares. It was named after another of Swansea’s twin towns, this time in France.

Posted by locus_imagination on 2006-10-02 13:02:38

Tagged: , swansea , jrw , marina , sa1 , post-industrial-maritime

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