Thursday, 23 August 2012

St David’s Centre, Swansea: Stealing our Streets


Someone has finally woken up – or perhaps sobered up? - and realised what a carbuncle was foisted on Swansea in 1982 with the development of  St David’s Shopping Centre.

Perhaps the developers thought it would be regarded a gem but, like the aforementioned sore, it is red, painful to bear, ugly to look at and everyone wonders why it wasn’t removed ages ago.

Standing as a physical barrier between the magnificent Anglican St Mary’s Church and the lovely Catholic St David’s Priory Church and school it has been largely empty and continually moribund since some surely inebriated architect with a friend in the red brick business threw it up, declaring this the future of retail development. We can only hope he or she went on to make a career in drainage or demolition, saving future generations from the horrors of their vapid imagination.

The centre, along with the adjacent and now vacant Oldway House will be knocked down, at least in part, and ,Swansea will, in its place, be blessed with a “temporary” car park with a view to another, hopefully mQuadrantore imaginative, retail development.

I understand this might be an enclosed development and, while I give a big hurrah for the removal of the current eyesore, I an nervous about more of our city centre streets becoming part of a private business.

I wonder how many people have realised that, while places like the more successful Quadrant shopping centre [left], opened in 1979,  are all very nice Swansea citizens are effectively robbed of our streets when the centre closes and when it is open "normal" street activity is restricted.

Quadrant_Shopping_Centre, Inside

I wonder how many sit in the centre of the Quadrant [right] and realise that around them are streets, thoroughfares that are only public areas as far as the public are allowed to use them by the Council that “owns” these streets. Think of the normal activities you might expect to be able to be involved in on a street and count those activities no longer “permitted” here.

No smoking, no dogs, no bicycles, no games and, once it closes, no entry so you had better make your way around the long way to get from one end of the city centre to the other. Missed your bus? You might have caught it if you had been able to dash through Wassail Square [that’s it in the picture above] to the bus station. It is a trade off, of course, and most might be happy with it but the privatisation of public areas I suggest is something we should be concerned about, especially with plans for St David’s Centre.

Rather than enclosing another big area of our city, perhaps an extension of the Quadrant,  the property between St Mary's and St David's Priory Church would make a good, open second city-centre square around which shops could be fitted and without the now apparently ubiquitous giant TV spoiling our socialising. By incorporating them into this plan, the view from the one church to the other would enhance the city centre and open up what has for too long been an eyesore and obstruction, and a vital thoroughfare between the city centre and the Marina would remain.

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