£7m Porthcawl maritime centre set to deliver massive boost to jobs and economy

Work on a £7m flagship attraction that it is hoped will bring thousands more visitors to Porthcawl, generate around 50 new jobs and £1m annually for the town is set to begin in 12 months time.

Those behind the community-driven Porthcawl Maritime Centre project, also known as Harbourside, believe the new building on Cosy Corner next to the marina will act as a catalyst, propelling the resort into a bright future as one of Wales’ top destinations.

Work on the first element of the scheme – a boat rack with storage for 36 vessels – is set to begin shortly and should be completed in six months.

It has been funded by a £297,000 grant from the UK and Welsh governments’ Coastal Communities Fund, which will also pay for specialist equipment that will launch and retrieve boats.

The entire project represents a £10m investment in the town and building work on the multi-purpose, all-weather attraction – set to be funded by a mix of grants, social borrowing and potentially donations from residents through a Community Bond scheme – should begin in February 2016.

“Porthcawl has viewed itself as a bit of a tardy, run-down town and I think it’s about time we raised the bar,” said Stuart Bentley, one of the four directors who work voluntarily for the Harbourside community interest company, which has spent two years developing the project.

“This could be really beneficial, not just for Porthcawl or the Bridgend area, but for Wales.”

The base would also provide a home for the volunteer Coastguards

The idea for a year-round attraction has developed from a need to build a new base for the Porthcawl Sea Cadets, which still occupy a building constructed in 1946, and a headquarters and centre of excellence for the Welsh Surfing Federation, of which architectural and design consultant Stuart is the secretary.

Building on family ties with the town and fuelled by residents’ frustration at failed public sector regeneration attempts, Stuart and Mike Clarke, a town councillor, chairman of the Sea Cadets and former Mayor, developed a base that would also provide a home for the volunteer Coastguards and vital storage for the RNLI.

Working alongside fellow directors Barrie Metcalf, who is a former manager at Cardiff Bay Yacht Club, and education specialist Claire Godfrey, they have produced a final blueprint for a building which will provide everything from toilets for public use, to showers for surfers, a spa, bistro, Wave Rider surfing simulator, conference facilities, outdoor play area, education facilities and much more.

The scheme also includes a boat rack with storage for 36 vessels

One of the most-important elements will be a proposed Coastal Life Centre, which aims to teach visitors and school pupils about the unseen, underwater life around Porthcawl.

Claire has developed a partnership with Swansea University and they will work together to develop a programme to monitor harbour porpoise visits to Porthcawl, the results of which will be displayed in the Coastal Life Centre.

“What there has been in Porthcawl is really a deep frustration and often that frustration comes out in a negative way and I think from the local authority’s perspective they have tried to really spoon feed without checking if the child likes the food,” said Mike.

“The major difference with what we are looking at is that this has grown within the community and recognises fully the aims, objectives and abilities of the county borough to develop the borough.”

The building will be commercially viable so it can survive long term

He said that although the building will serve the needs of residents and visitors, they have ensured it will also be commercially viable so it can survive long term.

The team has also taken great care to ensure that not only is the building what people want, but that it will also boost the local economy.

Grants have been obtained to fund feasibility studies and a report produced for the Harbourside board by the Welsh Economic Research Unit at Cardiff University states the centre could support 180 jobs during two years of construction and could generate an additional £1m of tourism income every year – on top of the £20m already generated – and create new full and part-time jobs, which would equate to 50 full-time equivalent posts.

Mike said the board is also working closely alongside Bridgend County Borough Council, which has displayed “a real and genuine wish to develop Porthcawl for the benefit of the people not just in Porthcawl, but the wider borough”.

Stuart said: “I think one of the differences it (this scheme) has made, it has been able to bring together people who were willing to give their time, skills and professional services on a voluntary basis, recognising that there’s quite a lot of ground work that needs to be done with something before you find out what is right.

“We must remember that at the end of the day, local people are living with whatever has emerged.”

What will be in the Porthcawl Maritime Centre:

• Showers and lockers for surfers and boat owners

• A Wave Rider surf simulator

• Spa

• Headquarters for the Welsh Surfing Federation and Welsh Surf Museum

• Gym and fitness facilities

• Coastal Life Centre, education and research in partnership with Swansea University

• Amphitheatre and all-weather outdoor performance space/cinema

• The Galleri display venue for local artists

• Conference facilities

• Office spaces for charities/community groups

• Accommodation

• Y Gali (The Galley) quality day-time cafe and bistro in the evening

• The Crow’s Nest with public viewing gallery at the top of the glass tower, which will give visitors views across the Bristol Channel

• Sea Cadets

• Bike hire

• Outdoor play park

Huge support for project

UNLIKE past attempts at regeneration, the Harbourside scheme has received the community’s wholehearted support.

Chris Smart, President of Porthcawl Chamber of a Trade and Commerce, said: “We are excited about this project and absolutely delighted that the community has become so involved along the way.

“Those behind the scheme are to be applauded and we look forward to it coming to fruition.

“It will be a major boost for the town and it is wholeheartedly supported by the business community.”

Gary Victor, chairman of voluntary group Porthcawl Shout Forum, said: “We are extremely pleased that Porthcawl is at last being provided with a new flagship project to complement the recent regeneration of the harbour.

“This site once designated for a swimming pool is long overdue for development as is a leisure centre to help regenerate the town.

“We congratulate and admire the Harbourside Development Group for their vision and hard work to help rejuvenate Porthcawl.”

Cosy place for new development

The new centre will be built on Cosy Corner, next to the new £3m 70-berth marina and RNLI station on the seafront.

Cosy Corner was once home to the Cosy Cinema before a roller-skating rink was built. It was also the location of railway sidings in the past.

The Harbourside building is seen as an enhancement to the new £3m marina, which rejuvenated the town’s small harbour that had been left following the decline of the town as a major port at the turn of the 20th century after it was eclipsed by docks at Cardiff and Barry.

Article source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/7m-porthcawl-maritime-centre-set-8578892