Decades-long deadlock that has held back Porthcawl regeneration is set to be broken with a £3m land deal

The deadlock that has held back the regeneration of Porthcawl for decades is set to be broken in a £3m land deal.

Conflicting interests with the families which lease a large portion of seafront land have prevented the land owner Bridgend council from bringing forward schemes, leaving residents disappointed and frustrated.

But now the authority is proposing to pay the two local Evans families – who lease the Salt Lake site at the heart of the phase one regeneration area – £3m to relinquish their rights.

It would bring to an end the so-called owners’ agreement on phase one, which would have seen the leaseholders pocket 40% of the receipts from any development.

If approved by full council, the deal would give back total control to the authority and it believes redevelopment work could start as soon as 2019 as a result.

The Salt Lake area is currently a car park
(Image: David Williams)

It would also bring to an end four decades of uncertainty for the town during which three regeneration master plans have failed to deliver.

The last scheme, known as Seven Bays, relied on huge inward investment of at least £12.5m from a major supermarket to act as a catalyst and pay for infrastructure improvements, including improved roads and flood defences.

It had been agreed by both the council, which would have had 60% of the return, and the leaseholders and was set to move forward but Tesco and then Morrisons pulled out.

The scheme had also been unpopular with residents as it would have seen a 50,000sq ft supermarket built on Salt Lake.

Council leader Huw David said it has received further offers from developers since then but has been unable to agree on a way forward with the leaseholders due to conflicting interests.

The seafront Jennings Building has already been redeveloped with new bars and restaurants and live/work units
(Image: Bridgend County Borough Council)

“The headline is that we are unlocking regeneration because it’s been a frustrating time for everyone,” said Mark Shephard, the council’s corporate director for communities.

“Our intention would be to market that land pretty quickly. While there won’t be a spade in the ground next year, we would hope that by 2019 we would have a spade in that ground.

“There are inevitably some risks, but it’s a pretty safe bet in terms of investment.”

A council report which will go before cabinet and full council for approval next week, states that it was the Evans families – one of which runs the fairground while the others are property developers – who proposed the council purchase their leasehold interest, which would not have run out until 2033.

The cost of purchasing the lease will be funded by the council’s capital budget, with the £3.3m price tag arrived at after two independent valuations and consultation with the Wales Audit Office.

Mr Shephard said that infrastructure improvements will still need to be carried out, which will cost around £5m.

The council report states that the 27-acre phase one area stretches from Cosy Corner in the south to the Hillsboro Place car park, which is also included, the green by the ambulance station in the north and the Eastern Promenade in the east. The Evans’ interest in the Salt Lake car park covers an area of about 9.5 acres.

Coney Beach funfair is unaffected by the proposed deal but is earmarked for phase two of the regeneration in Porthcawl

Mr Shephard said the phase two land owners’ agreement – which is intended to redevelop the Coney Beach funfair and former Sandy Bay caravan park in the long term – is unaffected by this deal.

He added that Pat Evans, owner of the funfair and operator of the car park at Salt Lake, will be given the licence to continue to run it in 2018 as it is unlikely development work would start then. But he will have to establish alternative car parking for the rest of the funfair’s life by 2019.

Coun David said residents and other stakeholders will be asked what they will like to see developed on the phase one site.

But he said the Local Development Plan (LDP), a legally-binding document, meant there had to be an element of housing.

He said a small or medium-sized supermarket would also be considered, as would crucial car parking, a major hotel, commercial and leisure interests.

“Undoubtedly it is one of the most significant if not biggest waterfront developments taking place in South Wales right now,” said Coun David.

Sandy Bay in Porthcawl

“It’s ripe for development and housing will be part of that because of the LDP.

“The Eastern Promenade is completely under used. It (the deal) also gives us complete control of car parking because Porthcawl is a tourist town and we will make sure there are enough car parking spaces for the future of Porthcawl.

“The possibilities are huge. We are not buying this land to sit on it, we are buying this land to develop it.

“This is part of a plan which will help it become South Wales’ premiere tourist destination.”

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