‘Let the public decide Porthcawl’s future’ urges shadow minister

Details of a multi-million-pound proposal to develop housing, leisure, retail and community facilities in Porthcawl should be made public so residents can judge for themselves.

That is the call from Shadow Welsh Tourism Minister Suzy Davies to Bridgend County Borough Council after leaked documents revealed that housebuilder Persimmon and Cardiff-based developer PMG have offered £4m for the empty Salt Lake site.

Their bid for the land, allocated for phase one of the stalled Porthcawl regeneration scheme, is backed by the Evans family, which holds the lease for the Bridgend Council-owned land.

It comes after failed attempts to bring first Tesco and then Morrisons to the site to act as a catalyst for regeneration.

But few knew about this latest twist in the regeneration saga until documents detailing the bid were leaked a week ago.

The Salt Lake site in Porthcawl

Senior Bridgend councillor Charles Smith said no deal has been reached due to “a number of issues and concerns that must be addressed”.

Ms Davies, who is a Welsh Conservative Regional AM, said she now wanted the details of the scheme to be made public so residents could judge for themselves and urged the authority to seek a “speedy and visionary” solution to Porthcawl’s woes.

She said: “The story last week about the proposals that have been put forward by developers raises many key points about the stalled regeneration plan.

“I think constituents will want to see some evidence of a vision for the town.

“The supermarket option is long gone and the council has had plenty of time to think ambitiously.

“While there is a perfectly good argument for extra housing in the county borough, the council also has to consider the best use of the available land.

“As Shadow Tourism Minister, I have to ask how this site can improve Porthcawl’s tourism offer as well as enhancing the environment and opportunities for residents themselves.

“This is the gateway to our main holiday resort and adjacent to the very site where leisure and tourism facilities are being planned by the Harbourside Development group and the council itself.

Regeneration plans for the Porthcawl site have been stalled

“Leaving this land empty for almost two decades has done nothing to enhance Porthcawl’s appeal to tourists or residents’ pride in the town.

“I believe that a top quality mixed development of the site, which can, of course, include housing, is a better answer.”

Coun Smith, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, said on Wednesday: “The regional AM’s comments are somewhat superfluous as we already made it absolutely clear a week ago that we are committed towards a transparent and open process in order to provide a mixed and balanced regeneration which is not beholden to any single large business interest, and which makes Porthcawl an even greater place to live, work and visit.”

Last week, he also said the authority was continuing to liaise with the Evans’ agents to try and overcome concerns and move forward.

Leaked papers revealed Persimmon and PMG have offered an initial payment on completion of sale of £4m and claim further payments, which would be made to Bridgend Council as housing units and projects are completed on the site, could exceed £18m.

Related:
Multi-million-pound development bid made for Salt Lake in Porthcawl

The documents also stated that the Evans family, which runs the Coney Beach funfair, would be willing to purchase the under-threat Porthcawl Museum building from Bridgend Council and donate it to Porthcawl Town Council if the county council approves the plan.

But it is understood borough council members in Porthcawl have voiced serious concerns about the lack of financial detail in the Salt Lake bid and basic information such as who would run a proposed health centre and leisure facilities.

Coun Smith also stated last week that any regeneration of the site should be conducted by way of an open-market process, as an off-market transaction such as the one proposed could be legally challenged.

Ms Davies added: “I would like constituents to encourage the council to consider how this site could maximise local and tourist use of the harbour area and, critically, footfall flow into the town centre.

“I would also urge them to negotiate a Section 106 agreement that is a bit more imaginative than just off loading a tricky situation with the museum and art gallery.

“Perhaps a developer could look at how it could help the council meet demand for Welsh medium education in the town – just as an example.”

She added: “Bottom line – people in Porthcawl are fed up with endless delays to regeneration and situations like Mudgate.

“The right answer is still better than a quick answer but, after all this time, the best answer for Porthcawl is one which is both speedy and visionary.”

Article source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/let-public-decide-porthcawls-future-9437683