Porthcawl harbourside project is close to next big step. – Glamorgan Gem

Monday, 18 January 2016

By Philip Irwin

in Environment

The team behind the Porthcawl Harbourside project is putting on an exhibition this weekend so that people in the town can have a close-up look at the proposals.

Members of the team will be at the YMCA in John Street, Saturday and Sunday, July 23 and 24, to explain how the plan is progressing to construct a maritime centre near the harbour.

It is fair to say that the project is unique for Porthcawl, because the building – with an estimated construction cost of £7 million – is to be funded by applying for grant aid from a variety of bodies.

Mike Clarke, the chair of Porthcawl Harbourside Community Interest Company (CIC) told The GEM Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) were unable to make funds available, due to the present economic climate.

He added:?“BCBC have been very supportive in terms of making the land available through an asset transfer, and through the amount of officer time they have allocated, but it has been down to the team at Porthcawl Harbourside to raise the finds by applying for grants.”

The asset transfer process also opens up a mechanism whereby the project could receive up to £1.1 million from the Big Lottery Fund. A total of £50,000 has already been received for development work.

Also helping the team get to where they are now was a grant of £297,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund, and this has helped them draw up detailed plans for a striking building.

Now, however, the team is “quietly confident” that the big grant – the one that will enable construction work to start – is just around the corner.

Builders like to use the phrase ‘landmark building’ but it is accurate in this case.

Together with the privately-funded plans to transform jennings Building into a mix of living space, restaurant, cafe and business units, it has the potential to make the ‘Harbourside Quarter’ a real tourist destination.

The idea for the project began with two local groups, the Welsh Surfing Federation and Porthcawl Sea Cadets, started talking about the need for new premises.

The surfers had no home in Porthcawl – or in Wales – but as the organisation has grown, the need for a permanent base had increased.

The Sea Cadets have an old building which acts as a meeting place for the moment on the harbourside. They will also use the maritime centre for a base, and their existing building will be knocked down. A crane to lift boats in and out of the harbour will take its place.

The two organisations were joined by a group, all born and bred in Porthcawl, and Porthcawl Harbourside CIC was born.

They harnessed their skills and knowledge of the town and its maritime ties by designing and developing new ideas for the area surrounding the new marina and the nearby RNLI building.

Local architect Stuart Bentley is a member of the team and he has been responsible for the design of the building.

As the team has developed ideas for the building, it has been his job to fit them all in. As with any major project, there have been adjustments since the project was launched some years ago, but the main elements have stayed constant.

One recent change that caused an element of confusion was the inclusion of a swimming pool. The lack of a large public swimming pool is a long-debated topic in Porthcawl.

However, the proposed unit, at around 18 metres, was never intended to fill that gap.

Stuart Bentley explained:?“We have been able to put aside space for a wellbeing centre, with gym facilities, sauna, oxygen tanks, physio and hydrotherapy.

“It would be ideal for people recuperating from injury, possibly for GO?referrals, and we also think that the facilities could be made available to local hotels as an extra for their guests.

“The pool is part of this complex, and was never intended to be a family leisure pool.”

Another floor in the centre will offer conference space for up to 100 people, and it will be of a flexible design for many other uses as well. In fact, this will be the area where the area where the Sea Cadets will meet in an evening.

There will be a ‘Centre for Surfing Excellence’ – headquarters for the National Governing Body of Surfing in Wales and featuring a Welsh Surf Museum.

Craig Burrows, the chairman of the Welsh Surfing Federation, said:?“The proposed facilities will play a major role in the realisation of our vision of Welsh surfing in Wales, Europe and on the world stage.

“Having recently been recognised by the International Surfing Association as an independent surfing nation, the proposed building establishes our presence at the highest level.”

To continue the surfing theme, a ‘Waverider’ surfing machine is still included in the design.

Another section of the maritime centre ahs been allocated for a ‘Coastal Life Centre’, concentrating on the local ecological and environmental culture and history.

Claire Godfrey has already started work on this aspect of the centre, running rock pool investigation days and also working with the local coast watch on a ‘porpoise spotting’ exercise.

She told The GEM:?“There are huge educational opportunities for this. Local schools will be encouraged to visit, and we are putting a partnership in place with Swansea University that will focus on community involvement and education.”

Regular educational talks for local people are already taking place, and are proving very popular, and special activities are being planned for Easter.

The Coastal Life Centre is intended to be a significant visitor attraction, and it is still planned to include an aquarium.

‘The Gallery’ will occupy another area of the building, and this is intended as an “innovative display venue for the use of local artists, historical groups and design and technology creative industries”.

Moving outside the building for a moment, a performance space, called ‘The Venue’, will be created outside, as a canopy-covered amphitheatre that can put on all weather outdoor performances, and also be used as a cinema.

Opening out onto the performance space wil be ‘Y Gali (The Galley)’ – a quality day time café which will convert in the evening into a quality bistro.

At the moment, it is intended to run this in partnership with Bridgend College, giving catering students valuable experience of working in their chosen industry.

Moving back into the maritime centre, a number of ‘business pods’ will be available. These will be office spaces that could be used by charities and community groups.

Business Pod tenants will have shared services with support such as day-to-day administration and reception services.

Still included are a range of accommodation unit, aimed at walkers, cyclists, surfers or school parties who are visiting or passing through Porthcawl.

Now called ‘Y Cabanau’ – the four star cabins will offer high quality mixed accommodation linked to Harbourside events and venue hire.

Stuart Bentley said:?“These cabins will offer surf suit drying rooms and secure cycle storage to make them attractive to those two sets of enthusiasts.”

There will be three towers at the top of the harbour building. One will house a public viewing gallery with a camera obscura attraction, while one will be a home to the Coastguard, who will move there from their current Lock’s Lane base, and for Coast Watch volunteers.

Finally, the third tower offers space for a ‘flagship restaurant’ on the highest level of the building, offering spectacular views across the Bristol Channel and giving the restaurateur who takes up the space a chance to offer something very special.

This weekend’s exhibition is intended as a consultation exercise, offering the public a further chance to say what they think about the project’s aims.

Stuart Bentley said:?“We do see this as a catalyst for future growth. This is all about Porthcawl people doing something for the town.”

Mike Clarke added:?“This has been a real rollercoaster of a ride since we began back in 2012. It is a huge project for the third sector to undertake.”

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