Council sets aside £8m for development of Skyline attraction
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Swansea Council has set aside £8 million to help the delivery of the Skyline leisure attraction on Kilvey Hill.
But while this money has been approved in principle, the council said no money had been directly awarded to the company which wants to build it, Skyline Enterprises, as yet.
And it said the proposed investment would, if the scheme went ahead, be repaid in full as part of an agreement with the New Zealand-based company.
Skyline Enterprises wants to build a gondola ride from the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks area across the River Tawe up to the top of Kilvey Hill, St Thomas, where there would be luge runs, a zipline, sky swing, biking and walking trails, and food and drink outlets. Representatives from the company have been visiting Swansea for years to develop the concept.
It is understood the money put aside by the council would cover things like land acquisitions, the buying back of leases at Kilvey Hill and potential river crossing rights.
The council’s current capital budget allocates £3.87 million towards Skyline this financial year, £2.6 million in 2024-25 and £1.5 million in 2025-26. These three sums add up to £7.97 million.
All councils have a rolling capital budget for projects like new schools, leisure centre upgrades, new roads and regeneration schemes. Occasionally allocated sums aren’t spent, or are spent in future years because of delays.
Skyline has featured on the capital budget since 2018-19, but only with small sums ranging from £40,000 to £87,000. Then, in 2022-23, £430,000 was allocated – plus a further £430,000 from the council’s revenue budget, which covers day-to-day spending.
A council spokesman said: “No council funding has been directly awarded to Skyline Enterprises to date.
“While cabinet has approved funding in principle, there is no binding commitment as yet on the council’s part and funding would need to meet certain conditions before any money is potentially paid out.
“If it goes ahead, the proposed investment by the council would be repaid in full as part of an agreement with Skyline.”
He added: “A notional £430,000 was allocated as a budget to assist the council with fees associated with land assembly and site investigation works in 2022-2023. About £85,000 of that allocation was spent.”
Little is known about the repayment side of the proposition as yet, but financial discussions between councils and other parties are commercially sensitive and agreements have to be signed.
The cost of the Kilvey Hill project has been estimated between £34 million to £40 million. The Welsh Government said it would invest £4 million, subject to conditions being met.
A group of Swansea councillors was told at a meeting in March that Skyline Enterprises had set aside 68 million New Zealand dollars, which at current exchange rates works out as £34 million. The councillors heard the company had envisaged clawing back construction costs in 10 years of the attraction being open, but that its latest calculation put the figure at 13 years.
Swansea residents would be offered a discounted £40 annual Skyline pass for adults, with older people and children priced at just £20. Children under five would be free. The pass would entitle residents to a year of unlimited rides on the gondolas.
Public consultation events have taken place and a computer generated “fly-through” of the proposal has done the rounds in recent days. A planning application is expected to be submitted to the council this summer.
Skyline Enterprises chief executive officer, Geoff McDonald, said: “We believe that Skyline Swansea would bring lasting benefits to the area, in the form of a healthy outdoor tourism experience and employment and leisure opportunities for local people.”
The company has sites in New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and South Korea.
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