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New city square planned for Cardiff described as ‘bleak, uninviting and sterile’

06 Jun 2024 5 minute read
An artist’s impression of what the public square planned for the former Cardiff Debenhams site could look like. Photo Virtual Planit.

Martin Shipton

Plans to create a new square in Cardiff city centre have been lambasted by a heritage group as “bleak, uninviting and sterile”

Cardiff Civic Society has contrasted the proposed public space on the site of the closed Debenhams store adjacent to the St David’s shopping centre with “lush, green and leafy” pocket parks created in London.

A weekend of community events will be held at the city shopping destination on Saturday June 8 and Sunday June 9 for people to provide further feedback on plans for the new development.

The concept for the new square has been developed by St David’s Cardiff owner Landsec following a series of public engagement events earlier this year, and Landsec has now revealed what the new city square could look like.

The current proposal shows the square with green spaces in addition to new seating, a play park, cycle storage, water jets, and a multipurpose stage area. With space for seasonal events such as markets, street food, and an ice rink, the ambition is for the square to provide an open, safe space for children to play alongside being a vibrant cultural place for locals to enjoy.

Consultation

Following an initial community consultation which engaged more than 3,000 people, Landsec is calling for the community to be involved in shaping the future of the square and what it could provide for local families as well as how it could bring more community engagement to the city centre.

Landsec is inviting community groups and local people from all walks of life to participate in the weekend of in-person community events to input into the scheme, ensuring it is accessible and inviting for all, and to develop a sense of pride and celebration over the space.

Helen Morgan, centre director of St David’s Cardiff, said: “It’s fantastic to see the feedback from the first phase of public consultation come to life in the proposals for the new city square. As a space for the community, we need people to shape it with us to ensure it meets their needs and creates value for Cardiff long into the future.”

The new city square will be located on the site of the former Debenhams store which closed in 2021 and was later acquired by Landsec in December 2023. The next step will see the store demolished to make way for the new square with a final planning application due to be submitted in late summer 2024. Demolition work is due to begin in the coming weeks, with the main phase completing in spring 2025. Further phases of demolition and commencement of the square is due to start in September 2025, opening for the public in summer 2026.

Community event

The community events at St David’s Cardiff will be held from 10am – 4pm on Saturday June 8 and from 10.30am – 4pm on Sunday June 9. There will be drop-in stands with exhibitions of plans as well as interactive workshops. For more information about the event including what’s on, visit here

But Cardiff Civic Society chair Nerys Lloyd-Pierce said: “We are very disappointed with this proposal. It’s as bleak and uninviting as Central Square. We called for a ‘pocket park’ – somewhere lush, green and leafy, a haven for humans and wildlife. Instead, we have a sterile, harsh paved area. It raises many issues:

“Climate change – hard landscaping like this will add to the problem of city centres becoming ‘heat islands’. Also, it offers little opportunity for water capture in our increasingly wet winters. Trees and shrubbery would help with this, hard landscaping will just cause run-off.

“Nature emergency. Somewhere filled with trees and shrubs – for example, trees with berries that provide food in autumn and winter, would provide birds with a welcome food source as the colder months approach. The planting proposed here is just tokenism.

“Access. It appears that there will be units selling food etc. But that’s commercialisation, not public open space. A pocket park would provide a space for everyone to relax and improve health and wellbeing in the process.

“I had numerous emails from people who were sad to lose the open area destined to become the Admiral HQ. It was so valued and hugely missed. With a little thought and imagination and will, the new square could be an asset to us city dwellers. Instead, I suspect the new square will not welcome anyone without the cash to splash on coffee and snacks.

“London has numerous pocket parks. They are glorious. Peaceful, cool, leafy and filled with bird song. I know they have the advantage of being well established, and the trees are mature, but you have to start somewhere. This square doesn’t even aspire to anything even approaching this. It really is a missed opportunity.”


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Linda Jones
Linda Jones
2 hours ago

Well the new canal area is an absolute disaster so I have little hope of this project being any good. Far better to spend the money on social housing for local people

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 hour ago

To go with Desolation Bay…

hdavies15
hdavies15
36 minutes ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

.. Corruption Bay ?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
6 minutes ago
Reply to  hdavies15

One symptom…Frank Hestor eh RT how much was the Welsh Tory divvy-up out of another £5 million…Fleas and bigger fleas…

Save a thought for those poor buggers burying their mates 80 years ago…

No mention of the South Wales Borderers that I can see…

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