Plans for major redevelopment of Porthcawl sea front attract mixed reaction
Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter
Plans to develop the sea front in Porthcawl have met a mixed reaction from business owners and residents.
More than 900 houses and facilities for businesses and visitors are planned for land that encompasses the amusement park, Griffin Park, and Sandy Bay area with the potential to change the face of the popular seaside town as we know it.
A new road would also be constructed and there would also either be a new school or expanded educational facilities.
Councillor Neelo Farr, Bridgend Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, says the plans “represent an exciting and important step in unlocking the potential of the waterfront area” but not everyone is convinced.
Brian Jones who is a member of Porthcawl Town Council said he is concerned that there has not yet been enough thought put it to the proposals.
He said: “There’s a lot of space here and I want to make sure it is used properly for something that benefits all the people of Porthcawl. At the moment I don’t think it does that as not enough thought has gone into the proposal.
“There are already big issues with parking in Porthcawl so to add another 900 homes here without proper consideration of parking and other amenities could be quite harmful to the community.
“There is also the potential for a new road system to cut through the lower half of Griffin Park taking away much needed leisure facilities in the tennis courts, veterans hut, and local bowls club.
“You also have to consider the Hi Tide caravan park in Sandy Bay, one of the biggest employers in the town, who could be greatly affected by such a development right next to them.
“Personally I would like to see a wet weather leisure facility introduced to make Porthcawl a year round tourist destination, though either way these plans will change the area entirely so I just hope people make their voices heard throughout the consultation period.”
Francesca Dower is the managing director of the Hi Tide caravan park, and said she would like to see more done to encourage tourism in the town instead of so many houses.
She said: “We understand that there is a need for housing in the area, but not to the degree that is set out in this proposal. Porthcawl is a seaside town, and the people that keep the shops and town afloat are the tourists who come here for six or seven months of the year.
“It could even be ten or eleven months a year if it was managed and developed properly so that’s what we want to see with this.
“This company has been owned by my family since 1947, and we’ve had three generations of hard work to make Porthcawl a destination. We want this to be a busy and bustling tourist town in the summer months that will sustain shops and industry year round.
“We also know people still want to come to the seaside and engage in seaside activities, so it’s not just about what the council wants, but what the people want as well.”
With almost 20 acres of land on the table for appropriation, the Hi Tide’s Director Geoffrey Dower said he wants the regeneration to prioritise tourism in the area as well as addressing the current issues with parking.
He said: “For me, I’d like to see something put there that would bring people into Porthcawl, and not just more houses. I’d like to see some open space and maybe even a splash area like they have in Aberavon.
“There’s a huge amount of potential but the only thing that’s really lighting up the town at the moment is the Elvis festival.
“We also need land for mobile and touring caravans at the moment. It’s so full here on weekends that we see caravans creeping on to the sea front and parking on common land as there’s nowhere else to go.
“The loss of car parking here is terrible as it’s already complete carnage to get in and out of the town on a hot weekend. As it stands they would be taking more car parking under the proposals which just doesn’t make sense.”
Gemma Lewis owns a zero waste shop in Porthcawl and says while she is excited to see there is regeneration happening in the town, there should also be a balance to what is proposed.
She said: “A lot of people are very excited to see there is development coming to Porthcawl but at the same time we want to make sure there is a good balance with what is done.
“I think most people here welcome regeneration as we do want to make the area something special, but there is definitely a worry about the sheer number of houses they are talking about putting here in comparison to green spaces and leisure facilities.”
Caroline Jones is the chairman of the Porthcawl Veterans hut in Griffin Park, a building that would be demolished to make way for a new road system under the proposals if they were to go ahead.
She said: “Porthcawl is a town that has always had a strong connection to our veterans and if these plans were to go ahead, I think they could be greatly affected.
“We need to have a self-contained building here, and when we thought about regeneration we had hoped that the veterans building, which is currently out of use because of damage to the floors, would be repaired for them to go back to. Instead it looks as though this whole section of the park could make way for a new road system, taking away the hut and the tennis courts that are next to it.
“It’s really worrying for us as we don’t want veterans from Porthcawl and the surrounding areas to be neglected. If the building is removed we need to know what provision will be put in place for them and the other groups that use it.”
Mike Clarke has lived in Porthcawl since 1994 and believes that without the people of the town at the forefront of the plans, they will not be as successful as they could be.
He said: “We can understand that there is going to be a big regeneration in this area of Porthcawl, but we want to make sure that groups like the veterans and those who use the tennis courts are made a part of the arrangement, with similar spaces and facilities allocated.
“Obviously we have seen the proposal for new houses and a road system but at the moment there seems to be very little planned to maintain the leisure and tourism facilities here.
“This is a beautiful park that is well used by a number of visitors and residents, so I think the idea of the road going through it will be very unpopular. Hopefully the people of the town are listened to in the coming months, and the arrangements made are good for everyone.”
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