Work set to get resume on shopping centre that’s been covered in scaffolding for four years
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Work is expected to get underway shortly on a Swansea shopping centre that has been encased in scaffolding for the last four years.
Quantum Swansea LLP said “it is intended” that the next stage will start shortly, once legal paperwork has been finalised.
Tom Clarke, the manager of menswear shop Slater – one of the Princess Way businesses impacted by the scaffolding – is not holding his breath.
He said tenants had been told previously that a programme of work would start, but it hadn’t. “It’s very frustrating,” he said. “The tenants are fed up.”
The structural issue all along has been concerns about loose concrete tiles along the fascia of the building. This required scaffolding to be erected to protect people below. It is understood that legal issues have also complicated matters.
Different contractors have inspected the shopping centre, which was built around 14 years ago, to identify if there was an underlying cause of the tile problem.
In early 2019 it was reported that 3,000 tiles were going to be removed so that experts could assess the frame behind. Following that exercise, it was said the building would be given a complete facelift.
In the meantime the scaffolding and blue netting – partially covering businesses including Zinco Lounge, Coffee #1, Tiger, Zara and Slater – has become part of the street furniture.
Asked for an update by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, a spokeswoman for Affordable Housing and Healthcare Group, which was understood to be the building’s owner and whose registered address in Dorset is the same as Quantum Swansea LLP’s, said it could not comment on the status of the cladding works but that Quantum Swansea LLP was committed to ensuring they were completed properly and safely. It also said it was in discussions with the original developer.
Asked to clarify who the building’s owner was, whether contractors had been instructed to rectify the issues, whether that work had started and if not what was holdings things up, a response from Quantum Swansea LLP was received. It said: “Quantum Swansea LLP, the owner of the building at Princess Way, is in the process of carrying out the necessary works at the building through its chosen contractors.
“Substantial work has been undertaken to understand the nature and extent of the issues and it is intended that the next stage of works will commence shortly on completion of legal documentation.” She added that no specific details could be disclosed.
Slater manager Mr Clarke said a meeting had been held involving tenants and those responsible for the building around three years ago, and that there was another one in mid-September this year.
According to Mr Clarke, tenants were advised at the latest meeting that the cladding job would take 34 weeks but that it would only get under way after legal paperwork was signed and a subsequent four-week planning period.
“What they told us this time is what we were told first time,” he said. “We haven’t heard anything since.”
Mr Clarke, who said business group Swansea Bid had tried to speed things up, said that his store now had persistent water ingress problems.
“It’s coming from underneath,” he said. “It happens every time it rains.”
He said he’s been told that work to rectify the water ingress can’t be done until the scaffolding is taken down. He is now left with four changing rooms out of action and colleagues constantly having to mop the worst of the water.
“It’s affecting business,” he said.
Mr Clarke, of Cardiff, said every day he drove into work he worried about what he’d find at the Princess Way store. “It’s quite stressful,” he said.
Swansea resident Dave Jones, who was having a coffee at Princess Way, wanted to know what was being done about the scaffolding. He said: “Does it ruin my day? No it doesn’t. But it would be nice to see improvements.”
On the opposite side of the road, Swansea Council is carrying out a multi-million revamp of the former BHS store to create a hub with services including the central library, which will relocate from the Civic Centre.
Jill and Mark Whitwell, also from Swansea, said the scaffolding had been up so long that people had become used to it, and that it become a landmark.
Mrs Whitwell said: “It’s not nice to look at. Somebody who is responsible needs to take responsibility.”
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This is not a new problem – in the 1970s in Manchester two shopping centres -The Precinct Centre at the University and the Arndale Centre both had this problem and both had tiles fixed by a company called Lionel Arnold. Apparently water got behind the tiles then froze in the winter causing the tiles to fall off. Both buildings were enfolded in scaffolding for several years as I remember. Eventually both were solved. The Precinct Centre has now been partially demolished and the Arndale was largely destroyed by the massive IRA bomb in the 1990s and has only been partly… Read more »