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Costs rise on Acme’s Swansea Central in wake of Manchester Arena bombing

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Security concerns mean Acme’s proposed £130 million Swansea Central scheme will take longer to build and cost more, a new report has revealed

The update to Swansea Council’s cabinet said the project to create an arena, pedestrian bridge, parkland, offices and homes at the heart of the Welsh city was now expected to cost £5 million more and take up to four months longer.

Extra measures are planned in light of last year’s Manchester Arena bombing while a number of structural works have been brought forward.

London practice Acme secured planning consent for Swansea Central phase one in October, but councillors will today (29 November) vote on whether to approve spending of £9.9 million for detailed design (£3 million) and enabling works (£6.9 million).

The report to cabinet said a review by the council’s cost consultants had led to a budget increase from £124.7 million to £129.8 million.

‘This increase is due largely to increase in cost of security elements of the scheme following the Manchester Arena incident and unforeseen works required to stabilise the revetment wall,’ said the document.

It also revealed that a series of construction jobs had been packaged into enabling works as the scale of the project became clear. ‘The likely implication is a delay to the enabling works resulting in a knock-on effect on the overall programme of two to four months,’ it said.

An Acme spokesperson said a listed revetment wall had been confirmed to require more stabilisation works than previously expected.

’The design team is working on a number of cost cutting initiatives elsewhere in the project,’ they added. ‘We expect to achieve some of these cost reductions in the next phase and expect the project to be completed close to budget.

The spokesperson confirmed that the additional costs for security and revetment stabilisation would not change the design team’s fees.

Swansea Central Phase One features a 3,500-capacity arena with a ‘digital façade’ to broadcast events to an adjacent square.

It also includes a pedestrian bridge over Oystermouth Road as well as 944 spaces across two new multistorey car parks and 300 extra park-and-ride spaces at an existing facility at Fabian Way. Commercial and residential units will also be built.

Council leader Rob Stewart this week insisted the development was ‘progressing as planned’.

He said: ‘We will need to borrow some money to support this transformational scheme. However, borrowing is at historically low levels and we will carefully phase it – including sums being prudently set aside in reserves to fund future capital expenditure – so as not to place any overall extra pressure on council revenue finances during the life of this council.

‘Over time we hope this development will produce extra income for the council which outstrips any repayment.’

He added: ‘The whole scheme will drive up Swansea’s ambition, connect the city digitally, create jobs and increase wealth. It will act as a catalyst for future city-wide development and stimulate private-sector investment here.’

The arena – to be managed by venue operator Ambassador Theatre Group – is one element of the Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District project due to be part-funded by the £1.3 billion Swansea Bay City Deal.

Acme said its 8,825m2 arena had been designed to accommodate major theatrical events as well as exhibitions and conferences.

‘The form developed into a fluid arrangement of bifurcating curves that has been influenced by the spatial requirements of the programme, each peel representing a specific use that sits above a glazed plinth,’ said the practice.

‘The digital facade consists of a pleated perforated anodised aluminium facade with integrated LED lighting.’

Acme added that new parkland would be built over car parks, inspired by Swansea’s coastal landscape. The practice said LED lighting would ‘accentuate the sinuous form of the bridge, providing a consistent glow of illumination through the perforated sides and sufficient lighting for pedestrians’.

Main construction work could begin next summer with completion by the end of 2020 and the arena opening in early 2021. 

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