Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Pump House Ghost Plaza . Llanelli's unloved gift from the EU.

Think Plaza, think public square or market place......but this is the mysterious Pump House Plaza, Llanelli. The most lonely and empty plaza I have ever come across. Built on Council land by Carmarthenshire County Council all is not explained in the public documentation

 Part of the 2008-2013 "Regeneration Master-plan", the 2012 update states:

● Phase 2 Carmarthenshire Dock (i.e. Pumphouse Plaza has been recently completed to complement the private sector led restaurant development within the Pumphouse building itself).

Here it is in the 2011 publicity photo by Rodger Associates Ltd, who claimed the design and project "Inception to completion" and they certainly delivered a "plaza"

The Pump House Plaza June 2017
                                       


Another view,  June 2017 -weeds in cracks in paving, no sign of human life, Sospan Restaurant overlooks.


A few years on this lonely, unused place looks just the same but only the weeds seem to be utilising it. Far from the bustling public area as planned, it is clearly not being used as such. It was funded by a European Grant  administered by Carms County Council ,usefully adjacent to a local pet project,the Sospan Restaurant , itself developed with generous public funding by 2 former Scarlets' Rugby players via their company Bendigo 9-10.

 The Ghost Plaza grant was apparently bankrolled from the EU Green Seas/ Green Beaches fund. The Plaza is next to the  Sospan  Restaurant and across the road from the grade II listed North Dock which contains fresh water. An overflow from the Dock goes into a river which runs into an estuary which eventually flows into the sea. High levels of nitrogen compounds, probably mainly from poorly treated sewage mean that this estuary is often green with algal blooms and the North Dock water is frequently visited by the less attractive algal scum. Nearby are notices warning not to touch the scum.

 Could the County Council have misinterpreted the Green Seas issue and felt a large public space was needed close to such algal abundance.? The EU's reward for actual greenness in our coastal waters?

The 2007 planning application for the Ghost Plaza was never put to the CCC planning committee and quietly approved by then head of Planning, Eifion Bowen through his delegated powers.

The area is not known for its pedestrian or any other traffic and currently a new restaurant car park extension is being built there for the Sospan. Double yellow lines prevent parking on the access roads to this area and the plaza is invisible to passing traffic on the coastal bypass and hard to see and too far away to be easily enjoyed by people visiting Llanelli beach on the other side of the dock. It is not signposted or advertised in anyway.

This land may not have been purchased by Sospan prior to build
The new car park extension

So why build a new and empty open space here at public expense? Could it be the old "grab a grant"
 culture - find a grant and invent a project to get the money?

Was it a serious artistic statement of the lonely desperation and emptiness of this neglected town?

 Maybe just some sort of joke? Or a test? Would anyone notice if a completely useless "public" area was quietly built on the margin of a depressed town?

Now, in contrast  the picture below is a real Plaza in Madrid. It has people, clearly a meeting place with good access and surrounded with hustle and bustle.It serves a civic purpose. But the Pump House plaza is a Public space without any public use and was the product of an environmental grant funded to improve the coastline without any obvious improvement to the coastal environment that I can see. This "gift" EU funding gives no obvious facility  to the locals but may have well funded the designer's and constructors who have built this curious area for Carmarthenshire County Council.

After all, it was part of a "Masterplan". Its just we don't know what the plan was really all about. This is the explanation provided in the report for the whole North Dock Project.  After reading it, I am none the wiser.............

2.12 Llanelli Waterside
    The activity within the Llanelli Waterside area is funded through the Joint Venture partnership between Welsh Government and Carmarthenshire County Council. The investment in infrastructure over this and previous Masterplan period has created attractive regeneration sites for development which have been taken up to date by both residential and commercial developers (e.g. Machynys West, Pumphouse Restaurant, Dragon 24 offices). Evidence suggests that creating a high quality environment can bring competitive advantage in the regional, national and global market place. The landscape quality influences an occupier’s perception of an area as a suitable location for their business and first impressions count, therefore, ensuring high-quality landscape treatments at gateways, entrances and along access roads are important investment for the long term as these help the potential occupier achieve a positive business image.

{As  to the Sospan Restaurant, the funding for that is another story which I'll post soon!}

A more conventional Plaza

Siân Caiach,

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