This last week has provided the delights of West and South-West Wales, wandering around the Welsh coast in a very enjoyable and relaxing break away from it all. Keeping one eye on the trickle of Senedd related news that occasionally came into this corner of Wales, you would have been forgiven for thinking it was a quiet week in Cardiff – maybe it was, from my corner of the beach, I can’t say otherwise. One news story that was bounding around the sands and sea though, was the controversial announcements relating to Mumbles Pier.
With an impressive £39m set aside for the so-called ‘regeneration’ of the pier area, it would certainly appear to be the case that the outlook for the Mumbles is a positive one. But no shortage of concern has been shown in response to the outlined plans, with many shouting out at the visual impacts of the proposals, it being out of keeping with the surroundings and a potential eyesore in the middle of the landscape, the very landscape which brings tourists to the area in the first place.
It is certainly a difficult issue. During the few days I had to enjoy the castles of the Gower, my party of guests was wowed by the visual brilliance of the area, yet frustrations were clear on faces when the issue of local amenities come to mind. The want and need for domesticity is an inevitability of resting on the tourist pound. In such areas where the only consistent currency is that carried in by non-local visitors, must we respond in Wales by providing our paying guests with the comforts they demand? Or do we in turn say, you came here for what this is, not what you want it to be?
The Mumbles might be dated, but its charm is firmly grounded in what is there now. Renovate and restore, and the area may well become a more commercially viable opportunity that brings more money to those equipped to receive it, but renovate and restore, and the area may well lose the very charms that bring those paying visitors in the first place.
The challenge facing Wales’ coastal communities, for this is an issue that goes far beyond the Mumbles, with town and town up and down the west coast of Wales showing the exact same wear and tear seen just outside Swansea, is one of balance. It would be a pretty resolute individual who could walk around Mumbles are deny that parts of the tourist locale at least, are in need of a facelift, a lick of paint perhaps. To do nothing would be to consign this wonderful resource to history, much like the demise that can be witnessed in such coastal areas in England, Margate for instance being a true warning sign from across the border. But to embrace the brash and frankly offensive architectural intrusions that are being suggested for the Mumbles now, would critically fail to acknowledge the reasons that bring people today, focusing too much on the reasons that ‘might’ bring people in the future.