IT can be hard for people to avoid a jewel analogy when talking about Swansea Bay.
For Terry Stevens the six-mile stretch of beachfront between Swansea Marina and Mumbles Head should be a necklace with a string of pearls.
“What we’ve got is a necklace with a clasp and a hook,” he said.
“There can be very few places with such a dramatic backdrop and uninterrupted walk.
“But you need to create pockets of interest. And a string of coffee shops is not going to do it.”
Dr Stevens, who lives in Swansea and works as a tourism consultant, was sharing his views following the council’s decision to seek expressions of interest for five seafront sites – the car park at the bottom of Sketty Lane, the Blackpill Lido, the skate ramp area at West Cross, a plot of land on the Mumbles side of The West Cross Inn, and two of the tennis courts in Langland.
No decisions have been taken but no high-rise schemes will be considered, and the public are also being asked how they think the sites could be best used in the future.
It has got people talking. Hundreds have already responded to the consultation.
Dr Stevens said the needs of tourists were becoming more aligned with those of residents.
“The market trends are telling us that visitors increasingly want to do things that local people do,” he said.
In his opinion, any developments that do go ahead at the sites – and that is not a given – should be “first and foremost” for residents.
“Make it something that local people are proud of,” he said.
One of his suggestions was an art gallery.
“Let’s be imaginative about what we do,” he said.
“You need a reason to stop, take a breath, reflect, spend some time and spend some money.”
For commercial developer James Morse, the two West Cross sites should be left as they are.
“There are traffic problems, and they should remain as vistas,” he said.
But he felt that, sensitively done, there was potential to improve the tourism offering at the Sketty Lane, Blackpill Lido and Langland plots, while keeping residents on board.
“There is existing car parking at these sites,” said Mr Morse, whose company Nextcolour Ltd was behind the Oyster Wharf development in Mumbles.
“I really like the idea of a health club and spa,” he said. “And maybe an arts and design-type complex at Sketty Lane.
“The Blackpill Lido site is massive – four acres – but the lido looks dreadful.
“And we don’t really need any more restaurants in Langland.”
Mumbles Community Council has previously earmarked the West Cross skate ramp site for a new skate park, and has set aside £134,000 this financial year to kick-start its potential development.
Council chairwoman Carrie Townsend Jones said a pre-application enquiry has now been submitted to the county council for the skate park, along with a formal expression of interest for the site.
“Young people would furious if the skate park was not developed,” she said.
“It’s a massively supported project – not just by young people.”
Mrs Townsend Jones said other skate parks sites had been considered and discounted because they were either too close to built-up areas or – in the case of land in front of the West Cross shops – had a gas main running through it.
She said she and her colleagues would respond in due course to the proposals for the five sites – four of which are in the community council’s patch – but added: “Our main view is that we don’t want to see permanent commercial development.
“We feel it’s key that the views coming into Mumbles are protected.”
She added: “There is potential for widening the prom – having more gym equipment, some nice sculptures, or interactive installations.”
Mrs Townsend Jones also suggested more temporary food venues, like the Gower Seafood Hut on Mumbles prom, could work.
The trouble was that at present, she said, everything was all rather vague.
“People find it difficult to visualise what might or might not be acceptable,” she said.
It was a view shared by Jack Evans, manager of The Junction – the cafe beside the Blackpill Lido.
“We don’t know what it (any new development) could be,” he said.
The 20-year-old said it was hard to react at this early stage, but said any proposal to close the lido would be very unpopular.
“It thrives in the summer,” he said. “It’s a great location, and beautiful scenery.
“You see all the kids enjoying themselves, and we’ve got our regulars as well.
Our customers are saying that you shouldn’t really be changing it.”
Mr Evans said he would support an upgraded play area on the city side of the lido, or a monument marking the Mumbles train’s status as the world’s first passenger railway.
“It just really depends on what it was,” he said.
West Cross councillor Des Thomas said he would like a proposal that enabled the lido to stay open for longer in the year than it currently does.
The Labour councillor stressed that no decisions had been taken on any of the sites, and that it was not clear at this stage what might and what might not be acceptable to the administration.
Cllr Thomas said he had been instrumental in helping to secure village green status for two plots of land in West Cross some years ago but, as a member of the council’s planning committee, he did not want to comment on the two nearby seafront sites which are part of the current proposals.
Referring to the five sites in general, he said: “If someone can come up with ideas that enhance tourism then so be it, those ideas will be considered in the future.”
Sketty councillor Mike Day said people in his ward supported the idea of a cafe with public toilets at the Sketty Lane car park site, plus a Santander shared bike hub.
The issue, said the Liberal Democrat councillor, was raised at a public meeting this week.
“People are generally in favour of some form of development, but it needs to be sensitive and appropriate to the area,” he said.
Over at Langland and Rotherslade, businessman Nigel Calcutt said he felt the beachfront area was well served by four cafes and restaurants, including Hole in the Wall.
“That is quite a lot,” he said.
Mr Calcutt, who owns Surfside cafes in Langland, Rotherslade and Caswell, said there were several months in the year when seaside businesses like his, where wages were nearly £10 per hour, made a loss.
He said the effect of a new cafe or restaurant in Langland could be terminal.
“If the cream was taken off (our takings), we would not be able to carry on,” he said.
But Mr Calcutt said it was unrealistic not to expect any new development in Langland.
He said he would support a building at the two tennis courts with a fitness area for year-round pilates and yoga classes, a meeting room, toilets, changing rooms and potentially a creche. But he accepted it would need to be commercially viable for a developer.
Langland Brasserie owner Camelia Fragiacomo agreed with his suggestion.
“As long as it’s something different – something the bay needs,” she said.
Mrs Fragiacomo said Langland residents were worried about potential changes to the tennis court area.
“People come in at 9am every day, and it’s the main discussion point,” she said.
“On a sunny day, the car parks here are absolutely choc-a-bloc.
“People park on double yellow lines. If there is more development, people living here would never be able to get home.”