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Wind Street residents say lockdown quiet has been ‘bliss’

PEOPLE living on Swansea’s Wind Street said quiet weekend nights since the lockdown have been “bliss”, and want it to revert back to its original concept as a cafe-restaurant quarter.

Some of them say they have felt trapped for years on Friday and Saturday nights, with one claiming he spent some evenings on Swansea beach to get away from the noise and anti-social behaviour.

Swansea Council chiefs say they will invest £2 million in Wind Street, with a focus on it becoming more pedestrian-friendly.

They added that the street had Purple Flag status – a scheme denoting a safe place to be at night.

Wind Street has a mix of bars, restaurants and takeaways and has been a massive draw for revellers for years.

Its popularity grew further when late-night drinking laws changed in 2005 and it began to out-compete nightclubs on The Kingsway.

Set amid the licensed premises on Wind Street are 49 flats in the Hen Llys complex, and a smaller apartment scheme further down towards the junction with Victoria Road.

Stan Robinson, chairman of Hen Llys residents’ association, said there was “absolutely no comparison” between pre-lockdown and now, although he acknowledged the dire situation faced by premises owners who’ve had to remain closed.

“It means that people in this building can go out seven nights a week,” he said. “Some of them are in wheelchairs or on a scooter.

“They were too scared before. They’d see police vans, police horses, and bouncers who looked like they’d just finished a tour of Iraq.”

Mr Robinson said the flats were completed in around 2002, and claimed that residents who moved in were advised by the housing trust which used to manage them that Wind Street would be a cafe-restaurant quarter with a European feel.

“If you paint a picture and people believe in that picture, then keep that picture,” he said.

Mr Robinson said some premises owners didn’t know people lived on Wind Street, and that he would like the residents’ association to have more of an input in emerging plans for the area.

He said he was grateful to the council for putting up a sign on The Strand, at the rear of Wind Street, asking people to respect the local residents.

“Let’s talk – jaw-jaw is better than war-war,” he said.

The 58-year-old retired engineer moved to Wind Street from Manchester in 2010, and said he liked living in Swansea.

“I understood that there could be noise,” he said. “But are we meant to be a ‘drink-up as much as we can’ or a cafe-bar restaurant place?”

Ann Allen moved into Hen Llys 13 years ago, and said there were more shops on the street and that it felt a more welcoming place.

“Back then The Kingsway was busy at night,” she said. “I stay in now (prior to lockdown) on Friday and Saturday nights.

“It’s a hell of a difference.”

Stuart Fender, who lives in one of the flats towards the Victoria Road junction, said: “Now it’s bliss. My windows and walls don’t vibrate with music.

“I have nieces and nephews coming in to see me.”

Mr Fender claimed drug use on Wind Street was more prevalent in recent times before the lockdown than in the past, and that sometimes he wandered down to Swansea beach on weekend evenings for peace and quiet.

A number of business owners are keen to develop Wind Street as an eating out venue, where people can sit outside.

Council Leader Rob Stewart said: “It is worth noting that Mr Robinson has been highly critical of the regeneration of the city centre and clearly doesn’t appear to want to see new jobs and homes in the city or see businesses survive Covid-19.

“We do. We are very proud of the multi-million investment currently taking place across Swansea and the nearly £100 million of support we have given to local businesses during the crisis.”

He added: “If Mr Robinson has chosen to live in Wind Street then he must expect there to be impacts from the night-time economy.

“We work closely with the police to try to and ensure the area is enjoyed safely. The solution is not to close businesses and stop people enjoying as Mr Robinson would like, but to create a new safe, enjoyable, vibrant environment in that area and that is what we are already doing.”

A council spokesman said the authority had pedestrian-friendly plans for Wind Street.

“The new scheme will see Wind Street have additional footway space and a narrower road, with both getting better surfaces,” he said.

“It will remain one-way to traffic. There will be new public lighting, new ‘pea’ lighting in trees, new street furniture and more green infrastructure.

“There’ll be more seated areas to create a more family-friendly environment.

“It will bring the street more in line with its original concept as a cafe quarter.”

The hospitality sector in Wales will begin to finally re-open outdoors from July 13, if coronavirus restrictions continue to fall.

“As pandemic restrictions are gradually eased by the Welsh Government we’re working closely with businesses to ensure they have all they need to re-open safely once they are permitted to do so,” added the council spokesman.

“We ask the public to continue enjoying visiting the city centre – and do it responsibly by planning each visit, keeping a two-metre distance and being patient.”

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