David Phillips column: Making most of what we've got
I'M proud of being a born and bred Scouser, but like many others who came to Swansea now believes this wonderful city is the "graveyard of ambition".
And before you scream in frustration, I mean that in its positive sense — why would you want to be anywhere else.
I mention this because I was in Ebbw Vale recently and I got talking to a some residents there who asked me where I was from.
When I told them Swansea, I got several minutes of reasons why they prefer coming here rather than Cardiff. They said they liked shopping in Swansea because it's small, they liked the shops; and the people are as friendly as any you could meet. Well, I wasn't going to disagree.
But it got me looking at the city centre with different eyes. Were our existing plans for the city centre running the risk of killing off what made it attractive and different?
My new best friends in Ebbw Vale think there is something special about the human scale of Swansea that we should build on. They were quite clear about that.
In trying to be a mini Cardiff or Bristol, do we run the danger of becoming indistinguishable from them? In the current economic market, is that the way to go? Or should we build on the strengths we already have and what you can't get elsewhere; the bay, the people, our independent traders and develop a total Swansea package including a different more human environment, remaining small enough to be friendly but big enough to attract those living away.
So, how are we going to do that?
I have my ideas but the people who really need to have a say are the people of Swansea (including the many who live in the city centre), who I think are likely to seek something different to the 'one-size-fits-all' model peddled by most retail development experts. And that's because our distinctiveness comes from the people who live here.
So when we're looking at the design of our city centre, shouldn't there be ideas that echo the fact that it's not far from the sea? Should we be thinking about the human scale rather than always the grand scale?
If the internet is where people are going to be shopping in future, then we have to rethink our retail strategy anyway and find other uses for empty shops, arts uses such as performance spaces or galleries, or city centre living.
We need to get ahead of the game with a policy that 'future-proofs' the city centre.
So there's lots of questions. Even better is that there are lots of opportunities to do something distinctive, something special with our city centre in the coming years.
Next spring Swansea Council is planning a conference to which we'll be inviting people who are experts not just in retail, but design and architecture.
We'll be asking for your ideas, we'll be exhibiting them and we'll be taking them into account when proposals come forward. It's not our city centre if we can't put our own distinctive Swansea stamp on it.
THERE'S no disguising that the Welsh Government's budget announced on Tuesday is going to have a devastating effect on council services.
With a cut across Wales of almost 6 per cent the future is indeed bleak. We won't know until next week what this actually means for Swansea — but it won't be good news! It's almost certainly going to mean cuts of a minimum of £22 to 25 million next year.
We've already said the Swansea Council of 2017 will be very different to the one we have today. That is certainly going to be true!
There's still time to have your say on our Sustainable Swansea — fit for the future budget consultation, because the first round of consultation doesn't finish until October 25.
If you want to join the debate go to www.swansea.gov.uk/sustainable swansea or come and meet cabinet members at the road shows we're running around the city.