Swansea Council: Political profile - Sybil Crouch
SHE’S new to the council and she is the wife of its leader David Phillips.
But as Swansea Council’s first — and Wales’s only — cabinet member for sustainability, she’s forging her own way, determined to better the City and County of Swansea.
Sybil Crouch is a first-term councillor and ward member for Castle.
Originally, from Liverpool, she has lived in Swansea for 20 years, since she was a student.
“I’m one of those people who came and never really left,” she said. “I’ve always lived in the city and I’m very passionate about the role and power of local government to change people’s lives.”
Sustainability, Ms Crouch said, was not just about the environment. It was much more than this and was one of the factors at the core of this young administration’s plans to rejuvenate Swansea.
While environment does play a part, it is one of three “pillars” of sustainability — the other two are community and economy.
These three pillars play individual roles, while being inseparable in many ways.
“Sustainability is a golden thread that runs through everything the council does,” she said.
“The obvious one is recycling. There has been a lot of doubt about fortnightly collections, with people asking, ‘why do we have to do that?’. But the council has to deal with waste and recycling and the reason it matters is, yes, because of the planet, but because it costs the council money if we don’t meet recycling targets. We absolutely have to reduce carbon emissions, but what does it mean for the council?
“Governments are taxed on their carbon emissions.
“That is money that could be spent on education, or social services.”
And then there’s sustainability and the community.
One of the things Ms Crouch is particularly interested in is housing development in the city centre. Social housing, such as Coastal, has been active in building in Swansea, creating an urban village. But this is only the start.
The cabinet member said she felt this was vital for not only creating a vibrant city centre but one that was sustainable day and night.
She wants to see development that will complement the night-time and day-time economies.
“We want to encourage people to live in the city centre to make it vibrant. We want it so that it is not just a place to shop or go out in the evening,” she added.
“But how do we work to make it sustainable and stop residents in the city centre from always being transient — young people who do not want to stay there long-term because of disturbances, or violent crime statistics?”
One of the issues Swansea Council is currently looking at to combat problems is the accumulative impact of on-licensed and off-licensed premises in the city centre.
If proposals are eventually given the go-ahead, nearby alcohol-selling and serving premises would be taken into consideration when deciding on a new licence application.
However, Ms Crouch said the council did not want any decisions to negatively affect the night-time economy.
It might not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about sustainability, but HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) are also under the microscope. Some areas of the city, such as Sandfields and Uplands, are said to have become overrun with this type of housing.
“We need to look at the impact of HMOs, for example, on schools and shops,” Ms Crouch added.
“In some of these areas whole streets are almost taken over with HMOs. In areas like Uplands, these streets are empty at certain times of the year.
“It’s an issue when the people left start to move out. We need to make these areas are sustainable all year round. It’s important that areas are diverse, filled with families and single people. Of course there’s a place for HMOs — they are an important part of the housing stock and there’s a demand for them.
“The issue is about densification of particular streets and keeping communities vibrant, and the council has to take this into account. We need to look licensing.”
Ms Crouch also wants to look at the sustainability of local shops.
“More money spent in local shops stays local than that spent in supermarkets,” she added. “We want this money to stay in Swansea. And we can look to expand that. Swansea Bay has the greatest natural assets — and it’s bigger than just Swansea, there’s Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire too.
“We have food from the sea — the muscle beds have been relaid and we’re hoping to get oysters again. We have a fabulous indoor market and fantastic restaurants and cafes, from the Espresso Bar opposite the train station to the Pant-y-Gwydr restaurant (in Oxford Street).
“We need to look at what happens when food transport costs go up and look at what we can source locally. It will give Swansea a really competitive edge.
“I would like in 50 years for Swansea to be sustainable in food.
“We have initiatives like Vetch Veg — not only are people growing food, but it’s bringing communities together.
“On top of wonderful places to eat, and wonderful food, we have wonderful cycle routes here, we have the new watersports centre, 360. We can build on this and create jobs.
“There is so much we can do to make Swansea sustainable. It’s very exciting.”