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Wales Online
Wales Online
Richard Youle

Plans put forward for a 'living building' covered in greenhouses and gardens in Swansea

A futuristic building which will be home to plants, vegetables, fish and people has been given the go-ahead by Swansea councillors.

The Picton Yard development will transform the former Woolworths building in Oxford Street, and the Picton Lane area to the rear.

There will be retail on the ground and first floor, and offices, greenhouses, terraces and rooftop gardens above.

A 12-storey tower adjoined at the rear will contain 44 flats, plus office and educational space lower down.

The outdoor area at the rear, which is currently used for parking, will become a covered events space for things like cinema screenings and markets.

Fish kept in tanks within the building will provide waste nutrients to feed the greenhouse vegetables.

Steve Smith, the council's placemaking and heritage lead officer, told the planning committee that a complex system of pipes would transport rainwater around the development.

He said: "Not one drop of rain will make it to the ground floor."

He said the living - or biophilic - concept of the building was likely to be replicated.

"Often we see landscaping on the ground - what we are going to see more and more is the greening of buildings," he said.

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Mr Smith described Picton Yard as a "fantastically interesting, bold project".

The scheme put forward by Swansea-based Hacer Developments is in line for a chunk of Welsh Government funding through its innovative housing programme, and will take around two years to complete.

It has been assessed by the Design Commission for Wales, which praised the ambition but queried how the urban farm element would be delivered and managed.

The commission's report mentioned a suggested £250 fee to be paid by flat occupiers to maintain the urban farm, and wondered if it was realistic.

Addressing the planning commitee, council leader Rob Stewart said he fully supported the proposal.

"I think this is a truly landmark building, not just for Swansea but Wales," he said.

The outdoor area at the rear will link to a planned hi-tech office development at the former Oceana nightclub site, off The Kingsway, which the council said could be home to 600 workers.

Planning committee members expressed support for the Picton Yard scheme, but asked if other tall buildings could take shape nearby, whether residents would have to have greenery on their balconies, whether refuse storage provision was sufficient, and what would happen to the current parking at the rear used by shop workers.

Cllr Mary Jones said it was an exciting schme but was concerned that the greenhouses, if not maintained, would become a "sludgy mess".

Mr Smith said a community interest company or residents would run the greenhouses, that there were planning conditions relating to the building's management and waste storage, and that shop workers could use a nearby NCP car park in the future.

He also said he expected residents in the tower would have "green fingers" and support the building's concept.

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