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Heritage Lottery Fund gets £3.75m bid for key Swansea site

A bid for £3.75m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has been made to help transform a key part of Swansea's historic Hafod Morfa Copperworks site.

Hafod Morfa Copperworks (Conceptual)

If successful the grant application would help Swansea Council complete design work on the site's prominent Powerhouse and undertake building work on the structure's shell and core.

The work would pave the way for world-famous Welsh whisky brand Penderyn Distillery to expand there as a key tenant.  

Council leader Rob Stewart said: "This exciting scheme will create jobs, attract visitors and boost the on-going regeneration of the River Tawe corridor.

"It will further conserve the copperworks site by making use of historically significant buildings in a sensitive and sustainable way. 

"We're determined to work with partners to maximise the river's potential to develop housing, walks, restaurants, water-based activities, landing stations and boat trips between the city centre and the Liberty Stadium.

"Other wonderful plans for this area include a cable car and other rides on Kilvey Hill, with a visitor centre, restaurant and viewing platform on top of the hill."

Penderyn owner Nigel Short said: "Penderyn wants to be a part of the regeneration of the copperworks and repeat the success we already have with our Welsh single malt whisky and other products.

"The Powerhouse plans are incredibly exciting for us as a business and for Swansea as a forward-thinking community."

The site dates back to 1808, comprises 12.5 acres on the west bank of the Tawe and is linked to the city centre by the new 1.7km Morfa Distributor Road.

In its heyday, copper ore from as far afield as North America, Cuba, Australia and South America was smelted at the site, putting Swansea at the centre of a global web of copper trading connections.

The transformation will include:

  • a new-build visitor centre with shop, tasting bar, exhibition space and toilets;
  • the creation of a distillery, offices and VIP bar in the fully refurbished grade two listed powerhouse building;
  • a new barrel store in part of the grade two listed rolling mill;
  • a new-build covered walkway connecting these buildings.

It would be home to the Penderyn Experience whisky tour that would also educate people about the site's rich history and could attract more than 50,000 visitors a year.

A planning application has been submitted by Swansea Council and will be subject to the formal planning process. Penderyn would commission the internal fit-out to complete the distillery and visitor attraction.  

Since being awarded a £189,600 HLF grant to progress the plans last year, the council has worked with partners - including Penderyn and Swansea University - to create the detailed HLF bid. The outcome of the decision will not be known until around September. 

The Penderyn scheme would build on preservation and interpretation work already under way at the Hafod Morfa Copperworks site, thanks to the Cu@Swansea project led by Swansea Council and Swansea University. 

Professor John Spurr, head of the College of Arts and Humanities at Swansea University, said: "We're delighted that this exciting and ambitious project has taken another major step forward. It will give an opportunity for more people to learn about Swansea's illustrious copper heritage and provide a home for our work in heritage research, teaching, and public engagement."

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, the council's cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: "We're proud of our heritage in Swansea, with the celebration of our rich history very much part of our culture that resonates with our status as Wales' city of culture.

"Supply chain opportunities will be available at the copperworks site, sustainable materials and energy efficiency technology will be used, and targeted recruitment and training opportunities will be included in any construction contracts to benefit the disadvantaged in our communities, if our bid to the HLF is successful."

Other plans include a heritage skills development package during restoration works in areas like lime mortaring, stone masonry and blacksmithing. 

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