The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021

Another year is nearly over, with the start of 2022 a matter of days away. This time of year is often one of reflection for many of us, looking back at what has happened over the last 12 months and looking ahead to the next year with a renewed set of goals and optimism. No matter where you live, there’s been a lot which has gone on around us as we’ve gone about our own day to day lives, and Swansea is no different.

:The new restaurants that have opened in the heart of Swansea city centre and what they used to be From a full scale riot to big money developments, shop closures and openings, sporting wins and losses, triumph and tragedy, it has been another eventful year in the city. We’ve taken a look back at some of the big things which hit the headlines over the last 12 months in this review of 2021.

January

A DVLA worker died after an outbreak of coronavirus at its Swansea offices.

The news came the same week that the high number of cases at the Government agency was discussed by MPs and the Prime Minister. A union leader called for a full investigation, and the DVLA said its focus throughout the pandemic had been staff safety.

A firm of house builders and its owner launched an appeal against their convictions and punishments for illegally felling 73 protected trees, including a prominent Giant Redwood. In October 2019 Enzo’s Homes was fined GBP120,000 and the firm’s managing director Fiorenzo Sauro fined GBP180,000 after being found guilty of chopping down trees near a building site close to Penllergare Valley Woods north of Swansea.

The tree surgeon who actually wielded the chainsaw, contractor Arwyn Morgan, was also fined GBP120,000. A lawyer for house builders asked a judge to find there is “no case to answer” over the destruction of dozens of protected trees. The firm ended up losing the appeal in September.

February

A beloved, dedicated charity fundraiser and avid football fan tragically died during double heart valve replacement surgery.

Tributes flooded in for 26-year-old dad-of-one Mitchell Powell, who died on Wednesday, February 3, whilst undergoing the procedure at Bristol Heart Institute. Mitchell’s heart was not strong enough and he went into cardiac arrest.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021Mitchell Powell pictured outside Bristol Heart Institute where he died during double valve replacement heart surgery

Mitchell, from Waun Wen in Swansea, was born with a heart condition and had undergone more than 20 heart operations. It left him reliant on a pacemaker and he was told from an early age he would need a full heart transplant in early adulthood.

He never forgot about the help he had received throughout his life, and dedicated himself to raising as much money as he could to support the British Heart Foundation, once being named the charity’s fundraiser of the year. A couple of weeks later, the first patients walked through the doors of the new GBP25 million new HMT Sancta Maria Hospital in SA1 on Monday, February 15. The private hospital moved from its site in Ffynone, Uplands, where it had been based since 1958.

With 12 en-suite patient bedrooms, an on-site MRI scanner, three operating theatres, underground parking and a dedicated day surgery unit, the new facility creates a more “comfortable” and “improved” experience.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021The brand new private hospital Sancta Maria

The multi-storey building is made up of consulting rooms and facilities for out-patients on the ground floor, with the operating theatres and wards, made up of two six-bed wards and a 12-bed overnight ward, based upstairs. Inside the overnight rooms you’ll find a mounted TV, your own wardrobe and cabinet, as well as a spacious en-suite. One of the more noticeable changes is the addition of a static MRI scanner inside the building, something the former hospital did not have.

Previously, a truck would visit once a week and park up outside so patients could access the facility, whereas now the hospital will be able to offer MRI scans to patients six days a week. March The 160ft long golden bridge over Oystermouth Road, which forms a link to the new Swansea Arena, was raised into position at the beginning of March.

The pedestrian and cyclist bridge was installed to improve access between the city and the marina and coast, and replaced a 40-year-old concrete footbridge by the LC leisure centre that was demolished last year. The bridge is part of the redevelopment of the area which includes the new 3,500 seat arena next to the existing leisure centre, a coastal park and outdoor spaces, flats, commercial units, and a multi-storey car park – together the scheme has been christened Copr Bay in a nod to Swansea’s copper industry heritage.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021The bridge leads to Swansea’s new 3,500 seat arena which is due to open next year

People partying indoors and having household gatherings resulted in at least 50 positive coronavirus cases with four schools affected in Swansea. Swansea Bay University Health Board said that over a quarter of Covid-19 cases at the time were traced to a number of household gatherings in the north of the city.

At least 50 positive cases out of a total of 185 reported across the city at the time were linked to people who attended the indoor get-togethers in the Clase area. As well as partying indoors some people were regularly popping in and out of each other’s homes – driving infection rates up.

April

Young people were spotted throwing shopping trolleys into a stretch of river where more than 40 were removed just a week earlier. The River Tawe near Liberty Stadium and Morfa Shopping Park has become notorious as a shopping trolley dumping ground in recent years with arguments over who is responsible for removing the eyesores as they piled up.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021

Scores of discarded trolleys, mostly from the nearby Morrisons supermarket, were seen lodged in the muddy riverbank and submerged in the river itself, causing a potential hazard.

In 2018, two paddle boarders counted 76 trolleys scattered in the undergrowth on the bank and in the water. Swansea City legend Angel Rangel announced his retirement from professional football. The Spaniard, who has spent the last two years at fellow Championship side Queens Park Rangers, had not played a single minute of competitive football since rupturing his Achilles against Luton Town in July last year, and decided to call time on a remarkable career.

The 38-year-old had initially intended on spending one final year as a player, having undergone extensive rehabilitation with the R’s to overcome the problem.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021Swansea City legend Angel Rangel

May

The Quadrant’s anchor store, Debenhams, which had been there since 1978, officially closed on Saturday, May 15. Inside the Swansea store, rows of empty clothing racks could be seen next to shelves with a dwindling supply of products as shoppers snapped up their final purchases.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021The queue outside Debenhams in Swansea

When it was first announced that the store would be closing, many called it a “big blow” and said that it would leave a “gaping hole” in Swansea’s city centre. It was announced in January that all stores would close when the brand was bought by online fashion retailer Boohoo for GBP55 million. It was said Debenhams would relaunch as an online-only operation but stores around Wales re-opened for one last sale before they closed for good.

Cars were torched, homes vandalised and police attacked in a major disturbance in Mayhill, Swansea, on Thursday May 20. ‘Hundreds’ of people were involved in the disorder, which started at around 8pm in what began as a ‘vigil’ for Ethan Powell, who collapsed hours after watching Swansea City’s playoff game against Barnsley on television with his grandfather. A relative said since that the event was connected to his sudden death, but that they were horrified at what had happened.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021Crowds gather around two cars set alight

During the night crowds of people were seen chanting and cheering as a car was pushed down a steep hill into bollards and another vehicle while another car was set alight.

Photos showed two cars on fire in the middle of the street surrounded by smoke while the crowds gathered around them. Devastating images also captured completely torched cars of local residents and extensive damage to nearby properties. A video also showed people throwing objects and shouting at retreating police using riot shields in the disturbance which an eyewitness estimated involved around 200 people.

In sport, Swansea City lost in the Championship Play Off Final at Wembley against Brentford. The Swans had Jay Fulton sent off as they were beaten 2-0 by Thomas Frank’s side in the play-off final at Wembley.

June

A recycling company in the Swansea Valley which was at the centre of a huge emergency services operation to bring a massive fire under control expressed its thanks to those who helped out during its hour in need. Flames tore through DBC Recycling at Players Industrial Estate in Clydach on Monday, June 21, with large plumes of smoke visible far and wide throughout the area.

South Wales Police, Welsh Ambulance Service, and Natural Resources Wales were all present, along with fire crews from Morriston, Neath and Pontardawe, and a water bowser from Tumble.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021The fire at an industrial estate in Clydach

Police advised residents to keep their doors and windows locked “as a precaution” as smoke filled the air. The fire service said a quantity of metal and tyre materials were involved in the fire, and crews remained there overnight in some capacity to ensure it was kept under control. A nightclub which had been at the heart of Swansea’s party capital for 15 years closed for good on Sunday, June 20.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021Idols on Swansea’s Wind Street closed for good on June 20

Idols, which first opened in 2006, had been a big part of a night out on Wind Street since it opened, with the venue earning a huge fanbase thanks to its party anthems and cheap drinks.

But it had suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with social distancing measures meaning the same experience people knew and loved about the venue could not be replicated.

July

A man tragically died after falling from a multi-storey car park in Swansea. Timothy Bright, 23, was pronounced dead at the scene after he fell from the top of a multi-storey car park in Orchard Street. Paramedics responded to the incident which occurred at approximately 5.30pm on Friday, July 2, as well as officers from South Wales Police, who confirmed that it was not being treated as suspicious.

At the time of the incident, police closed the road in both directions as they remained at the scene for several hours, advising motorists and members of the public to avoid the area and use other routes. Marco Pierre White paid a visit to his Swansea restaurant in July – and he enjoyed all that the city had to offer. The Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill is located at the J-shed in SA1, overlooking Swansea Marina.

On its opening last year, it promised to deliver “affordable glamour” to the city.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021Marco Pierre White at his Swansea restaurant

The top chef visited the city to see how it was going for himself, and was pleased at its progress, and was also taken by Swansea. “Another thing I love about Swansea is you can be in the town and see the countryside. It’s rather beautiful,” he said.

August

The upper deck of an open top bus was ripped off in Mumbles after it collided with a overhanging tree.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021The bus following the collision

Emergency services rushed to Mumbles Road at around 2.30pm on August 10 after a Cymru Coaster bus, operated by First Cymru, which travels around Swansea giving people views of the city, crashed into a tree overhanging the road.

Witnesses said they heard children screaming following ‘a sound like a car crash’. The man convicted of the brutal murders of three generations of the same family died on August 20.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021Dai Morris in a picture taken at home with his family

Dai Morris, who was 59, died in HMP Long Lartin having spent more than 20 years behind bars for the killings of Mandy Power, her two young daughters – Katie, aged 10, and Emily, aged eight – and her 80-year-old mother Doris Dawson. He was convicted of the killings twice – initially at Swansea Crown Court in 2002, a verdict which was overturned on appeal, and then subsequently following a retrial at Newport Crown Court in 2006.

In 2018 a bid to take his case to the Court of Appeal was rejected by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. But Morris and his family have always maintained his innocence – even though Ms Power’s former husband has said he agreed with the trial verdict. Hollywood megastar Tom Hardy was pictured filming his new action thriller Havoc for Netflix, on a set that completely transformed one of the city’s landmarks, the Guildhall.

The historic building was transformed into a US police station with original Ford Crown police cars parked outside and wintry patches on the ground.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021Tom Hardy seen at the film set outside the Guildhall in Swansea

Live music returned to Singleton Park for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with Foals and Olly Murs both performing. In sport, Russell Martin was appointed Swansea City Football Club manager in August, taking over from former boss Steve Cooper.

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September

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021Drone footage of the new indoor arena in Swansea

Alice Cooper and The Cult were named among the first big name music acts coming to the brand new Swansea Arena.

The veteran American singer will be joined by the English rockers on a double headline tour which arrives at the venue on May 23 next year. It was also announced that they will be preceded by performances from comedians Rob Brydon and Katherine Ryan. The artists are the first to have been confirmed at the 3,500 capacity venue under construction on Oystermouth Road, as part of the first phase of the GBP135 million Copr Bay district being developed by Swansea Council.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021The Next store in Swansea’s Oxford Street

Clothing retail giant Next announced its popular long-running store located in Swansea’s Oxford Street would close its doors for good.

The store, which has been a feature of the city centre for decades, announced it would close in March, 2022. It has long been a favourite destination for shoppers visiting the city centre. In the past its big sale days used to cause long queues to form down Oxford Street, sometimes from the early hours of the morning for special 6am openings.

October

Details of a GBP1.7 billion energy, technology and residential development at Swansea docks were unveiled.

The Blue Eden project will include battery manufacturing and storage, a solar farm, data centre, houses, flats, oceanic and climate change research centre, and tidal energy lagoon.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021Part of the Blue Eden project

It is expected to take 12 years to deliver in full, create 2,500 permanent jobs, and will require planning permission among other consents. Blue Eden is being led by Bridgend-based firm DST Innovations and is not expected to require any public subsidy. A charity fundraiser, businessman and former soldier tragically died following the loss of three lives in a paddle-boarding tragedy at the end of October.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021The Duchess of Cambridge speaks with Paul O’Dwyer, who died in a river tragedy

Paul O’Dwyer, a married father-of-three, former soldier and charity fundraiser from Port Talbot who was a former director of Swansea’s COPR Bar, was among nine adults from the south Wales area who had travelled to Pembrokeshire for a paddle-boarding excursion.

A family of five were left homeless after a fire ripped through their home and destroyed the contents. Three adults and two children were taken to hospital after a fire broke out at a house in Burrows Roads in the Sandfields area of Swansea .

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021The house destroyed by fire at Burrows Road

Kabir Ahammed lived in the house with his 68-year-old mother along with his wife and their two young children, and said they had been left with nothing.

November

An independent cinema vowed it would not implement the Welsh Government’s Covid passports scheme – describing them as “the final nail in the coffin”.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021Cinema & Co

Cinema & Co made the announcement arguing the new rules facing cinemas, theatres and concert halls were “unfair and killing the entertainment industry”. The Welsh Government insists the passes can play a key role in keeping people safe, but the cinema vowed to “take a stand” against the new measures claiming they are “discriminatory and unlawful”.

A court judge ordered the venue to follow Covid-19 regulations and respect the council’s closing order. Owner Anna Redfern was also told to pay the council’s legal costs of GBP5,265. The day after the court case, Cinema & Co appeared to re-open and host a Christmas film screening to those who booked online.

Ms Redfern was brought back before court and was given a 28-day prison sentence suspended for nine months and a combined fine of GBP15,000 – GBP5,000 for each offence. She will also have to pay court costs of GBP8,940 and a court fee, called a victim surcharge, of GBP190.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021There was a giant Father Christmas

This year’s Christmas Parade received plenty of plaudits from the public, after waiting two years for the return of the city tradition. Covid restrictions stopped the event last year, which also sees the turning on of the Christmas lights in the city.

Princesses, superheroes, marching bands, festive film characters, magical floats along with Santa and his sleigh transformed the heart of the city centre. You can see the best pictures from the parade here.

December

New designs were released revealing the proposed new look for Castle Square in Swansea city centre. The proposal shows a nostalgic, leafy new look for Castle Square which is a world away from the stone plaza we have now and a hark back to the Castle Gardens of old, before they were all ripped out to be replaced with the more modern design of today.

There have been a number of calls for a return of more greenery and flowers in the area.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021What Castle Square Gardens in Swansea city centre could look like, if development works are approved

The Call Centre star Nev Wilshire sadly passed away. The businessman and entrepreneur, who wowed audiences in the hit BBC reality series, was a father-of-four – whose perennial optimism and larger-than-life character made him as much of a hit with TV viewers as it did friends and colleagues.

The review of the year in Swansea: The big things that happened in city in 2021Nev Wilshire’s family said the star was “much-loved”

Friend and former colleague Hayley Pearce posted a tribute which read: “He was more than a boss to me. He was like family.

The memories we made together are ones I will cherish and talk about for the rest of my life.” Former tea lady Hayley, who has since gone on to forge a successful media career, added: “I can’t thank him enough for believing in me. He changed my life.

RIP.

Truly gutted.”

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