Colwyn Bay was struggling. No two ways about it. Residents were starting to give up on the town. You didn’t go there to shop any more, or out in the evenings. There was talk of some small-scale pedestrianised areas to revive trade. But we needed a big intervention. Anything less was just a sticking plaster.
Change had to start with the seafront. Colwyn Bay has an illustrious history because of its promenade. Only a proper sandy beach could give our town a future. But, there wasn’t a beach, as such. The sands were lower than they are now by six feet. So the tide was in most of the time. The seafront hadn’t been a draw for decades. It didn’t make the residents proud any more.
Inevitably, there were those willing the project to fail. Our every move was followed on social media, including a live cam during the first big storm to see if the sand washed away. But the waves just rippled across the beach. The trolls were left high and dry!
Personally, this has been the most fantastic learning experience. Were there dark times? Absolutely. You question your own judgement. Will this idea work? What if it fails? But we faced a situation that needed tough decisions. If we applied a quick fix, there would be no town to save. We’d be sealing the tomb.
All the small milestones have added up to something huge, which is far bigger than I ever imagined. That’s largely because others have seen the vision, grabbed hold of it, added to it and made it theirs.
Attracting leading chef Bryn Williams was a major coup for the Porth Eirias building that dominates the rejuvenated seafront. He saw the potential immediately and played a big role in the interior design, such as opening up the kitchen to make it a major feature. That building was a big risk in itself. Some said it would turn into a white elephant. Yet, we’ve filled it ahead of schedule and people enjoy using it all the year round.
We won awards for the design, although we still get our share of bad press. But if you don’t notice, it doesn’t exist, right? This development has put us on the map again. A lot of people have nostalgia for a bygone era, and I understand that. But we can’t keep looking back.
I’m so very proud of everyone involved. We have a chunk of the town that wasn’t there before. We have a beach that protects the town and provides a focal point. It needed that dual purpose. Just protecting the coast wasn’t enough. People have changed their opinion. Many who thought it wasn’t possible are asking what we’re going to do next.
Colwyn Bay is now a symbol of change. The town demonstrates what can happen when you harness community spirit. We want to repeat this success elsewhere by providing a benchmark for other towns.