5 March 2016
In 2011 Liverpool-based K2 Architects won a design competition funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Assembly Government for the ‘Colwyn Bay Watersports Hotspot’. This complex was intended as a key component of Conwy County Borough Council’s seafront regeneration plans for the town. The original design featured glass facades and gentle access ramps carrying the promenade over the roof of the building, which would function as a ‘public events park’.
The centre was built by Bodelwyddan-based Wynne Construction with work on the site commencing in March 2012. The final design departed in several aspects from the winning competition entry. The glass facades and projecting roof, for example, were replaced by a windowless, zinc-clad angular section, likened locally to a giant dumpster skip. The access ramps to the roof deck were found to be too steep for wheelchair use, leading to the introduction of an impractical zigzagging path between the scruffy-looking plant beds of the ‘living roof’. K2’s design was a finalist in the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) 2014 Wales Awards for Regeneration. The building was also nominated in June 2013 for Building Design’s ‘Carbuncle Cup’.
The Porth Eirias centre opened in May 2013, with the event being celebrated by a two-day music festival. The official opening by the First Minister of Wales took place in September 2013. Colwyn Bay Watersports, a Community Interest Company working in cooperation with Conwy council, is based in the centre and offers watersports tuition and equipment hire. The centre itself also features changing rooms and outdoor and indoor showers.
The £4 million facility has a new slipway next to it and is located at the head of a new rock groyne intended to prevent the 400,000 tonnes of sand that was pumped ashore onto the beach as part of a coastal defence project from being washed away.
In September 2013 it was announced that Denbigh-born TV celebrity chef Bryn Williams, who since 2008 has also been owner and chef of Odette’s restaurant in London, would be opening a bistro in the centre by the end of the year. The opening of the restaurant was, however, put back several times and concerns were raised over the long delays in the project with the new building standing largely empty for over a year and a half. The actual deal was not signed until April 2014, with Conwy council’s Chief Executive blaming the delays on “complicated legal things”. (It was later reported that Conwy council had in fact only embarked on the Porth Eirias project because European Objective 1 funding was available for it and had not developed any proper business plan for the centre.) In August 2014 the council agreed to spend a further £33,000 on alterations to the newly built facility to accommodate the bistro. There were in particular problems with the curved layout of the kitchen area. Building work on the bistro started in January 2015 and Porth Eirias’ public facilities were closed while the work was carried out. The restaurant eventually opened in July 2015.