'Tiny' number of people go up Swansea's Kilvey Hill but £37m adventure attraction would give 'access for everybody'

Artist's impression of development
An image of the restaurant planned as part of the Skyline Enterprises leisure attraction on Kilvey Hill -Credit:Skyline Enterprises

Bosses of the company aiming to build a leisure attraction at the top of Swansea's Kilvey Hill have said they want to open the area up and get as many people behind the project as possible. Three senior figures from New Zealand-based Skyline Enterprises have been holding meetings during another trip to Wales' second city - seven years after first outlining their plans.

They said amendments had been made following feedback from the public, such as adding a new adventure playground and relocating one of the rides. Revised documentation is due to be submitted to Swansea Council's planning department, which is assessing the leisure attraction application, within the next month.

Danny Luke, whose title is general manager international developments, said Skyline Enterprises was listening to people's views. "We're never going to make everybody happy, but if we satisfy 95% of the people that's important for us," he said. For the latest Swansea news, sign up to our newsletter here

READ MORE: Swansea nightclub owner, DJ and 'legend' of city's music scene dies aged 45

READ MORE: Three-year-old died in tragic bath accident after she managed to turn taps on

If all went to plan for the company, the attraction would open in 2027 and rack up around 450,000 visits in the first full year. Visitors would ascend the 193m hill in gondolas operating from the park and ride area at Landore. At the top would be two main downhill luge runs facing the rear of the hill, with three additional ones - a zipline running parallel with the gondolas, a hilltop restaurant and a sky swing overlooking Swansea Bay. Mr Luke said the sky swing with its five-person capsule would reach speeds of 50mph and probably have the destination's highest thrill factor.

Concerns have been expressed about loss of habitat, visual impact and the expected arrival of so many visitors to Landore by car. There has also been disquiet in some quarters about co-investment in the project planned by the Welsh Government and Swansea Council.

Mr Luke said all the trees on Kilvey Hill had been surveyed and that Skyline Enterprises planned to fell some of them to make way for the lower part of the luge runs. This work, he said, would be done in consultation with environment regulator Natural Resources Wales, which has existing plans to cut down diseased pine and larch and replace them with broadleaved varieties. Mr Luke said 122 mature trees would be planted, plus some 68,000 smaller trees, shrubs and other plants. He said: "There is going to be a net gain in biodiversity through the creation of new habitat, the planting of native broadleaved trees and 'SuDS' (low-impact drainage)."

He said the leisure attraction would occupy 9% of Kilvey Hill with all existing access retained except, for safety reasons, areas at the top and bottom of the gondola ride. He added that existing walking trails would be upgraded and 3km of new ones added, plus two new mountain biking trails for novice and intermediate riders. Along with the playground would be picnic areas, creating what Mr Luke described as "a park within a city". There is also a proposal to create an official bridleway. Support award-winning journalism with WalesOnline’s Premium app on Apple or Android

Kilvey Hill and St Thomas, taken from Mayhill
Kilvey Hill and St Thomas, taken from Mayhill
View from hill
Looking west from the top of the hill -Credit:Copyright Unknown

Mr Luke moved from New Zealand to Swansea with his family for four months last year, and said he was struck by how many people hadn't been to the top of Kilvey Hill and by their reaction to it. "They were, like, 'Wow,' we never knew this was here," he said.

Skyline Enterprises chief executive Geoff McDonald added that the hill was a wonderful asset. "At the moment there's a very tiny portion of the population that gets to enjoy it," he said. "This is an opportunity to share Kilvey Hill. The gondolas will provide access for everybody."

The Skyline executives said people would only see the restaurant and sky swing from ground level from the bay side of the hill, and that the gondola towers - looking from Landore - would be not be intrusive. On the prospect of many more car journeys to Landore, Mr Luke said a transport assessment had concluded that the impact on traffic and the road infrastructure would be "very minor".

Three men pictured by a beach
From left: Skyline Enterprises chief executive Geoff McDonald, director and chairman of Skyline International Luge Board Grant Hensman, and general manager international developments Danny Luke
Burnt out car
The remains of a car on Kilvey Hill

The expectation is that visitor numbers would peak in the summer - with evening luge rides available - and drop by more than half in the winter. An economic impact study by Skyline Enterprises estimated that 100 full-time equivalent jobs would be created in the first year of operation following a larger number of construction jobs.

The Skyline board has approved a budget of 78 million New Zealand dollars - just over £37 million at current exchange rates - and securing planning permission is a key part of the jigsaw. The Welsh Government has pledged £4 million, subject to conditions, which Mr Luke said was a mixture of grants and loans, while the council has offered support including a £4.1 million loan - also subject to conditions.

"The funding element, and the support from the Welsh Government and the council, is important," said Mr Luke, who added that the council loan would be repaid in full. He also said the company would look to use as many local contractors as possible if the project got the green light.

Last month senior councillors agreed the principle of disposing of land at Kilvey Hill to help pave the way for the development. There were 265 objections to its proposal, two in support, and a protest outside the Guildhall. Council leader Rob Stewart said the objections had been "carefully considered", and that he and colleagues had weighed up the benefits of the proposal against considerations such as whether the loss of public open space could be mitigated. A further decision about lease arrangements with Skyline Enterprises will be made in due course, and no funding has been awarded directly to the company to date. Council officers have previously said there is a lot of public support for the project.

Mr Luke said a pricing structure for visitors hadn't been finalised but that he intended to stick to plans for a £40 annual pass for adults living in Swansea, which would provide unlimited gondola rides and a luge and restaurant discount. The cost for older people and children in Swansea would be £20, with under-5s free. Skyline Enterprises operates eight other leisure attractions worldwide, and Swansea could be its first foray into Europe. Asked about the consents required, Mr Luke said: "Planning is the big one for us."