SCA 9 – Swansea Bay – east

Summary description 

The SCA forms the eastern part of a wide, sweeping shallow muddy sand bay with wide beaches exposed to the prevailing south westerly winds. The River Neath and River Afan enter the bay here. There are dunes either side of the Neath and Crymlyn Burrows is an SSSI. There is a dredged channel with training walls to the Neath and a deep dredged channel serving the tidal harbour at Port Talbot steelworks. The bay is used by commercial vessels, mainly to Port Talbot, and to an extent by leisure boats but less intensively than to the west. The enclosing hills in the hinterland are relatively unspoilt and form an important backcloth to the bay. The primary visual focii are the huge steelworks structures and cranes. Key views are from the popular Aberafan seafront and beach across the bay to the Mumbles.

Key characteristics

  • The eastern part of a wide shallow bay exposed to the prevailing south westerly winds.
  • The Rivers Neath and Afan enter the bay and their material combined with the transported coastal sediment form sand banks and wide beaches of muddy sand giving way to sandy mud further out.
  • The beaches are backed by sand dunes around the Neath estuary and Crymlyn Burrows is an SSSI. The estuary in Baglan Bay is used by small over-wintering waders.
  • The coast encompasses an important past and present industrial landscape ranging from Swansea East Docks, oil storage and refining, and Port Talbot steelworks and docks. Historic marine use has included the export of coal, the import of crude oil from the Middle East as well as coking coal, minerals and ores to Port Talbot.
  • The oil storage and refining uses have been replaced by the new Swansea University bay campus to the north and by a power station, paper works and other uses to the east.
  • Aberafan beach and seafront were once very popular as a bucket and spade resort but are now popular for day trips/short visits having undergone significant environmental improvements.
  • There is a deep dredged channel to Port Talbot tidal harbour serving the steelworks which is one of the few in the UK that can handle vessels up to 170,000 dwt.
  • There is a dredged channel to the River Neath which has training walls on both sides which is used by a few commercial and leisure vessels.
  • The River Afan is tidal and offers only tidal moorings for small craft and access to the adjoining old docks.
  • Overall this side of the Bay is used less for leisure than the western side but there is some recreational fishing.
  • Visually, the area forms part of the smooth wide arc of Swansea Bay and feels large-scale, although partly enclosed by the relatively unspoilt hill backcloth of Kilvey Hill and the coalfield plateau scarp slopes including Mynydd Dinas and Mynydd Brombil, although the latter now has a windfarm on it.
  • The primary foci are the huge industrial structures of the steelworks, reinforced by the wind turbines and the cranes in the tidal harbour. These contrast with the flat, suburban character of the Sandfields estate, behind Aberafan beach.
  • The wide sandy beach is the key feature. The variety of the hinterland land cover is unified by the wide sweeping beach and the simple unspoilt surface of the bay.
  • The dunes either side of the estuary, along with the beaches, offer some sense of escape from the busy hinterland.
  • Views are primarily enjoyed from Aberafan beach which looks across the bay to Mumbles Head.

Forces for change

These can be divided into:

  • Natural processes
  • Visitor pressure
  • Marine use- commercial and leisure fishing
  • Offshore energy or minerals
  • Development pressure
  • Land management changes
  • MOD use

Initial thoughts are:

The area is sensitive to sea level rise and increasing severity of weather.

The SMP long-term objectives are to hold the line adjacent to the Swansea and Port Talbot Docks, the new University campus, Aberafan seafront and Port Talbot steel works in order to mitigate the effects of sediment erosion and accretion through wave disturbance and protect properties through maintaining and upgrading existing defences. Swansea Dock and Port Talbot dock walls provide a defence function but are the responsibility of the relevant port authorities. The dredged channels are the responsibility of the Neath and Port Talbot port authorities. The SMP long-term objectives along the coastal frontage of the Baglan and Crymlyn Burrows is of managed realignment to enable the dune system to function naturally with minimal interference. There may be a need for secondary setback defence in the longer term if there is potential for flooding of hinterland assets such as the power station.

The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon which has been approved would change the character of Swansea Bay if implemented. It would remove its feeling of unity splitting the bay into three components, and would remove the unified sweeping character created by the wide beaches along the shore.

Other forces for change include:

  • The future of the steel works that are highly prominent in this area which face an uncertain future, subject to global economics.
  • The ongoing major SA1 development.