Is it me, or is our brazen but beautiful Barry turning into a bit of ‘two sides’ kind of town as even the crazy Coronavirus fails to stop the rapid regeneration of our sought after south Wales seaside resort.
Living the latest Lockdown life may mean we are not be able to glug a G&T in in many parts of these, often bold, buildings, but we can at least marvel at the move to make Barry a bit less cult and a bit more cultural.
If truth be told though, it seems to me that whilst the East End gets Covid-19 testing tents and a homeless hostel, the West End and Waterfront bag all the wildly-exciting work.
The latest on the rising regeneration list is Barry Island train station with our Vale Council making a move to market a plan for restaurants and shops at the site.
I suppose this scheme will suit the trendy restaurant planned for the past public conveniences just around the corner, and will further the ambition to move a Marina to the dockside – how posh is that!
Never thought I’d see the day when I’d spy a yuppie’s yacht floating past as I pootled to Morrisons with my trusty More card – but stranger things have happened at sea.
To be honest, I will also grudgingly admit that it does make sound sense to try to suss out some more sure-fire success – especially in an area that has seen a rapid renaissance recently.
Hangfire, the hugely popular hog roast thingy happening, was the first to slip onto the scene, closely followed by the aspirational Academy.
Add an Asda, a massive millions of pounds Urban High Street at the glamorous Goodsheds, plus that purple Premier Inn, and the once barren land is unrecognisable – not just from my childhood but from my kids too.
The once desolate Dockland has also been boosted big time by the hordes of aspiring professionals settling in our seaside town.
Deeply discouraged by the Diff’s pricey property market, the socially mobile Millennials have cannily crept in to the site’s happy little homes.
Many of which have been built quicker than the wait for a suitable seat at some of the aforementioned eateries.
Finally, if we throw in the lovely Island link road then the much-maligned but magic Barry of old is a distant memory, only to be revisited on those Victorian Barry Dock Tours.
But, fair play, what a reputational rise in seeing our town become a magnificent magnet for regeneration and rejuvenation.
Barry, once the largest coal exporting port in Britain, before a slow decline and a fast downward dip in the car crime ridden 80’s, is back with a bang.
But, and here’s the real rub for me, only in certain areas. In my view, our much-loved birthplace is in definite danger of becoming a town of two halves.
The wonderful West End Waterfront side with its shiny new homes, trendy foodie feasts, potential upmarket marina, and new developments dripping from every pore.
All lovingly linked up to the Gavin and Stacey boosted Barry Island, complete with Danter’s daring funfair plans, plus the toilet block building bonus.
And the stark East End side with its half-hearted Holton Road shopping centre, the controversial incinerator-hosting Cadoxton, and the poorly perceived Gibbonsdown – still recognised as one of the most deprived areas in the country.
Of course, there’s many, myself included, who love a bit of mix and match to get to wherever the party’s at. But, for me, that’s increasingly feeling like living in a parallel universe, as the geographical gap widens.
Let me be crystal clear here too, I’m not making any judgement on any of our resplendent residents – either old or new, from east or west. The size of your heart and the strength of your character sets your vibe for me, not what council ward you lay your proverbial hat in.
I just sense a possible town split, the like of which we see so starkly up the road with the widely different Cardiff Bay and Butetown. One is tarted up to the nines but has no soul or warmth, the other is a bit worse for wear but with a vibrant community full of life and laughter.
I would so hate that to happen here.
In my view, what we need is community cohesion driven by tourism solutions and property plans that boost the whole of beautiful Barry and seamlessly see east to west lovingly linked up.
Fingers crossed for that miracle Marina then.
Sue Vincent-Jones, writing as Mrs SVJ, is a Barry born journalist, editor, and communications specialist. She blogs about Barry – and her life in the wider world, through the eyes of a, quirky and queer, local girl done good.
Sue’s Views is the reboot of her much-loved infamous B&D opinion column from back in the day. Also recently resurrected in Style Of The City Magazine, it focuses on the hot topics we are all talking about in beautiful Barry, and beyond – the good, the bad…and the ugly.