Thursday, March 14, 2019


Simply making Newport a convenient place to get to other places from it or to quickly pass by is a no brainier and does little to deal with the underlying problems that Newport faces when it comes to retail and commercial activity within the city centre and the simple lack of easily accessible public transport in and around the city. For whatever reason it is relative easy to come to the conclusion that Newport at times barely figures in the collective mind of the Welsh Government and much like Cymru / Wales is invisible to Westminster.

Relatively recent developments have done little to counter this train of thought - 20 years ago the geographical SE of our country was for most purposes largely the former county of Gwent - with or without Caerphilly. Now the SE for a variety of purposes includes Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan and RCT. This relatively low key change in regional geographical emphasis slipped by almost unnoticed but has done Newport few favours. 

Between a rock and a hard place

Whereas 20 years ago long term thinkers were concerned about the Severnside agenda - now we are literals between a rock and hard place - facing the consequences - social, economic and political of the Cardiff capital city Region..  and a reborn Severnside agenda. Some twenty years ago  our SE (as Gwent) had one University (the University of Newport) - the new SE at one point had  4 universities with Cardiff, Cardiff Metropolitan and University of Glamorgan lumped in together with Newport University. 

That spatial development combined with UWN management publically falling out with the then Labour in Wales Minister of Education meant that when up against it there would be no cavalry riding to the rescue. All those years that UWN had spent expensively wining and dining Labour in Newport and their cronies counted for nothing - all UWN got rather than support was the sound of silence. Post merger the continued visible run down of Newport City Centre campus does not provide a stable base upon which to build any knowledge and IT focused knowledge quarter. 

Transport wise our home city has missed out on the benefits of the reopening of the Ebbw Vale line to passenger traffic. Newport ceased to be (to a degree) once again a partial default initial destination for most travellers as trains run direct to Cardiff. The almost certainly deliberate decision to have trains running direct to Cardiff from Ebbw Vale (which was always the plan) but no slower hourly service to Newport significantly tweaked our regions transport geography quite significantly. 

The invisible city

Media wise it's much the same, Newport - our country's third largest urban area barely features on our own national media - it was not until fairly recently that Newport (in Gwent) began to appear on the BBC Wales weather map - even if only after numerous letters of complaint. Football wise things are much the same -  Wrecsam football club gets far more media coverage on BBC Wales than Newport County ever does (save when we are successfully involved in relegation dogfights or good FA cup runs) and this is despite the fact Newport has been in higher division for six years. 

The costly (in many ways) proposed M4 Relief road won't solve Newport and South Gwent traffic problems or reduce the short local journeys we have to make because of the lack of an alternative reliable method of public transport. The proposed metro, which could take significant steps towards developing some long overdue integrated public transport infrastructure appears to be more concerns with ferrying people and and out of Cardiff, rather than tackling even indirectly some of the underlying issues affecting Newport. 

We quite simply have to do better than that. What's needed - apart from railway stations at Celtic Lakes, Caerleon / Ponthir, Magor and Llanwern (with adequate, safe and secure park and ride, and other facilities) is an interested system of public transport (with rail, light rail, trams and buses) that stretches north to Cwmbran, east to Magor / Caldicot and Chepstow and West to central and eastern Cardiff providing us with easily accessible realistic alternatives to using our cars. 

Getting around our city 

Along with a decent easily accessible integrated public transport system - the norm in more than a few paces - we also need to look at creating a level playing field for our local small businesses. The Friars Walk in Newport has been a welcome exception to the last thirty five years, where across the south east, we have seen the commercial hearts of many of our communities (including Newport) seriously damaged (if not ripped out in some cases) as a result of a combination of aggressive policies pursued by the larger retail chains and exceptionally poor decision-making on the part of local government and central government indifference.

When combined with the rapid growth of unsustainable, ill-thought out and more than questionable out of town and edge of town retail developments which leave next to no place for the smaller local businesses and retailers and deprive consumers of real choice. When you factor in parking charges, business rates and the effect of the closure of high street banks and post offices in many of our communities and you begin to see why many of our smaller businesses and local shopping centres are up against it.

We need to focus on creating the right conditions for our local small businesses (and our communities) to not just survive, but to thrive and grow in Newport and across the SE. They are a vital part of the local economy, for as well as trading with us the consumers and customers, they also trade with each other - so the community gets twice the benefit. Money spent by and in local businesses spends on average three times longer in the local economy than that spent with chain stores which is instantly lost to the local economy which in times of recession our communities can ill afford - this are some the reasons why we need a New Newport and a New Wales.  

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