It's been a tough week for the 'Port. M&S are on their way out of the town. Arcadia Group (Monsoon, Accessorize, Burtons, Top Shop) are rumoured to be combining into smaller units, Next are rumoured to be, well, next! On top of this UK Government has decided to axe 300 jobs in the Passport Office. Can it get any worse? The glitz and glamour of seeing Tom Cruise in Greggs on High Street seems a lifetime ago. What can be done? What should the Council be doing? What about Newport Unlimited? Most importantly, what can the residents of our town do to make a difference?
There is a glimmer of good news amongst all this though...
The company that were going to develop Friars Walk went bust and it was their job to buy up all the land needed to build the new mall. Of course, that didnt happen, because they ceased to exist. The Council stepped in and used their planning powers (Compulsory Purchase Orders for the anoraks) to get all the land in their control so they could go out there and find another developer. Sadly, Iceland got in the way of this and the dispute went all the way to the High Court. Fortunately Newport City Council won their case this week and can now start the process of finding a developer. The bad news is that these things take time and I honestly think it could take up to four years for the centre to be with us.
Also planning consent has been given for a replacement scheme for the doomed 'City Spires', where the Cambrian Centre is now. I just hope that the applicant has everything lined up and is ready to actually build it.
It's obvious from this weeks events that Newport can't wait four years for something to happen, the City is unravelling before our very eyes and action is required urgently.
I had my first meeting with the City Council and Newport Unlimited this week as we kick start the process of updating the existing strategy. So much has changed since the old one (from 2004) was produced that its time for some new thinking. We are going to work at 100mph to keep up, then get ahead.
The idea of the entire City Centre being a desert is not one that anyone wants to imagine. It time for everyone to roll their sleaves up and work for our City.