I hope that the recent ‘Save our City’ meeting was a turning point for the future of Newport. Clearly, there is only so much that can be achieved by a two hour meeting between 250 frustrated and angry people and four politicians. It wasn’t quite cathartic, but perhaps it was the beginning of a reaslisation that Newport’s problems are too big to be solved by any one group alone.
The session was called by the Chamber of Trade to ask senior Newport politicians what they were doing to halt the apparent spiral of decline which some feel has engulfed the City.
The opening exchanges revolved around car parking, crime and anti-social behaviour and when the proposed new shopping development might arrive. But in my opinion, the most telling exchanges came towards the end of the meeting when one trader asked the Council “what is your vision?”
Sadly, there wasn’t much common ground in the Kings Hotel that evening but the meeting highlighted how important it is for Newport to have a framework of decision making that everyone: politicians, officials, traders, shoppers and potential investors understands.
Only this week, we’ve been reviewing the regeneration masterplan prepared in 2004. The good news is that there is much to retain and build upon. However, so much of the previous strategy was based upon a credit fuelled property model that no longer exists. We can no longer rely on being able to build our way out of trouble and need to work with what we already have, which lets not forget, is a lot.
Perhaps, the most significant outcome of our appraisal of the 2004 regeneration strategy was discovering that it wasn't particularly user-friendly. Dont' get me wrong, documents like this aren't meant to be page turners, but they do need to tell a clear and compelling story of how a place will be rehabilitated. We’ll be recommending to the City Council and Newport Unlimited that the way forward will be an updated regeneration plan that is simple to use and easy to understand with a vision, clear objectives and appropriate project ideas which everyone can get behind and make happen.