Taskforce to regenerate Newport city centre
A MAJOR new taskforce is to examine how housing can regenerate Newport city centre.
Business minister Edwina Hart announced a 12-month Welsh Government-backed project to look at why businesses are struggling in the business district.
The Business Development Project follows lobbying from Newport council leader Bob Bright, and will work with a yet-to-be-announced private sector steering group.
Cllr Bright said it was tremendous news and is the first of a number of significant announcements in the coming weeks The move comes after an Argus survey found almost a quarter of the city centre's shops are lying empty. The project is thought to be the first of its kind in Wales.
Mrs Hart said: "We are aware of the challenges that require urgent focus and attention in Newport.
"But we also recognise that there are some real opportunities and we intend to identify these through working with the private sector on this business development project."
In a statement to Assembly members, Mrs Hart said the project's terms of reference will be:
- Considering short, medium and long-term barriers to business growth in Newport.
- Exploring opportunities for future business development.
- Identifying solutions and making recommendations for the short, medium and long-term.
Ms Hart said she expects the project to work closely with the Welsh Government regeneration and housing department, placing a strong emphasis on the role of housing in the city centre as a means of regeneration.
A project manager will be funded through Mrs Hart's department, with the private-sector steering group formed to guide the manager's work.
They are expected to report back in six months time, after which the next six months will be spent putting into practice any measures thought needed.
The 2011 Mary Portas report proposed that the High Streets of the future should include not just shops but a mix that could include housing, offices, schools or other social, commercial or social enterprises.
Newport council has encouraged the use of the city centre for offices with Admiral planning to relocate its Newport business to the redeveloped Cambrian Centre.
BOB Bright said the announcement reveals the enormous amount of work the council is carrying out to turn the city around.
The Newport council Labour leader said he taken the concerns of the city's residents and firms to the Welsh Government.
Cllr Bright said: "Following a positive meeting with Edwina Hart, this is tremendous news. Not only have we been listened to, but there is a clear course of action being taken.
"We will work in partnership with Welsh Government to lever the full benefit of this project.
"This is the first of a number of significant announcements in the coming weeks that reveals the enormous amount of work being carried out by the council to turn the city's fortunes around.
He said the announcements will show "that the regeneration and future prosperity of the city are not just pipe dreams, but real opportunities firmly within our grasp."