Ideas to revive Newport city centre unveiled by the ReNewport taskforce
Updated 5:13pm Thursday 12th December 2013 in News
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- Proposals for a Newport "software university" and other high-tech plans published by ReNewport taskforce.
- Chairman Simon Gibson tells Argus that Edwina Hart says money is on the table
- Tell us what you think - tweet us or comment below.
In a statement economy minister Edwina Hart has thanked Simon Gibson and the Task Force members for their hard work and innovative thinking in developing the recommendations outlined in the report.
"I will now consider the report in detail and provide a more detailed response in the New Year," she said.
“I should also like to extend my thanks to those who engaged with the Task Force as well as the people of Newport for their contribution to the consultation."
The taskforce also calls for an independent rapid transport system to be developed, that a review of parking in the city is started in early 2014 and that a retail forum is developed.
Taskforce members said Newport should strive to become the Good Food Hub of South East Wales, reintroducing farmers markets in the city. Part of the city centre could also be developed as a designer outlet, and that the so-called public realm in the city centre is improved. “The environment is seen to be unfavourable in comparison to new destinations such as Cwmbran, Cabot Circus in Bristol and Cardiff City Centre,” the report reads.
ReNewport has calleds for a “long-term economic development network” to drive an agenda of regeneration over the next 15 years. It also says that work should be done with the University of South Wales to consider options for creating a student living space in the city centre.
A Newport council spokesman said: “Newport City Council welcomes the news that report produced by the Newport Business Development Steering Group has been published. The report contains a range of proposals and we look forward to more detail about how they can be funded and delivered.”
It also recommends the establishment of a tourism and hospitality forum.
@RE_NEWPORT Very positive so far, 2nd tea required, although including a picture of Tintern was like Cardiff claiming to host the Ryder :0)— @rhncafc 12 December 2013
The taskforce suggests commissioning a study to determine work needed to open up existing river and canals so boats can travel from Newport to Caerleon or Cwmbran, while re-assessing the viability of the river to become a further enhancement to the city centre and its "regional hinterland". It also recommends that a lighting competition is established to illuminate the Transporter Bridge at the Festival of Lights.
Quick read through the @RE_NEWPORT Report, I like the ideas I've read so far but need REAL commitments from Welsh Gov & Key partners— @MajidRahman88 12 December 2013
@ArgusDDeans I’m looking forward to all the artists impressions— @MrJustinHenry 12 December 2013
3:36pm Thu 12 Dec 13
Although some of these proposals have merit, they all suffer from the same problem - they will need to be funded.
With Newport needing to make £25m of savings and having already borrowed £90m, who would be expected to finance these schemes?
The taskforce recommends that the Chartist contribution to British democracy is "fully recognised and developed" - calling for the development of a museum of democracy, a multimedia public display and the creation of a major online project to raise awareness of the Chartist Movement. Work should start with the city council in 2014, the taskforce says.
One recommendation calls for the new Wales International Convention Centre planned for the Celtic Manor to serve as a catalyst to encourage regeneration and additional development.
Two of the recommendations touch on the upcoming NATO summit. The report suggests that an organising committee is set up to manage the summit by January 2014. It also calls for a major events team to be set up to work alongside the delivery of the summit. It would be a partnership between the Celtic Manor and the public sector and would focus on developing the programme to keep business flowing after the summit leaves South Wales.
The forum would also consider the potential of promoting Newport venues as part of a wider city region bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games.
It proposes Newport should host an annual festival around culture, music or technology, building on the success of Newport’s annual food festival. The idea would be looked at by forum established for history, heritage, culture and sport.
One idea proposes a Performance Portal online to help people source content that promotes the arts in Newport, as well as a city broadcasting platform.
ReNewport suggests that Newport could bid to be a future UK or European Culture Capital, in 2021 or 2023 respectively.
Members of the taskforce recommended the establishment of a hospitality school, located in the city centre and run by students – providing the opportunity to build connections with the industry. Its hoped it could be set up by 2015.
A tech forum could be established in the city to bring together firms to share ideas and plans for growth. Efforts have already been made on the idea and an initial gathering is set to take place this month.
The taskforce recommends that the Alacrity high-tech business boot camp - in part backed by Sir Terry Matthews - is "levereged to bring wider benefits to the City."
Back to the plans - the taskforce recommends the purchase and or renovation to "grade A standard of a City Centre property that could be used for the private sector for "technology use" or used as an incubator for innovative small to medium sized firms. A feasibility study for property purchase would be developed by the middle of 2014, the taskforce said.
Mr Gibson added that over successive decades Wales has built “structures but often they have been left empty because they don’t have anything to go in them."
He said a greater focus was needed on intellectual property and ideas rather than bricks and motar.
“From the ground up we’ve looked at the opportunities that present themselves in education, work, the history, culture, heritage and sport in the city and also infrastructure," he said.
“All these things are focused on getting people thinking, working and creating wealth.”
Simon Gibson, chairman of the taskforce, told the Argus this afternoon: “I have sat down with the minister [Edwina Hart] and she’s assured me there is funding available for most of these projects.”
He said the taskforce has tried to produce a “realistic report” that is deliverable.
“There’s lots of things that could be done but in the current financial climate they have go to be realistic,” he said.
He said there’s a blend of big projects with some that could be delivered quickly – “the good news is that they can be delivered.”
They have tried not to repeat existing work going on, like the council’s bid for cash from the Welsh Government’s vibrant and viable places fund to improve housing and commercial property in central Newport.
One proposal is to create Europe’s first Compound Semiconductor cluster in South Wales that would aim to create a cluster of specialist high tech firms in and around the city to develop expertise and commercial opportunities. This could include an academy located in Newport city centre. The taskforce says the Welsh Government has agreed to fund a feasibility study to assess the benefits to the Welsh economy and will report by March 2014.
The taskforce has backed the idea of a Restaurant and Cafe Quarter in Newport city centre, calling for work on this to be discussed with the city council and others. The report says "there is a growing trend in UK towns and cities towards developing a concentration of places to eat within a compact area, replicating the tradition for Café Quarters on the continent." Newport council has already made its own efforts to develop a cafe quarter in the city with the redevelopment of Newport Market.
The taskforce recommends that the possibility of a City Centre Investment Management Company is investigated. It says that the concept - where elements of a centre are purchased and managed by a single entity - could address falling footfall. It recommends a feasibility study be developed early next year to report back in March.
The task force calls for the Welsh Government to consider a pilot to extend the Business Rate Relief Scheme to a defined area of the city centre, focused on the digital and ICT sector, business start-ups and small to medium sized companies. The Welsh Government will consult with Newport to agree the funding and implementation of such a scheme by the end of 2014, the taskforce's report says.
The report proposes the development of a Cycling Centre of Excellence to add to the academy opportunities around golf and football already in the city. The taskforce says Newport and the surrounding area attracts 300,000 visitors per year for cycling - the team has asked that Welsh Government considers and reports on the options by March 2014.
Here's the ReNewport report in full:
The software university would be linked to a National Centre for Cyber Security. The six months of the taskforce's work found that one of the highest concentration of computer security experts can be found within the boundaries of Newport - its hoped the new centre could build on that footprint. Agreement has already been made with the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board that South East Wales would be recognised as a "lead player" in the Severn Valley Cyber Launchpad initiative - opening access to £500,000 of funding to small to medium sized firms in the Severn Valley area. A launch event already took place in Newport in November 2013 and the centre is to be developed by late 2014.
A software university would be estalished in the city to address a "critical gap" in the UK between the demand for software developers and the number of skilled people available. The taskforce says it is already talking to three universities in setting up the model, which it hopes could get off the ground from 2014.
The ReNewport report calls for the Welsh Government to fund the establishment of an innovation company in the city centre to develop intellectual propety and support small to medium size firms within five years. The firm would be a hub to attract research funds and inward investors, and should be established by mid 2014.
Today the ReNewport business development task force has published its report to Welsh Government on its vision for the city centre and Newport. It contains a raft of ideas and proposals. Some are already in motion focused,. some focus on bringing more high technology business to Newport and others aimed at boosting business in the city.
This afternoon we''ll be publishing ideas from the report and comments as we get them. Readers can comment below the line or tweet us at @ArgusDDeans.
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