Newport task force unveils ambitious plans
10:28am Friday 13th December 2013 in News
A NEW software university, a roof over High Street and a national centre for cyber security are among forward-thinking plans penned by a city centre task force.
After six months of work, the ReNewport Business Development Task Force has reported back to Welsh Government in a bid to bring thousands into the city centre every day.
But the leader of the Newport council, while welcoming the report published yesterday, said there was no funding and that “we could all have written down those ideas”.
Simon Gibson, the chairman of the task force and its public face, said he had been given assurances from Economy Minister Edwina Hart that there would be cash available.
He told the Argus: “I have sat down with the minister and she’s assured me that there will be funding available for most of these projects.”
Money may also come from other sources like the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board.
Mr Gibson, who is chief executive of Sir Terry Matthew’s investment vehicle Wesley Clover, said the task force has tried to produce a “realistic report” that is deliverable.
“All these things are focused on getting people thinking, working and creating wealth,” he said.
“There’s a perception in the city, right or wrong, that the city is not safe,” he said, saying they had a lot of feedback from younger families saying it was not a child-friendly city.
“If we get people back into the city and if we could implement these recommendations, we would increase the population of the city centre by several thousand a day.
“That increased disposable income helps support some of the things we need to do,” he added.
He said we all needed to get behind Friars Walk – and added that if these were properly executed they would ensure the new complex was a success and that the city centre was a place people would want to visit.
Mr Gibson previously told the Argus that he wouldn’t bet the future of the city centre on a shopping centre that might never happen.
Some of the ideas have come directly from the public consultation held earlier this year, and Mr Gibson added: “We were absolutely blown away by the good will and good ideas and the engagement we had with people in the city.”
Labour Newport council leader Cllr Bob Bright told his cabinet that he “embraced” the ideas in the ReNewport report – but said there was no funding.
“It’s just a number of bullet points of aspirations,” he said, adding “I think we could have all written down those ideas.”
But Mr Gibson told the Argus in response: “A city without aspiration is dead, a city without vision is dead.”
Later in an official statement, a council spokesman welcomed the news of the report, saying the authority looked forward to more detail about how the proposals can be funded and delivered.
Mrs Hart thanked Mr Gibson and the task force yesterday for its hard work and “innovative thinking”, as well as those who engaged with the task force.
She said she will now “consider the report in detail and provide a more detailed response in the New Year.”
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