THE NEWSDESK: Why we cannot ignore the recommendations of Re:Newport, Cllr Bright
THE publication of the Re:Newport report last week sparked off an interesting series of reactions.
Firstly, that of council leader Bob Bright - whose dismissive "we could all have written down those ideas" made quite a few of us shake our heads.
Yes, Cllr Bright, but here's the thing: You didn't.
You and your administration did not produce such a report, despite the fact you have been in power now for a number of years.
It is all very well pouring cold water upon ideas. But if we do, then what?
Secondly, the reaction from businesses and economist Dr Jonathan Deacon, marketing and entrepreneurship lecturer at the University of South Wales in Newport.
Dr Deacon says: "There is no shortage of ambition and aspiration behind this.
"It is lovely to see that groups of people are taking the bull by the horns and seeing that it is a great place to be and that there is a lot of opportunity here."
Alan Edwards, president of the Newport Chamber of Trade, says: "I welcome all the ideas and the positive thinking about the city centre."
He has invited Simon Gibson, chairman of the Re:Newport task force, to the chamber's next business conference in January to clarify some of the ideas.
A very different reaction to the one which looks at the report, throws it aside and expects normal service to be resumed.
Having read the recommendations, I think ignoring them wholesale would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The ideas of a software university, the working with small businesses, the retail forum, the tech forum, the forums to share history, heritage, culture and sport and an annual festival around culture, music or technology, are all things I think are sorely needed in this city.
Understandably, some of us are a little more wary of the idea for a "super arcade" - would that not just to try to replicate Cwmbran? Why are we not doing more with the existing arcades?
But, the report is about ideas, generating positivity and trying to pull Newport out of the hole in which it currently finds itself.
And that's a good start. The recognition that, despite the pooh-poohings from some quarters, things cannot be allowed to continue the way they have been in recent years, watching a once vibrant and attractive city centre die on the vine with empty shops and deserted shopping streets and people who are beaten down by decades of disappointment.
While Friar's Walk will bring more shoppers into the city, it is not the panacea for this city's ills. It needs - and currently sorely lacks - vision.
Although wonderful old buildings were bulldozed in the 1960s and 1970s, there are still many wonderful old buildings which would provide a great atmosphere in the city centre were they to be used properly.
It is clear we need a mixture of shops, homes and workplaces which do not involve selling things over the counter to bring our city centre back to life.
I would love to see a city centre cafe quarter full of workers, students and shoppers, and a night-time economy which does not just involve people going out to get tanked up, with restaurants, bars and cafes sitting alongside family attractions.
So I say bring on the ideas in the Re:Newport report and let's see if they can work for us. Welcome that injection of positivity.
And here are some more thoughts.
The recent council report which highlighted the financial issues at the Riverfront is also a wake-up call, I believe.
That lack of vision has seen our arts centre trying desperately to be a mini-me for the mainstream St David's Hall, instead of the vibrant place for Newport's own culture which it could be. Think Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff.
And then, there's the Newport Ship.
I know I have said this before, but it bears repeating.
That ship could, and should, be a major catalyst for regeneration in this city. Properly displayed, it would attract thousands and thousands of people to Newport to view it, to spend their time and money.
It could be the centrepiece for tours of this city's rich maritime history.
This is a port city, and it is high time that was recognised.
And yet, its future remains uncertain. Whether we will ever do it justice, who can tell?
Now, for the task force, the hard work starts on how to fund and implement their ideas. And that's going to be tough in the current financial climate.
But I think many people in Newport will be hoping their ideas reach fruition - and that we once again have a city centre of which we can be proud.
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