Review of the Year 2013: September and October
3:07pm Thursday 2nd January 2014 in News
CALLS for Newport's Chartist Mural to be saved ended in vain on Thursday October 3 when the city council unexpectedly demolished the artwork, two days before a demonstration in support of its preservation.
Shoppers and campaigners alerted to the council's action gathered to protest, and shouts of "vandals" rang out in John Frost Square as the work progressed.
Some broke through the gates surrounding the mural to appeal directly to workers to stop, while others blocked a digger from entering the site.
The mural's demolition triggered several weeks of acrimony, with the Argus and social media sites busy with arguments and counter-arguments over the mural's worth as a piece of public art, and over how the council had gone about the work.
A petition of more than 4,100 signatures calling for the mural to be saved, was to have been handed to the council on Saturday October 5, the day of the planned demonstration, and Peter Rawcliffe, of the Save the Chartist mural Campaign, said the demolition two days ahead of that gathering was "very convenient."
"It's just despicable - it is a cowardly act for them to do it before the demonstration," he said.
The mural's fate had been sealed during the days of the previous Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration at Newport council, as it was considered to be too expensive to move or preserve. It had been agreed then too, that a replacement artwork be provided.
Protesters however, claimed that the council had acted in stealth and had ignored suggestions for ways of preserving the mural. They also questioned the £600,000 bill slapped on the process of removing and resiting the mural which was contained in an independent specialists' report.
The planned demonstration went ahead on Saturday October 5 but the anger lingered for weeks, with the council seeking to defend its actions in the interests of safety.
Its chief executive Will Godfrey apologised to councillors for a failure to warn them in advance of the demolition and said the focus had been upon "ensuring that the demolition could proceed with as little danger as possible to the public."
Later in the month the council published the aforementioned specialist report detailing the reasons why the mural could not be saved.
Calls for Mr Godfrey and council leader Bob Bright to be resign over the issue - and for the name of the person who approved the demolition on October 3 to be made public - persisted.
The matter dominated the agenda city's political agenda for weeks, and a subsequent public consultation exercise on proposals for a new artwork to commemorate the Chartists, and suggestions for a location for it, did little to quell feelings of anger at the council.
VISITOR numbers at Newport's Tredegar House had almost doubled in the 18 months since the National Trust took over the running of the 17th Century house and park from the city council, it was revealed.
More than 45,000 people visited the site for the six months from March, as much as for the whole of 2012 - and it was forecast that the figure would top 60,000 by the end of the year.
The National Trust's 10-year plan involves attracting 100,000 people a year, bringing an extra £1.47 million into the local economy.
Average visitor numbers when the council ran the site were around 25,000 a year.
SHOCKED Blaenavon residents challenged irascible BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman to visit the town, after he jibed that it was not as famous as the Lake District.
The Newsnight frontman made the comment during a debate on that programme about the Lake District's bid for World Heritage status, saying that people had heard much more about the Lake District than Blaenavon.
Mr Paxman was invited to tour the Big Pit Mining Museum and Blaenavon Ironworks, before being treated to a pint in a town pub and asked for his views on what he had seen and heard.
"A lot of people know of Blaenavon. I have even been to Turkey and people knew Blaenavon," said Stephen Bull, landlord of the Castle Hotel.
Wednesday September 10
MORE than 5,000 women treated at a former Gwent hospital were offered tests for hepatitis C after it was discovered that a healthcare worker there unwittingly infected two patients with the blood-borne virus.
Women who had obstetric and gynaecological procedures at Caerphilly District Miners' Hospital during 1984-2003 were targeted after a months-long sweep of medical and hospital records.
The healthcare worker worked at the hospital during that period. They were not diagnosed with the virus, which can cause liver disease and rarely, liver cancer, until after they retired.
More than 4,500 cals were made to a helpline in the aftermath of the announcement of the situation, and 3,311 women opted for blood tests at special clinics set up across Gwent.
Two further cases of hepatitis C directly traceable to the healthcare worker, were discovered.
VOLUNTEERS in Usk celebrated a 32nd consecutive in in the annual Wales In Bloom competition.
Usk was awarded the silver gilt award in the competition's large village category, impressing judges with a plethora of eyecatching flowerbeds and baskets planted and maintained by Usk In Bloom volunteers.
Group chairman Tony Kear said the award recognised the hard work of almost 30 volunteers who had helped overcome extremes of weather during the spring and summer to deliver success.
"This is a remarkable achievement. We are very proud," he said.
September 20-22 and October 5
ABERGAVENNY and Newport staged very different and very successful food festivals that attracted thousands of visitors from far and wide.
Streets heaving with visitors have become a regular sight in Abergavenny on festival weekend, and this year was no exception.
"There's been a fantastic turn-out and more people have booked in advance this year, we've had lots of events sold out before the day," said festival spokesman Cathy Green.
Two weeks later, Newport held its third annual food festival, with warm weather and dozens of stalls bringing many more people into the city centre than usual. Highlights included cooking masterclasses, with Newport-born, Michelin-starred chef Hywel Jones among the guests.
SOME people collect stamps, others cigarette cards - but Richard Jones, 78, from Blackwood, is believed to have the world's biggest collection of nails.
Fifty years of collecting which began during his work in a joinery shop has seen him amass 2,000-3,000 nails, and regularly exhibits.
His collection started when he helped his father, who worked for a construction company, and came initially from timbers and floor jousts.
As word of his collecting grew, colleagues would bring him unusual ones, and a job with a firm that renovated old farm buildings and pubs boosted his collection. He told the Argus he knows of only one or two other nail collectors in the UK.
A NEWPORT eco-activist was locked up in Russia for two months without charge following a Greenpeace protest at an Arctic oil rig.
Anthony Perrett, 32, appeared in a Russian court with six other Britons on suspicion of piracy.
They were among 30 activists held by the Russian authorities since mid-September when armed Russian officials boarded their vessel, the Arctic Sunrise, near a Gazprom rig.
GIANT vegetable grower Ian Neale collected awards, records and the congratulations of rapper Snoop Dogg, after more successful shows.
Mr Neale presented a 119lb (54kg) swede at the Malvern autumn show, beating his own previous world record by 10.4 kilos. He also took the British record with his 8.5 kilo carrot.
These were among six first places and two runners-up spots for the veteran grower, with everything from celery to cucumber.
An earlier success at a show in the Rhondda prompted a telephone call from Snoop Dogg - a fan of Mr Neale since 2011 - which the 70-year-old, from Langstone, called "a bit weird."
ACTING chief constable Jeff Farrar was formally nominated for the top job in Gwent Police, vacant since the controversial retirement of former chief constable Carmel Napier in June.
Mr Farrar had run the force since then, and was nominated for the role by Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston, who had been instrumental in Mrs Napier's departure.
Mr Johnston called Mr Farrar "a highly competent and effective officer, the kind of leader Gwent Police needs."
He was formally appointed in November following a confirmation meeting by the Gwent Police and Crime Panel.
TWO days into a gruelling nine-day fundraising walk and Stuart Nixon - who has lived with multiple sclerosis for 30 years - thought there was no way he would complete it.
But buoyed by his own inner strength and the unstinting support of family and friends, the 49-year-old gathered every last ounce of resolve and finished a 60-kilometre walk through London.
His aim was to raise £60,000 to mark the Multiple Sclerosis Society's 60th anniversary.
With the help of a specially built walking frame Mr Nixon, with mobility in just one leg and able only to walk 10 metres with a stick and the help of wife Marie, walked London's Jubilee Greenway, from St James's Park to the Olympic Stadium and back.
He described the support he had received as "unbelievable and humbling."
INITIAL plans for a £242 million hospital that will bring together Gwent's specialist health services took a big step forward with the approval of an outline business case.
The decision by health minister Mark Drakeford to give the case the go ahead paves the way for a full business case in 2015, followed by a start on site early in 2016, and completion by late 2018.
The aim is for the hospital - which will have around 450 beds and will treat Gwent''s sickest patients - to be fully operational by mid-2019.
NEWPORT people were dubbed the unhappiest in Wales, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
When asked to rank their happiness out of 10 - based on zero for 'not at all' happy and10 for 'completely' - around one in seven city residents could only muster a score of 0-4.
People were asked to rank how satisfied they were with their lives, to what extent they felt their lives were worthwhile, and how happy or anxious they felt the day before they took the survey.
Caerphilly was the second most unhappy area in Wales, with Blaenau Gwent third and Torfaen fifth.
THE Argus revealed the eyewatering total of cuts to council services across Gwent in 2014/15, based on how much councils thought they needed to save to balance their books - £56.6 million.
That is the equivalent of £233 for each of the area's 242,842 households - and that multi-million pound figure could be more than doubled by 2017.
The burden may hurt some areas more than others, with Blaenau Gwent council facing budget cuts next year of £10m, or almost £330 per household.
Newport and Caerphilly residents look set to be the least hit, but even then, the average is likely to be the equivalent of more than £190 per household.
A MERGER of two Newport schools was given the go ahead for 2014 despite protests from parents and governors.
Welsh Government minister for education and skills Huw Lewis approved the merger of Gaer infants and junior schools, according to a leaked letter.
The aim is to base the new 420-pupil school at the junior school site off Gaer Road.
More than 450 letters of objection had been handed in as part of the consultation, with protestors holding a rally outside the junior school to voice their concerns.
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