EDITOR'S CHAIR: Newport's future mustn't be derailed by snail's pace of public sector decision-making
10:20am Thursday 6th February 2014 in News
NEWPORT has had a lot of good news in the last couple of weeks - and that makes a refreshing change.
The £15m in Welsh Government money for city centre housing, cash from the same body to move forward some of Re:Newport's proposals, the formation of the apolitical Newport Rises group, the demolition of the Capitol car park and this week's first city summit have combined to put a spring in the city's steps in the early weeks of the new year.
I am not the first to say this and I will not be the last, but 2014 is a pivotal year for Newport. It would not be an overstatement to say the city's future will be defined this year.
There is a positive feeling about the city for the first time in years.
Private and public sector leaders are working together on exciting projects.
The Friars Walk shopping and leisure development will start to take shape from next month. As I have always said, the development is not a panacea or a solution to the city centre's problems. But it will be a catalyst and will inspire confidence among those with the capacity to bring jobs and wealth to the area.
The NATO summit in the autumn is a huge opportunity for the city. It is already bringing in substantial amounts of money for the hotel trade throughout Newport and the M4 corridor.
The thousands of delegates and journalists who will attend the summit and the events that surround it all need somewhere local to stay and it is already almost impossible to book a room anywhere in and around Newport for that period.
The eyes of the world will be on Newport for a few days in September and everyone with the good of the city at heart needs to make the most of it.
The protesters who will inevitably descend on the summit should also be viewed as an opportunity.
They also need places to stay and food to eat.
Tuesday's city summit at the university's Newport campus was a hugely positive event.
Many of Newport's leading business people were there, along with representatives from the public sector.
There is a realisation and an understanding that Newport's future cannot depend on the public sector. It does not create jobs or wealth - but it can provide opportunities and a helping hand to those who can.
The key to this year being the success it can be is pace. Things cannot be allowed to drift because to do so will breed cynicism and lead to some influential people simply walking away.
As regular readers of this column will know, I have not been shy with my criticism of the political leadership of the city council.
However, I had a clear sense at the summit of a desire and drive at the top of the organisation to make this a year of achievement, a year that is going to leave a lasting legacy.
That is to be commended and encouraged.
My fear is that the public sector in general is not known for its ability to deliver change at pace.
The worst thing that can happen this year - and let us not forget we are already well into the second month of 2014 - is for great ideas to become bogged down in red tape, or bureaucracy, or archaic planning rules.
If the pace of change can be kept up, then this could be a truly great year for Newport.
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