“STRONG and positive progress” towards Newport’s regeneration has been made over the past year, according to a council report.

The end of year regeneration report, to be considered on Thursday, looks back at a year which has seen a drive towards improvements to the city centre including the demolition of the old Capitol car park.

The council’s overview and scrutiny officer said in the report that despite “a backdrop of a challenging financial position”, the city can be pleased with what it has achieved so far.

“Footfall into the indoor market has increased by 40 per cent,” the report says, with retailers reporting an increase in the number of customers and trade after the entrance was given a facelift at the end of last year.

The report said 612 long-term unemployed Newport clients found employment in the past year, with 367 people staying in their jobs for longer than six and a half months.

“The blowing up of the city centre car park in November announced the arrival of the [Friar’s Walk shopping centre] scheme which has gained pace through the delivery partner Queensbury Real Estate,” the report says.

It adds a £6 million project to regenerate Pill is ahead of schedule, “changing the face of lower Commercial Road and improving business confidence in the area.”

A “key success” was a bid for Welsh Government funding which saw Newport receive a £14.9 million grant from Vibrant and Viable City funding, the largest amount in Wales. This will contribute to £60 million of housing based regeneration from this financial year onwards, the report said.

It also praised those working towards a bid for the city centre to become a Business Improvement District. If local businesses vote for it to do so in November, the centre could be managed and operated by a non-profit company run by and for its members, funded through a levy.

The report added that a decline in city centre footfall had been stemmed although there are still challenges due to retailers closing city centre stores.

The Regeneration and Regulatory Services 2013/14 Service Plan Year End Review and 2014/15 Service Plan Summary will now be considered by a scrutiny committee and can be found online at www.newport.gov.uk.