WITH Newport's population set to swell by up to a quarter during the Nato Summit in a month's time, BECKY CARR and EMMA MACKINTOSH take a look at the logistics of such a huge operation and what city residents make of it.
FOUR years ago Newport played host to the Ryder Cup, the golf event of the year beamed into 750million homes in 140 countries around the world, and the subject of thousands of column inches in the world’s sports pages.
So much was the event heralded that it even made it onto road signs and county boundary markers.
This year, in almost exactly a month’s time, the Celtic Manor resort and the city of Newport will once again be the destination of choice for the world’s media as the much-discussed Nato summit comes to town.
The theme for this year’s summit is “building stability in an unpredictable world”, and while world leaders discuss, debate and try to solve world affairs inside the walls of the Celtic Manor (as well as some venues in Cardiff), Newport is going to be buzzing with activity.
The sheer volume of protesters – some 20,000 – expected to come to Newport and surrounding areas to, in their own words “say no to Nato” would swell the size of the city by 14 per cent.
Add to that around 8,000 police officers, 4,000 delegates and 1,500 journalists, Newport’s population could go from around 141,000 to closer to 175,000 – a jump of 24 per cent.
It makes the 185 VIPs attending the summit seem a very small minority indeed.
Security will not be provided by Gwent Police alone, with tens of thousands of police officers expected to help them contain the event and minimise disruption, particularly along the M4 corridor which is not expected to be closed at any time but could face “major disruption” late on Thursday, September 4, as delegates are shuttled up to the Celtic Manor.
It is not yet clear whether other roads around Celtic Manor – such as the Coldra and Chepstow Road – will be closed, even temporarily, although during many other major events hosted by the resort, Catsash Road in Caerleon is traditionally completely sealed off.
Opponents have predicted the security operation will cost in the region of £50million, little of which they say will directly benefit local businesses.
Last month the minister for Europe David Lidington said the UK government had reserved more than 24,000 room nights in 80 hotels in Newport, Cardiff and Bristol.
“It is a huge undertaking and preparations are on track,” he assured MPs.
The Argus spoke to some of the bed and breakfasts in and around the city who will be hosting guests during the summit.
Barry Peters, director of the Knoll Guesthouse in Newport, said: “All it’s causing is a lot of problems for different types of people.
“People like us, small independent businesses, are being subjected to the police and health and safety.
“We had to go to a police briefing and somebody from health and safety checked us out with an inspection.
“It’s absolute nonsense,” he said.
“Naturally we’ve got our fair share of bookings for that week but quite frankly, it’s no bigger than any other large or minor event in the area.”
Kathryn Hitchings, owner of the Pendragon House Bed and Breakfast in Caerleon, said: “We’ve been really busy coming up to it and we’ve had enquiries, but no confirmed bookings yet for the week. I imagine we’ll get some though. Talking to other B&Bs and hotels, it seems everyone’s holding back until the last minute,” she said.
“I would hope it would be a good thing for the area. It’s possibly going to be different to the Ryder Cup, they stayed up in the Celtic Manor in the day and came down here in the evening.”
The police have stressed throughout the run-up to the summit that they support the right to peaceful protest and the Argus understands they have been in regular contact with the organisers of the No to Nato counter-summit, which is taking place in Newport and Cardiff, before and during the summit, with discussions going well.
Nevertheless, the week-long peace camp is part of what has been billed as Wales’ largest protest in a generation, with the No to Nato Newport umbrella group made up of anti-war and anti-cuts activists working with the Stop the War Coalition, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Green Party.
Gwent Police Chief Constable Jeff Farrar has previously said the majority will be peaceful campaigners but conceded that there will be an element “who will be here for other purposes”, adding that demonstrations could take place in Newport, Cardiff or London.
“We have got to plan for the worst,” he said, adding that the force’s priority is the safety and security of high profile heads of state and to minimise disruption.
Celtic Manor itself will be closed to the public three to four days before the start of the event for the police to search and seal the premises, and rubber ‘tabs’ and security seals placed on drain covers and lamp posts around Newport to make it more obvious if someone has tried to tamper with them.
Protestors such as the Green Party have already voiced their disquiet that the summit will not benefit the wider Newport area financially, and despite efforts by police to engage with residents by holding meetings and surgeries, some readers have contacted the Argus to say they’re still in the dark about what will actually happen over the two days.
Some residents living near the main entrance of the Celtic Manor said as long as they can park their cars, they are prepared for the disruption.
Residents have had varying degrees of contact with authorities about the summit, with one reporting that he had had a policeman at the door, while another said she had not even received a letter.
None of people the Argus spoke to living at the Coldra had been able to attend organised meetings.
One resident, who did not wish to be named,said: “They (the world leaders) are all going to be there. With all the unrest, I’d prefer it if they weren’t going there.”
Chris Nall, 57, told the Argus: “I’m concerned about the protesters and what damage they’re going to do to our property.
“I’ve just had a new fence put up, who do I go to for compensation? What if they cause damage to our cars?”
Mrs Nall said she had received a letter from Newport council about the event and accepts there will be disruption but it will only last for “a night and a day”.
“What this is going to do for a couple of days is nothing compared to the roadworks in Caerleon for two weeks,” she said.
Steve Hughes, 59, said: “All we know is it’s on September 4 and 5. We realise there’ll be a police presence and there will be traffic restrictions but it doesn’t last long. I’m not really interested in it, they’ve got to do what they’ve got to do.
“The police came here and told us what’s going on but I haven’t attended any meetings.”
Teacher Carole Sims, 50, told the Argus that her school would be closed for the summit.
“We haven’t heard anything about it,” she said. “People have said to me ‘you’re so close, you must know what’s going on’ but we haven’t been told.
“I’m just concerned about whether I can park and whether they will block roads.”
Tony Kidd, 71, said he had noticed that the roads were being kept clean in the lead-up to the summit.
“For the Ryder Cup, which I went to, they wouldn’t let me walk up there for security reasons, so I had to drive my car to Llanwern Steelworks and park for £20,” he said.
“I imagine as we get nearer to the event, any security restrictions will be made apparent. You expect some discomfort, what that will be I don’t know.
“Some of the roads round here were cordoned off when the golf was on. I could be cynical, if they come up with some good decision-making, I’d say I’d applaud it but there’s a lot of rhetoric and propaganda and nothing really comes of it.”
Mr Kidd added that the Celtic Manor is a “wonderful venue” and that the 2010 Ryder Cup was held there for a reason.
Gwent Police has subsequently released a video about the summit, encompassing much of the advice which has already been published online.
A spokeswoman for Gwent Police said: “The last two editions of Newport Matters contained Nato-related articles and these were posted through every resident’s door in Newport.
“We are currently working on leaflets which will provide further information which are planned for delivery to residents next week.
“If anyone has any concerns about the forthcoming summit, they are advised to call their local Neighbourhood Policing Team on 101.”