Newport city centre gas works disrupt Christmas festivities
Newport's Christmas lights switch on has been disrupted by the ongoing city centre gas works saga.
A "Countdown to Christmas" family entertainment event with a fireworks display will be held on the banks of the River Usk on Thursday November 22, but it appears it will not involve a formal switch-on of the lights.
The usual venue for the annual event, last year graced by adventurer and ex-Wales rugby international Richard Parks and attended by 5,000, is currently strewn with roadworks.
However the move to Thursday from Sunday, following requests from traders, will mark the first night of late night Thursday shopping in Newport.
It is hoped the early timing of the event, from approx 4.30pm to 6.30pm, will encourage people to visit city centre shops.
There will also be family entertainment and street theatre held along Commercial Street and in John Frost Square for the first three Saturdays in December.
A council spokeswoman said the riverfront areas has worked well for summer events and also provides a perfect vantage point for the display.
She said the focus would be on the "wider countdown" rather than a switch on event.
But the spokeswoman added there would be no scaling down of Christmas lights or decorations. There will be Christmas trees in Westgate Square and John Frost Square.
Steve Reynolds, of Toy Army in Newport Market, said he didn't think people would come into the city centre if the lights switch-on was held on the river bank.
"Doing it [the gas works] at this time of year is an absolute disgrace," he said.
David Fouweather, Tory councillor for Allt-Yr-Yn, said: "I think its quite disappointing for traders at the top end of the city. They've always had this in the past, now they have lost it.
"The council needs to put its finger out and do something."
A spokesman for Newport Chamber of Trade said the organisation is concerned that the event is not happening in the city centre but had to be "realistic" about it.
But he said: "Having it on the Thursday evening is what the retailers wanted. We are more than happy with that."
Wales and West originally told the Argus the gas works would be finished in September.
It later revised the dates it was giving to later in the autumn, then to December The company said, when it started the work, "the rate of progress led us to believe that the scheme could be completed ahead of schedule."
However it encountered difficult ground conditions caused by the vast network of other utility "apparatus".
A second phase of the work, due to commence later this month, will involve a larger number of engineers in replacing the gas main.
A Newport council spokesman said it does have powers to take action if companies exceed the timescales it has given.
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