MORE than 130 people have signed copies of a letter printed in the Argus urging Assembly health minister Edwina Hart to support the South Gwent Children's Centre project with £5.9 million of funding.

The letter, also available for readers to download, calls on Mrs Hart and the Assembly's Capital Investment Board to recognise the importance of the Sparkle Appeal-backed project, which aims to provide a world class facility for more than 1,200 disabled children in Newport, Torfaen and south Monmouthshire.

The board was originally due to decide tomorrow whether or not to approve the funding, but this was postponed so more information on the project could be supplied. A decision is now likely in October.

Parents of disabled children and politicians from Newport and beyond have declared their support for the project during the past week.

Sparkle Appeal organisers are also collecting signatures for a petition and appeal manager Helen Lloyd said the response has been very positive.

"It's good to see the support coming in, and the more signatures we have, the better.

It is very important we are able to show the centre has the backing of people in the area," she said.

The South Gwent Children's Centre would enable youngsters to receive therapies and other treatments under one roof, instead they and their families have to attend appointments in cramped and unsuitable buildings, such as Newport's Eveswell Clinic.

The £5.9m bid would pay for the building and core NHS services.

The original aim was for the centre to be an entirely charity-funded project as when it was proposed several years ago, there was little prospect of Assembly funding.

Increases in the NHS Wales budget for capital projects prompted Gwent Healthcare Trust to submit a bid, as the charitable route is a longer, harder one.

Around £370,000 has been raised through the Sparkle Appeal, with the help of countless generous fundraisers, from individuals to sporting clubs, local businesses, and voluntary groups.

This support is vital to helping provide the centre with a family focus through facilities additional to those delivered through the NHS.

Assembly funding remains the key to the project's success however, and such support may help unlock further potential avenues of charitable funding, through the likes of the National Lottery.

Petition forms are available from the Sparkle Appeal office, Old Ingram Ward, St Woolos Hospital, Stow Hill, Newport, NP20 5SZ, telephone 01633 656212, e-mail