"OVER to you, Ms Hart" - that's the message to the Assembly health minister from Gwent health chiefs concerning the multi-million pound funding bid for the Sparkle Appeal-backed South Gwent Children's Centre.

Gwent Healthcare Trust bosses have completed work requested by the Assembly on value for money aspects of the project, designed to provide state-of-the-art facilities for disabled youngsters across Newport, Torfaen, and south Monmouthshire.

An Argus-backed campaign last autumn attracted hundreds of letters of support for the project from across Gwent, and a Sparkle Appeal petition gathered several thousand signatures urging Ms Hart to back the project with around £6m to get the centre up and running.

The campaign also attracted cross-party support from AMs and MPs in Gwent and from Newport council chiefs.

Last October Ms Hart acknowledged the widespread public interest in, and support for, the project and was "confident" a funding package could be put in place when the trust finished work on its bid.

Trust planning director Alex Howells told the trust board she "believes the Assembly has now had all the information it requires."

"The next step is asking the minister to consider the case," she said. Her report to the board "anticipates this will enable the Assembly to make a decision... in the near future."

Appeal for children's centre launched in 2003
SOUTH Gwent Children's Centre was originally conceived as a project funded entirely through charitable fundraising, as several years ago there was little prospect of attracting NHS funding because it was not considered a high enough priority.

The Sparkle Appeal, run by the South Gwent Children's Foundation, the project's charitable arm, was launched in 2003.

The trust subsequently submitted a bid following a funding increase for NHS building projects in Wales. The process has been different to the norm, in that the building, on gifted land at High Cross, Newport. already exists and will be effectively bought rather than built by NHS Wales.

An Assembly spokesman confirmed the business case has been received.

"This is being considered. As soon as a decision is made, the trust will be informed," he said.