Newport city centre businesses launch Facebook fightback
BUSINESSES concerned about Newport shop closures are fighting back with a Facebook campaign to save their once vibrant retail hub.
Seven hundred people have already rallied behind the "Save Newport City Centre" crusade launched to turn the fortunes of the hub bearing the brunt of competition from rival quarters including Cardiff and Cwmbran.
Businessmen and retail experts banded together on Facebook just a week before an Argus survey revealed that nearly a quarter of shops – 24.88 per cent – now stood empty in Newport City Centre.
The group hopes to garner enough support to act as a leading voice to influence the council and other stakeholders charged with shaping up the future of the city centre.
Save Newport City founder Ben Hollingsworth, 37, said: "We’ve jumped to 700 members in two weeks. The campaign is proving to be very popular.
"We’ve got an expert in regeneration, one in city planning.
"We’d like to mix their views with the views of traders.
"If we get 10 constructive ideas, we can put them to the council and other relevant authorities and tell them ‘5,000 people have voted for this’. I just think there could be an improvement that way."
The car insurance boss told the Argus about the Facebook campaign as a Welsh Government-backed taskforce was set up to try to find out if housing could help regenerate the city centre.
Newport council leader Bob Bright said the Labour authority was doing everything in its power to improve the city centre.
A council spokeswoman said the multi-million pound revamp of John Frost Square, set to feature a Cineworld multiplex and Debenhams was set to be complete in 2015, while Admiral insurance would bring hundreds of jobs when it relocates to the city centre next year.
In addition, the council is in talks with the Chamber of Trade to improve the city centre and the cabinet retained more than £100,000 for regeneration, including the shopping hub, last month.
* To get involved with Facebook campaign go to the page called Save Newport City Centre & Our Shops on the social networking site.
THE Welsh Government taskforce will look at the feasibility of creating flats above shops and businesses as a means of attracting people to live in the heart of the city centre.
It will work with the city council to examine the pros, cons and praticalities of creating living space above city centre premises as a means of stimulating retail trade.
Such a model is the norm in many European cities but is radical on these shores.
The idea has been welcomed as worth exploring by a number of Newport traders, though a lack of parking for such residential projects has been raised as an issue, along with a need to make the city centre is a safer and more attractive place to visit at night.