For every scheme, like Friars Walk, which gets off the ground, there are many more which have stayed firmly on the drawing board. MARTIN WADE looks back on the visions of future Gwent.

The other shopping centre for Newport

IT was the shopping centre for Newport with Debenhams at its heart, but this one was never built.

The £70m town centre development envisaged a stretch of Commercial Street being covered, with many of the buildings there being demolished to make way for the new shopping centre.

Vast glazed roofs would encase much of Newport’s main shopping street with entrances at the junction of Austin Friar and Commercial Street and John Frost Square.

Plans for the vast shopping mall went on show at the Museum and Library in John Frost Square in December 1988.

Developer Burton Property Trust’s PR team sent staff out with questionnaires, asking the public’s opinion on the scheme. Whatever Newport people’s feelings the scheme was never completed.

Severnside Airport

This idea first appeared in the early 80s when growing air passenger numbers prompted politicians to examine calls for a third London airport. A plan to build an entirely new airport at Redwick near Newport was backed by many.

The scheme saw a site partly built on land reclaimed from the sea.

The London - South Wales line would have been diverted to service the airport and an M4 relief road would have followed the route of the one currently planned.

It was rejected but returned in 1995 when Severnside International Airport PLC drew up plans for an airport on the Redwick site after research again showed that London airports would be unable to cope with projected passenger growth over the next 20 years.

In 2003 it appeared again, more grandiose and ambitious than before.

Plans were put forward to the government for an international airport on a man-made island in the Severn Estuary.

The Government rejected the proposal in its 2003 White Paper, stating that such an airport “would not be financially viable and would not generate sufficient economic or regeneration benefits to merit support in this White Paper”.

The plan for an island in the Severn rose once again when the UK government again agonised over capacity of the London airports. A causeway would have linked the island to Newport as would an M4 spur and rail lines.

A hydrofoil service would have given a water-borne link with Cardiff. It was exciting and futuristic.

Consultancy MSP Solutions proposed that the airport could be built by 2029 on a site between Newport and Chepstow and attract as many as 30 million passengers by 2040. But this too was binned.

Usk Barrage

Perhaps Newport’s greatest ‘what-if’ was the mid-90s scheme to build a barrage across the Usk. Newport Borough Council began putting plans for the barrage together in 1988 and eventually hoped it would be completed by 1998. They estimated the scheme would bring 5,000 new jobs to the centre of Newport , the area which had the highest unemployment levels in the (then) town and would cost £70m.

It was hoped the barrage would transform the waterfront of Newport, with 2,300 new homes being built as part of a £400 million waterfront park along the river. It would have become the second-biggest development of its kind in Wales, second only to Cardiff Bay.

The barrage, which would have been sited where the SDR bridge is today, would have kept the waters of the Usk at a permanently high-tide level, covering what was seen as the ‘unsightly’ mud banks which were believed to be deterring developers.

Newport council said the scheme had the backing of most Newport residents and its need was pressing. Its head of urban development, Roger Davies, told the Argus: “The problems of the riverfront at present are clear for all to see, neglect, decay and dereliction have been there for too long,” he said.

However some claimed that if the water levels rose with the barrage it would spell the end of fishing on the river Usk. One of the 100 members of the Isca fishing club, Sid Waggett said he and other fishermen “had been sold down the river by the plan”, adding bitterly: “When they build the barrage the river will be a playground for boating people who probably never heard of the Usk before.

The Argus was clear in its support, saying the barrage would bring closer “the vision of a reinvigorated Newport”.

Support and opposition was to split with many in Newport supporting the scheme while rural Monmouthshire, where more saw risk, opposing.

When the news came on Wednesday September 13th 1995 that the scheme had been blocked the two front pages of the Argus reflected the reaction in two different parts of Gwent:

First edition (Newport): IT’S NO: Usk Barrage: Welsh Secretary delivers hammer blow by blocking scheme

County edition (Monmouthshire): IT’S NO: Delight as barrage scheme is rejected

Some of the sting inflicted by the rejection of the barrage has been taken away by the regeneration which has happened along Newport’s Riverfront since, not least with the opening of Friars Walk. But there remains a tantalising sense of what might have been had that decision in 1995 gone the other way.

Crindau Marina

In 2007, there was another stab at bringing waterfront life to Newport when plans for a marina at Crindau were unveiled.

It was hoped a Welsh Assembly grant would pave the way for watersports and pleasure-boating at the waterfront scheme.

Development company Newport Unlimited received £75,000 as part of the Assembly’s Catching the Wave project, which aimed to increase annual revenue from water sports and leisure by 40 percent by 2010.

The funds were to pay for Hyder Consulting to carry out ecological, land management and water surveys of the area.

Andrew Dakin from Newport Unlimited said: “The water sports and leisure industry is one of the fastest growing recreational sectors in Europe.

“The development of a marina in Newport will significantly boost the regeneration that’s already underway in the city, bringing more tourists and jobs to the area.”

The hope was that the marina at Crindau would allow Newport to take advantage of its “strategic waterside location” and in turn, drive it to becoming a city “reunited with its waterfront”.

The proposed marina was seen as one of more than 50 projects it was hoped would bring around £1 billion to the Gwent economy in the run-up to the Ryder Cup in Newport in 2010.

Andrew Davies, Assembly Minister for Enterprise, said at the time: “This grant of £75,000 will enable the potential for a marina at Crindau to serve sailing interests in the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel as well as providing a link with the inland waterway system to be properly investigated.”

Alas, yachts never did sail into Crindau and the scheme stayed on the drawing board.

City Spires

A towering vision of the future for Newport which failed to appear was The City Spires scheme. This boasted a main tower which would have been easily be Newport’s tallest building at 330 feet, eclipsing the 242 feet-tall Transporter Bridge, and almost double the height of the 173 feet tall Chartist Tower.

The main tower was to have 23 floors of residential accommodation consisting of 203 one and two bedroom apartments, on top of a 120-bedroom hotel that would have been spread across the bottom seven floors.

In addition to the main tower there was to have been a “substantial complex” of buildings and new public space, including retail and leisure accommodation, an 832-space multi-storey car park and a separate 10-floor office building.

The plan foundered after the developer ceased trading in the wake of the financial downturn in 2008.

See ‘It’s the Weekend’ tomorrow for pictures of yesteryear.