A year ago today, we launched our Backing Newport campaign to celebrate all the great things about our city. ESTEL FARELL-ROIG looks at how the city has changed since then.

FROM new businesses to major developments, Newport is a city on the rise.

Since we launched our We’re Backing Newport campaign a year ago, the city has seen big changes, such as the opening of the Data Science Campus at Newport’s Office for National Statistics (ONS). The campus is part of a £17-million investment in statistics.

Also this year, work began on a new £100 million International Convention Centre Wales at the Celtic Manor Resort, which is estimated to bring £70 million economic benefit to the area every year.

The new-build 26,000sqm venue will accommodate 5,000 delegates and is set to be open by June 2019.

On the other hand, the city’s iconic Transporter Bridge could be undergoing a facelift soon after the council announced in March it was planning to bid for Heritage Lottery funding to the tune of £8 million.

This money would fund a long term programme of improvements, maintenance and repairs required to keep the bridge in pristine operational condition. For example, the funds would be used to carry out essential on-going repairs to the bridge, such as improving the gondola which dates back to 1906, and to create a bigger and better visitor centre.

Just last month, the council announced it would provide funding towards the expansion of the prestigious National Software Academy (NSA).

It has been agreed that a grant of £575,000 will be given to the NSA, which is part of Cardiff University, from a joint regeneration pot managed by the council and Welsh Government.

The academy will start moving into the Information Station, by Newport’s train station, next year after it was also decided that the council would sublet three floors to the university in a phased project.

In the past few weeks two new schools in the city have opened; Jubilee Park Primary and Ysgol Bryn Derw - the first school in Gwent specifically for pupils with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

Councillor Debbie Wilcox, leader of Newport City Council, said: “We’re building new schools and redeveloping others. We have increased opportunities for businesses and work and begun the transformation of the city centre with the Friars Walk development.

“We’ve restored the Pride in Newport waste and litter programme and established zero tolerance initiatives for fly tipping throughout the city. We’ve worked with our partners in the Public Services Board to address issues of antisocial behaviour and crime across the city.

“Despite the ongoing financial challenges, we need to be positive about the future and be ambitious in our plans.”

Newport City Homes has also announced major plans for two areas of the city – Pill and Ringland.

In Pill, the housing association will be investing £7.9 million as part of a regeneration scheme.

One of the project’s main aims is to fight anti-social behaviour and crime in the area by removing underpasses and replacing alleyways with clear and open footpaths on sites they own.

Plans to make Ringland an “attractive, vibrant and modern” community were announced by the housing association in August under new multi-million pound regeneration plans.

It follows more than two years of consultation with residents, which began after the demolition of maisonettes in Ringland Centre and Cot Farm.

The two sites will be at the heart of the new scheme, which is yet to be finalised but includes building new accommodation and improving the current shopping centre.

In the past year, many new businesses have opened across the city, such as Café Ludek, in Mill Street. The café, which opened in May, specialises in Polish dishes, as well as serving the usual café food.

Zuzka Hilton, one of the owners of the café, said: “Business is steady, hopefully we are now getting to the point it mushrooms.”

The 36-year-old, who lives in Magor, said the café is also supposed to be a community place for the Eastern European community in Newport, especially Polish.

She said they decided this partly because there is no place for the Polish community and because they wanted the café to be a place where people can get information and try to understand what is happening with Brexit.

“We recently started English lessons and we have a few events planned between now and Christmas,” Ms Hilton continued. “I think Newport is a good place to set up a business because there is a lot of help available.

“I have been here for 11 years and Newport has changed for the better.

“I think it has started to be a more attractive place to live. It feels more vibrant, cleaner and safer as well.”

Another coffee shop which has opened in the city in the past year is Horton’s Coffee House, in Millennium Walk, in the city centre.

The coffee house, which opened last December, was set up by ex-steelman Gavin Horton.

Mr Horton said that their business is “going in the right direction”, with their presence increasing.

“There are more and more people realising that this side of the river actually exists,” he said. “I feel Newport is a good place for business.

“For a long time, Newport has been seen as Cardiff’s poor cousin – but it is now starting to gain reputation as a great place to do business as the gateway to Wales.”

Mr Horton, whose coffee house has been shortlisted for the New Business Start-Up award in the Monmouthshire Business Awards, said that there is an appetite for people to move to Newport and that we need to make the most of the opportunities in the city.

He said people need to be positive about the area, rather than negative.