The saga of the Circuit of Wales ended in dashed hopes for new jobs, but there were great escapes for a football club and a puppy during Mayand June. ANDY RUTHERFORD reports in our third Review of the Year instalment.

June 27:

PREDICTED to create up to 6,000 jobs but increasingly mired in controversy and scepticism, the £425 million plan to create the Circuit of Wales racetrack at Ebbw Vale was dealt a fatal blow.

A request by the Heads of the Valleys Development Company for the Welsh Government to underwrite the project was refused for a third time, bringing down the curtain on a six-year saga that had raised hopes of an economic rebirth for the town and the wider area.

Future British Moto GPs were pencilled in for the site, which was to have also hosted an hotel and a range of other motor sport facilities.

Thousands of acres of common land was to be transferred into the ownership of the company for the purpose of building the track and its associated facilities.

But despite a public inquiry which in 2015 had resulted in approval for that land transfer, the project ultimately foundered because its developers could not persuade the Welsh Government to agree to a financial guarantee.

Concerns around the amount of public money to be tied up in such a guarantee - and the restrictions this might place on the Welsh Government's ability to fund other major projects - had already it to reject twice before the proposals for a financial agreement submitted by the Heads of the Valleys Development Company.

The third application reportedly met a requirement set by economy and infrastructure secretary Ken Skates, that the project be no more than 50 per cent funded by the public sector.

But after a period of scrutiny of the latest proposal, played out against the background of a damning Wales Audit Office report into public investment into the development company that did it and the Welsh Government no favours, Mr Skates said "no" again.

Such an agreement would "place a significant limit on our ability to deliver current and future projects to improve Welsh infrastructure, housing, hospitals or schools," he said.

A £100m investment in an automotive technology business park in Ebbw Vale was announced instead, but the decision to abandon the Circuit of Wales was greeted with dismay and anger.

Project chief executive Martin Whitaker said he was "hugely disappointed and saddened" by the decision and claimed that finance was in place "and construction and hiring could start immediately."

Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith was disappointed that "the premise of the project did not live up to the reality" and recognised the risk an agreement would have placed on taxpayers in Wales.

But Plaid Cymru called the length of time it took to make a decision "a shocking indictment" of the Welsh Government, with its shadow finance secretary Adam Price asking: "is Wales open for business or open to ridicule?"

May 3:

PLANS were announced to begin the restocking of Cwmcarn Forest Drive with trees - including conifer and native broadleaf varieties - to replace the 160,000 infected larch trees still being removed from the site.

Natural Resources Wales said 170,000 young trees would be planted over around 200 acres of the southern part of the site.

The Forest Drive, a popular visitor attraction, remained closed, though the Friends of Cwmcarn Forest had called for it to be reopened to cars for Easter 2018.

May 4:

THE Conservative Party won outright control of Monmouthshire council and Blaenau Gwent fell into the hands of a group of independents, following the first council elections since 2012.

Though the Labour Party retained control of administrations in Newport, Caerphilly and Torfaen, it lost out spectacularly in Blaenau Gwent, a former stronghold that has grown politically topsy-turvy during the past 12 years.

The party lost 20 seats - 19 to independents and one to Plaid Cymru - as its 24-seat majority was wiped out

Monmouthshire had been under no overall control, but the Tories wrested six seats from their independent (five) and Labour (one) opponents, to earn a seven-seat majority.

May 8:

NEWPORT County AFC completed the greatest of relegation 'great escapes' to retain Football League status on a gut-wrenching afternoon at Rodney Parade.

After overturning an 11-point gap to climb out of the relegation zone since Mike Flynn was appointed as manager on March 8, the club needed a win against Notts County in its final League Two fixture of the season against Notts County, to stay up.

The 32nd minute penalty by Mickey Demetriou put County 1-0 up, shortly after closest rivals Hartlepool United put fallen behind at home to Doncaster Rovers.

Notts County equalised after 61 minutes, but with Hartlepool needing to win if Newport only drew or lost, things were still in the latter's favour.

All that changed in nine dramatic minutes however as Hartlepool fought back to lead. With minutes of the season remaining, Newport were suddenly back in the relegation zone.

The players refused to give up however and, urged on by a sell-out 7,300 crowd, pressed on. With 89 minutes gone, Mark O'Brien chested down a cross in the area, swivelled and drove the ball home to make it 2-1.

Cue pandemonium and, a couple of minutes later, a pitch invasion, and tears of joy from players and spectators alike as Newport County's survival was confirmed.

Matchwinner O'Brien summed up the feelings of the club's fans declaring afterwards: "I will never forget this moment."

Jubilant caretaker manager Mike Flynn was made permanent boss a couple of days later, just reward for a remarkable rescue mission accomplished.

May 9:

THE Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) was given the go-ahead to take over Newport Gwent Dragons and to buy Rodney Parade.

Newport RFC shareholders voted to accept a proposed deal that - had it not been accepted - would likely have spelled the end of rugby at the venue, and the end of the Dragons too.

The WRU - which would pay £2.85m for the ground, with Newport RFC receiving a cash sum of £600,000 - announced that the words 'Newport' and 'Gwent' would go, with the PRO14 team to be known in future simply as the Dragons.

May 20:

IT was a 'blink and you'll miss it' moment for steam train fans as the iconic Flying Scotsman paid a visit to Gwent.

Crowds gathered to watch the train - brought back into operation as a result of a £4.2m restoration project - power through Gwent from north to south on the Shrewsbury-Cardiff route.

It then steamed into Newport station to pick up passengers and enable the curious to get a close-up look, before leaving for Bristol.

May 25:

NEWPORT city centre and its immediate environs came to a standstill as bomb scares at the Friars Walk shopping centre and at George Street Bridge brought armed police onto the streets and caused traffic chaos.

Armed officers had been on the city's streets earlier in the week as a result of a heightened alert in the aftermath of the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena on May 22, that killed 22 people and injured some 250 more after an Ariana Grande concert.

And they were joined by specialist bomb squad officers on the afternoon of Thursday May 25, after a report of a suspicious vehicle at Friars Walk.

At 5pm, two hours after the first alert, a suspicious item was reported on the bridge. Roads were closed and traffic was at a standstill for some time before the all-clear was given. Neither incident was found to be terror-related.

June 4:

TWO friends who were at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on May 22, following which 22 people were killed in a terrorist attack, made an emotional return to the city for a benefit concert.

Ariane Donovan and Mary Beth Vaughan, of Bettws and Malpas in Newport, went to the One Love Manchester show, where Ms Grande was joined by other stars including Katey Perry and Justin Bieber.

The pair had been sitting on the edge of the Manchester Arena stage after the May 22 concert when the bomb was detonated in the foyer.

They described the "madness" of the aftermath when, terrified, they were lost for a couple of hours before managing to get a taxi back to their hotel.

Both were determined to attend the June 4 concert in aid of the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, to try to gain a sense of closure.

June 12:

FORMER Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman was unveiled as the new Dragons head coach in the aftermath of the Welsh Rugby Union's takeover, and was tasked with overseeing a playing revolution on the field, to match the one being planned off it.

The 41-year-old described his appointment as an honour, but warned that the process of reviving the Dragons' fortunes would not be completed overnight.

Recognising the region as a "hotbed" of rugby, he said he would relish the challenge of turning the Dragons into a force to be reckoned with.

June 16:

ELEVEN-year-old Shannon Cox was praised by her mum Sarah for the "brilliant" way she turned junior midwife to help deliver her baby brother Riley in the bath at the family home in Argoed.

Describing the drama, which took place earlier this year, Mrs Cox said she was a week overdue when she went into labour when her husband was at work.

Shannon stepped in, calling 999 and following the instructions given by Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust call handler Danielle Burrows. Minutes later, she delivered Riley, wrapped him in towels, and even used a shoelace to tie the umbilical cord, before unlocking the front door and flagging down the ambulance crew.

"She did brilliantly, she didn't question anything and she just got on with it," said Mrs Cox.

June 17:

RON Jones - Auschwitz veteran and stalwart Royal British Legion poppy seller - was awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, seven weeks after celebrating his 100th birthday.

Mr Jones, from Newport, was rewarded for his voluntary service to ex-service personnel and their families, and was "excited" by the honour, but added: "I take it all in my stride. They treat me as a hero, but I'm no hero. I'm just a survivor."

June 20:

DOZENS of residents of Holly Road, Risca, faced having to travel more than four miles to pick up their mail at Abercarn's Delivery Office, after the Royal Mail halted its service, citing concerns over crime.

A spokesman said staff had been "threatened and intimidated" including having things thrown at them, and their safety was paramount.

Angry residents said the situation was unacceptable. Chester Chaffey, 71, said he had no intention of travelling to collect his mail "because I shouldn't have to", while Dawn Livsey, 24, called the Royal Mail action "ridiculous".

Deliveries subsequently resumed, with police officers escorting postal workers, a situation that was due to be reviewed at the end of the month, when it was hoped a more permanent solution could be found.

June 23:

LOLA the puppy had a narrow escape after swallowing a 10-inch toy arrow that had to be removed through lifesaving surgery.

The eight-week-old ridgeback/cane corso/sheepdog cross somehow managed to lodge the arrow inside her, all the way from her throat into her stomach, whilst playing at the home of owners Craig and Maria Caulsfield, of Newport.

Mrs Caulsfield said it was a "miracle" Lola had survived. "I think being a bigger puppy saved her," she said.

June 23:

WORK began on an £87.3m convention centre at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, which Sir Terry Matthews would be a "game changer" for Wales in terms of international business events.

To be known as ICC Wales, it will boast space for up to 5,000 delegates at any one time, and will include a 4,000sqm pillar-free main hall, a 1,500-seat auditorium, and a 2,500sqm outdoor plaza.