It's exactly 25 years ago that the Usk Barrage plans were thrown out and the hopes that Newport could transform itself into a waterfront town (it was years before city status was granted) were dashed.

The Usk Barrage is 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 at the time: “The problems of the riverfront at present are clear for all to see, neglect, decay and dereliction have been there for too long.”

However some claimed that if the water levels rose with the barrage it would spell the end of fishing on the 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 13, 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.