THE new year is upon us, and, after a covid-ravaged couple of years, it is hoped that 2022 will bring with it a stability that 2020 and 2021 lacked.

Of course, the pandemic will continue to be a thorn in everyone’s side, though there is reason to be optimistic – with vaccine efforts giving the vast majority of the population some degree of protection.

It means that we can start looking ahead to other things, with a fair few things on the horizon in Newport and the wider Gwent area to get excited by.

But, while there is cause for optimism in some respects, there are a few burning questions that remain unanswered as we head into 2022.

Below, you can check out three major talking points that will hopefully be addressed in the new year.

Festival Park – what happens now?

For many years, Festival Park, in Blaenau Gwent, has been on the decline.

A mixed use retail park and leisure space when it opened, it was seen as the crown jewel of the Ebbw Vale area.

In its heyday, Festival Park welcomed the Garden Festival Wales to the site, and with it, some two million visitors.

But its popularity has dwindled, and both businesses and customers have been leaving the site, until this year, when only Sports Direct remained.

South Wales Argus: Festival Park has more recently resembled a ghost townFestival Park has more recently resembled a ghost town

That too has now departed, and Festival Park has since been sold, to Birmingham-based property developer Mercia Real Estate Ltd.

On their website, Festival Park is described as a “former retail outlet”.

Locally, the new owners are said to be working with Newport based real estate agents M4 property.

But, while M4 property initially said that they are “working with the new owners of Festival Park in Ebbw Vale and would love to hear your thoughts on a sustainable scheme for the location”, in recent months, there has been silence on this front.

Heading into 2022, it remains to be seen what the new owners of Festival Park have in mind for the site, and what, of anything, might happen to bring it back into life.

Debenhams – any hope for flagship of Friars Walk?

On approach to Newport city centre, Friars Walk stands out.

Barely six years old, the shopping centre breathed new life into the high street when it opened, with Debenhams standing out at the anchor and flagship retailer within the multi-million pound development.

Fast forward to present day, and that anchor is now tying the development down, in many respects.

In May, Debenhams pivoted to an online-only retailer, closing all of their high street stores – including in Newport’s Friars Walk.

South Wales Argus: Debenhams in Newport city centre now stands emptyDebenhams in Newport city centre now stands empty

This has left a huge void within the city, and partly due to the pandemic, there is no realistic appetite for any other department store to take over the flagship space.

As a result, the massive space has stood empty for more than six months.

And, rather unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though this will change any time soon.

Heading into the new year, this question will linger on.

Can the brains behind Friars Walk find a new purpose for the former Debenhams store, and if so, how will such a large space be utilised?

City of Culture – an uncrowned honour?

Last year, Newport City Council launched a bid for the city to be awarded the title of UK City of Culture in 2025.

News of these plans received a mixed response, to say the least.

But, for the naysayers, the plans to boost the city’s cultural offerings fell at the first hurdle, with Newport failing to make the shortlist.

However, as many pointed out, Newport is not lacking in culture as it is.

South Wales Argus: Newport city centreNewport city centre

Whether or not it is being adequately celebrated, is a whole another matter.

Going into the new year, the powers that be know that there isn’t a pot of city of culture gold waiting for it.

But, it does not mean that Newport shouldn’t try to get creative.

Heading into the new year, it remains interesting to see how the city can bounce back from the city of culture setback, and in what form that might ultimately take.

  • Have we missed out on any major questions or issues that need raising in or around the Newport area next year? Let us know in the comments below.