THE PEOPLE of Newport could be taking their city centre “for granted”, the minister for climate change and regeneration has suggested.

Speaking to the Argus after a visit, Julie James said she found the city “really beautiful” and that it had a “very European feel”.

The Welsh Labour MS visited Newport to see the impact of the Welsh Government’s £17.9 million in regeneration funding since 2018.

The funding, delivered through the Transforming Towns and Targeted Regeneration Investment programmes, has included a £7 million grant for the Newport Leisure and Wellbeing Centre - which will replace the demolished Newport Centre - and a £2 million loan for Newport Market.

A further £1.2 million has been granted for the redevelopment of Market Arcade.

South Wales Argus: Julie James MS in Newport

“The idea is to make it a destination that attracts footfall,” the minister said. “The money’s been used to transform the library and museum, Newport Market – which is an amazing transformation – and Market Arcade, which I was very impressed with.

“I found myself thinking – I’d really like to come here with my friends for a night out. And that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s about attracting people into the city centre and making them want to come and spend their money.

“I think there is a thing in Wales about being a bit cynical about our own place. I expect if you spoke to someone outside of Newport, they’d defend it.”

As minister for climate change, Ms James holds responsibility for a wide berth of policy areas, including water, national parks, and transport, as well as regeneration.

“Actually, there was a very European feel, with some tables and chairs outside, people having a coffee and so on,” she said. “It was the sort of feel you get if you have the privilege of going to a European city and sitting in one of their lovely squares.

“The train station is right by the city centre, which is great. Newport is beautifully placed for public transport.

“I think it’s a really beautiful city and perhaps the people who live there have got too used to it and take it for granted a bit.”