IMPROVING and replacing play areas, planting along the River Usk and moving rubbish collection operations are among almost £2 million of new projects proposed for Newport council’s capital programme.

At a cabinet meeting on Monday, councillors will discuss a report of proposed amendments to the programme including replacing the Bettws Lane playground facility, improving planting alongside the River Usk in Newport and moving refuse collection operations from Telford depot to the landfill site at Docks Way.

The latter is part of a long term proposal to move all of the Streetscene services to Maesglas.

The changes, to be funded by a £564,000 increase in contributions made by developers as part of planning agreements, a £1.55 million rise in prudential borrowing and a £122,000 cut in unsupported borrowing schemes, would increase the four-year programme by nearly £2 million.

Other proposed schemes include upgrading existing playground equipment at the Marshfield Dairy site, at Jubilee Gardens in the Victoria ward and at Ribble Walk, Bettws.

The total proposed budget for these play area improvements is £106,000.

The proposed budget for the refuse collection operation scheme is £1.12 million while the proposed budget for the River Usk planting is £34,000.

The report says most of these proposed changes to the programme do not increase capital financing costs on the council’s revenue budget as they have either been funded through external sources or have a corresponding revenue/ reserve contribution.

In February 2011, the council approved a four-year programme to cover the financial years 2010/11 to 2013/14 totalling £120.3 million.

Changes made to the programme to date, including this latest report, mean the figure now stands at £152.9 million.

The proposed changes will be discussed at the cabinet meeting on Monday.

Looking to fill empty homes

CUTTING the number of empty homes in the city and helping make housing more affordable are among proposals made as part of a five-year Newport council local housing strategy.

At a report to be discussed at a cabinet meeting on Monday, a number of proposals are made as part of the housing strategy programme.

This follows a consultation carried out in 2011 to decide what housing issues the public felt were important. One of the issues raised is the number of empty homes in the city.

The Argus reported in March how nearly 1,000 private homes in the city had been empty for six months. More than 250 of these had been empty for more than two years.

In the report, the council says it will work to secure Welsh Government funding to bring homes up to standard and back into occupation. The report states a proposed target to reduce the number of homes which have been empty for more than six months to 940 by April 2013.

Other proposals include developing services to help people cope with independent living and looking to provide for older people.

This includes looking to provide new build opportunities for people wishing to downsize.