Development for Newport? ....Yes.
Development at any price?..... Never !
Newport is building on a scale unprecedented in our history. Plans made now will determine the shape and appearance of the city for generations and our prosperity. We must get it right.
There have been fine developments. The City Campus of the University and Riverfront are architectural icons. The New Newport High School Bettws is a triumph of modern building that helps us to forget the sixties monstrosity that preceded it.
Now the challenge is to populate the dozens of derelict industrial sites with pleasing developments that will serve Newportonians for centuries. The danger is over-development. Buildings and homes can be crammed into Lilliputian sites to maximise profits. I will not name the estates for fear of stigmatising them but some housing sites are already badly over-crowded. The unease in the city is widely felt.
One group of houses was built on an existing car park and has brought parking chaos to the neighbourhood. The blight of parking congestions spreads like a stain to the surrounding areas. I attended a presentation for the large Whitehead’s site and complained about the lack of parking places planned. Future congestion is certain. These could be slums in the making. When Ringland was designed in the 1950s one parking place was allocated for every 18 dwellings! Do we never learn?
Other new housing developments are a delight with fine house designs and intelligently planned estates. I had the pleasure on opening a grand new home on the site where I worked as a steel-worker for 25 years. There is deep satisfaction to see a beauty spot of 1950s that became an industrial hell now revert to a new beauty spot. The Glan Llyn village site is planned with generous space for fresh reens and other reflective water features. There is plenty of good news.
I am pleased to have provoked discussion about the alarming plan for old Sainsbury’s site. Cramming 144 residential homes, 601 student place plus an 84 bed hotel plus a convenience store and a doctor's surgery on the supermarket site is not possible without chronic over-development. The restricted parking places guarantee a future nightmare. The planners must question these plans with rigour and thoroughness. City council-tax payers already have a vast financial investment in the site. It was the old Wyndham Street Council depot. A fortune was spent making it fit for supermarket buildings. Expensive roads and walkways were built to serve the precise needs of a supermarket. I was deputy leader of Newport Council at the time and I thought we erred on the side of generosity in the deal we did to tempt Sainsbury's here. But is has been, and continues to be, a great city success and the site was a good investment.
There has some mock indignation from those who are not used to hard scrutiny of their ideas. But it's been more flannel than facts. Some of the questions that remain unanswered include:
What evidence is there of the future demand for accommodation from (Chinese) students?
What are the details of previous similar successful developments by the company involved?
What involvement have the developers in making flying cars as claimed by one local enthusiast?
What evidence is there for demand and future use of all other planned facilities?
Are there existing examples of working scooter parks?
What are details of future green developments that are promised?
Facts are needed in the answers not more posturing and empty claims.
Exciting times are ahead for Newport. We are all eager for new developments but thorough scrutiny beforehand is essential. This is not about gimmicks or making money, it’s the task of reshaping a proud Newport Nouveau that will endure and prosper for generations.