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City centre regeneration planned with call for outsourced contractors

30 Nov 2023 3 minute read
Newport City Centre. Credit: LDRS

Nicholas Thomas Local Democracy Reporter

Newport Council is set to pay external contractors to draw up a new plan for regenerating the city centre.

The local authority is currently inviting tenders for the “development of a Placemaking Plan for Newport city centre” on public-sector procurement site Sell2Wales.

However, critics have questioned why the council’s own workforce isn’t preparing a replacement plan, as well as the cost of outsourcing the project.

Historic hotel

The city council pointed out that other local authorities in South Wales have worked with consultants to develop placemaking plans. It said hiring external support was “standard practice”, and developing a new plan would help Newport access Welsh Government regeneration grants.

At a full council meeting on Tuesday 28 November, Labour councillors backed a move to include the future of the historic Westgate Hotel in a new placemaking plan for the city centre.

Independent councillor Mark Howells, from the Lliswerry ward, told colleagues he would “welcome” a new plan, but expressed surprise council staff were not developing the document.

He said: “We now have a city centre manager, who has been recruited to the post. I thought he was going to be writing the placemaking plan, but I see that’s currently on Sell2Wales looking for some consultants to do that work for us.”

He added: “I hope we instruct those consultants properly, to make sure this work is taken as a priority.”

Following the meeting, Michael Enea, a Conservative campaigner from St Julians, echoed those concerns. 

He said: “I’ve been campaigning heavily for urgent improvements to Newport’s city centre over the last 12 months. A new placemaking plan was earmarked for publication in March 2024. It’s extremely worrying, at this late stage, that the council is  only now appearing to invite external consultation firms in to submit tenders for the project.”

He continued: “Surely, the council’s own in-house regeneration department should be writing this plan and working on this as a matter of urgency.”

Extensive engagement

A council spokesperson said the new plan would involve a “holistic assessment” of the city centre, which “seeks to understand how spaces and buildings work together Consultants who specialise in placemaking are able to help guide and challenge council officers in the development of such plans, to ensure they are as robust as possible.”

An “extensive engagement” with residents and business owners in the city centre is expected to take place throughout the development of the new plan.

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