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Council challenged on support for city centre businesses

30 Apr 2024 3 minute read
General view of Commercial Street in Newport, pictured in September 2023. Credit: LDRS

Nicholas Thomas Local Democracy Reporter

“More needs to be done” to keep a city centre “vibrant and prosperous” according to an opposition councillor.

David Fouweather said three hospitality businesses had closed recently, with two “stating that the city centre is just not viable”.

He called on Newport City Council to offer extra support on top of its business rates relief scheme, which was extended earlier this year.

Newport Council leader Jane Mudd said the authority had received applications for more than £1 million in rates relief over the past two years, and was also supporting the city centre through a variety of public events and investment projects.

The council runs its own rates relief scheme for eligible businesses in the city centre – and voted in February to continue that support.

Viability

That decision came as the Welsh Government reduced the level of relief it offered to eligible traders, down from 75% to 40%.

At the time, Cllr Mudd – who is also the cabinet member for economic growth and strategic investment – said the council’s own 25% rates discount scheme would help businesses “remain viable”.

Cllr Fouweather, a Conservative, said he “supported” the initiative and had been “monitoring the success of the project”.

However, recent closures of city-centre hospitality venues meant that “clearly the help offered by the council is not enough, and more needs to be done to help struggling businesses”, he claimed.

Cllr Mudd said all businesses were entitled to apply for “well-publicised” funding and requests for support totalled £1,177,000 over the past two years.

The City of Newport Business Fund and external support are also available to traders, she added.

Meanwhile, Cllr Mudd said the council “hosts and supports a growing number of successful events” including a recent Lunar New Year celebration “which saw huge numbers of people lining the streets and using local businesses”.

Diversification

The city marathon, and the returning food festival – this year a three-day event – also allow traders to “showcase and promote their offer”, Cllr Mudd said, adding that thousands of people had viewed the council’s new What’s On section of its website.

Looking to the future, Cllr Mudd said the authority was “committed” to raising footfall by diversifying the city centre, so that it would not just rely on retail.

“As an example, the proposed new leisure and wellbeing centre and the Coleg Gwent City Centre campus will significantly increase leisure and learning footfall and result in more local spend,” she said.

The new Coleg Gwent site will be built on the site of the recently-demolished Newport Centre, in Usk Way, while the leisure centre is earmarked for land across the road, next to the University of South Wales’ Newport Campus.


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