To provide an opportunity for Councillors to ask questions to the Leader of the Council in accordance with the Council’s Standing Orders.
No more than 15 minutes will be allocated at the Council meeting for questions to the Leader of the Council.
The question must be addressed through the Mayor or the person presiding at the meeting and not directly to the person being questioned.
The Leader announced the following before proceeding with Questions.
§ Last week, as well as finalising the budget, the cabinet gave the go-ahead to one of the most exciting projects the council would have embarked on in recent years.
A multi-million pound new leisure and well-being centre on a key riverfront site in the city centre would also pave the way for a 21st century city centre campus for Coleg Gwent.
Together, they would mean an investment of more than £100 million in the city centre bringing with them increased footfall and vibrancy. It would cost the council around £4 million, which seemed a small price to pay for what promised to be such a transformation in this part of the city centre; providing first class leisure facilities for residents and an enhanced learning environment in a fantastic new campus for our young people.
We were in challenging times but we could not stand still or stop striving to improve people’s lives. These developments would bring huge benefits for so many people and we looked forward to more engagement with residents as the proposals develop and progress. Our consultation responses had shown these plans have won the backing of so many people in the city.
§ The council was consulting with residents, businesses and community groups on our active travel network map, to help shape the future of active travel in Newport. We wanted to know where people would like to see new walking and cycling routes developed as well as what could be done to improve existing routes
The leader urged everyone who hasn’t already taken part to get involved as this was an important piece of work for the city and future generations, with a greener, more environmentally friendly and, above all, safer city.
§ The Leader congratulated the planning and regeneration teams who were nominated for a prestigious award for their work on the innovative Central View housing scheme in Commercial Street.
The council was a finalist in the prestigious Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) awards for planning excellence 2021. It was shortlisted in the excellence in planning to deliver homes small schemes category. We were one of only two Welsh council to make the final of the awards which attracted entrants from all over the UK in the public and private sector.
Central View was a high quality housing scheme for over-55s in Commercial Street which was developed using funding from housing association Pobl Group, the Council and Welsh Government. We would find out next month if the entry was chosen as the winner but in such a high quality field from across the country, just being nominated was a huge honour and worthy of recognition.
§ Later this month we would reach an unwelcome milestone, on 23 March it would be a year since the first lockdown was announced because of the Covid 19 pandemic, with few of us thinking that we would still be living under restrictions 12 months later.
It was a difficult year for so many people for so many reasons. We were so grateful to those in the emergency services, council staff, shop workers, delivery drivers and so many more, who continued to work on the front line throughout the pandemic.
Many lives had been impacted particularly those who had lost a loved one to Covid 19. Many of us here, if not all of us, would have lost a friend or relative or would know someone who has.
The council was contacted by a resident who was part of a group of families who were all in this sad position. The Leader was moved by her request that we light up one of our public buildings in remembrance on the anniversary. The Leader was pleased that we would be able to do that on 23 March. Along with other buildings in Wales, the Civic Centre clock tower would be lit up in yellow as a mark of respect.
The group was also asking the public to remember the thousands of Welsh lives that were lost in a number of ways such as putting a yellow heart or some daffodils in their window. It would be a time for pause and reflection.
The Leader concluded that sadly, we had not seen the end of coronavirus and people were still suffering and urged everyone to continue being careful, to abide by the restrictions to protect themselves and others to try and prevent more people experiencing the pain of those families.
§ Councillor M Evans:
Referred to the UK investment in rail electrification in 2014 by Transport Minister Edwina Heart, which included a footbridge over the train station, feasibility studies had taken place to support this. In 2019, funding for the footbridge and commencement of building was to start in next financial year, along with funding from Welsh Government subject to an application to WG. Were the constant delays therefore acceptable and who was responsible.
The Leader advised that the foot bridge formed part of the active travel intervention and would be installed. Active travel formed part of a sustainable solution to an M4 relief road. Recommendation from the South East Wales Transport Commission report in terms of Newport such as investment in railway stations, road infrastructure, highways and public transport. A number of these projects would be ongoing very soon. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with WG and Transport for Wales which would be undertaken through the delivery unit and the footbridge was an important part of the project. Also proposals to look at access and egress of railway station. The bridge was therefore on track to be implemented.
Councillor M Evans reiterated that the foot bridge had still not been built after 10 years and referred to the poor state of the subway needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Who was responsible for this and would there be more feasibility studies and could the Leader give a commitment as to when would it be completed.
The Leader advised that this was part of broader intervention however the electrification system acted to delay this because of the overhead cables. Contractors had been appointed on this project and pre construction work had commenced. There had been a slight delay due to Covid as with most construction projects. In addition, railway lines could only be closed twice a year and therefore the railway would need be closed to build the footbridge.
As a point of clarification Councillor M Evans asked had theWG funding been approved. The Leader advised that she would provide a written response to Councillor M Evans.
§ Councillor Whitehead:
Litter picking in Bettws was due to take place and it had been noted that during the pandemic there were challenges in relation to this in some wards. Could the Leader reassure that positive action would be taken towards fly tipping and that offenders were being actively pursued along with updates via social media to public regarding prosecution. Secondly during Scrutiny Committees, discussion on a citywide forum regarding litter picking had been addressed and it was hoped that the Leader and officers would come on board with this and provide funding. This would be a good project to adopt and push forward with a positive impact towards education and attitudes.
The Leader, along with Malpas ward colleagues also litter picked with residents and schools and agreed there was a hot spot for fly tipping recognised this, particularly in the dingles of Bettws and Malpas. Extra investment would enable Newport City Council to get an extra van and crew members to collect on a seven-day week basis. Unfortunately, prior to Covid a volunteer day was organised to support litter picking and advice and guidance. There was an issue around accessing land and land ownership such as the Sainsbury’s site which was private site and there was issues around insurance. Information would be shared with all the groups to make sure that this could be addressed. Another aspect was the location of the litter was an issue and staff could therefore not be sent out to collect litter on highways without closing the roads. Collaboration would be key to collecting litter and support for groups in place to advise where to collect from. We were committed to investing and supporting groups along with the citywide forum. We were also committed to enforcement and there had been a record number of fines and ongoing prosecutions around particular sites that were problematic. Ongoing actions as alluded to by the Superintendent earlier were being addressed.