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Newport’s highly successful Vibrant and Viable Places (VVP) programme is continuing to make a huge difference to key buildings in the city centre.

The city council, with investment of around £15 million from the Welsh Government, has worked with private and third sector partners to deliver projects that are providing new homes, improved business opportunities and jobs.

Welsh Government Minister Lesley Griffiths recently joined Newport City Council’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Ray Truman, and Cllr John Richards, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Investment, to visit two of the schemes.


NewportCityConnect from Pinacl, will provide users with unlimited 24:7 free WiFi access across key city centre locations including Upper Dock St, Corn St, the railway and bus stations, and Newport Market.

Visitors and residents can access NewportCityConnect from any wireless enabled device. The WiFi allows users to log in via social media or a simple registration form and users can get back online easily when in range of the network.

Businessman Jahan Abedi has used a loan from the VVP programme towards restoring the former King’s Hotel in High Street.

Conversion of the building into apartments, offices and retail use is well underway and several of the flats have already been snapped up before completion. A company is also due to move into the office accommodation with more than one hundred members of staff.

They then moved on to Griffin Island, between Griffin Street and

Pinacl launched a similar solution in York last year which now has around 2,000 users a day. They created the CityConnect brand specifically for public WiFi networks that have been used for other local authorities and organisations.

Small retailers have also opted for CityConnect solutions to enhance their existing network with a user friendly social WiFi overlay.

Skinner Street, where housing association Seren is refurbishing and converting the empty upper floors of the Victorian building into a range of 27 modern apartments with the assistance of a grant from VVP.

Located in the heart of the city centre conservation area, the homes have been sensitively designed to retain the character and significant historic fabric.

The apartments are being constructed in two phases by Greenwich Communities,

Mark Lowe, Strategic Relations Director, Pinacl explained:

“ We are delighted to be launching our exciting CityConnect public WiFi service within Newport, offering a quality and easy to use WiFi service.

“ Local businesses will also be able to benefit from commercial opportunities advertising on the Wi-Fi service”.

with the first 11 apartments due to be ready during April/May 2016.

The apartments are available for intermediate rent through Seren’s in-house lettings company Serenliving and will be allocated via Home Options Newport.

Greenwich Communities have employed14 people on site who had previously been unemployed, equating to 182 weeks of paid work.


The Severn region has the potential to become Britain’s next major economic ‘powerhouse’ according to a new report launched by the Great Western Cities (GWC) – Bristol, Cardiff and Newport.

Commissioned by GWC and authored by Metro Dynamics, the report examines the benefits of greater sharing, matching and learning between the three city regions – including an influential role for universities, businesses and civil society.

It concludes that collaboration could strengthen the voice of the west in UK economic and public policy decisions, positioning the area as a potential contender to take on a ‘powerhouse’ mantle.

The report was launched at a special debate in Bristol hosted by Insider magazine. This touched on key topics from the report, which identifies major potential for the three city regions in strengthening transport links, expanding renewable energy and improving its international profile.

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The assessment follows the emergence of two high profile economic collaborations elsewhere in the UK - the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine. Compared to the Northern Powerhouse the GWC already boast higher levels of commuting between Cardiff or Newport and Bristol than that between Manchester to Leeds or Liverpool.

Reducing journey times between Cardiff, Newport and Bristol by just 20 minutes could result in savings of more than £1 billion over the next 60 years.

Councillor Bob Bright, Leader of Newport City Council said: “ It is no coincidence that Newport’s presence on the UK stage has risen since the inception of the Great Western Cities collaboration. We truly have strength-in-depth with these three ambitious and unique city partners working closely together for a combined benefit. This report further strengthens the case that we already fully support.”

Ben Lucas, managing director of Metro Dynamics added:

“ The case for a Great Western Powerhouse is a strong one. Our research shows that there are already more people commuting between the Cardiff and Bristol Metros than between Leeds and Manchester, even though the journey is equally slow. As with the Northern Powerhouse, better connectivity will reap big rewards in creating a larger, more productive labour market across the Great Western Cities. This is Britain’s western opportunity – it’s up to the three cities, business and Government to seize it.”

The GWC launched an initial prospectus in spring 2015. During the last year, the cities have been focused on developing their own regional devolution deals working with their respective governments. The potential for a new economic powerhouse for the west will build on any devolution deals which are secured, but is purely about connectivity and collaboration. This means it would complement but not supersede any devolution deal for any area and would not impose a formal system of governance between the cities.

newportcitycouncil ................................................................................................................................................... NEWPORT MATTERS MARCH 2016 7

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