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News 2021

Here you’ll find all the latest news and information from Caerleon  Civic Society.
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December 2021

The Civic Society met informally on December 13th and a small group of members were able to discuss a range of current issues.

There was discussion of feedback from the second meeting of the Caerleon Air Quality Group, chaired by Newport City Council and attended by a range of local interests and individuals, including the Civic Society.

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November 2021

The November meeting included a wide-ranging discussion of the Society’s on-going concerns for traffic congestion and air quality in Caerleon. It is intended that these views will feed into the next meeting of the Caerleon Air Quality Group (to be chaired by Cllr. Jason Hughes) on December 8th.

It was noted, with approval, that the Council was considering a detailed application from specialist contractors, for consent to undertake a phased structural investigation of Caerleon Bridge. Although the Civic Society was assured by the Council in 2018 that there were ’no significant structural issues at the Bridge’, it is good to see that further evidence is to be gathered especially as the use of the bridge by heavy goods vehicles continues apace.

Members expressed concern about a planning application to erect a mobile phone mast at the Town Hall Memorial Garden. This was considered to be a very inappropriate location for such a development. It is understood that the Council has rejected this proposal. The Civic Society will continue to monitor all planning applications made in Caerleon and make observations to the Council where this is appropriate.

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October 2021

Various initiatives in Caerleon are of interest to the Civic Society and continue to make progress. I have previously mentioned the Caerleon Tourism Forum which meets quarterly under the chairmanship of the City Council.

 

Its next meeting (virtual)  in October a number of important on-going issues will be discussed including the introduction of effective measures to monitor, and hopefully combat, anti-social behavior, especially around our ancient monuments; and the re-opening of toilets which can be used by the public. The possible renewal of the attractive banners attached to street lighting posts is also of interest to all participants. A longer term plan for Caerleon as a tourist destination will also be reviewed – hopefully providing the catalyst for much needed improvements to the facilities and attractions for visitors, and residents, alike.

 

A new group has now met for the first time – the CAERLEON AIR QUALITY group – convened by Newport City Council and attended by a range of interested parties including the Civic Society. The Council has a duty to produce a plan of action to improve air quality in central Caerleon. This is the first such group in Newport and is a recognition of the scale and complexity of the air quality problem in Caerleon. First impressions are good and there seems to be a willingness to discuss a range of ideas and possibilities in an open forum – so long as the focus remains on practical and achievable action. The Civic Society has been pressing for this initiative for some time but its inception has inevitably been delayed by the pandemic. I look forward to reporting on the meetings of this group as it identifies what can be done to improve air quality in Caerleon.

 

Chris Thomas

Chair, Caerleon Civic Society

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September 2021

The proposed meeting of the Caerleon Civic Society in September has been cancelled due to on-going uncertainty about the risks of larger groups meeting indoors.

We are planning to meet again as soon as it is possible and acceptable to our members and then be able to hold our delayed 2021 Annual General Meeting and welcome new members to the Society'.

If interested please read the full article about traffic in Bridge Street, Usk, in September’s Usk Community Times as it could relate to the High Street Caerleon. Please follow the link https://online.fliphtml5.com/mxyy/spap/#p=34

Chris - CCS Chair

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July 2021

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August's article for Caerleon Times written by Chair Chris Thomas

It’s that time of the year when many people are looking for interesting days out and longer breaks. It is, of course, the year of the ‘staycation’ when, perhaps, many more people will be visiting, revisiting, and exploring, areas of this country, rather than travelling abroad. The easing of Covid regulations, combined with the school holidays, will increase the number of people visiting Caerleon to view our historic sites or just to spend time in an attractive setting.

Is Caerleon ready to provide visitors with a satisfying and rewarding time? In modern parlance, is Caerleon ‘fit for purpose’ as a place for visitors?

 

You can draw up your own list of facilities that any place should have in order to meet the visitors’ basic needs – readily available information about the sights and amenities; places for refreshment; public toilets; car-parking places; a range of places to stay overnight. These may be the basic requirements – but what makes a place ‘special’ for the visitor?

 

 

You may be glad to hear that Caerleon already has a Tourism Forum which attempts to address these issues and aims to make sustainable improvements. The Forum is a potentially important body, led by the City Council with members representing the National Roman Legion Museum, CADW, Gwent Police and including local Councillors and Caerleon Arts Festival. The Caerleon Civic Society has recently been asked to join the Forum and looks forward to actively contributing to discussions – recognising that others will have the remit and resources to make things happen, but acknowledging that local improvements should always be subject to input from local people and local organisations.

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Last month I wrote about the Civic Society’s objection to the application to vary the Premises Licence for the Old Bull Inn. That application has now been withdrawn and we await the next step in this on-going issue. Meanwhile the pub had been issued with a closing order by the City Council for contravening Covid regulations. This order has now been lifted but there are continuing discussions between the City Council and the licensees about the steps to be taken to deal with noise nuisance and other anti-social behaviour. If you need to report any issue please email environment.licensing@newport.gov.uk or go to the Gwent Police Facebook page and post a message there.

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A thought–provoking report has recently been published by the Welsh Government about a survey of attitudes towards climate change in Wales. The report was brought to my attention by the admirable ‘Green Caerleon’ group, via their Facebook page and the issues deserve wider local consideration.

 

At the time of writing it is still not clear whether or not organised indoor meetings of more than 30 people will be allowed at Caerleon Town Hall in August.

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August 2021

July's article for Caerleon Times written by Chair Chris Thomas

 

It does not seem to be likely that Government announcements will lift restrictions for indoor meetings of over 30 people. So the Civic Society will probably not be able to meet in July. August, perhaps….?

We regularly see and hear in the media that the traditional High Street is dead, or dying. Certainly many shops have closed, for one reason or another, in the last few years, and one has only to visit Newport City centre to see the results.

However, change on our main streets can come in many forms. In places smaller than Caerleon, the closure of a village post office, bank or general shop can be disastrous for the local community.

In centres larger than Caerleon, change in the retail sector can give rise to other opportunities – for new independent shops; for small offices and workshops moving into former shop units; larger shop units and their upper floors being divided up into flats; or for complete rebuilding. Examples of all these changes can be seen in Newport.

However, Caerleon is somewhat different and has a uniquely different character – although undoubtedly the subject of similar changing economic forces and shopping habits.

The centre of Caerleon is not a stranger to change and older residents can recall a different character to Caerleon’s High Street and Cross Street around The Square. Perhaps our recollections have something to do with the amount of traffic passing through – but then, before the 1960’s, it was once the main route out of Newport to the north.

The number and type of shops in and around The Square has changed greatly – in the 1930’s there was 2 pubs, 2 general shops, a grocer, 2 greengrocers, a boot repairer, an ironmonger, 2 butchers, a barbers, a confectioner, a draper and a tailor. By 1939 the Post Office had moved from Cross Street to its current location. So the number of shops has declined steadily in the last 90 years but the 2 pubs have survived, and other opportunities for eating and drinking have arrived.

What do you want The Square to be like in the future? What will it be like in 5 or 10 years time? The Civic Society – whose aim is to protect and improve the environment of Caerleon – wants to be involved in shaping change for the benefit of the whole community. Change may not always be prevented – and sometimes it is for the good – but we would want to ensure that the consequences of change do not have a detrimental impact on the health and well-being of people living around, working in, and visiting, this unique part of Caerleon. That is why I have raised an objection, on behalf of the Civic Society and along with others, to the currant proposals to extend the licence of the Olde Bull to include the former betting shop next door.

The Caerleon community deserves better than to experience incremental changes to its character which could eventually bring to its centre a noisy ‘night life’ which belongs in the city.

Chris Thomas

Chair, Caerleon Civic Society

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June 2021

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June 17 is 'Clean Air Day', a UK-wide campaign promoting the benefits of cutting air pollution. 

In March of this year Newport Council launched an electric refuse collection vehicle.

The vehicle will reduce carbon emissions by approximately 25-35

tonnes per year compared to a standard, non-electric vehicle. 

 

Follow the link to visit Newport Council additional ongoing projects to reduce air pollution.

June's article for Caerleon Times written by Chair Chris Thomas

 

It is still not clear when the Civic Society will be able to meet again. A booking request,

with preferred regular dates, has been made to the Caerleon Town Hall, and a response

is awaited. At present (late May) it is known that organised groups of up to 30 people

can meet if the venue has suitable arrangements in place – but the Civic Society may

have an attendance which exceeds 30. It looks as though we will have to wait patiently

for further Government announcements in June together with acceptable local

arrangements at the Town Hall being confirmed.

We now know the Senedd election result. As mentioned in last month’s edition, we all

have an interest in how the proposals to replace the M4 Relief Road will firm up – from a

series of ideas about public transport and active travel to a firm and fundable programme

of investment decisions for the benefit of Newport and surrounds.

One item of current national news could have an impact on such a programme for our

area. The UK Government’s proposals for the future of rail services will have to be

discussed and negotiated with Wales and Scotland, as the responsibility for railways is

devolved to these countries. However, the responsibility for assets such as track and

stations apparently remains with UK Network Rail. So Welsh Government’s proposals

for new stations, for example, would still have to be approved by Network Rail. What will

the future hold? In Caerleon it is hoped that prolonged debate about organisational

responsibilities does not hinder actual long-awaited improvements in the ways we travel

about our area.

Part of our interest in future travel options is the on-going, national, debate about electric

cars. How will the market develop? What will the local take-up be for electric cars?

Recently the UK Government has cut the plug-in car grant designed to make electric

vehicles more affordable. Is this part of a long-term plan to restrict Government

incentives for the purchase and use of electric vehicles? At the same time a survey by

the AA has shown that 4 in 5 motorists think that electric cars are still too expensive for

them to purchase.

How will this play-out in the medium term?

The Civic Society has not discussed this

issue fully, but it has concluded early on that

electric cars could be an important part of a

plan to significantly reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions

on our local streets where levelsare already illegally high.

The importance of improving air quality continues to attract national coverage. A recent

report covering a large part of south London over a 5 year period found a huge increase

in the number of visits to doctors by children with asthma problems whenever local air

pollution figures peaked. The number of inhaler prescriptions also increased

significantly.

The local extent of this particular aspect of the air pollution issue is not known but it

would appear to be fertile ground for collaborative working between local schools,

parents and GP’s in Caerleon.

Reducing air pollution is part of what is meant by aiming for ‘sustainable’ development in

the future. Many organisations, public and private, are signing-up to ‘sustainability’ and it

is good to see that Newport City Council has created a Cabinet Member post with

responsibility for sustainable development. Even better news is that Caerleon Councillor,

Jason Hughes, has been appointed to this important Cabinet post.

At a recent, virtual, joint meeting of the Monmouthshire Antiquarian Society and the

Friends of Newport Museum and Art Gallery, Dr. Peter Guest gave a talk called

‘Becoming Roman in Britain’. Dr. Guest has been involved in the archeological work at

Caerleon for many years and is now part of a consultancy team offering its services

across the UK. Its website is well worth a look at if only for the marvellous contents

about Caerleon – www.vianovaarcheology.com  (click on ‘research and engagement’)

 

 

Chris Thomas

Chair, Caerleon Civic Society

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May 2021

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' The appreciation of the refugee children and their families for their care and the generosity of the Welsh people is part of the social history which carries on till today.​'

April 2021

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NO - the LISTED BUILDINGS are NOT being DEMOLISHED

The current public notice printed in today’s SW Argus (15/04/21) refers to an application from the developer's architects to Newport City Council. It is about planning conditions that the developer must meet when it comes to demolish the more recently built, unlisted buildings, which are joined to the main listed building.

If you look at the planning application (21/0294) on the Council website there is a clear map of what is to be demolished and what is to stay, with the proposed treatments to the elevations which will remain in the future. In giving permission for the listed building to be converted to flats it, quite rightly, wanted to have planning control of the way in which the exposed elevations would look in the future

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BBC's documentary in which Caerleon's  architect and Civic Society President Jonathan Adams travels America exploring the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, possibly America's greatest ever architect.

Jonathan Adams, architect of the Millennium Center in Cardiff Bay grew up in Caerleon and attended Caerleon Comprehensive School.

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April's article for Caerleon Times written by Chair Chris Thomas

The Caerleon Civic Society has not been able to hold a ‘live’ meeting since March 2020. This has put a significant brake on our activities – and, indeed, on all those local voluntary organisations that thrive on face-to-face discussion amongst their members prior to making considered responses to decision-takers.

The Society has faced a similar challenge to others in finding alternative ways of gathering the views of its members and making its conclusions widely available.

Inevitably in the current age this means using computers, of one kind or another, and it is acknowledged that this is not always suitable or available to all our members and potential supporters. So the last year has been a challenge of communication and one that has not always been successfully met. Having said that, the numbers of people accessing the Society’s website and social media is very impressive with, for example, over 5000 views of it’s Facebook Page in February alone. This monthly edition of the Caerleon Community Times remains an excellent way of reaching all residents and the publishers are to be thanked for providing this regular opportunity.

 

In March the Civic Society held its Annual General Meeting which, of course, was not ‘live’ and was adapted and ‘held’ by email. It is sincerely hoped that the Society will be able to meet again as a group as soon as possible. In the meantime the Society will continue to keep an eye on all the main issues affecting Caerleon’s environment.

 

It is nearly 2 years ago that the Society put forward its views to the City Council about the way forward on ‘sustainable transport’. Since then a number of reports have been produced by both the City Council and Welsh Government about the ways in which we travel and the all-important effects on air quality.

There have been some welcome improvements, like the introduction of electric buses, for example, but have any improvements been made with the emissions from the locally-based heavy goods vehicles which use Caerleon’s one-way system?  The Civic Society will need to get up-to-date with these complicated issues if we aim to successfully influence the local policies on traffic and air quality.

It is noted that Welsh Government has produced a report in March on transport strategy. It confirmed funding for the long awaited re-opening of the railway line from Ebbw Vale to Newport – although perhaps not directly benefiting Caerleon, it serves as an example of the very lengthy process of planning, approvals and funding that will have to be gone through if the Caerleon community is to achieve the significant improvement to local public transport that a new station would bring.

 

The Wales transport strategy also aims to encourage people out of their cars with a new target of 45% of journeys to be by sustainable means by 2045, up from 32% currently.

The challenge of achieving this target has been well illustrated by the debate about the implications of the Campus development on air quality. How will Caerleon rise to the challenge of traveling by train, bus, cycle or on foot, rather than by private petrol/diesel car?

 

 

March 2021

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March's article for Caerleon Times written by Chair Chris Thomas

In last month’s issue I wrote about the decisions made by Newport City Council for the development of the Campus site. I mentioned that the developers proposed to start the demolition work on February 1st and that residents on the route had been notified. The demolition work was agreed by the Council subject to a number of detailed conditions like hours of working, number of lorry trips per day/week and, of course, the route to be taken by the large lorries.

I am told by residents that these conditions have not been met within the first few weeks of the work commencing. The Civic Society fully supports residents in taking their real concerns to the

developer, and its demolition contractors, and to the Council.

This is not a good start for the 5 year working relationship between the developer and our community.

While on the subject of the Campus, the Argus article of February 18th, should not pass without comment. The Argus headline stated ‘Homes won’t have big effect on air quality.’ A director of Redrow Homes, the developer, was quoted as saying ‘the impact of our development will be negligible.’

 

All those who have followed this saga, and been able to look at the official reports, will know that the issue is considerably more complicated than the Argus appears to make it. Some of the most authoritative statements have come from the Council’s own Scientific Officer and were included in the report to the Council’s Planning Committee in January.

 

The Scientific Officer stated that‘air quality in Caerleon is breaching the air quality objectives for

nitrogen dioxide and will continue to do so for some time. He stated that the assumptions about future improvements in air quality in central Caerleon must be ‘treated with caution’ and that predictions about air quality in some High Street locations show that ‘compliance with the legal limits will be marginal and that the slightest deviation from the predicted improvements may jeopardise compliance.’

 

The Civic Society will continue to keep a close eye on this issue. There is a considerable amount of information about air quality in Caerleon available on the Council’s website, and this is commendable,

and there is a commitment to develop a detailed Action Plan, specific to Caerleon.                                      

 

Discussions between the Civic Society and the Council have been delayed because of meeting

restrictions but it is hoped that progress will be made as soon as possible. The Civic Society has already gone on record as stating that it does not want more information or more reports – but it does

urgently want action – which is long overdue.

KEN SKATES, Minister of for Economy, Transport & North Wales response to JAYNE BRYANT MS, Newport West question on the Burn’s Report regarding traffic congestion around Newport.

Ken Skates:

“Well, can I thank Jayne Bryant for her questions and for her comments regarding the

report and the historic problems concerning her constituency and the challenges that

her constituents face on a daily basis? Jayne Bryant has been a powerful advocate

for greater investment in and around the Newport community, and I very much

welcome her contribution today. I have to say that, in a very short space of time, Lord

Burns constructed a vision of twenty-first century, integrated transport for south-east

Wales, and now it's our determination to move forward in implementing the

recommendations at equal pace. That's required in order to serve the needs and the

demands and desires and hopes of the people living in Jayne Bryant's constituency

and those people who live right across the south-east Wales region.

“Now, in terms of some of the challenges that Lord Burns has faced during the

course of his work, one was the assumption that I outlined just a short while ago, that

most of the congestion is caused by local journeys. This is not the case, and actually

more than 90 per cent of journeys on the M4 involve going from one local authority to

another, demonstrating how a regional solution is needed, and that, in turn, is why

we also have to have that single mind, that delivery unit, which is being constructed

right now, which will meet this month to ensure that all key stakeholders, all key

delivery partners, are working together to the same ends. And in terms of some of

the quick wins, well, Jayne Bryant will be aware that, already, the south Wales main

line enhancement development programme is under way, that we're already

developing the rapid bus and commuter cycle corridors, that trials are taking place

concerning rapid bus services and alternatives to traditional scheduled services, that

we're looking at commuter cycle corridors as well, and also, of course, that work is

being undertaken at pace on Newport city center interchange development.

“Now, also in terms of early work, workplace travel planning will be undertaken to

alleviate congestion on the M4. And with regard to the Ebbw Vale service and

frequency enhancement, well, Transport for Wales, as the Member I know is aware,

have developed a proposal for an interim additional hourly service to operate

between Crosskeys and Newport, and potentially beyond to Gloucester, whilst we

await the infrastructure work that isn't due to be completed until the 2023. Now,

Welsh Government officials are continuing to work with Transport for Wales to

develop this proposal further and to enable the service to operate from next year and

to continue to run until the full service can be introduced, as I say, in 2023. We're

seeking to introduce it as soon as possible, obviously subject to those regular

scheduled timetable changes that have to take place. Obviously, in order to increase

capacity further on the Ebbw Vale line, we'll also need funding from the UK

Government, which has responsibility for the infrastructure both on the Ebbw line and

the south Wales main line. And we've already submitted a bid to the UK

Government's Restoring Your Railway accelerated ideas fund to secure the funding

to progress the work on reopening the Abertillery spur. So, we're awaiting a decision

on that particular application.

“In terms of Caerleon, well, I was delighted that Lord Burns backed our long-held

proposals for a station at Caerleon, and, in taking forward this work to develop

potential stations that are recommended by Lord Burns, I will be asking Transport for

Wales to ensure that appropriate consideration is given to a new station at Caerleon.

But I must also stress that the development and the implementation of this will

depend on support and commitment from Network Rail.”

December 2020

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February 2021

February's article for Caerleon Times written by Chair Chris Thomas

Despite still being in a period of significant restrictions, the last month has seen a number of important decisions being made about Caerleon and its future.

On January 6thNewport City Council’s Planning Committee considered the planning application for

the former Campus site. After a lengthy meeting, including statements of objection from all three

local Councillors, and the Civic Society, the Committee decided, by 6 votes to 3, to grant planning

permission for 170 new houses; 44 flats in the original, listed building; the conversion of the 2 listed

houses in front of the main building into 2 units each; and the renovation of Felthorpe at the end of

the main drive.

Many people in Caerleon had voiced their objections to the plans, not being convinced that the

development would do anything to improve our current problems of air quality, traffic congestion,

GP waiting times and a secondary school in need of urgent upgrading.

As part of the permission, the developer will make a financial contribution of £2 million towards

education provision, public open space provision and upkeep, and minor highway works. 22 of the

homes will be available as affordable housing.

The developer has stated that it will take 5 years to knock down the non-listed buildings and

complete the new construction works. Controversially, permission has also been given for the

construction lorries to get from the Ponthir direction to the site entrance in Lodge Road via College

Glade, Eastfield Drive, Anthony Drive and Lodge Hill. Lorries leaving the site will go down Lodge

Road along the Common, up Station Road and return in the Ponthir direction. This will avoid air

quality issues in central Caerleon but will undoubtedly cause daily problems on the route through a

residential area for years to come.

The developer has decided to start the demolition work on February 1st and residents on the route

have been notified.

On a brighter note, the long-term transport plans for the Newport area ,that I mentioned in the last

issue, have been agreed by the Welsh Government. This should bring new rail and bus services to

the area and better provision for cyclists and those on foot. It is hoped that Caerleon will directly

benefit from these proposals, but we must make sure that our views are heard and taken on board.

Also of great importance to Caerleon is the Welsh Government’s plan for a Clean Air Act for Wales,

which has just been published for consultation. Have your say on the Welsh Government website.

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January 2021

January's article for Caerleon Times written by Chair Chris Thomas

Caerleon Civic Society has not been able to meet since March. Our regular monthly contribution to

Community Times has been one of the ways in which we have been able to keep in touch with our

members and, at the same time, the wider community. We welcome this opportunity to highlight

issues of concern to everybody who lives or works in Caerleon and are grateful to the publishers for

staying in business during a very challenging period.

We have mainly tried to focus on the future rather than dwell on the present – or the past.

Inevitably, for a Civic Society, the issues that have been raised in these columns are to do with our

environment and how we are affected by environmental problems in our day-to-day lives. The focus

has been on such issues as air quality, housing development and traffic congestion.

As we start a new year the local headlines continue to feature travel, transport and traffic. What will

the next 5 years bring? - more of the same problems ; a glimmer of hope that improvements are

being planned; or actual changes that deliver gains for us all?

It is with these questions in mind that I recently listened in to the virtual discussions at the Senedd,

Cardiff Bay, about the transport plans for Newport and South-East Wales. There seemed to be a

general welcome for the package of recommendations in the Burns Report – which looked at future

travel around Newport now that the M4 Relief Road has been dropped.

The Minister, Ken Skates,spoke positively about the headline proposals for major improvements to the transport network, especially public transport. Our local Senedd Member, Jayne Bryant, spoke firmly about the need for action, not more talk! Both speakers indicated that a priority would be given to a new railway

station for Caerleon. Not a new proposal for those with long memories – but, nevertheless a

welcome priority being given to a scheme which could make a real difference.

 

A Caerleon Civic Society New Year wish would probably be that during 2021 a good idea becomes a firm proposal with a clear objective, a firm timescale and a commitment to funding – perhaps not leap-frogging

the 4 other new stations proposed for the Newport area, but, at least, being added clearly to the list

so that our community can begin to be consulted about the details.

It is sometimes difficult to use the words happy, healthy and prosperous when communicating our

wishes for 2021. However, our message remains a positive one – wishing everyone the very best for

the coming year.

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