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STATUE TO RECOGNISE ONE OF NEWPORT'S GREATEST SPORTSMEN

Aug 11 - The City Council has approved plans to place a statue of Newport boxer David Pearce on the Riverfront facing towards Kingsway following a campaign to raise money to recognise his contribution to the city's sporting prowess. Pearce died aged 41 in 2000.

Read the Guardian's obituary of David Pearce here

COURT ORDERS CONFISCATION OF BUSINESSMAN'S ASSETS

Aug 10 - A judge has ordered that assets totalling more than £255,000 should be confiscated from a man involved in the sale and supply of illegal tobacco in Newport In January, Tahar Mohammed was sentenced to three years imprisonment for his part in the criminal activity run from a shop he owned in Commercial Road, Newport. He and three other men were successfully prosecuted following what was described as one of the most significant trading standards operations in Wales of its kind.
A Proceeds of Crime investigation against Mohammed was concluded at Cardiff Crown Court on Tuesday 8 August.
It was agreed that the criminal benefit of the fraudulent business was more than £550,000 and a confiscation order of £255.026.39 was made on the following terms:
• The defendant's vehicle is to be passed to Newport City Council for disposal
• 155 Commercial Road is to be sold at auction
• Equity in the family home in the sum of £40,000 is to be confiscated
• All money in Mohammed's bank account is to be confiscated.
He has three months to pay and failure could result in a further prison sentence of three and a half years.
Newport City Council's Trading Standards officers worked with colleagues from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and police to carry out the investigation which began in April 2015.
An inspection of a storage unit owned by Mohammed uncovered more than 225,000 counterfeit and non-duty paid cigarettes, and more than 112kg of hand rolling tobacco, stored in various containers including cardboard boxes of Lithuanian bread. Trading Standards Officers found the same boxes, with identical batch numbers, at Feryad Mohammed Abdul-Kadir's shop, Eastern European Food, on Commercial Road in the city centre.

POLICE LAUNCH FRIARS WALK APPEAL

Aug 9 - Police are appealing for information after members of the public were allegedly threatened by a man with a knife in Friars Walk at approximately 9.43pm on Tuesday 8th August. The man is described as being approximately 35 years old and 5ft 6inches. He was wearing a green top carrying a beige bag.
If you recognise this man, or you were in Friars Walk and saw anything, please contact us on 101 quoting log 511 8/8/17.

OFFICE DEVELOPMENT PLANS FOR GRIFFIN STREET AND MILL STREET

Aug 9 - A significant new office development is planned in the old Royal Mail building in Mill Street according to Wales Online. This could prove a much needed boost for Newport's poor quality office stock.  . The article states "The early stage plans from property development firm Garrison Barclay Estates would transform the former Royal Mail building at Mill Street in the centre of Newport into a thriving new commercial centre - offering flexible leases to attract the city's growing number of ambitious start-up firms." Garrison Barclay Estates recently acquired the former Royal Mail building - which extends to 50,000 sq ft - from engineering firm Industrial Automation and Control Ltd. Subject to planning consent the scheme would be ready for occupancy late next year or early 2019.
Plans to transform a former Newport nightclub into a mixed-use development, which would bring "much-needed" accommodation onto the market, have been submitted according to Insider Media Wales. Located on Griffin Street, the vacant site has previously operated as a Revolution Bar and Rift & Co Newport. However, newly drawn up proposals have earmarked the venue as a mixed-use scheme comprising office space and nine apartments.

COMMENT - Both developments are welcome but any development on Mill Street utilising proximity to Newport railway station should work alongside new access to the station from that side of town as opposed to the current dangerous, crime ridden subway. In addition, where are the ambitious plans to transform the area around Newport station? With electrification of the main line around where are the proposals to maximise the benefit from this, after all Newport is fifteen minutes closer to London than Cardiff!

RINGLAND BUS SERVICE IMPROVEMENTS FROM SEPTEMBER 24

Aug 9 - Newport Bus has announced a major improvements to one of its key city services.  Monday to Saturday peak time will operate every 5 minutes on main route in and out of town giving a frequency of every ten minutes for 8A and C routes from September 24 from 0613 up to 1848 in the evening between Monday and Saturday, no changes to later off peak or Sunday services.

ENGINEERING WORK PLANS FOR GWR MAINLINE

Aug 9 - Train passengers in South Wales face widespread disruption as maintenance work is carried out during the next three months.
Network Rail will be upgrading the railway line between Cardiff and Newport to prepare it for new electric trains between London and the Welsh capital. According to the Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) website, during these periods there will be changes in service times, reduction in service frequency, services starting and terminating at Newport, platform changes at Cardiff Central and a rail replacement bus services, mainly on Sundays and the August bank holiday weekend.

SUPPORTED LIVING SCHEME OPENS IN STOW HILL

Aug 7 - A new supported living service for people in Newport with learning disabilities was officially launched today. Ty Eirlys, described as a 'flagship' health, housing and care complex, encourages people to live independently, but also access support if needed. Residents live in 13 individual modern apartments, converted from an old Victorian building in Stow Hill. The building also has a communal lounge, a craft and activity room and a large garden, plus accommodation for staff overnight.

BATON SET TO ARRIVE IN CITY

Aug 7 - Newport is gearing up to play its part in the Queen’s Baton Relay ahead of the Commonwealth’s Gold Coast Games in 2018. As part of the worldwide celebrations in the lead up to the Games the Baton will visit a total of 71 nations and territories over a period of 388 days.
And it will be welcomed to Newport on the morning of Wednesday, 6 September.
A team of baton bearers have been selected to carry the Baton on a special route through the city taking in along the way the Transporter Bridge, John Frost Square and the Newport Centre.
The aim is to give as many people as possible the chance to see the Baton as part of the celebrations. The event is being hosted by Newport City Council in partnership with Newport Live and Newport BID.

93 PER CENT INCREASE IN NUMBER OF ROUGH SLEEPERS ON CITY STREETS

Aug 4 - The number of rough sleepers on Newport's streets has climbed by 93 per cent between June 2016 and June 2017. According to homeless charity the Wallich between 27 and 30 rough sleepers per day were supported in Newport, just short of the totals for Cardiff. The figures are recorded by the charity's rough sleepers intervention team.

Rough sleeping is defined by the Government as ‘people sleeping, or bedded down, in the open air (such as on the streets, or in doorways, parks or bus shelters); people in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats, stations, or ‘bashes’)’.

NEWPORT CITY HOMES CLADDING FAILS FURTHER TESTS

Aug 3 - Cladding from three tower blocks in Newport have failed further fire safety tests carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster. Tests of the 11-storey blocks of flats at Milton Court, Hillview and Greenwood showed the wall systems "did not adequately resist the spread of fire". The Building Research Establishment (BRE) tests said they were below the current building regulations guidance.
Newport City Homes says it is "focused" on "making sure residents are safe". Rob Lynbeck, executive director of operations at Newport City Homes, said: “The safety of our residents has always, and will continue to be, a priority for Newport City Homes. We are disappointed to learn the results of the whole system test and our focus is on making sure that residents are safe and feel reassured. Our board have already approved the installation of sprinklers and we are working with contractors to complete this work as quickly as possible.
“At each of our tower blocks we’re introducing fire wardens who will carry out frequent inspections of the building, throughout the day and night. They will make sure that escape routes are clear and monitor the safety of the building. We are also working with independent experts on a programme of work to remove and replace the cladding. This may take some time but it’s important we do this the right way. This will make sure that any replacement cladding meets or exceeds fire safety standards. “The tower blocks have a number of fire safety measures already in place including: smoke/fire alarms; fire doors; fire breaks between every floor and vertically; fire retardant paint; two stairways that act as evacuation routes; and emergency lighting.” The Newport tower blocks are among more than 100 buildings that have failed the latest fire safety tests set up after the fire in London on June 14.

MON BUILDING SOCIETY CHIEF STEPS DOWN

Aug 3 - The chief executive of Monmouthshire Building Society James Bawa has stepped down after just seven months in the role, the Financial Times has revealed. A spokesperson for the Newport-based mutual told FT Adviser Mr Bawa had taken “an extended leave of absence from the board of directors”. Monmouthshire’s finance director, William Carroll, has been made acting chief executive as an interim measure.
Mr Bawa was appointed chief executive of the society in November 2016 after previously serving as CEO of Teachers Building Society from 2002. He recently donated his entire annual bonus – understood to be thousands of pounds - to homeless charity the Wallich and an overseas education charity. In 2016, Monmouthshire was one of four building societies with net assets of more than £1bn, alongside Nationwide, Yorkshire and Principality.
A strong set of financial results saw the mutual achieve a record post tax profit of £6.4m and gross mortgage lending of £139m.

ROGERSTONE ASSAULT - POLICE APPEAL

Aug 3 - Police are appealing for information after an 18-year-old woman was sexually assaulted in Newport. It is thought to have happened between 3.15am and 5.45am on Tuesday 1st August, near the railway bridge in the Afon Village area of the city.
Police are keen to speak to anyone who was in the area at the time, including three men matching the following descriptions:
The first man is described as white with dark brown hair, cleanly shaven, wearing grey jogging bottoms, a dark grey v-neck t-shirt and trainers.
The second is described as white man with short brown hair, cleanly shaven, and of thin build.
The third man is described as having long hair, a long beard, and of thin build, wearing blue, baggy, dirty jeans, light brown boots and a black motorbike-style jacket.
Anyone with information is asked to call Gwent Police on the 101 number, quoting log 59 1/8/17.

PILL SAFETY ORDER AFTER LAST YEAR'S FIREWORK FUELLED RIOT

July 28 - Newport City Council has supported the implementation of a public space protection order (PSPO) in the Pillgwenlly area of the city after last November's riot in the area. The PSPO is intended to prevent individuals or groups committing specific acts of anti-social behaviour in public places where they cause a nuisance to the local community and disturb local people’s quality of life.
Councillors formally agreed to adopt the order at a meeting of full Council on Tuesday 25 July, following a detailed review by Scrutiny Committee and a thorough public consultation. The PSPO will provide police officers and police community support officers with additional criminal enforcement powers to deal with specific incidents of anti-social behaviour in Pill. The council created and implemented a PSPO in November 2015 in the city centre area of Newport, at the request of Gwent Police, and this has already produced positive changes. A breach of the order is a criminal offence and can be dealt with by issuing a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) of up to £100 or a fine of up to £1,000 on prosecution through the courts.

FLASHBACK - PILL RIOT - This is how Wales Online reported last year's disturbance on the streets of Pill in the midst of the firework season "Riot police and helicopters were deployed last night after reports of a disturbance in the centre of Newport. Eyewitness reports said there were helicopters, riot police and fire engines deployed to help calm the disturbance that reportedly happened in Commercial Street. A total of six people from Newport have been arrested. Video footage from the scene appears to show fires being set, police with riot shields and dogs, helicopters overhead and lots of shouting and confrontation on the street. One eyewitness said the disturbances started at around 8pm on Thursday, and continued through the night. "

KFC TO OPEN FRIARS WALK OUTLET

July 27 - In the first sign of improvements under its new owner Friar's Walk has signed up KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken, for its empty unit adjacent to Cineworld in John Frost Square. Elsewhere, Paul Fosh Auctions will be taking up new premises in Lower Dock Street, occupying the former Gamberini restaurant. A new bar, MonUsk Deli, is set to open on the Rodney Parade side of the Usk Footbridge.

PACKAGING COMPANY JOBS UNDER THREAT

July 26 - A packaging firm in Newport has announced plans to close one of its sites, putting around 150 jobs at risk. Essentra, which produces folding cartons for the consumer goods industry, said the site is operating at a loss and it could not see things improving.
For the six months ended 30 June 2017, the facility generated an operating loss of £3.4m on revenue of £6.1m and is not anticipated to make a realistic improvement to profitability in the near, or even long, term.
It is currently consulting on plans to cease production at its Newport carton firm, which could see the site close by the end of this year.
The company has received thousands of pounds in Welsh Government funding in recent years.
Today the Welsh Government said it was "deeply disappointed" by the announcement "This will be a worrying time for workers and their families and we will be working closely with the company and others to ensure employees are fully supported throughout this difficult period."
The proposed closure will not affect operations at the company’s adjacent IP4 labels site in Newport, where Essentra will continue to provide specialist labels and primary foiling capabilities. Additionally, the Design Hub, established in 2016 to bring structural and creative packaging design together with manufacturing expertise, will also not be affected by the proposal.

RUGBY CLUB SECURES GRANT FOR PRESERVATION PROJECT

July 26 - Friends of Newport Rugby Trust have been working hard on behalf of the club to preserve the vast amount of memorabilia that the club holds. The club holds an enormous amount of jerseys, caps, photographs and other items but less well known about is the thousands of paper documents that are held by the club dating back to the 1800’s. A huge amount of letters, commercial and financial documents are held that illustrate the fantastic history of not just the rugby team but also the other sports played at Rodney Parade such as tennis, cricket, cycling and athletics when the club was an ‘Athletic Club’ known throughout the world.
John Barrett, Graham Sully and Steve Bennett head up the restoration and preservation effort on behalf of FoNR and the club and for a number of years have been working closely with the Gwent Archives office where the majority of the documents are held in controlled temperature and humidity conditions. The National Manuscripts Conservation Trust are also heavily involved in the preservation process.
Such is the excitement about the collection that the Welsh Government has backed the preservation effort with a £14,000 grant, announced by economy minister Ken Skates, to provide funding for future professional work to be carried out to secure the long term future of the documents for the benefit of all.

COUNCIL SHELVES PROJECT TO REPLACE VILE SUBWAY WITH FOOTBRIDGE

July 23 - Newport Council has shelved plans to replace a vile, crime ridden subway with a new footbridge linking Devon Place and Queensway. New Lib Dem Councillor Holly Townsend raised the issue in a written question on July 5. The Council responded on July 19! Townsend asked "Given ongoing delays, could the cabinet member spell out the administration’s strategy of getting this project back on track including the proposed actions of cabinet members. " The response was as follows "A number of bids have been made to Welsh Government seeking capital funding to bring the status of the bridge to detailed design stage and ultimately deliver the structure for the city. However, with such a high number of competing transportation related priorities throughout the City Region, Welsh Government are unable to commit funding at this time. Council continues to promote the benefits of this pedestrian link with Welsh Government and explore options for future funding. "

BRIDGE TOLLS ANNOUNCEMENT IS MASSIVE BOOST FOR NEWPORT ECONOMY

July 23 - Tolls on the Severn bridges between Wales and England will be scrapped by the end of 2018, the UK government has announced. Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns said it would be a major boost to the economy. Making the announcement in Newport, Welsh secretary Alun Cairns said: “The decision to abolish the Severn tolls next year sends a powerful message to businesses, commuters and tourists alike that the UK government is committed to strengthening the Welsh economy.
“By ending tolls for the 25 million annual journeys between two nations, we will strengthen the links between communities and help to transform the joint economic prospects of south Wales and the south-west of England.
The fees paid on entry to Wales - currently ranging from £6.70 to £20 a vehicle - have long been a source of contention with motorists and businesses, particularly those who regularly use the Bridges to commute or to convey goods.

Not only could the news be god for business it could also prove a welcome boost for the local property market. The average house price in Newport in 2016 was £153,338. In Bristol it was £266,700.
Commenting on Wales Online Neil Williams, director at Martin & Co and CJ Hole, which operates on both sides of the bridge, has already seen a number of buyers priced out of Bristol and believes the scrapping of the toll will increase the number of people moving across the bridge.
"We have seen an influx of landlords and investors buying properties [in Newport] as they can still achieve good yields compared to Bristol, and I believe the scrapping of the tolls will increase demand substantially to many Bristol buyers especially younger buyers and those on lower incomes who were put off with the tolls," said Mr Williams "Newport not only has excellent road links but many easily accessible junctions onto the motorway making an easy commute, often quicker than travelling across Bristol."
David Beddoe, of Bristol estate agent Morgan Beddoe, told the Bristol Post such is the demand and shortage of supply in Bristol that he doesn't believe the news will have a huge impact on the Bristol market. But he does feel more first time buyers will be looking across the bridge.
"First time buyers are being priced out of Bristol, so with Newport 20 minutes away it is a sensible alternative," he said.
Labour Newport East MP Jessica Morden said it was a "relief that, after years of pressure, the Tory government has finally listened. For far too long, commuters and businesses in Newport East and beyond have had to absorb the extortionate toll charges."

FLYNN WARNS DWP OF CONSEQUENCES OF JOB LOSSES TO CITY CENTRE

July 22 - Paul Flynn MP has warned of the consequences of the closure of Sovereign House in Newport city centre, with the potential loss of 200 jobs from 2021 onwards. In a Westminster Hall debate he said "The closure of Sovereign House in Newport is causing great anxiety in the city and elsewhere, because there is a threat to other jobs. We are not Luddites in Newport. We are very proud of the civil servants we have there, who have behaved magnificently over the past 50 or 60 years. They are of growing importance in the economy of Newport because of the collapse of much of our manufacturing industry. They have done marvellous work and we are greatly proud of the contribution they have made. They are certainly at the heart of the Newport community.....To my knowledge, Sovereign House has been operating since the early ’60s and has provided jobs right in the heart of the city for all that time. There are 182 people working there now, but there is capacity for 400. It is a great asset to the city. One point that is not always taken into account is that the vibrancy of the city centre depends on the workers who are there. They have their lunch in the city, use the shops and so on, so they add to it. If a city is to thrive and survive, we need that working population at its heart."
Damian Hinds DWP minister responded "there were 212 staff at Sovereign House and only about 50% of the building was in use. As I mentioned, we assessed the distance that staff would travel to work at the proposed new site. Newport is 21 miles, or a 26-minute drive, from Treforest. There is also a bus, which takes around an hour and 11 minutes. Of course, journey times will differ depending on where staff live in relation to the site....The hon. Member for Newport West rightly asked about the risk of redundancies. Of course we want to minimise that risk. It is impossible to be absolutely clear at this stage, not least because we are talking about a move that is some years away, but we anticipate that approximately 20 staff might not be able to move to the new site. Now that announcements have been made, it is possible to be clearer about employment and career opportunities, and we will have detailed one-to-one meetings with staff between now and then."

CELTIC MANOR LAUNCHES HOSPITALITY APPRENTICESHIP

July 21 - The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport has launched a new apprenticeship programme to help train the next generation of hospitality professionals. The two-year programme will encompass all the operational aspects of the hotel and hospitality industry. Modules will cover food and beverage, conference and banqueting, front of house, housekeeping and kitchens as well as a stint combining all these areas at the resort's Coldra Court Hotel. The hotel and hospitality apprenticeship programme builds on the resort's trainee management and operational trainee schemes.
Operations director Matthew Lewis said: "The Celtic Manor Resort with its wide range of facilities and experienced management team offers the perfect place to gain this comprehensive grounding."

SDR - MAJOR ROAD WORKS PLANNED

July 21 - Morgan Vinci Ltd, the managing company for the SDR in Newport, will be carrying out resurfacing/reconstruction works. The works are programmed to start on Monday 24 July 2017 and last for seven weeks. However due to the nature of the works, there will be disruption and Morgan Vinci apologises in advance if this is the case. A full list of closures while the works are carried out can be found on Newport City Council website under roadworks.
There are two elements to the works - resurfacing and reconstruction. Resurfacing works will be undertaken during the week Monday to Friday starting at 7pm and finishing at 5am under full road closure with local diversions. The road will be open during the day from 5am to 7pm. Reconstruction work will also be undertaken on some roads when the work will start from 8pm on Friday and finish 5am on the Monday with roads closed all day Saturday and Sunday with diversions in place.

CCR DEAL TO BRING SEMI-CONDUCTOR PLANT TO CITY

July 20 - A new compound semiconductor foundry is set to be created on the former LG factory site in Newport following a decision from the Cardiff Capital Region (CCR) cabinet to set up a company to oversee the facility according to Insider Media Wales. The CCR cabinet has agreed to create a special purpose vehicle to support the development of a compound semiconductor industry cluster in South East Wales.

BELLE VUE PARK WINS GREEN FLAG STATUS

July 19- Keep Wales Tidy has unveiled this year’s Green Flag Award winners – the international mark of a quality park or green space.
In total, 183 parks and green spaces in Wales have met the high standard needed to receive the coveted Green Flag Award or the Green Flag Community Award. The Flags will be flying at two City Council sites, Belle Vue Park and Gwent Crematorium, in recognition of their excellent facilities and commitment to delivering great quality green space. Newport City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure Councillor Deb Harvey said she was delighted the Green Flag Award has again been presented to these two venues. “The award is a true measure of how our green services team look after and maintain Belle Vue Park with its glorious flower displays on show across the park."

NEWPORT CITY HOMES TO OPEN COMMERCIAL STREET HUB

July 18 - Newport City Homes are to open a new customer hub and office at 138-9 Commercial Street, opposite Caffe Nero, according to plans submitted to the City Council.

BIG JOBS BOOST AS TRAIN BUILDING COMPANY HEAD TO LLANWERN

July 15 - Spanish company Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) will build a £3 million pounds facility making a variety of products, including commuter and high speed trains.
The Welsh Government is supporting the £30 million project and says the site will also maintain and service rolling stock.
More than 100 locations in the UK were considered for this major investment, with the Celtic Business Park at Llanwern n Newport chosen from one of four potential sites that were short listed.
"The announcement of this new manufacturing facility is fantastic news for Newport and will be welcomed by everyone who wants to see a thriving Welsh manufacturing sector. It means up to 300 new skilled jobs created at the plant, the potential for thousands of jobs secured in the supply chain and the start of a new chapter for this important manufacturing site in south Wales. We must continue to be ambitious for Wales, and to make this country an attractive destination for investors. CAF is the latest major company to invest in Wales and is yet another strong endorsement of the skills-base and the business environment we are cultivating here. We are very much open for business and I look forward to seeing the new facility taking shape over the coming years." – ALUN CAIRNS MP, WELSH SECRETARY
"This significant investment from CAF and Welsh Government will underpin the development of the rail sector in Wales and places us at the heart of an industry with massive growth potential. As well as creating 300 high calibre jobs, it also coincides with our major Welsh Government Metro rail investment in south east Wales, details of which will be unveiled over the coming weeks." – KEN SKATES, AM, ECONOMY SECRETARY
The firm has said Newport was one of 100 possible locations in the UK which was later cut down to a shortlist of four. The factory  will open in Autumn 2018 with construction vehicles on site now. CAF expects the plant to employ 200 staff when it opens in autumn 2018, rising to 300 by 2019. Recruitment is to start next spring, with opportunities for skilled technicians, engineers, management and support staff. Training and apprenticeship schemes would be offered from autumn 2018. The factory is also expected to provide a boost to the wider UK supply chain through the development of a cluster of local and national companies to supply components.
CAF is to invest £30m in the plant, and has also received ‘significant’ grant support from the Welsh Government’s Inward Investment Programme. ‘This £30m investment is a major economic boost that we hope will kick-start the growth of our rail sector and create hundreds of highly skilled, very well paid jobs’, said First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones.
The new factory forms an integral part of CAF’s strategy to win more UK contracts. Its Spanish plants have previously supplied trams to Edinburgh and Midland Metro and DMUs to Northern Ireland Railways, as well as assembling EMUs for Heathrow Express and services in West Yorkshire. The company currently has contracts to build 31 three-car and 12 four-car Class 331 EMUs and 25 two-car and 30 three-car Class 195 DMUs for the Northern franchise, 12 five-car EMUs and 66 loco-hauled coaches for TransPennine Express and 75 coaches for Caledonian Sleeper. CAF is now targeting London Underground and the Docklands Light Railway, as well as High Speed 2 and the future Wales & Borders, West Midlands and South Eastern franchises.

The former steelworks site offers access to the rail network nearby and to Newport Docks. A commuter railway station is also planned for the adjacent housing development.

RECKLESS DRIVER JAILED AFTER CAUSING DEATH OF 70 YEAR OLD

July 14 - A father-of-two has been jailed for eight years and eight months for killing a grandmother while sniffing cocaine at the wheel of his van.
Ryan Reardon, 34, hit seven other vehicles in his van in Newport before crashing into 70-year-old Christine Rowe's car head-on, killing her and seriously injuring her husband Brian.
Cardiff Crown Court heard he was speeding on the wrong side of the road. Reardon, from Blackwood in Caerphilly, ran off but police caught him that day. He was more than six times over the legal drug-drive limit when he jumped red lights and barged through other cars at about 19:00 BST on 5 June near Beechwood Park in bad weather conditions, the court heard.
Reardon, a managing director of an air conditioning company, was driving at 59mph in a 30mph zone. Prosecutor James Wilson said: "It was the culmination of prolonged, persistent driving by the defendant characterised by aggression and disregard for other road users."

BOUTIQUE HOTEL PLAN THROWN OUT

July 13 - Plans to develop an Italian restaurant and guest house in a historic building in Newport appear to have been abandoned with the property now set to be sold at auction. Pasquale and Sergio Cinotti, owners of Gemelli's restaurant, had planned to convert the grade II-listed Rothbury House into a restaurant and guest house.
However, plans were refused planning consent by Newport City Council in December 2016 due to concerns over parking provision.
New plans were submitted earlier this year, but the Victorian building has now been listed for sale by Newport based Paul Fosh Auctions with a guide price in excess of £350,000. Paul Fosh, of Paul Fosh Auctions, said: "It's a great pity that the plans to convert this fine building in to a boutique hotel didn't come to pass as it may well have proved to have been a wonderful re-use for Rothbury House.

COMMENT - At a time when hotel provision in the city centre is so minimal this is a shocking decision and leaves yet another historic building unused and on the point of dereliction.

NEW BUILD PROPERTIES SPUR HOUSE SALES

July 12 - Newport has seen the highest increase in house sales across the whole of the UK, with a 31 per cent leap from the first quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2017, according to figures released by Principality Building Society.
The figures in the society's quarterly house price index also reveal that the average house price in the city is now £176,090 and that house prices in Newport have risen 5.1 per cent annually but have seen a 0.7 per cent fall in Q2 2017 compared to the first three months of this year. The increase in house sales is attributed to new build properties.

FRIARS WALK RENT DEAL ANNOUNCED

July 12 - A report to next week’s meeting of Newport City Council’s cabinet setting out the terms and conditions of the sale has now been published.
Financial and legal information had to remain commercially confidential until the deal had been completed. However, the report contains a detailed analysis of the sale and shows that the Talisker deal represented best value because it enabled the council to fully pay off its borrowing costs to finance the loan to Queensberry to develop the long-awaited retail and leisure scheme.
The council had incurred around £82 million of borrowing charges and interest in order to finance the development loan and it received a net capital receipt of approximately £84.5 million on completion of the sale in settlement of the Queensberry loan and interest.
Although the balance of the loan debt and “rolled-up” interest from Queensberry has technically been written off, a rent share agreement with Talisker will ensure the repayment of the full interest payment that was due.
As part of this on-going partnership with Talisker, the council has also given a commitment to contribute an investment subsidy of up to £500k per annum towards the rental income, but this should only be required for the first few years and the council will then have a share of any future growth.
Over future years, the council will receive a guaranteed additional £7.5 million as a result of this rent-share agreement, making a total return of approximately £92 million.

SIGHTING OF A BAT HOLDS UP SAINSBURY'S BUILDING DEMOLITION

July 11 - Plans to demolish the former Sainsbury's building in Newport have been held up due to the sighting of a single bat. A Council ecology officer stated recently "As a result of the video footage of a bat within the building last year further surveys have been undertaken on the building and no bats were recorded entering or leaving the building. I concur with the recommendations contained within the report.
A licence from NRW will be required given that the building is a bat roost, albeit in low numbers. A method statement will need to be submitted (to NRW) detailing how the applicant intends to prevent and minimise impacts upon bats e.g. timings of work, pre demolitions checks etc."

MEASLES OUTBREAK CONTINUES

July 10 - Three new cases of measles have been confirmed as investigations continue into the outbreak affecting the Newport and Torfaen areas.
Public Health Wales says the new cases bring the total confirmed number in the outbreak to eight. Two cases are children who caught measles from another patient while attending the accident and emergency department at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport on the evening of June 14.
Public Health Wales and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board have contacted the parents of other children who were in the department at the same time to advise them of the risk of measles.

HOTEL AND COUNCIL COMBINE FOR MAJOR JOBS FAIR

July 9 - Newport City Council and the city's leading hotel have joined forces for a jobs fair in The Riverfront on 20 July. A range of opportunities will be on offer as the Celtic Manor Resort looks for individuals to join their team who are people focused and want to deliver "an amazing customer experience".
Chefs, bartenders, reservations sales agents, beauty specialists, conference and banqueting associates, waiters and housekeeping associates are required by the five start hotel.
Register online for the jobs fair, which takes place from 11am to 7.30pm, at www.celtic-manor.com/careers or pop in during the day with a CV and ID.

NEWPORT BUS WINS BACK SCHOOLS CONTRACT

July 9 - Newport Bus has been awarded a contract to provide bus travel to and from school during the 2017/18 academic year, for hundreds of the city’s secondary school children. The award comes two years after the company, whose only shareholder is the council, lost its contract to Cardiff-based bus company New Adventure Travel (NAT).
“We are delighted to have been awarded the home to school season ticket contract by Newport City Council for the school year 2017/18,” said a spokesman for Newport Bus.

249 CITY CENTRE JOBS TO GO TO CARDIFF - DWP DECISION

July 8 - The DWP has confirmed that it will cease to use Sovereign House in 2021 with 249 jobs transferring from Newport to a new facility in Cardiff.

ST. JULIAN'S IN SPECIAL MEASURES

July 8 - One of Newport's leading secondary schools is in crisis following a damning Estyn inspection. In a letter to parents head teacher Rhys Evans said that, following an inspection by Estyn last week, inspectors concluded that the secondary school "had not made enough progress in key areas". The report states St Julian’s School is judged to have made insufficient progress in relation to the recommendations following the core inspection in December 2014 including Recommendation 1: Improve standards in key stage 3 and key stage 4 and Recommendation 3: Improve the quality and consistency of teaching, marking and assessment. As a result, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales is increasing the level of follow-up activity.

The report states "In a majority of lessons, just over half of pupils make suitable progress. In a few lessons, many pupils make better progress, and recall previous learning securely. Many pupils behave well and display positive attitudes to their learning. A minority have limited concentration and lack resilience in their work, and this impedes their progress. Many pupils listen with respect and attention during lessons. The minority who do not, miss important information and instructions. A majority of pupils are willing and able to make brief verbal contributions, usually in response to the teachers’ questions. A few provide confident and well-developed responses, using subject specific vocabulary appropriately. However, a minority of pupils make little or no contribution to class or group discussions, due to a lack of effort or of confidence in their verbal skills."

TJs OWNER FINED

July 8 - The London based company which owns the former TJs nightclub in Clarence Place has been successfully prosecuted by Newport City Council for allowing the building to fall into disrepair. The company, 121 Ventures, who own the building and its directors and company secretary were together ordered to pay more than £53,833 in fines and court costs following the hearing at Newport Magistrates Court (July 2).
The case was brought by Newport City Council in relation to a prosecution for non-compliance with a Listed Building enforcement notice and Section 215 notice (unsightly land) at the former TJs building. The company 121 Ventures Limited was fined £25,000 for the listed building offence; £1,000 which is the maximum fine for the Section 215 notice, a victim surcharge of £170 and ordered to pay the council’s costs of £1493.95, bringing a total of £27,663.95 to be paid by 28 July 2017.
Omar Saleem Aslam, a director and company secretary was fined £25,000 for the listed building offence, £1,000, maximum fine for the Section 215 notice and a victim surcharge of £170, totalling costs and fines of £26,170 to be paid by 28 July 2017.
Another director Mohammed Iqbal Hussain failed to appear at court and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
The court was told this building is very well known in Newport but it has been vacant for a considerable period of time and its appearance is deteriorating. There are two notices which have not been complied with. The Listed Building Enforcement Notice required the defendants to repair and reinstate or replace missing or damaged red clay roof tiles on the front and rear and repair and reinstate or replace missing damaged lead flashing.
The Section 215 Notice required the defendants to repair or reinstate the missing and broken glazing at the property, remove all vegetation from the front and rear façade and remove all resulting debris from the land; remove vegetation from the roof and repair the cornice above the fascia on the front. The court was told the defendants failed to carry out any remedial works on this iconic building and have shown complete disregard of council notices and court proceedings by their non-attendance at previous hearings. They also failed to meet with officers on several occasions to discuss the state of the building.

COMMENT - Hopefully, this is the start of a process that will return this building along with others to the people of Newport. The owners are negligent and have shown a flagrant disregard for the locality and for the affection this place is still held in. Kick them out!

FIRE SAFETY IN TOWER BLOCKS 'ADEQUATE' - MINISTER

July 7 - Fire safety measures at the three tower blocks in Newport where cladding failed safety tests earlier this week are “adequate”, according to Welsh Government. This week samples of cladding from Hillview in the Gaer, Milton Court in Ringland and Greenwood in St Julians failed fire tests ordered following the Grenfell Tower blaze. But in a statement today, Wales’ communities secretary Carl Sargeant said an inspection of the Newport City Homes-run blocks by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) found “adequate” fire safety provisions are in place. The housing association says it is disappointed with the results, but its focus was on ensuring residents feel safe and are reassured.

"The safety of our residents has always, and will continue to be, a priority for Newport City Homes. We are disappointed to learn the results of the cladding test, our focus is now on making sure that residents are safe and feel reassured. We have a dedicated presence at each of our tower blocks, alongside fire safety officers, so that residents can speak to someone if they have any questions or concerns.
We have robust and up-to-date fire risk assessments on our tower blocks and we have already adopted all of the relevant additional fire safety measures issued by government. We also carry out a training exercise at our tower blocks with South Wales Fire and Rescue Service every year." – Ceri Doyle, Newport City Homes Chief Executive

Each of the blocks has a number of fire safety measures, including smoke/fire alarms, fire doors, fire breaks between every floor, fire retardant paint and emergency lighting. Leaflets have been delivered to all Newport City Homes residents in each block explaining what the tests involved.
 
CHURCH BUYS BAKERIES BUILDING

July 5 - The former Avana Bakeries building in Newport has been acquired by a Rogerstone church, securing the future of the community hub based there. Faith Church, which is based in the Trebor Celebration Building in Rogerstone, has now bought the 20,000 sq ft building so that it can continue to host groups and activities for the local community.
Property consultancy JLL advised Faith Church on the purchase of the building on Wern Industrial Estate, which was previously home to Avana Bakeries.
The new owner plans to increase its range of activities over the next six months. The space could also be opened up to businesses, including budget offices for start-ups, free networking events and meeting rooms available to hire.
Heather Lawrence, senior surveyor at JLL in Cardiff, said: "It's fantastic to see this industrial building being transformed for the benefit of the community. It's in a well-connected location which makes it accessible and it's a big building so there's a lot of scope to create an interesting and vibrant space for people to enjoy."
The Avana Bakeries factory closed in 2014 following the loss of a Marks & Spencer cake contract.

PLANS RECEIVE GO-AHEAD

July 4 - Plans to develop more than 100,000 sq ft of new industrial space on the site of a former depot in Newport have received approval. FPC (Newport) lodged plans in 2016 covering the development on a 5.3-acre greenfield site on Traston Road, previously occupied by a BOC gas depot.
The applicant is proposing about 100,000 sq ft of space across two units. The larger of the two facilities, measuring 75,000 sq ft, would be located to the rear of the site, with a smaller 20,000 sq ft unit in the south-western corner.
Both would be suitable for general industrial or storage and distribution use. It has been estimated that the development could support about 100 jobs.
A design and access statement submitted with the plans said: "The proposed scheme has been carefully designed to incorporate landscaping.
"Furthermore, by providing new jobs and a new facility, the proposed development will make a valuable contribution to economy of Newport."
Elsewhere, a reader advises work is progressing well on the former Front Page / South Wales Argus building in High Street which was the subject of a 2015 planning application to retain it as licensed premises with the upper floor converted in to ten flats. The plans submitted by the Principality building society for their new John Frost Square premises envisage a smaller entrance for Newport Museum and library.

LE PUB NO MORE

July 1 - One of Newport's best-loved live music venues is shutting its doors after being at the site for almost 25 years. Le Pub in the city centre , has been at its Caxton Place location for 24 years and 11 months and the people who run it hosted a number of events to give the venue a big send off, opening for the last time on Saturday, July 1.