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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.