Andrew RT Davies AM, Leader of the Opposition today held his latest in a series of community engagement forums, bringing together key players in the South East Wales economy.
The event is the seventh since Mr Davies became Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, following events throughout Wales, including in Haverfordwest, Newtown and Anglesey.
The forum discussed the future of Newport City Centre’s retail hub and the problem of vacant shops, economic regeneration and improving transport links.
The event was attended by local chambers of trade, the Federation of Small Businesses, ‘I Love Newport’, transport expert Professor Stuart Cole and local Assembly Members William Graham and Mohammad Asghar.
A recent survey undertaken by the South Wales Argus revealed that some shopping streets in Newport have vacancy rates as high as 38% (Newport Arcade), 42% (Upper Dock Street) or even 68% (John Frost Square).
Andrew RT Davies AM, Leader of the Opposition, said, “This latest community engagement forum is the latest step in my commitment to take politics out of the Cardiff Bay bubble and meet real people who know what’s needed in their local area.
“This forum brought together key players in the South East Wales economy including the Federation of Small Businesses, the South Wales Chamber of Commerce and the Newport Chamber of Trade as well as a representative of the I Love Newport campaign.
“Newport has huge potential as a bustling retail centre, but unfortunately the local council has taken some short-sighted decisions on parking and planning, which have made it more difficult for consumers to spend money in the city.
“As a result, many small businesses are struggling and some traders are being forced to close their doors or move out of town.
“We need to improve transport links to Newport and the South East Wales region and I welcome the UK Government’s commitment to electrify the Great Western Line from Newport to London, which will greatly reduce journey times and progress on an M4 relief road.
“We need a concerted and joined up campaign to market what Newport has to offer and sell the brand to consumers far more widely.
“This forum was an excellent opportunity to discuss the issues facing Newport’s economy and offer solutions to the problems facing hardworking families in the city.”