Call for Newport to become ‘Western Powerhouse’

Original article written by Jo Barnes for the South Wales Argus published on 6th August 2015.

NEWPORT should be the hub of a Western Powerhouse Region set up to compete with the Northern Powerhouse Region, according to a businessman who is investing £60m into the city centre.

Dr Stephen Fear, of the Bristol-based Fear Group, was speaking with his son Leon at Newport’s Digital Tuesday event held in front of an audience of about 200 at The Riverfront Theatre in the city.

Dr Fear said it was important for the western region, which he sees stretching from Swindon to Swansea, to join forces to create a powerhouse which could go after investment and funding for the area.

He said: “South Wales and the south west of England needs to come together as a powerhouse. We have to compete with the Northern Powerhouse which includes places like Sheffield and Manchester.

“The more we do to promote this region, the more chance we have got. And we are doing that. People we deal with in the States and China for example have heard of Newport now thanks to the Ryder Cup and the Nato Summit and this is driving investment.”

Dr Fear said: “I think our region needs a focus and the digital and technology sector is a good thing to focus on. It also needs a hub and Newport is the best place for that. It is 60 miles from Swindon and 60 miles from Swansea.

“We want people to invest in Newport because it is growing, land is cheaper here and there is a great enthusiasm here but we need to present it as a region, not just Newport on its own or Bristol – it’s the whole of the M4 strip. We think this has got great potential.”

He gave a presentation to the audience which included plans for a possible flying car, which he said was the future of transport and which he claimed would be with us in ‘two to three years’.

And he didn’t rule out bringing parts of the production of such a vehicle to Newport.

Dr Fear also told the audience about his company’s plans for the former Sainsburys site in Crindau, which it bought in 2010.

Plans for the site were lodged with Newport City Council last month. They include high quality student accommodation aimed at the Chinese and Asian student market, an 84-bedroom hotel – which Dr Fear revealed at the meeting could be a four or five star venue – a health centre, and even a scooter park for existing residents of the area to securely store their mobility scooters.

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