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Tory Philistines

September 2008

From heritage to rubble

Proving they know 'the price of everything and the value of nothing', the Philistine Newport Tories have decided to abandon a Newport treasure.

Since I was first elected as a councillor in 1972, the Tories have undervalued the city’s heritage. I have heard Tory Councillors oppose the purchase of Tredegar House and Grounds, call for the demolition of the Transporter Bridge and demand that the elegant Victoria Place should be replaced with modern flats.

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Had they been in power for the past 30 years, the Transporter Bridge would be scrap metal, Tredegar House rubble, and Victoria Place lined with ugly flats.

After decades in opposition the Conservatives first act in government is destructive to Newport not constructive. Through the generosity of a past mayor, the people of the City of Newport have the good luck to own the most splendid house in the city. It is situated on the best site with commanding views over the Bristol Channel and beyond to Somerset.

For the first time since 1972 the Tories have a share of power in Newport. They were elected on a promise of restoring weekly dustbin collections and their first act is a decision to junk a valuable Newport asset. The Mansion House is used for charity events, receiving honoured guests and a home for the mayor.

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It is likely that the Mansion House will be sold off to speculators. Most recent developments in the area are flats. That is a likely outcome for this large site. A loved Newport building will be lost forever by the decision of a here today, where tomorrow Tory Council.

Their LibDems coalition partners have shown some appreciation for the great Newport buildings in the past. Will they really go along with this penny-pinching decision? The ‘savings’ will be minimal when they are spread out over the city’s council taxpayers.

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The loss of the Mansion House would be permanent and deprive future generation of a fine part of our history. It’s at the heart of our pride in being Newportonians. No other place in Wales can boast of such a splendid advantage.

The Councillor who made this decision is the ubiquitous Peter Davies. He is _42287684_peterdavies2203-1under a cloud at the moment awaiting decisions on two possible charges. One is refusing to give a breathalyser test without a valid reason. The other is driving over the alcohol limit. There is a real possibility that he will not be long in office if these decisions are unfavourable to him. Should the Newport City Council accept this awful decision from this person?

I know that many thousands of proud Newportonians will be passionately opposed to the sale of our family silver. It is especially perverse now that we have won city status and have great prosperous years ahead of us.

The Newport writer Leslie Thomas, author of Virgin Soldiers, affectionately recalled his own mother’s connection with the Mansion House. His mother  was raising Leslie in Maesglas and they faced severe financial problems in the war. She decided that the solution to her problems was to see the mayor. She went along to the Mansion House and asked the mayor to help.

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Leslie stayed overnight as the guest of Mayor Al Nuaimi recently. He wondered what his mother would have thought if she had known that one day her son would be an honoured guest in this great house.

Many other Newportonians also have precious personal memories of events in a place that is uniquely Newport.

It must not be lost because of shortsighted political opportunism.


Another Newport Treasure

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Also looking splendid on this glorious Autumn day is the view from Newport's Allt yr yn. Hard to believe that this is a few minutes from the heart of the city.

Thank Goodness the Tories cannot sell this. But they did try. In the seventies Tory Councillor W C Huckle wanted to bulldoze the prefabs on Allt-yr-yn and replace them with luxury homes for the super rich.

The area has now been sensitively redeveloped with modern bungalows by the Labour Council