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Bettws-rich tapestry of a mixed community

July 14th 2007

Today was carnival day in Bettws, Newport. It's a lucky area with a remarkable character - a blend of the new, the young and the mature. When I first spoke in parliament in 1987 I had Bettws in mind when I praised the quality of council building in Newport that had created; what Aneurin Bevan called ‘the rich tapestry of a mixed community.’

Bettws1 Today's procession had a Japanese theme - with glorious orange dragons on sticks carried high above the snaking ground dragons. Assembly Member Rosemary Butler and I were cowardly in our awards of prizes. The choice was, one 'overall winner' and lots ' highly commended.'  That means making one friend and many potentially resentful enemies. Tricky for politicians. We gave the first prize to the dragon designer Granville John (picture with Rosemary and me) and highly commended to everyone else.

The plan for the route of the procession were designed to cope with the unseasonable monsoon we are suffering. Luckily today was a blessed break in the rains and the procession was welcomed with warm sunshine.

Bettws_3High on the hill over Bettws is St David’s Church, which was ancient when the Chartist leader John Frost was married there 170 years ago. Although it’s surrounded by modern houses the church and grounds still have the atmosphere of a quiet rural retreat.

Then Bettws was rolling farmland dotted with  farmhouses, fields and woods. Thanks to the wisdom of the planners, development was sensitive and farsighted. When it was built there was a fashion for giant multi-storied flats. They now disfigure many English cities. Some have become uninhabitable and have been pulled down.


Our planners rejected giant flats. They were inspired by the traditional ideal of a two storied house with a good size decorative garden in the front and a utilitarian one behind. They remain the most popular dwellings. Young couples who moved in in 1950s to brand new houses, now welcome their grandchildren to mature, extended and beautifully improved homes. The few flats built in Bettws have been the least successful dwellings. Some have been demolished.

Well done to all who organised an exceptionally successful and happy day.