May 2001

MEETING DEBATES TOWN'S FUTURE
The regeneration of Caldicot was discussed at a public meeting attended by over 200 people at the Choir Hall on 30th May. The meeting was called by Caldicot Regeneration Group, which is made up of County Councillors, Town Councillors and representatives of the Chamber of Trade.
Councillor Gareth Jenkins, on behalf of the Regeneration Group, outlined the existing situation. There are fears for the future of the shopping facilities in the town centre and concern over the fact that there is only one major food store, giving it a local monopoly. A report from a firm of London consultants, Drivers Jonas, had been commissioned and funded by Monmouthshire County Council.
John Crowther reported that there was concern over the large number of takeaway food outlets and the lack of retailers selling clothes, etc. He also highlighted the inadequacy of public transport and called for a motorway link to be built near Caldicot and for London trains to stop at Severn Tunnel Junction. He dealt with a number of environmental issues, pointing out that many local roundabouts were not landscaped and that signs pointing out attractions were old fashioned and uninspiring. Westend shopping centre was badly run down and the Comprehensive School buildings needed a lot of money spent on them.
Clive Hammersley, Head of Resources and Performance Management at Monmouthshire County Council, reported on economic issues. He referred to the high rents paid by shopkeepers in the town centre to Ravenseft, the property developers. He also pointed out that many people from Caldicot went outside the town, to Chepstow or Newport, to do their weekly shopping. The Drivers Jonas report showed that there were 19,000 people living in the 'Caldicot catchment area', spending 25 million per year on food. Only 10 million of this was spent within the Caldicot area. It was believed that the opening of a quality food store close to the town centre would draw much of this trade back into Caldicot. Discount stores such as Lidl had already expressed an interest in coming to central Caldicot. They would require a unit of 9,000 square feet. Stores such as Tesco had also expressed interest and would need about 20,000 square feet (in comparison to Somerfield's existing 13,500 feet). This could not be accommodated within the existing centre and so a suitable site would have to be found close by. Drivers Jonas had identified two possible sites. The first was an area around the Caldicot Town football field (part of the King George V playing fields). The second was a corner of the Comprehensive School playing fields, opposite the town library.
Councillor Jim Higginson pointed out that the trustees of the George V playing fields were totally against releasing the land. Mike Smith, Chair of the Comprehensive School governors, said that the governors had passed a resolution stating that they would look sympathetically upon any approach but only under certain conditions: that all the money from the sale of the land came to the school itself and not to Monmouthshire County Council; that a means could be found of redesigning the school site in order to ensure that there was no reduction in the facilities for outdoor education; that the money from the sale of the land was sufficient to pay the cost of redesigning the site.
In discussion from the floor there was considerable hostility to any suggestion that the George V playing fields be sold and also concern about the loss of open space at the Comprehensive School. Some speakers suggested that rather than developing new sites emphasis should be placed upon utilising the existing buildings within the town centre.
Several speakers referred to the high rents charged by Ravenseft and there was a general feeling that this was at the heart of many of the problems. There were calls for pressure to be put on the company.
The Regeneration Group will be meeting shortly to consider the points made at the meeting.

CASTLE CANNON RESTORED
The historic cannon at Caldicot Castle has been mounted on a replica 19th century cast iron gun carriage. The 12 pounder cannon originally belonged to Nelson's flagship HMS Foudroyant which was later purchased by Joseph Cobb, owner of the castle, and operated as a training ship. The work was sponsored by Chepstow Engineering, who supplied moving and lifting equipment.

LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD
Caldicot's Ian Virgo has been offered a part in a major Hollywood film. The film, Black Hawk Down, is set during the American invasion of Somalia in 1993 and will star Ewan McGregor and Ioan Gruffudd. It will be produced by Jerry Buckhelmer, who also produced Pearl Harbor. Ian was a pupil at Caldicot Comprehensive School and appeared in a number of school productions. He later studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London before taking up a career in acting.

ANOTHER BIG CAT SIGHTING
Following several 'sightings' of a mysterious 'big cat' in several parts of Gwent over the last few months, a couple have spotted a large feline creature in Caldicot. June and Ken Evans spotted the creature in a tree near their home in Longfellow Road. It was described as chocolate brown with orange and yellow stripes.

FLOOD DEFENCES TO BE IMPROVED
The Environment Agency has appointed a team of consultants to draw up proposals for the improvement of the sea defences along the Caldicot Levels. The area covered stretches along the coast from Sudbrook Pill to Newport.

POLICE SWOOP ON TRUANTS
37 pupils from Chepstow and Caldicot Comprehensive Schools were returned to school after being picked up by police in a 'truancy sweep' conducted in co-operation with local Educational Welfare Officers. Parents of the truants have been contacted and warned about their children's behaviour.

PENSIONER ATTACKED
Dick Twyford, a 66 year old partially-sighted pensioner, was pushed to the ground after being confronted by a gang of youths in the town centre at 1.30 in the morning.

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