This is the website of the Newport Visitor Centre Action Group.
The Action Group was formed in October 2016 at a Community Meeting, in response to the threatened closure by the National Park of the building on Long Street with the objective of Saving the Information Centre for the Community. See history
12th July: Bad news. The Town Council says it cannot reopen the Visitor Service for the summer season. We were unable to attend the Town Council meeting on 30th June, but the Town Clerk has kindly given us this report on the Visitor Centre status. "The following points were made on Monday at the meeting. The Visitor centre building will not be available for use during this summer season, firstly because the lease has not been finalised yet and secondly because there will need to be internal works in preparation for the move of the Library and the setting up of the Visitor Service. For this reason the CAT group will be coordinating with Ewan Rees and PCNPA to provide Newport with information for the tourists this summer". Ewan Rees is the National Park seasonal ranger employed to serve the North for 4 months from 1st June. We have written to the Town Council and the National Park to ask how exactly Ewan will serve Newport and how visitors will find him. We have also asked the Town Council for information about the work of their Community Asset Transfer group and plans for re-opening the Visitor Centre. Click to see correspondence with Town Clerk.
We continue to offer to help, but without a response from the Town Council, and the National Park has told the Forum that negotiations by them are solely through the Town Council. Click to see the reply to our letter of 23rd June.
On 28th May the Town Council sent a questionnaire to those who had responded in the Town Council's Survey to say they were willing to help with the Visitor Service available here. Click to view this. The Forum is waiting for the Town Council to call a meeting of those interested to do so. With more active support to the Town Council, we think it might have been possible to get something open this summer but very unfortunately the Forum is being kept at arm’s length.
23rd June: We have written again to Tegryn Jones, Chief Executive of the National Park, expressing our appreciation for the effort put in by the Authority in trying to facilitate the Town Council restarting a Visitor Service this season, and to encourage use of the building by the National Park's new seasonal ranger for the North. You can see a copy of our letter by clicking here.
13th June. Latest Status: At the Town Council Meeting on 30th April, it was finally agreed to release the Business Plan for the proposed combined Library and Visitor Centre and future extension providing Town Council/Community meeting space and a Town Council office.
The Community Forum's Visitor Centre Action Group has requested to post this information on this website and we will add our comments for your information when we eventually receive consent and do so.
We are trying to obtain clarification on a number of matters: especially we want to know how plans are progressing to get a visitor service in operation for this Summer Season and we have offered to help but await a response. We will post more news and information as soon as we can obtain it.
There is an item on the Town Website dated 23rd May, but this doesn’t answer many questions. Please see http://www.newport-pembs.co.uk
23rd May: Please see this Western Telegraph article. This reports good progress, especially that the Council will be allowed to sublet to the Library and Visitor Service rather than offer licences which offered no security of tenure but which the National Park had previously insisted upon.
12th May: More good news. The Officer Report for next Wednesday's meeting of the Authority is up on the PCNPA website. Click here to view it. The Members are being asked to authorise Officers to proceed with the documentation of a new lease of the Visitor Centre building to Newport Town Council at a peppercorn rent for a period of 30 years.
24th April: VISITOR CENTRE UPDATE FROM THE TOWN COUNCIL. Progress is being made in agreeing a lease of the building to the Town Council. The Town Council website gives more detail under NEWS on the website here http://www.newport-pembs.co.uk/ We copy first few sentences here:
"Newport Town Council's Expression of Interest with its comprehensive business plan was chosen by Pembrokeshire Coast National Parks to be the preferred applicant for the Community Asset Transfer of the Visitor Centre building on Long Street. This is very exciting news and is the result of many months of hard work by the Town Council and Newport Library Working Group representatives on the Newport Town Council Community Asset Working Group. The National Park has prepared draft Heads of Terms of the proposed lease between the National Park and Newport Town Council. These terms have been approved in principle, subject to contract, by the Council, and the National Park has instructed its solicitors to prepare the draft lease."
There is no detail about the contents of the business plan, which the Town Council are still refusing to release.
6th April: More good news. At the 28th March meeting (see below) the National Park Authority agreed to authorise Officers to progress detailed discussions with Newport Town Council in pursuit of a possible Community Asset Transfer (CAT). However, some Members raised the concerns expressed in the letter cited below. It was suggested that a license be granted to the community to allow a voluntary service to be run throughout the season, but apparently officers expressed concern about a half-baked service and the problem of raising expectations.
Newport's visitors at present have no Visitor Service, and our research shows there is very little of the promised information in mitigation available at present. A letter from Sandra Bayes to Tegryn Jones has drawn attention to this hiatus and can be seen by clicking here, although in his reply Tegryn Jones appears to believe that the National Park has done or is doing everything necessary.
We remain fully supportive of the Town Council plan to aquire the building, subject to the provision of an interpretive Visitor Service and have offered to assist. However we still await a copy of the plan, so are unable to comment further. We hope the Town Council will soon be more open about their plans, and seek involvement from the wider community as they work with the National Park on the CAT.
24th March: Good news. It is proposed that National Park Members consider the bid from Newport Town Council as the sole contender. The report from the National Park Projects and Properties Group on disposal of Newport Visitor Centre building to the meeting of the full National Park Authority which will take place in Pembroke Dock next Wednesday 28th March is available to read on the PCNPA website or by clicking here. The recommendation is "That Member’s authorise Officers to progress detailed discussions with Newport Town Council to the exclusion of all others in pursuit of a possible Community Asset Transfer of its premises at Long Street in Newport. It is proposed that discussions progress on a leasehold basis and that an update on those discussions should form the subject of a further paper for consideration by Members within the next 6 months." Whilst it is likely that the recommendation will be accepted, the report draws attention to the "recent and substantial reduction in the Authority’s revenue funding from Welsh Government, circa £400k over 2 years". We still have not seen a copy of the Town Council proposal, but hope to be able to do so after a decision on this is made at the Town Council meeting on Monday 26th March.
Update on the Town Council Survey: The results have been published and posted in town and on the Town Council website. The overwhelming majority (99%) of the almost 400 people who responded think that Newport should have a Visitor Centre and support the Town Council plans to bid to lease the building and house both a Visitor centre and the Library. A substantial majority (over 70%) agreed the visitor Centre should have a retail outlet. This is a very impressive response in a very short period, and we would like to thank everyone who used this opportunity to respond. You can see the full results of the survey on the Town Council website by clicking:
25th February: At the Extraordinary Meeting of Newport Town Council we were pleased to hear all councillors present make a firm commitment that the plan will include a visitor centre.
There was a good turnout from the public, about 12 of whom were present.
Despite our protests, the meeting was closed to the public for the discussion of the plan. Thus we are not able to give any details as to what is being proposed. However, it was agreed to ask the National Park as soon as possible to agree to full publication of the documents. We welcome that the Council recognised the public’s wish to end the secrecy over the proposals.
It was resolved under 4.0 (see agenda) that the Council would not use the existing building for its own purposes unless all tenants using the building agreed or an extension was built.
22nd February 2018 -Town Council Survey: We would like to thank all of our supporters who submitted almost 100 responses to the Town Council Survey via our website. The overwhelming conclusion from the responses submitted through us is that the local businesses, residents and visitors who responded want a visitor service to continue, as similar as possible to that which we had before. We look forward to hearing the full survey results from the Town Council and we trust we have been of assistance.
The Extraordinary Meeting of the Newport Town Council (mentioned below) is being held tomorrow, Friday 23rd February at 7pm. We will attend and encourage others to do so. Our objective is to represent and report back to the community on the proposed plan for the building. You can see the agenda by clicking here. We do not think it is in the public interest, and therefore legal, to exclude the public from the entire meeting as is proposed and we will be arguing that the public should be allowed to attend to learn what is intended. All meetings should be open to the public except in limited defined circumstances which do not apply here. We encourage others to attend and make their own submissions that this exclusion is not in the public interest.
As reported below, we asked the Town Council to make representations to the National Park to keep the Visitor Centre open and to take the opportunity offered in the letter from Tegryn Jones (click to view this letter) where he says “we will be happy to discuss with interested parties any role we may have in the future”. The Town Council refused our request. Following this the Visitor Centre was closed and is likely to remain so over the next tourist season.
16th February 2018: We attended the Town Council working group meeting as members of the public on February 6th but despite asking to contribute to the discussion on the proposed visitor service we were asked to leave. However our protests resulted in an email asking for a summary of our views on the future of the building. We have sent this and you can see a copy by clicking here.
A questionaire has also gone out to the public and you can see and print a copy by clicking here. It would be good if as many of our supporters as can would complete it and return it to the Town Clerk before Feb 19th. We have put a copy of the survey onto our website - it is very quick and easy to submit a response from this page: town-council-survey.htm
There will be an Extraordinary meeting of the Town Council at Unit 3 on Friday 23rd Feb to discuss the CAT application. We will argue again that the public are entitled to attend as the Visitor Centre future use is already in the public domain and it is in the public interest that there should be openness and transparency about what is being put in the application for Visitor Centre. We cannot understand why the Town Council is being so secretive. We would welcome your comments on the latest developments.
25th January 2018: Newport Visitor Centre has now been closed, notwithstanding letters from ourselves and others asking the National Park to keep the Centre open until the possibility of a Community Asset Transfer which might keep the centre open was resolved. Newport now has no Visitor Centre, which was not what was implied by the National Park at the meeting on 29th November (details below).
We are now in the hands of the Town Council, who intend to submit an application to lease the building under a process known as Community Asset Transfer (CAT).
The Park has asked estate agent J J Morris to handle the CAT and the relevant documents can be obtained from their Fishguard Office or you can see our copy by clicking here. Warning - large document. Responses are due by 12 noon on 28th February.
Newport Town Council has invited tenders to prepare their Expression of Interest in a CAT, to be received by 29th December. Two were received and were considered at an extraordinary general meeting of the Town Council on 22nd January, of which we were unaware.
What are the Town Council Plans? We have received no reply to our letter to the Town Council requesting that they approach the National Park to support our request that the Visitor Service remain open whilst negotiations proceed. Nor have we heard that any letters from our supporters have had any sort of acknowledgement or response from the Town Council. The Newport Visitor Centre Action Group has written again to the Town Council seeking for the joint business plan prepared by us, together with the Community Library, and endorsed by the Town Council last summer, be included within the EOI and that NVCAG be fully involved in its preparation. You can view our latest letter by clicking here. We intend to raise these issues at the next Town Council Meeting on 29th January.
We think the Town Council need to make clear to the Community their plans for the building. We have always assumed this would include a viable Visitor Service and are fully supportive providing this is the case. However, there are some signs that this is not what is planned by all members of the Town Council. While some Town Councillors have firmly stated that there will be a Visitor Service others have been ambiguous or implied that a service would simply be handing out a few leaflets from the library or that it would have to be built up from a limited start.
Action needed: If you were not convinced of the need to write to Newport Town Council by our last post, please believe us now. It is very important that the Town Council understands the strength of public opinion and how vital the Visitor Service is to Newport. We fear that at least some Councillors have forgotten the primary reason for retaining the Visitor Centre and need to be reminded, urgently.
You should write to the Clerk, Ms. Lowri Evans firstname.lastname@example.org (Please copy us.)
You can also lobby any of the Town Councillors you meet. Full details of the Town Council members can be seen on their website at http://www.newport-pembs.co.uk/index.php/councillors
To our dismay a closure notice (extract to the right) was posted on the board at Newport Visitor Centre on 3rd January 2018. We had previously written to Tegryn Jones, asking him to keep the Visitor Centre open, pending agreement with the Town Council to lease the building and supply both Visitor and Library Services. We received this discouraging reply which we think was at odds with the statements made at the National Park Meeting on 29th November. Nevertheless the letter left open the option of a temporary extension of opening so we had hoped this would follow. In the letter we note in particular that he said "we have little idea what type of service any interested party will seek to provide in the building therefore I don’t think there is an issue of continuity of service".
Newport now has no visitor service at all, which was not what National Park Members decided last September, or what Tegryn Jones himself implied on 29th November when we wrote down the following statements as he made them: "The Park would have a presence in Newport in future" "We will participate in the building" "I can’t see any scenario where we would remove the interpretation that’s there already and we would be happy to periodically update that"
The Town Council has submitted an "Expression of Interest" in acquiring the building as a community asset via a process known as "Community Asset Transfer" (CAT). You can see this document here. We have always assumed this would include a viable Visitor Service and are fully supportive providing this is the case. However, there are some signs that this is not what is planned by all members of the Town Council. While some Town Councillors have firmly stated there will be a Visitor Service others have been ambiguous or implied that a service would simply be handing out a few leaflets from the library or that it would have to be built up from a limited start. The CAT letter is not clear on the intentions.
We are writing to the Town Council asking them to write to the National Park to state that it was the clear wish of the community and visitors to keep a Visitor Service and asking for the current Visitor Centre to be re-opened pending completion of the CAT negotiations. These are expected to take many months. We will let you know here of the reply.
Please make your views known: You can make your views felt by writing to the Town Council, asking for an unambiguous commitment to be made to run a Visitor Service in the building (if a lease is agreed). Please state your reasons, for example that your business benefits from the Visitor Service or that your visitors rely on it.
There is a Town Council Meeting next Monday (8th January). Write before then if possible.
You could also write to the National Park asking for the Centre to be reopened. Please write to the Chief Executive, copying your letter to the Chairperson, Gwyneth Hayward, asking for the Visitor Service to continue throughout the CAT negotiations to enable a seamless transfer should the community succeed in obtaining a satisfactory lease. You can email Tegryn Jones at TegrynJ@pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk and Gwyneth Hayward at email@example.com
We attended the National Park Meeting on 29th November when disposal of Newport Visitor Centre was on the Agenda.
There was a marked change in the attitude of the Officers, such has been the force of public opinion expressed to the National Park.
The Chair started by congratulating the Community on their commitment to retaining a Visitor Service. One Member said his mail box had never been so full! We would like to thank all of our supporters who have written to Members and the Officers, signed our petition (1,500 signatures) or made comments in the Centre’s Visitor Book.
Members have accepted that they voted for an integrated Library and Visitor Service in Newport and recognise this is what the community and visitors want.
The Chief Executive did not repeat the threat that there would be no service in Newport in future. Instead, he said "The Park would have a presence in Newport", "We will discuss how we implement the integrated Library and Visitor Service", "I can’t see any scenario where we would remove the interpretation that’s there already and we would be happy to periodically update that". However, as one Member pointed out at the time "There is a lot of trust involved here". The Chief Executive's statements were not resolutions by the Authority.
It was agreed that the National Park will now consider a lease to a community organisation through a Community Asset Transfer (CAT).
The Town Council has already submitted an expression of interest in a CAT. If they achieve this, they will incorporate the Community Library and Visitor Service into the building. The CAT opportunity will be advertised by the Park to give others the same opportunity.
Our task now is to persuade the National Park (a) to continue to keep the Visitor Service operating until negotiations are satisfactorily completed and (b) to continue to support a Visitor Service thereafter.
We also need to support and encourage the Town Council to ensure they include a full Visitor Service as well as the library within their plan for the Centre and to ensure this plan is acceptable to the wider Community.
Please write letters of support to the Town Council, especially if your business values the Visitor Service, your visitors rely on it, or you would like to help in future (copying your letters to us.) Full details of the Town Council members can be seen on their website by clicking here.
We will monitor carefully how things go and keep you informed through this website and through our occasional newsletters. If you would like to receive newsletters you can sign up on our contact page.
LETTERS TO MEMBERS : Members of the National Park are being asked to approve plans to sell the current building at their next meeting on 29th November. We do not believe this is a valid option due to errors in procedure, nor do we believe the National Park has taken proper account of many other factors. Please see our two most recent letters sent by post to all Members of the Authority. Our first letter, dated 20th November 2017, can be seen by clicking here. You can also click here to see our second letter, dated 27th November. This was sent when we had seen the minutes of the previous meeting.
If you oppose the closure (see details below) please write urgently to the Members of the National Park, ahead of the next meeting of the Authority on 29th November. Members need to be persuaded by the weight of public opinion to reconsider.
You could consider making the following points:
We need as many people as possible to approach the Members directly asking that they revisit their decision on the future of the Centre. Contact details of National Park Members are here and you can usually click a link to send an email from this document. It is a copy of the details to be found at http://www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/default.asp?PID=354
While it may be a waste of your time in writing to the Chief Executive, you are also encouraged to write to the two Assembly Members for the area. You might wish to express your feelings about the value of the Centre in supporting the tourist economy and how the wishes of so many are being ignored.
Paul Davies AM Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire 20 Upper Market Street Haverfordwest. SA61 1QA
Paul.Davies@assembly.wales (01437) 766425
Lady Eluned Morgan AM Regional Member. 19 Cartlett Haverfordwest Pembrokeshire SA61 2LH
Eluned.Morgan@assembly.wales or National Assembly for Wales, CF99 1NA Phone: 0300-200-7310
23rd November: The minutes of the meeting of the 27th September of the National Park Authority at which "it was RESOLVED that Option 3 as detailed in the report be approved (that is, to incorporate tourist information into Newport Community Library) with closure of the public facing elements of the Newport Tourist Information Centre (TIC) by no later than the 28th February 2018" are now up on Authority's website. Click here to view.
You can also see the report entitled UPDATE ON THE DISPOSAL OF THE AUTHORITY’S PREMISES AT LONG STREET, NEWPORT by clicking this link. This report recommends that Members "authorise Officers to proceed with the disposal of the Authority’s legal interest in its premises at Long Street, Newport"
Newport Visitor Centre Action Group continues to seek to challenge the Authority that the 27th September decision was not properly made.
We called a Public Meeting on the 18th November to consider the present position. The meeting was packed, and those present were again unanimous in their desire to keep the National Park Visitor Centre in the present building and expressed their frustration that the Members could not see the value of the Centre to the town and tourism in this part of the Park.
The Officers were heavily criticised for their short sightedness, failure to pay any attention to the wishes of their visitors and community and their lack of business acumen in closing a successful service which is vital to the local economy. If it isn’t broken why mend it? The untested alternative means of delivery of information were met with astonishment, ridicule and anger. Please see the Officer's report dated 20th September which discusses the options particularly the last pages which describe the proposed new initiatives.
There was wholesale condemnation of the attitude of the Chief Executive in threatening that Newport would now have no tourist information of any kind because the Community Library would not agree with the Officers’ Option to move National Park Visitor Services into library premises which are inadequate to receive them.
Responding to the wishes of the meeting, the Town Council stated that, if the Centre does close, then their intention is to continue to seek to acquire the building for both the Visitor Service and the Community Library to occupy together.
13th November: Please see our reply to the letter from the CEO (Tegryn Jones) which is referenced below. Our reply points out the errors of procedure in the meeting which took the decision, attempts to corrects some of the statements in the letter and invited Tegryn Jones to attend the meeting on 16th November. This reply to the Chief Executive and the Chairman also points out that, as the Members’ decision cannot be implemented, there is no valid resolution as to the future of the Newport Visitor Centre.
In his reply, the CEO states that he has every confidence in the procedure and as the Library now rejects the approved option, "this now means there will be no tourist information provision of any kind in Newport". We condemn this attitude and remind him that this is not the members wish. They thought that they were agreeing to the provision of an integrated Visitor and Library Service. The Officers’ intention is to replace Newport’s Visitor Service and building by making Castel Henllys the hub for information in the North East, and £10,000 is already being spent there in 2017/18. Another is by providing information about the National Park in the new state of the art library in Haverfordwest.
The Community Library Group have written to the Chief Executive to explain in detail why their option (running an integrated Visitor and Library service from the current library building) is not and never has been an option; the building is inadequate in many ways especially on grounds of health and safety. There has been no reply.
The National Park Authority Members voted on a last minute proposal, put forward by Officers as their recommendation – to move a tourist information service into the library premises - which had not been consulted upon at all.
Both the Chairperson, Gwyneth Hayward and the Chief Executive knew that this was not a valid proposal. They had been told so before the meeting by the Community Library Group, who are the tenants of the building and who had rejected any proposal that the Visitor Service move there. The officer responsible for the Report, the Director of Delivery and Discovery, assured the Group he would inform Members of this at the Authority’s meeting, but he did not do so.
Thus, the decision to close the Centre has been reached by means of irregular procedure. The resolution was invalid. It should fall. We have written to the CEO and Chairperson (see our letter) regarding the invalid resolution and received this reply from the CEO which does not acknowledge the shortcomings of the vote, claims the consultation was adequate and states that "there will be no TIC provision of any kind in Newport" now.
We believe that the National Park should now review the whole situation and that the community’s proposals should be revisited.
26th October: The Tivyside Advertiser reports on our plans to continue the fight.
28th September 2017: PARK AUTHORITY VOTES TO CLOSE CENTRE: On 27th September, the National Park Authority meeting voted to accept the recommendation, sprung upon us at the last moment, and close the Centre no later than 28th February. We were present at the meeting but not allowed to speak. None of the members present effectively presented our case; in fact most of the information we had sent was ignored – for example the fact that the Community Library Group, as lessees of their building, had written to the National Park insisting that the proposal to move the information centre into the library premises was unworkable and it should not be presented to Members, to be told that their view would be communicated to the Members. It was not. Instead he recommended it as the preferred option. We feel very let down by the National Park.
Following the meeting we were sent the following press release, dated 27th September.
Newport Tourist Information Centre. A Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority spokesperson commented: "At today’s (27 September) meeting of the National Park Authority, Members voted to close Newport Tourist Information Centre by the end of February 2018 and to refocus its visitor service provision in North Pembrokeshire. The Authority will now engage in discussions with Pembrokeshire County Council and the community of Newport to explore the option of delivering a joint library and tourism service at the existing library premises in Newport. A report on the future of the Authority’s building in Long Street, Newport, will be presented to a forthcoming meeting of the Authority".
Older news has been moved to the NEWS page.
Read our history page for more background details.
This site will be updated with more information as we get it.
Last updated 18th June 2018