In 2014, the council opened a shopping centre in the hope that retail might be the way forward. But, as it has across the country, in Newport the flight to online shopping has hit hard. The walk from the station takes the visitor through a depressing loop of boarded-up stores and abandoned premises. On the old high street, which was stripped bare of sizeable retailers when the new mall opened, only vaping shops appear to thrive. The Westgate Hotel, the place from which the soldiers burst out to murder the marching Chartists, is derelict.
“You go to Cardiff and everything seems on the up, it seems lively, vibrant,” says Jeff Challingsworth, a retired local government officer who now volunteers in the County club shop. “We’re… well I hate to think what the best way to describe Newport is. The derelict buildings, the closed shops, the homeless: I guess everywhere has those problems, but here, because we’re small, it magnifies it. And there’s no real beauty spots to take the eye away. You’ve seen the river?”