Joyce Watson AM, Politically Speaking column for the County Times
Did you know that the £95 million Newtown bypass has been funded by the Welsh Labour Government? I ask because reading press reports by certain Conservative politicians, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Tories had paid for it! Anyway, now that I’ve got that off my chest, what people really want to know is when will it open? In the Senedd last week I asked for an update. Answering for the government, Rebecca Evans AM said she was confident it will be within the next two months. She went on to talk about the legacy of the building project, in terms of the apprenticeships, training and jobs it has supported. And on the theme of legacy, she also said Powys County Council and the town council have been asked to consult local people on proposals to name bridges and alike along the route, to help market Newtown nationally and internationally.
Elsewhere, the Welsh Government is investing in the environment. Two new Powys projects will share a £90,000 pot of money, it was announced this week. A fully accessible boardwalk and bird hide, and two new fishing platforms made from recyclable materials, will be built at Llandrindod Lake Park. While Radnorshire Wildlife Trust will receive funding to restore, enhance and manage a range of natural habitats in the Wye catchment. The county will also benefit from a new £50,000 project, led by the Vincent Wildlife Trust, which aims to engage local communities in efforts to protect our native pine martins – to ensure the recovering population survives in the long term.
As well as protecting our natural heritage, the government is helping to safeguard our cultural heritage for future generations. Last week it announced that Powis Castle’s fifteenth century Book of Hours will be one of the archive treasures preserved this year by the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust (NMCT). Since 2008, the partnership with the Trust has seen nearly £300,000 put towards the conservation of Wales’ written heritage, all of which is now publicly accessible.
I’ll finish where I started, in Newtown. Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Hannah Blythyn this month announced £1 million to help transform Ladywell House into a modern, flexible workspace for new and expanding businesses. It’s a joint venture with the council, part of the Welsh Government’s flagship Targeted Regeneration Investment programme, which is allocating £100m of capital funding over three years to support town centre regeneration projects across Wales. I realise that is a lot of spending announcements to pack into one column but credit where it’s due!