I was born and raised in Newport and have spent over 35 years of my life living in the town/city. Right up until the late 90s Newport was a simple yet very likeable town with lots going for it.
Sure, it's always been rough and ragged in places, but it wasn't overall a bad place, especially for the locals. Houses were affordable, the town centre actually had shops that weren't empty, and the nightlife was fantastic.
There were big plans to redevelop many parts of Newport before the 2008 financial crash, more specifically the city centre, which was well overdue a makeover. This included a £225 million Friars Walk development, a mini skyscraper containing luxury apartments, and pretty much anything and everything you can think of.
In preparation for the big makeover, many of Newport's city centre shops, especially around the bus station area were closed in preparation for demolition. But the demolition never came, at least not on time. Newport was left with a huge number of empty shops, and a lifeless city centre that was going nowhere.
Eventually, Newport got its Friars Walk shopping centre and new bus station in November 2015, a watered-down version costing 90 million. Newport also got a new train station, University and many road and pedestrian improvements around the city centre.
But it hasn't turned Newport into a premier city. There's still an abundance of empty shops and buildings in and around the city, including the new development. Many of the pubs and clubs which once entertained people have closed and often sit in disrepair. Serious crime and antisocial behaviour continues to grow year-on-year, and the traffic keeps on getting worse.
There's no denying that Newport has seen some big improvements in the last 10 years, and many young locals including myself have witnessed for the first time some huge projects, including hundreds (soon to be thousands) of new homes built in the city. But it's also allowed the moneygrubbing vultures to over inflate the prices of houses within the city, pricing out born and bred first-time buyers and those looking to upgrade.
Because the seven bridge tolls are being abolished, Newport is now painted as a magical destination for those living in the West Country, who can buy a three or four bedroom detached house for the price of a two-bedroom terraced.
But there's a reason house prices are (or at least were) reasonable in Newport, is because it's Newport. It's not London. It's not Birmingham. It's not Manchester. It's not Bristol. It's Newport. Newport doesn't have first-class shopping facilities. It doesn't have plentiful of well-paid jobs. It doesn't have a top-flight football or rugby team. It doesn't even have a Ferris Wheel.
You could as little as two years ago buy a nice three bedroom semi detached house for no more than £180,000 now the same property will cost you at least £40-£60,000 more. It's great if you're planning to sell and move to Merthyr Tydfil, but if you were hoping to move to a more desirable area of Newport, you've now been completely out priced.
For me personally, I have fallen out of love with Newport over the past 15 years or so, and despite major developments in recent years it hasn't vastly improved the city. Newport is littered with barren pieces of land, derelict buildings, feral council estates and a city centre which is half empty. But it's not all bad. There are some good venues such as the Celtic Manor if you like golf, Newport Velodrome if you like cycling, and Newport Wetlands if you fancy a bit of twitching.
Newport, like many towns and cities in UK has been badly affected by the 2008 financial crash and then later budget cuts. Despite the hype from those who want to sell Newport as a up-and-coming city with amazing facilities all at a fraction of the price of nearby Cardiff and Bristol, that simply isn't the truth.