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Plummeting and Soaring: Newport and Merthyr Tydfil

From Planet 213

Hugh Adams contrasts local government policy in Newport and Merthyr Tydfil, and describes the profound effects this is having on the culture, economy and morale of these communities.

Adversity has the same effects on institutions, communities and individuals: usually it causes their spirits to plummet, but in other cases, against all odds, their souls can soar. This is a tale of two communities, much alike; yet for one it is the worst of times, for the other things are improving dramatically. Newport and Merthyr Tydfil are my subjects; what they have in common seems obvious enough: substantial and cliché misrepresentation accompanying 150 years of gross exploitation. Their industrial histories differ but both have experienced similar downward trajectories, encompassing raped then sterilised landscapes; broad spectrum postindustrial blight; opportunities missed (frequently through misplaced governmental fiat but equally through selfengendered bad planning); misplaced (though sporadically successful) regeneration attempts; regenerative opportunities passed over; remoteness from power centres, among many other misfortunes. On the plus side, both have superb assets to be optimised: great monuments of civil engineering and industrial processes; unique or highly distinctive man-made structures; easy access to superb landscapes, and so on. Each community is extraordinarily well-endowed in having a long and rich – indeed world-class – political history, distinguished particularly by episodes of extremely vigorous protest and bedrock links with radical socialism. So, in the light of such abundant commonality, what differentiates them now?



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