A DARK CLOUD HAS GATHERED OVER NEWPORT SO HERE'S THE 'SAVE OUR MURAL' CAMPAIGN STAFF'S RESPONSE TO THE REFUSAL OF A PRESERVATION LISTING FOR NEWPORT'S CHARTIST MURAL AND THE COUNCIL'S SUBSEQUENT PRESS RELEASE (http://www.newport.gov.uk/_dc/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.pressrelease&contentid=CONT716512):
When the Save Our Mural campaign staff had its meeting with Newport Council's Chief Exec, Will Godfrey (firstname.lastname@example.org), and Executive Planning Director, Sheila Davies (email@example.com), at the Civic Centre two months ago we were reassured of their intent to save the mural if it was deemed technically feasible in the report they had commissioned from their independent engineers (Mann Williams).
Whilst we have not yet been granted access to this report (paid for with our tax money), we understand from the document issued last week by Cadw (dated 12/09/13 - ref: http://bit.ly/CadwPreservationRefusal) that Mann Williams' report has indeed "established that relocation may be technically possible…".
We therefore urge Will Godfrey and Sheila Davies to honour their commitment and seek funding from the Welsh Government to at least help remove and store Newport's Chartist Mural until the commercial development's dust has settled. All other arguments against such an initiative are spurious.
For example, we understand from Cadw's preservation refusal document that Mann Williams cite a price tag of £600,000 for the mural's relocation, yet this figure has not been substantiated by inviting a single competitive tender and - strangely - without consultation to the renowned mosaic specialist, Oliver Budd (son of the mosaic's creator, Kenneth Budd) who is the only man who actually knows the detail of how the mosaic was originally constructed/affixed and who successfully relocated his father's huge JFK mural in Birmingham (ref: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkZG0z4BvLE).
We also understand from the preservation refusal document that Cadw were informed by Newport Council that "it would be virtually impossible to find an alternative location that could take the weight of the panels and offer the necessary weather protection". This misrepresentation flies in the face of Sheila Davies' personal reassurance during our meeting that there are at least two sites (which she discussed with us in detail over a map of the city) that could accommodate the mural if its relocation was deemed technically feasible by Mann Williams. Furthermore, she stated that she already had a site in mind for the storage of the mural while redevelopment work was ongoing.
Finally, we understand that the Council has informed Cadw that: "the additional time [that] would be required to be added to the demolition process would also jeopardise the delivery of the redevelopment scheme." We consider this argument as disingenuous (at best) as Oliver Budd and his contractor partners only took a week to remove/store Birmingham's JFK mural and, in any event, the removal work for Newport's mural could be carried out concurrently with other demolition/development work which will clearly take months to complete (and has been planned for years!).
We therefore conclude this response by once more urging Newport Council and our elected officials to do the right thing by Newport's citizens - past, present and future - and SAVE OUR MURAL!!
The mural offers a unique insight to the history of the city as well as celebrating the democracy won by the people of Wales for the whole of Great Britain. Its demolition in the name of development is a denial of the historical facts that it so clearly portrays. It is indicative and representative of the poor town planning and decision making that has been one of the major factors in Newport's decline over the last 10 years or more.
We say: No more! We will not let you deprive our city, our families, our children and future generations of their heritage. We are asking for the mural to be incorporated into the design of the Friars Walk shopping centre, thus sending a clear message to the public that the council and the developers are socially aware and respectful of the history of this Welsh city.