The Future for Newport and South Wales
By David Dean
NEWPORT’S leaders need to gear up for potentially dramatic social change over the next ten years, according to one of Britain’s foremost social commentators.
Mal Fletcher said creeping urbanisation, an ageing population and the future of technology present both challenges and opportunities for the city.
He leads the 2020Plus think tank – which tracks social change and predicts the trends that leaders may encounter.
They’re themes he’s due to explore when he speaks in Newport next month.
Mr Fletcher said that regional cities across Europe are experiencing growth, with 50 per cent of people on the continent expected to live in urban centres by 2015.
He said the ballooning population will lead to a greater demand for public services, energy supplies, as well as tensions between the need of land for housing and for agriculture.
Indeed, the provision of power could become increasingly more localised, with communities driving efforts to generate own electricity rather than seeking it from the National Grid.
Local authorities could become minor power firms, potentially through renewable energy, while recycling their own materials.
The isolation of city life will also give people greater opportunities to work in the mental health sector – with demands for stress management and anxiety counselling.
“One in four Britain’s already face irrational fears,” Mr Fletcher said. “A big part of that is because of urban isolation. As cities grow that need to connect and feelings of alienation are going to grow.”
And with Newport being one of the UKs most 19 most severely unaffordable cities, urban planners will also need to work with architects and private developers to create creative attractive medium-density low-rise housing developments, he said, and not the high-rise urban sprawls of the past.
High-technology industries such as biotech and nanotechnology will also present opportunities to Newport over the next few years.
Mr Fletcher said ever changing technologies will put demands on local governments to become ever more tech savvy in fields like communication and social networking, potentially leaving them out of the loop within five to six years if they fail to do so, he said.
Cities like Newport will also need to provide infrastructure for high-technology companies to bloom, providing attractive enclaves for companies to gather together and for professionals to live in.