CAMPAIGNERS battling to keep open Newport Visitor Centre have branded the decision to close it ‘shortsighted and a retrograde step’ and have vowed to keep up their protests.

The move to close the centre on Long Street and merge it with the town library building on Bridge Street will be made before February 28, 2018 following a decision by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority councillors at a recent meeting.

But Sandra Bayes, secretary of Newport Visitor Centre Action Group, says the plan is 'seriously flawed' and there is still time to reverse the decision and adopt one of the two alternative proposals put forward by either the action group or town council – both of which would involve keeping the building open.

”All those months when we thought the National Park was listening, they were simply waiting to tick their boxes so that they could sell the building,” said Mrs Bayes, a claim refuted by Park officials.

“The Newport visitor service is vital to the economy of the north east of the National Park.

“The Authority argues that they need to retrieve the capital from the building in order to distribute resources more equitably among Park communities.

“But look at a map. Newport is the most important settlement serving the broad hinterland of the north east, making up a large proportion of the National Park, the rest of which forms a thin coastal strip.

“Newport Visitor Centre is provenly effective and strategically located to reach the maximum number of people visiting this special area, and at minimal cost.

“The alternative means of delivery of information mooted by the authority are untested and cannot hope to reach 40,000 people a year, as the centre currently does in this hard-to-reach area.

“To throw this away will be a seriously flawed, shortsighted, retrograde step, not only for Newport, but for the National Park. Newport Community Forum will continue the fight to save Newport Visitor Centre.”

Tegryn Jones, chief executive of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, said: “The Authority strongly refutes the claims made by the Newport Visitor Centre Action Group and we have confidence in the process the authority has followed to reach its decision.

“Following a year-long period of formal community consultation and engagement, members of the authority voted in September to close Newport Tourist Information Centre and to refocus its visitor service provision in North Pembrokeshire.

“The authority is committed to adapting our services to meet the changing needs of visitors to North Pembrokeshire while managing the financial challenges facing the authority. We will be investing in a range of new initiatives in 2018 to support the wider tourism industry.

“We continue to work closely with a range of elected organisations in Newport and the county council to help support tourism locally. Visitor information will be available at the Park Authority’s Castell Henllys Iron Age Village site from 2018 onwards.

“The future of the authority’s building in Long Street, Newport will be discussed at a future meeting.”