I recall being in a meeting with a Welsh Office Minister when I was Chairman of the Development Board for Rural Wales almost 20 years ago. Under discussion was a by-pass for Newtown, in Montgomeryshire. I regarded it as a by-pass for Mid Wales. At the time the cost was being talked of as around £15 million. I reckoned that Mid Wales would benefit more from the investment of that sum of money into a by-pass than into the factory building which constituted most of my organisation's investment. Improving access to a larger, more populous market would increase the confidence of the private sector to invest in the region. We reckoned it could be up to 10 years before the Newtown By-pass became a reality. 10 years out already.
Today, 20 years on, the Assembly Government has published options along which a new Newtown By-pass would be constructed. OK, its only one step forward, but its an important step. My view is that this by-pass would be hugely important to promotion of the economy of the part of Wales where I've spent so much of my life trying to create new business. When I learn of new really important announcements which signal greater opportunity for business in Rural Wales, it fills me with excitement.
Today's publication proposes three main options with another three variations. All of them are to the South of the town, and all follow the same route for most of their length. The differences apply only to the Western end. The most expensive is over £50 million, while others options are getting on for £10 million less. The consultation period lasts until November. I hope that the town can agree on a preferred route quickly, and that we can translate today's initial proposals into reality without much further delay.
If we can move quickly to an early date for delivery of the By-pass, Montgomeryshire's attitude to the National Assembly will be transformed. Since it was created, Mid Wales has become the forgotten part of Wales. Its almost as if Mid Wales doesn't exist. Perhaps the decision to abandon the M4 relief road (cost estimated to be one billion) has enabled the Assembly Government to consider schemes elsewhere in Wales - and a good thing too. Perhaps the people of Montgomeryshire will, at long last, discover a reason to applaud the creation of a National Assembly.