By Nicholas Thomas
Once a proud feature of Newport’s riverbanks in the city’s industrial heyday, a now “fire damaged and derelict” factory building near the A48 could collapse unless urgent repairs are made.
The maltings, next to the Southern Distributor Road (SDR) bridge, has been Grade-II listed by Cadw as a rare and “very good example” of that type of industrial building, but in recent years it has succumbed to a litany of problems, including a fire in 2005 which “completely destroyed” the roof.
That incident happened while refurbishment works were taking place, and since then the building has fallen into disuse, except as an “informal shelter” by homeless people and as a target for plunder by metal thieves who stole steel columns and girders – further damaging the building as they did so.
Newport City Council’s planning committee met on Monday, deciding unanimously to prepare to serve an urgent works notice on the building’s owner unless they started emergency repairs.
The reason for the work is threefold, the committee heard. Preserving the building would mean saving “one of the few remaining historic links with Newport’s maritime past,” a council report read.
There is also the city’s reputation at stake – the condition of maltings, which sits next to the SDR, “blights this prominent location much to the detriment of this locale and the wider area”, the report said.
Thirdly, the condition of the building could pose a safety risk to the public, senior planning enforcement officer Neil Gunther told the committee, explaining that an empty building could attract “unwanted attention”.
Councillor Allan Screen said it was “very sad” to hear of the listed building’s problems, and fellow committee member John Reynolds said reports of anti-social behaviour and thefts meant he “can’t think of any reason not to” pressure the owner into making the necessary repairs.
The maltings had been “deteriorating for the best part of 20 years”, Cllr Reynolds added.
Mr Gunther said there was some optimism the works would be carried out this month, and the owner “does seem to be engaging with us now [and] does seem to be moving forward”.
But the longer-term future of the maltings remains unclear. Cllr Screen asked whether there were any plans “to use the shell of the building and put something else there”.
Mr Gunther said the “majority of the building [was] on the cusp” and the roof had “gone completely”, but there had been talk previously of reviving the maltings.
“One of the projects was for a hotel, [another was] for housing – it has got potential,” he added.