Ex-Sainsbury’s site in Shaftesbury area of Newport set for £60m redevelopment
Original article written by Jo Barnes for the South Wales Argus published on 13th April 2015.
MULTI-million pound proposals for the redevelopment of a former Newport city centre supermarket site are set to be revealed.
The site, previously home to Sainsbury’s, is at the centre of a £60m scheme which could see the prime river Usk location totally transformed by owners the Fear Group.
The Bristol-based Fear Group has previously been involved in projects across Britain, the US and Latin America, says its scheme will involve ‘massive improvements’ to the eye-sore plot and river bank location.
Details have also emerged of a second scheme by the same group to locate and develop a factory site in the city centre into a £100m sustainable energy project creating some 300 new jobs.
A public meeting when residents will get the chance to give their views on the river front scheme will be staged in Newport this weekend (April 18).
Dr Stephen Fear, of the Fear Group, which bought the site back in 2010, told Business Argus he wanted to engage with the public and find out what they wanted to see on the Sainsbury’s site, which has lain empty since the supermarket moved along the river to its new store at Crindau.
Dr Fear, who is entrepreneur in residence and BIPC ambassador at the British Library in London, said the project would most likely see the site being ‘mixed-use’ with a residential. It has also been hinted that it could see some student accommodation.
He said: “We want to talk to the community about what we are doing, which will include making massive improvements to the riverside. We will be investing about £60m in the project.”
Dr Fear said his firm was also actively looking for a factory for a sustainable energy product within the city boundaries of Newport. He said he would be investing about £100m in that project and looking to employ about 300 people.
Dr Fear has long seen the potential in Newport, which is why he took the opportunity to buy the former Sainsbury’s site in Shaftsbury when it became vacant.
He said: “I think Newport is a great location and is a forward thinking city. It has great transport links and distribution links and I think the city has a great future. It also has an enthusiastic and skilled workforce. A lot has been done already in the city to give it a lift.”
Dr Fear is also very enthusiastic about the Western Powerhouse Region plans which see Bristol linking up with Newport and Cardiff in a cross-border region.
But he felt the tolls on both Severn crossings were a deterrent. He said the bridges benefit the whole economy of the UK by increasing economic activity and raising taxes and called for the tolls to be scrapped as soon as possible.
“People in Bristol think nothing of hopping in the car and driving down the M4towards Swindon, but the tolls make them think twice about driving in the other direction towards Wales,” he said.
He also said more should be done to raise the profile of both bridges by possibly renaming them.
“It would be good to have them called something sexier than the Severn Bridge and the Second Severn Crossing. We could then use them to promote the region like other places do with their bridges.”
Dr Fear said: “I am very enthusiastic about Newport and its future. It really has a lot going for it as a city. It is finally on the turn. The council are doing something positive for the city. We know it has got a bit of a way to go but it will get there.
“The community wants it, the city council wants it, the Welsh Government wants it and the national government recognises it. Newport has got a future and I think we will see a very different Newport in 10 or 20 years time.
“We saw that when we bought the Sainsbury’s site about five years ago. We have a research department looking at places all over the world and I had a gut feeling about Newport and that was confirmed by our research department. We came across the site and at that time we took advantage but always with a long term view.
“We intend to be involved with Newport for many years to come,” said Dr Fear.
The public consultation re the Sainsbury’s site will take place on April 18 at the Community Centre, Evans Street, Shaftesbury between 10.30am and 3.30pm.
Dr Fear said a planning application for the site would be lodged with Newport City Council before the summer.