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A GRADE-II listed building that was devastated by fire is set to be converted to provide accommodation for homeless people.

Plans to convert the upper two floors of Central Chambers in Stow Hill, Newport, into 10 bedsits have been approved by the city council.

The proposals will also see reception and office and a new coffee shop open on the ground floor of the building.

The accommodation will be managed by the housing association Pobl, with 12 people employed as part of the development.

Plans to convert the building to provide five flats had been approved in 2016, before a fire in November of that year “severely damaged” the property.

Works have since been carried out to repair the building, with proposals for homeless accommodation lodged following a “shift in the need for accommodation of this type”.

“As a result of the Covid emergency, there is a pressing need for more accommodation for homeless people, and also a need to provide ongoing support for those without a home,” a planning statement said.

“Pobl housing association, therefore, propose to purchase Central Chambers and to deliver accommodation suitable for this purpose comprising 10 smaller residential units on the upper floors and a reception centre for the homeless at ground floor level.

“Also proposed is a retail unit which, it is hoped, can be used as a café, providing valuable work experience to some of the residents.”

Newport council planners have backed the plans with no objections.

In a planning report, the council’s head of regeneration and regulatory services said: “I welcome the proposal to provide residential accommodation here.

“This development will help address this unmet need and allow households in housing need to access suitable and secure long-term accommodation.”

The report says there is an unmet need for 40 one-bedroom and seven two-bedroom affordable homes in the Stow Hill ward each year.

This need has become “even more acute” during the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to “a significant increase” in the number of households being supported in temporary accommodation, the report says.

Changes to convert the building will mainly be internal, with few changes to its outside appearance.

The proposals intend to restore the building to the condition it would have been in if the original plans in 2016 had gone ahead.

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