COMPANIES who convert buildings in Newport city centre into housing could be exempt from paying the council for the privilege, as part of a draft proposal being looked at to boost regeneration.

Cash, known as section 106 money, is usually paid to local authorities by companies building in their area, which then goes back to things such as schools and community projects.

The draft plan, being considered internally by Newport councillors until Wednesday, suggests setting up a temporary exemption for schemes where up to 30 residential units will be created inside existing buildings.

If approved by the cabinet member for regeneration John Richards, the proposal will go out for a six-week consultation. The exemption would not apply to new builds.

Bringing commercial buildings into residential use is part of an overall £250 million regeneration plan for Newport city centre, including a £15 million grant from Welsh Government’s Vibrant and Viable Places scheme.

The report suggests providing more homes will boost footfall and improve safety at night. Officers say they do not anticipate schools would be overloaded by an influx of families as a result of more housing in the city centre.

But in the report Cllr Miqdad Al-Nuaimi, member for Stow Hill ward, advised caution as he said residents need extra leisure facilities.

Under the current policy, planning permission to create five or more residential units would warrant Section 106 money being paid, and proposals for 25 or more units are required to include 30 per cent affordable units.

The proposal would allow up to 30 units to be created in any city centre building without any contributions or affordable housing.

“It is accepted that the proposed moratorium will result in a potential loss of income to the council,” says the report.

“The benefits to the city of the development taking place are considered to outweigh the harm caused.”