WORK demolishing the former Sainsbury’s building in Newport city centre as part of a £60m redevelopment scheme could finally start next month, the site’s owners have said.

The Bristol-based Fear Group bought the site about six years ago, and obtained planning permission for a mixed use development including student accommodation, a hotel and residential properties.

But they have been beset by delays since.

The most recent has involved amending planning consent for demolition after a bat was reported as having been seen flying into the derelict building around a year ago, prompting a number of surveys.

This also followed a protracted issue with Natural Resources Wales, and vandalism at the site, including a fire, which almost caused the group to walk away from the project.

But Leon Fear, the son of group owner Dr Stephen Fear, has told the Argus they are now just waiting for the planning amendment to be signed off, with a short window to get the Wyndham Street building demolished before the bat licence runs out at the end of March.

Mr Fear said: “The site is an eye sore and we want to get it down and demolished as soon as we can.

“We are waiting on Newport City Council and are hoping that this will be done by the end of the week.”

The 2.67-hectare site on the banks of the River Usk has been vacant since Sainsbury’s moved to Crindau around five years ago, with the Fear Group spending more than £300,000 on the application to transform it.

Mr Fear added: “This has gone on for so long. 

“We recognise that to people who don’t understand the ins and outs of planning permissions and these other concerns, it looks like we are not interested in doing anything with the site and are leaving it to just sit there. 

“We are still committed to Newport and committed to this site.”

Last year, a spokesman for the developers also said: “With the Severn bridge tolls due to be abolished we expect our prediction of Newport and south east Wales becoming an investment hotspot to become reality and, after the huge financial and personal commitment by us over very many years, we intend to remain part of its future.”

Newport City Council was contacted for comment.