WORK to transform a disused toilet block in Newport into a café have taken a step forward, with plans in place to offer outdoor seating to customers.

In recent years, plans have been put in place to transform Maindee Triangle – a section of land between Chepstow Road and Livingston Place into a community asset, rather than a hotbed for anti-social behaviour.

These plans included a community garden, though the centrepiece is the former public toilets, which were closed to the public in 2017.

But now, they are set for a new lease of life, as they are currently being redeveloped into a café.

And, as part of these ambitions, plans have been submitted to Newport City Council to install a retractable awning onto the side of the building, to allow for additional seating to be put in place outside the café.

South Wales Argus: An artist's impression of the transformed toilet block. Picture: Karsten Huneck/Maindee UnlimitedAn artist's impression of the transformed toilet block. Picture: Karsten Huneck/Maindee Unlimited

According to the applicant, John Hallam of Maindee Unlimited, “The Covid 19 pandemic has increased safety concerns about the use of indoor spaces. This is encouraging people to use suitable outdoor spaces where infection risks are lower.”

Continuing, he said: “One of the regeneration issues associated with the site has been that it was in such poor, dirty and unsafe condition, that families and the public in general did not want to use the site. So in addition to the covid-related health benefits of creating outdoor space, the awning will increase the overall functionality and attractiveness of the site to the general public, further assisting in the regeneration of this part of Victoria Ward.”

Plans show that the awning would only be raised while the café was open, and in all other times, furniture would be stored inside.

How did we get here?

Last year, the Argus reported that Maindee Unlimited, a local community group, were looking for people to run the new community café.

The group is a charity set up to protect community assets and transform Maindee into a sustainable community, having saved and taken over the running of the local library, before turning their attention to Maindee Triangle.

South Wales Argus: How the toilet block looked before the projectHow the toilet block looked before the project

In 2020, they received £204,177 in grant money from the Welsh Government’s community facilities programme to carry out the project, along with other funding from the National Lottery and Natural Resources Wales.

What’s more, Newport City Council agreed to grant the charity a 99-year lease of the land to allow a community asset transfer of the site to take place.

What has been said about the project?

Mr Hallam said: “Our goal is to support the development of a welcoming and inclusive café space in our multicultural and diverse community.

"A place where people can safely socialise and enjoy meeting up, surrounded by green space and nature. We’d like an operator to bring their own vision, ideas and initiative to the space and we will work in partnership to help them realise this vision.

“Here in Maindee, we have strong ambitions to become a much more sustainable community. We are greening our neighbourhood and looking at ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

“We also support our local businesses and are supporting the growth of more local circular economies. We see the cafe and the wider Maindee Triangle community garden as an intrinsic part of these wider aspirations.”

The latest planning application can be viewed and commented upon online here.