DEVELOPERS who want to renovate Newport's former art college are hitting out at the city council for refusing the project planning permission.

Councillors turned down proposals to convert the Clarence Place building into luxury flats because of a lack of parking. Now the architect behind the scheme says councillors are going against the wishes of council officials and residents.

Michael Merritt, of Essex firm Merritt Design, said: "This is a landmark building that is at risk from vandalism and arson, and has been for years. We wanted to bring it back into use, but the council say we can't because of a minor parking problem."

Gwent Police had told the planning committee that a lack of secure parking could lead to a rise in car crime.

Victoria ward councillor Harry Herbert says that without added parking spaces the project would cause chaos.

Councillor Herbert said: "I would love to see the building back in use, but the amount of additional cars on the street would causea problem.

"I thinkthey should use a floor of the building for parking. If that is not possible I am not sure how we go forward, it's a real problem." Mr Merritt blamed the council for making the problem worse by adding a bus lane to Clarence Place.

He said: "We did have a parking allocation but the bus route has swallowed a lot of it up. Another problem is that the building is listed, and so alterations required to create parking in the building are impossible.

"We are still waiting to see the written version of the planning committee's verdict before deciding whether to appeal. It is a very time-consuming process, but we do want to find a way forward".

Plans for the 63 luxury one- to three-bedroom apartments and a penthouse in the copper dome are on hold until developers decide what to do.

If they appealed, the developers First Investment and Finance would hope to convince the council that numbers of car owners would be reduced by access to public transport.