RESTORATION work on the former Newport Art College suffered a setback after receivers were called in to take over the building.

Bristol-based Alder King were appointed as Law of Property Act receivers for the Grade II listed building in May, by investment bank Close Brothers.

The bank lent money to the previous developers, London-based First Invest and Finance SA, who planned to convert the building into 66 apartments.

According to letter written by Newport City Council leader Cllr Matthew Evans to Newport East MP Jessica Morden, receivers were appointed after the developer was unable to secure additional funding to finish the scheme.

The Argus reported in May that work on the site had stopped while the developer re-negotiated financial issues.

It is unclear what has happened to the previous developer, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Architect Michael Merritt said he was attempting to contact his client and did not know what was happening with the project, while the Argus was unable to contact the firm’s representative Peter Bance directly yesterday.

Andrew Hughes, one of the appointed receivers, said work is now underway to see if the project can continue and a decision will be made within the next few weeks.

“I’d like to think there is a presumption that we would move forward in completing the development. That’s something I’m looking at in some detail,” he said.

He said the project is between 65 and 70 per cent complete, with much external work completed, and work inside the property involved fitting kitchens, plastering and tile work.

Mr Hughes said workers appointed by Alder King were currently tidying up the site, while staff remained in place to keep the site secure.

If work does goes ahead it is thought it could be completed within 12 months.

Cllr Evans said: “Obviously I am disappointed that it's occurred at such a late stage of the project. If 70 per cent of the work has been done that’s positive and I hope there will be considerable interest in what is, let’s face it, a landmark building in the city.”

Ms Morden said she was also hugely disappointed but added there seems to be hope that work can continue.

Art School is part of Newport's history

THE Newport Technical Institute and its School of Art, which evolved from the Newport Mechanics Institute, opened in Clarence Place in September 1910 on land purchased from Lord Tredegar.

The second floor was specifically designed to allow as much natural light into the various studios as possible.

After the Art Schol relocated to the Caerleon campus, the building became derelict and was repeatedly vandalised with smashed windows, burnt out rooms and graffiti throughout.

The building was granted Grade II listed status in 1997 and Newport council have been eager for its restoration, estimated to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, to take place in order to prevent further deterioration.

Renovation of the dilapidated building, to create 66 luxury apartments, began at the end of 2008.