THE popular Fourteen Locks Canal Centre at Rogerstone has reopened, just three weeks after being extensively fire and smoke damaged.

And its education manager Tom Maloney said despair felt by staff after the fire, had been replaced by optimism due to the support and good wishes they have received.

Thousands of pounds of damage was caused to the centre, which attracts 50,000 visitors a year, in the early hours of Saturday November 12.

The cafe and community meeting rooms were worst hit and will not reopen until next year.

But the shop, toilets, and a small exhibition space have reopened to visitors, and a planned Santa's Grotto will open as planned next weekend.

"So many people deserve a huge 'thank you' for helping us, not least the police and fire brigade, but Newport council as well," said Mr Maloney, who added that coverage in the Argus had been very helpful.

"The council pulled out all the stops to make sure we could open again, and that's very important, to show we won't be beaten by this.

"Rogerstone Roses (WI) had 40 ladies here last Saturday and they raised £200, and High Cross primary school children made pictures of Christmas trees, which have brightened the place up.

"There are lots of others too, volunteers who helped clear up and people just coming in to see how we're doing.

"I've even had an e-mail from someone in Italy who had heard about the fire. We get visitors from all over the place.

"We've gone from despair to optimism, and the support is very much appreciated."

The centre's Santa's Grotto, opens on Saturday and Sunday December 10 and 11, from 10.30am-4pm, priced at £4 per child. It is also open on Saturday and Sunday December 17 and 18, Tuesday December 20, and Thursday and Friday December 22 and 23.

Man in custody over blaze

TWENTY-year-old Benjamin Jones, of no fixed abode, is charged with arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered, in connection with the fire. He is remanded in custody pending a hearing on January 13.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Triumph of spirit

IT’S good to see community spirit alive and well despite the attempts of some to ruin it.

Fourteen Locks Canal Centre in Rogerstone, Newport, has now reopened after an arson attack.

Staff there were overwhelmed by the help and messages of goodwill from people since the fire.

Among the help was a WI group from Rogerstone who raised £200.

High Cross primary school pupils made pictures of Christmas trees, which have certainly helped brighten the place up.

What this shows is that people won’t simply lie down and take it when something they cherish is attacked.

They want the final word and won’t let thugs, arsonists and vandals ruin things.

The response the canal centre received in order to get back on its feet was a triumph for the community. More power to the elbow of the decent people in our society.