New chapter for Newport community hub following building sale

(L to R): Alistair Cummings, Rogerstone IFA; Ben Gough, Infinity Training, Steve Groucott, Skerryvore Designs; Mike Taylor, Faith Church; Kat Thomas, Jade Conway and Dominic Casey, The Loading Bay Café

The future of a thriving community hub on the outskirts of Newport, that is home to more than 10 local businesses, charities and community groups, has been secured thanks to investment from a local firm of architects and a £300,000 regeneration grant from the Welsh Government.

The former Trebor sweet factory on Rogerstone’s Wern Industrial Estate, which recently lay empty for more than five years, has been brought back into use as a community hub by a local church group, which began using it to run Sunday services back in 2015. Faith Church rented the building from previous owner, Avana Bakeries, before putting the bakers in touch with a church network called Equippers, who agreed to buy it two years later.

The building was renamed The Warehouse, with Faith Church continuing to lease it from Equippers, slowly renovating and converting the space to accommodate a growing collection of community groups and offering low-cost office space to local businesses. All proceeds from the tenants were put back into developing and maintaining the building. Current occupiers include a nail salon, a fully-equipped gym, a printing business and an independent financial adviser.

The bustling community hub is also home to an established music school, three different theatre groups, an archery club, a toddler’s music group and a martial arts club – amongst others. In 2018, Faith Church opened a community café on site. The Loading Bay Café, which now opens five days a week, hosts a number of regular social groups and operates a policy of employing staff from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Last summer, when Equippers announced it wanted to sell the building, the future of the project lay in doubt, until one of its temporary tenants – a firm of local architects called Skerryvore Designs, run by Steve Groucott – stepped in.

“The Warehouse project has certainly been a roller-coaster ride,” said Faith Church pastor, Mike Taylor, who has overseen the transformation of the building, alongside his role with the church. “It is incredible to think how far we’ve come since 2015 and I’m really proud of the diverse community that relies on the building today for work, as well as for important social interaction.

“When the building was put up for sale back in the summer of 2022, we received fantastic support and encouragement from lots of people, but it has taken a while to get everything over the line. I’d like to thank Steve for his vision and his commitment to the project and look forward to working alongside Skerryvore Designs to build on what has been achieved over the last few years.”

The sale of the building was eventually completed in January, with Skerryvore acquiring 25% of the freehold and taking ownership of the offices on the first floor. A grant from Welsh Government’s Tackling Poverty Fund then allowed the Faith Church to buy the remaining 75%, enabling Taylor and his team to continue its work.

Commenting on the sale of the building, Mr Groucott said, “Skerryvore became temporary tenants at The Warehouse in the summer of 2022 and it was incredible to see first-hand all the fantastic work that was being done, not just in transforming the space but also in fostering a real community spirit. It was an ideal solution at the time for our business but we now have an opportunity to be part of the future of the project and that is really exciting for us.”

The refurbishment of the office space at The Warehouse is now complete and all but three of the units are currently let to small businesses and local startups. There are also plans to upgrade other parts of the building and bring them back into regular use.

“Now that the future of the building is secure, we have some exciting plans for further improvements,” continued Mr Taylor. “We have just been designated as a ‘Warm Space’ by Newport City Council, which enables us to provide a free hot drink and snack during certain times to people who are facing fuel poverty over the winter and we are promoting that through our community café.

“We have received a £20,000 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund to improve our auditorium to a standard that means we will be able to host live events outside our normal church services in a 200-seater venue that can be used by the local community. We are also in the process of increasing our car parking and are seeking funding to carry out essential maintenance and reduce the environmental impact of the building.”