Plans to redevelop the iconic old Passport Office in Newport city centre into 62 apartments for private rental have been approved to Newport City Council. It will be the city’s first large scale PRS (private rented sector) scheme.

Joint venture partners the Tonstate Group and Richard Hayward Properties (RHP) submitted a planning application to change the use of the upper floors of Olympia House from offices to residential last year.

Commenting on the consent, Richard Hayward of RHP said: “This major landmark in the heart of Newport city centre has been vacant for more than 3 years since the Passport Office left in April 2013. The proposed redevelopment will bring it back into beneficial use at a time when the regeneration of city centre is gathering pace around the neighbouring Friars Walk shopping centre, which opened last year.

“As part of the planning application, we demonstrated that there is a surplus of similar office space in the city centre, meaning that the change of use will not harm employment prospects in Newport. In addition, the application showed that the site is sustainably located and will greatly assist in meeting the identified housing need.”

Built in the 1960s, the 90,000 sq ft Olympia House is a nine-storey building, which previously housed the Passport Office. It currently consists of 13 retail units with six floors of office accommodation above.

As one of the largest buildings in Newport, the redevelopment of Olympia House to provide residential units with retail and leisure uses at on the lower levels will support the regeneration of the city, helping to bring residents back into the centre creating improved vibrancy and a greater sense of community.

The lower levels of retail are fully let. Tenants include a large Sports Direct store with fitness club, in the space previously occupied by Marks & Spencer on the upper first & second floors of the building.

Initial preparatory work has already taken place, including a “soft strip” of the internal areas and removing asbestos.

Urban planning consultants DPP advised the jv partners on the planning application, which has been accepted with no financial contribution or affordable housing requirement as it was demonstrated that they would make the scheme unviable.

Olympia House is one of a number of projects RHP is working on in Newport, others include a new 60-bed Premier Inn opposite the station and more residential above the Tesco Express, all of which are supporting its regeneration, creating jobs and acting as a catalyst for further investment by others.