Newport councillors criticised after voting to cover up stained glass artwork
Rhiannon James, local democracy reporter
A decision to cover up a stained glass artwork at Newport Market has been branded an “insult” by the artist behind it.
Today, at a Newport City Council planning committee meeting, councillors approved the application to cover the existing art with a cream banner which will be used to project adverts and cinematography.
Catrin Jones, the Swansea-based artist who was commissioned by the council in 2002, said: “Identity is important in a city like Newport, and this is a gem that Newport has chosen to hide.
“We need to have our special identities, and one of the functions of public art is to enhance a building, people can look up and ask questions, art creates discussion.”
According to Catrin, the artwork is the largest span of contemporary stained glass in Wales at 120 square metres – and it intends to represent the “vibrancy” of the market.
Catrin said: “The bright and colourful design reflects Newport’s increasing confidence and prosperity, and features a broad scheme of flowers, leaves and the family.”
Concerns were also raised by the Historic Buildings and Conservation Officer at the council. They said the banner would adversely affect the character and aesthetic of the building, because lighting would be severely reduced.
At the planning meeting held on Wednesday, April 6, two councillors, Yvonne Forsey and Jason Jordan, voted to refuse the application.
Rogerstone Councillor Forsey said the popular piece of art should be on display for people to see.
Cllr Jordan, who represents Bettws, agreed and added that the art should be shown off.
The banner had already been fixed by developers Loft-Co ahead of the initial reopening of the market in March 2022 – it is now home to an array of food stalls and shops.
Seven councillors voted in support of the application to cover the art – John Guy, Richard White, Charles Ferris, Mark Spencer, John Jones, Trevor Watkins and the Committee Chair John Richards.
Cllr Ferris, who represents Allt-yr-yn, said the banner would better suit the design of the new market.
Chair of the planning committee, Cllr John Richards, said: “The public has told us that they want these things to be protected and kept in place.
“I don’t want a repeat of the mural situation.”
In 2013, the council faced a ferocious backlash when the Chartist mural on John Frost Square, which had stood since 1978 as a historic symbol, was demolished to make way for the Friars Walk shopping centre.
Hundreds of people gathered as workmen began demolishing the the 35-metre mosaic of 200,000 pieces of tile and glass created by artist Kenneth Budd.
The report prepared by council planning officers states that the art is still “evident even behind the banners” – despite a large portion of it being concealed.
The applicant Loft-Co has stated in the plans that the banner is in the interest of “safeguarding the special character of the listed building”.
The artist, Catrin Jones, said: “The fact they have refurbished the market is great, but not this bit.”
Catrin suggested placing screens for advertisement purposes instead of using the banner.
At the meeting, plans were also approved to expand the market to the mezzanine floor which is currently used for offices.
This floor will now have a mixture of shops, food and drink takeaways and leisure facilities.
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