South East Wales

Newport's Friars Walk shopping plan approved

Plans to revamp Newport's shopping centre with the Friars Walk development for John Frost Square have been approved.

The makeover will include shopping, restaurants and a cinema for the currently rundown area.

An original £200m project focusing on John Frost Square was scrapped in 2009.

The new developers, Queensberry Real Estate, said the present £100m plan was "more deliverable" with a more practical design.

A new shopping centre and a department store will sit alongside the six-screen cinema, eight restaurants and cafe. A car park with 360 spaces is included in the plan.

The developers say it will create more than 1,100 new jobs.

Dr Jonathan Deacon from Newport Business School said the development was "absolutely critical" to where Newport was going in the next 10 or 15 years.

"It's about whether or not we're going to save our city centre and the retail experience that we've had for generations. I think we're on a knife edge," he told BBC Wales.

"Newport is competing with the city centre of Cardiff which is fantastic and one of the big retail draws across the UK. You've got Cabot Circus in Bristol not that far away geographically, [and] Cwmbran with all of the high street stores there.

"You have to have something which can compete on equal terms. At the moment we don't.

"This is about saying that Newport as a city is confident and it's going to be a draw to bring other businesses in on the back of it."

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan called the decision excellent news for Newport.

"This is a game-changer for the city and is crucial to creating employment opportunities and sustaining small and medium sized businesses," she said.

"I would hope that this new development will serve as a catalyst to attract further private sector investment into Newport, that will help to build a stronger economy, promote local business and support jobs.

"I look forward to seeing these exciting new plans come to fruition."

Bill Mayne, chairman of urban regeneration company Newport Unlimited said: "It's hugely important for the future of this city that this development goes ahead.

"Newport needs a city centre it can be proud of and this goes a long way to achieving this.

"This will bring much activity to Newport - such as jobs, visitors and further investment - and I am excited to see Friars Walk become a reality."

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