Work on Newport’s £90m Friars Walk development was officially launched with a groundbreaking ceremony in the city centre today.

The city’s mayor, Councillor Cliff Suller, led the groundbreaking on the site of the new 390,000 sq ft retail and leisure development, accompanied by leader of Newport City Council Bob Bright, Paul Sargent, of developers Queensberry Real Estate, and Paul Lomas, of contractors Bowmer and Kirkland.

The scheme, which has been backed by a £90m loan supported by Newport City Council, will create 650 jobs during its construction phase and about 1,100 jobs once it is complete.

Signings already announced include Debenhams, Next, Topshop, Nandos, Cineworld and Frankie and Benny’s. More names are set to be revealed in the near future.

Councillor Bob Bright, speaking at the ceremony which was attended by representatives of the Newport business community, the developers and contractors and the city council, said: “This is a momentous day in the Friars Walk story and another page in the story of the city centre.

“It has taken 30 years to get to this point and it is a real pleasure to be here. Newport has seen a number of false dawns but despite those we know Newport is a resilient and forward looking city.

“Residents visitors and businesses will be able to see the new development taking shape over the next 18 months in readiness for opening in the autumn of 2015.

“We are confident that 2014 will be the year that sees the start of a turnaround in Newport’s fortunes.”

Paul Sargent, managing partner of Queensberry Real Estate, said: “We are changing perceptions of Newport with positive action. Retailers are now returning to the city centre as a result and Friars Walk will be a reality the public will be able to enjoy from November 2015.

“We’ve been successful in signing up further key retailers and restaurants with more names to be announced in the near future.”