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Friar's Walk plan shelved

South Wales Argus: DECISION: Newport council leader Matthew Evans in Newport’s John Frost Square, the site of the proposed Friar's Walk scheme DECISION: Newport council leader Matthew Evans in Newport’s John Frost Square, the site of the proposed Friar's Walk scheme

A MAJOR shopping scheme which would have helped transform Newport city centre is being ditched, as JANE HELMICH exclusively reveals.

FRIAR'S Walk - the £200 million shopping vision expected to transform Newport city centre - is not going to become a reality.

City bosses have taken the tough decision to call it a day for the scheme which was dogged by continual delays.

They said the developers had revealed they were not in a position to deliver the centre as originally proposed and the council was not prepared to accept a scaled-down version of such an important venture.

It will a devastating blow to many in the city who believed the new shopping venue was vital for the centre's regeneration.

Many shops had already agreed to take up units in the centre including anchor stores Debenham's and Marks and Spencer, along with many other well-known names. A Vue Cinema was also lined up along with restaurants.

But now the council will be looking for a development partner for a new retail scheme and intends to take greater control of the site.

And it will not mean going back to square one as a lot of the groundwork for another project is already in place including the road infrastructure, planning permissions, and a new multi-storey car park almost completed.

Modus (Corovest) Newport Ltd, the company which won the contract in 2005 is understood to have lost investors backing the scheme as a result of the banking crisis.

But, despite repeatedly stating its commitment to Friars Walk, it failed to find new funding.

The council plans to go out to tender for a new city centre development and will be re-marketing the site.

Approval has already been given to complete the on-going compulsory purchase scheme around John Frost Square.

"As far as the council is concerned we have reached the stage where a definite decision needs to be taken on the future of Friars Walk," said council leader Matthew Evans.

"We have done all we can as a council to get this scheme to the stage where the developers had to come up with funding and go on site."

Cllr Evans said it had failed to do this and had told the council that, because of the economic downturn, the council was currently not in a position to deliver the intended scheme.

"Such is the importance of this project for Newport we are not prepared to accept a scaled-down version and will therefore open up the scheme to other interested parties."

He added that businesses and investors knew the huge potential the city had and there was no lack of interest in the Friars Walk which was 75 per cent pre-let.

"The banking crisis has had a huge impact on the commercial property market and unfortunately Modus and Friars Walk have been caught up in the middle of this."

Cllr Evans said they were taking decisive action at a difficult time.

"I know there will be huge disappointment, but we will be failing the people and businesses of Newport if we just allowed the current situation to drift on indefinitely."

Cllr Ed Townsend, cabinet member for economic development and employment, hoped the decision would bring an end to the "cloud of uncertainty and rumour" and enable them to bring a fresh impetus to the city's redevelopment plans.

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