Council U-turn over Friars Walk debate

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

NEWPORT Council has made a u-turn so that a key debate today can be held in public, after an approach by the South Wales Argus.

The debate on the defunct Friars Walk shopping development was to be held behind closed doors until the Argus questioned the decision.

The council’s cabinet is due to discuss the development at this morning’s meeting, but members of the public and press were initially excluded from the discussion.

When asked why the matter was being heard in private, council leader Matthew Evans said the decision was made because of the “commercially sensitive” nature of some subjects.

But after discussions with council managing director Chris Freegard, Councillor Evans agreed that the debate should be held in public.

Cllr Evans said: “Because we do want to be open and frank with the public and media, we are looking at a way to divide the meeting. It’s in everybody’s best interests to keep certain things confidential, but I think it is important that we are open.

“What I’m going to propose is that we have a public version and a confidential version, which is only right.

“We have to be very careful that we don’t jeopardise any financial negotiations, but I agree that we do need to be as open and transparent as possible.”

The failure of the £200 million project is a devastating blow to many who saw the development as a vital part of Newport’s regeneration.

City bosses made the decision to call it a day for the scheme last week after the project was continually hindered by delays.

Modus (Corovest) Newport Ltd won the contract to build the development in 2005, but was unable to deliver the centre as originally proposed, and the council was not prepared to accept a scaled-down version.

Today's meeting was due to start at 10am at the Civic Centre.

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