NEWPORT'S council leader has joined calls to save the city's Debenhams store by expanding government support for larger coronavirus-hit businesses.

Debenhams' five major stores in Wales are at risk of closure if the Welsh Government does not remove the cap on its emergency business rates relief scheme, the firm's chairman has warned.

Yesterday, the Argus backed urgent calls to rescue the city's Debenhams, with business leaders and politicians in Newport arguing the loss of the Friars Walk department store “would deliver an economic blow from which our city may never recover”.

Council leader Jane Mudd said: “Losing any business from Newport would be very unfortunate.

"Debenhams was hailed as the anchor store of our Friars Walk development, and its departure from our city centre would be a great loss."

The council leader said it was "vitally important" to support businesses of all types during the "unprecedented" Covid-19 outbreak, and "appreciated [government support] may not go far enough for some".


Like the vast majority of firms in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector, Newport's Debenhams store is currently closed, in line with government rules on limiting non-essential movement.

But while the Welsh Government has stepped in to help firms in this sector with a 12-month business rates 'holiday', the scheme does not cover larger businesses which have properties with rateable values higher than £500,000.

The Welsh Government said these businesses number fewer than 200 across Wales, and the cap allows more small businesses to be supported.

However, Debenhams chairman Mark Gifford said his firm would not be able to re-open its major Welsh sites – including the flagship store in Newport's Friars Walk – if the cap was not removed.

Newport Now BID (business improvement district) manager Kevin Ward said the loss of the city's Debenhams would be "disastrous", while local members of the Senedd, Jayne Bryant and John Griffiths, said the city could not afford to lose the department store.

Cllr Mudd said the aim is for Newport to emerge from the Covid-19 outbreak “positively".

"I am in regular dialogue with Welsh Government... and have been championing the needs of the city and its business," she said. "I will continue to fight our corner with the long-term health and success of our city as my prime concern.”