SHOPPERS and traders yesterday gave the thumbs up to designs for a long-awaited new shopping centre in Newport.

New designs for the Friars Walk leisure and retail scheme set to transform John Frost Square were unveiled to the public at Newport Market.

Potential developers for the scheme, which would include a cinema, restaurants and shops linking Commercial Street to the Riverfront, have until Monday to express an interest in taking on the project.

Those which meet the criteria will then be invited to tender for the contract early next year, and it is anticipated one will be chosen by the end of July 2011. They would be expected to stick closely to the designs drawn up by the council.

Visitors to yesterday’s exhibition were impressed by the plans.

Alison Badham, a representative for McDonalds, said: “It does look fantastic from the pictures, it’s just some of the retailers hoped it would come along a bit quicker. It could be great for the city though.”

Lorraine Macdonald, 60, said: “I think it’s a good plan, it’s downsized but it’s bound to give Newport a boost. We need some decent department stores.”

Shopper Joseph Pisani said the designs looked good but people wanted to see it completed quickly so they could enjoy it.

David Maggs, 72, of Ridgeway, said: “If it comes off it will be good. I like it, I think it will be nice.”

His cousin Thomas Maggs, 69, said he hoped it would bring employment opportunities for local people, while Raymond Johnsey, 81, of Malpas, said he thought it would encourage shoppers to return to Newport.

Council leader Matthew Evans said the proposed development had been a long time coming but the council had done everything in its power to offer as complete a package as was possible to potential developers, with most of the ground work already completed.

He said: “This is a critical factor and will transform the city. Newport deserves it, we have so many false starts, it’s time for Newport to be up there with the rest of them.”