New report praises council for city centre regeneration
Posted on Monday 20th July 2015
Newport's Friars Walk development is the only one from Wales to be highlighted in a new report looking at the UK's top regeneration schemes.
BCSC (British Council of Shopping Centres) has today launched a report containing nine case studies of local councils who have been among the most creative and bold in leading town centre regeneration in their areas.
Enabling Retail Development - the importance of local authority leadership and positive partnerships. - features the Friars Walk retail and leisure scheme which opens in November.
Councillor Bob Bright, Leader of Newport City Council, said: "It is extremely gratifying that the bold steps taken by the council to ensure Newport had a revitalised city centre is being recognised.
"By working closely with Queensberry Real Estate, we have ensured Friars Walk has progressed quickly and we are now just a few months away from the opening.
"This is a key part of the council's regeneration vision but it is not the only piece of the jigsaw and our work will continue beyond that important milestone. In the city centre, for example, the Vibrant and Viable Places programme will continue to transform landmark buildings into new homes and businesses, creating jobs and an improved environment.
"Newport is undergoing a renaissance and is on the rise to become a dynamic, 21st century city where people will want to live, work and visit."
The BCSC report gives the background to the development beginning with the collapse of a previous scheme in 2009 when the council's then partner fell victim to wider market conditions.
"This may have spelled the end of this major retail led regeneration project in other towns and cities, but not in Newport," it says.
The council "was immediately on the front foot" and used compulsory purchase powers to acquire the land, commissioned a design team, held developer workshops and secured a new development partner, Queensberry Real Estate, in 2011.
In order to expedite the scheme, the council contributed seed funding, won a grant from the Welsh Government to progress demolition and site enabling work and prudentially borrowed the funding for the scheme.
"By taking a direct interest in the financing of the development, and fully supporting its development partner, the council ensured it achieved the scheme they wanted and was instrumental in creating a retail-led, mixed use project," says the report.
"Most importantly, the development is of sufficient critical mass to act as a catalyst to further future investment and deliver a step change in the perception of Newport city centre."
Major retailers moving into Friars Walk include Debenhams, Next, H&M, Topshop and New Look. There will also be an eight screen Cineworld and a wide range of restaurants.