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Queensberry's Sargent Hails Friars Walk Funding Agreement

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Paul Sargent, the founder and chief executive of Queensberry Real Estate (QRE), has praised the unique funding arrangement with Newport City Council that enabled the construction of Friars Walk, which opened to the public for the first time yesterday (12 November 2015).

He told Insider that the agreement was one of the key building blocks that allowed the developer to complete the project.

"To change perceptions have to start with a good partner in the local authority" he said. "In Newport they were looking to invest and had plans in place for future development, such as the new bus station."

Newport Council agreed a £90m funding package to support the development at an extraordinary full council meeting in November 2013.

The funds were used to set up a special-purpose loan facility for QRE, with money loaned in parcels to QRE on a needs basis and in reference to its progress.

Sargent said the funding had kicked off the project and supported the regeneration of Newport as a whole, adding that it had influenced similar schemes from other council's and could provide a

"model going forward for the regeneration of a medium-sized city".

He also named the opportunity created by the recession and bringing in Debenhams to anchor the scheme as key factors.

"You need opportunity in market, which we saw as it had hit rock bottom. You then need to attract major retailer.Debenhams had requirements but weren't convinced. They didn't want to go to (an) out of town location but were considering it. We engaged them early on and they became the third building block. Once these were in place we could go out and sell it to other retailers. It allowed us to build confidence and credibility."

Following completion of the project, Sargent told Insider the developer was "toying with the idea" of a new hotel development in Newport to take advantage of the new convention centre to be built at the Celtic Manor Resort.

Friars Walk opened for the first time yesterday, and will provide an estimated 1,200 jobs worth around £15m in salaries a year to the local economy.

The centre features 390,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space with a Debenhams department store, 35 retail units, an eight screen cinema, 11 restaurants, 350 parking spaces and a new bus station interchange.

First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, who attended the opening, said: "This fantastic development will breathe new life into the city.

"As well as providing a great array of shops, restaurants and a new cinema, it will also deliver much needed employment, supporting businesses and the community.

"I'm pleased we've been able to financially assist Newport City Council in bringing forward this flagship Friars Walk development delivered in partnership with Queensberry Real Estate. The council's vision in making Friars Walk a reality should be highly commended."