CHEPSTOW needs a cinema or another attraction to encourage people to visit regularly, a meeting discussing a masterplan for the border town has been told.
The comments were made by Cllr Lisa Dymock, who represents the nearby village of Portskewett on Monmouthshire County Council.
Conservative Cllr Dymock said, although she visits the town weekly, she only spends a minimum amount of time there due to its notorious, congested roads. The town’s Barclays Bank branch is also due to close in June
Cllr Dymock told her colleagues she had been waiting at the junction “at the top of town last Saturday” for seven minutes.
“All the cars coming down from Hardwick Hill – not one turned in to Chepstow town centre, instead they were going over to the Forest of Dean, or Lydney, or to Tesco,” she said. “I think whatever happens to Barclays Bank will be crucial for the future of the town centre.
“It needs to be a destination for people to go to. I’d love to see something whether that’s a cinema or something similar to Newport Market.
“There is little to offer in Chepstow town centre compared to years ago. There are some great little shops in Beaufort Square but we need something for people to go to regularly as well as to draw in the footfall.
“When I go to Chepstow I’m in and out because the traffic is building up and it’s so bad there and you are queuing for a considerable time.”
The councillor made her comments at a place scrutiny committee meeting, which was considering the masterplan produced by the county council and town council following consultation with interested groups and the public.
Her Conservative colleague Rachel Buckler, who represents nearby Devauden, said she feared the plan would be of little use unless traffic issues around the town are addressed.
She said: “The traffic volume is most problematic and people don’t want to go near it.”
The council’s regeneration manager Daniel Fordham said the masterplan has focused on reducing the demand for vehicle traffic by making it easier to use other forms of transport or walking and cycling.
Paul Griffiths, the Labour cabinet member responsible for the economy and councillor for Chepstow Castle and Larkfield ward, said addressing issues on the High Beach roundabout is “very much in the gift of us in Wales” and the council is putting in “effort” on that.
He said a by-pass is “very much in the gift of the UK Government” and would likely cost £200 million with 90 per cent of that having to come from Westminster’s National Highways agency. He said the council is in talks with Gloucestershire council but its priority has been on a road in the north of the county, which funding has recently been awarded for.
But he said the masterplan, as well as being required for accessing Welsh Government funding for town centre regeneration, is useful for other organisations such as the town council which has put in a bid for funding to support public transport.
He said: “We have to work with the world as we find it not just one we wish was in place.”
Cllr Buckler had also asked if Chepstow would miss out with the council having identified Monmouth’s Monnow Street as its priority for Welsh Government Transforming Towns funding.
But Mr Fordham said no major schemes have been identified, as yet, for Chepstow, which would require the higher level of support from the fund, but the programme has allocated £1 million for smaller projects in Monmouthshire such as a vacant properties scheme and high street building improvements in place in Chepstow.
Cllr Dymock, who chaired the committee, said there was concern around traffic issues “that need to be resolved in order for the masterplan to be successful” and a need for “flexible” public transport in and around the town.
The masterplan is expected to be adopted by the county council cabinet which will set up a group with the town council to put it into action.