PLANS to revamp a Gwent town’s main shopping street have been agreed by a council – but funding which could run to millions of pounds still has to be found.
The intention is to improve and widen the pavement on Monnow Street, in Monmouth, and add more crossings and new planting which will also serve as drainage for the street where large puddles form after heavy rainfall.
Part of the work is also to rectify temporary measures introduced in 2020 to aid with social distancing during the Covid pandemic, but which has left uneven pavements and temporary street furniture.
The street will remain open to two-way traffic, but the intention is it will also be safer for cyclists, while Monmouthshire County Council says there will only be a small reduction in the number of on-street parking spaces, with more loading bays added in response to demand from traders.
Talks have been ongoing with business in the town, and members of the public had the chance to have their say during consultations which closed earlier this year.
The county council’s ruling Labour cabinet, in its final meeting before a coalition with the Green Party was announced, agreed to adopt the plans and for the council’s regeneration manager to seek funding. The council has previously said that could be as much as £6 million.
Council deputy leader Cllr Paul Griffiths said though the council appeared to be looking at the regeneration of Monnow Street in isolation to the rest of the town he said it has had to act quickly: “In repsone to the pandemic the council put in place emergency and temporary measures, they were never intended to be permanent and they will deteriorate and will do so relatively quickly.”
He said the council’s survey had established support for the plan but acknowledged “that doesn’t mean we have found the perfect answer or full support across the town” but told his colleagues: “I’m recommending to you we’ve sufficient backing from the people of Monmouth to go ahead.”
But he warned them: “It is not a panacea, this will not solve all the challenges facing the beautiful town of Monmouth.”
Cllr Catherine Fooks, attending her last meeting of the cabinet before stepping down from the executive, welcomed the plans.
The Monmouth Town ward member said: “As the ward member for Monnow Street it does really feel to me it is now Monmouth’s time as Chepstow, Abergavenny and Caldicot have had money spent on them.
“It’s good to have this investment in the high street and that the report shows young people really liked the scheme and the road will be safer with crossing points.”
She said the improvements wouldn’t be a “silver bullet” and the council will still have to find the funding required and she said when building work takes place the council “must make sure businesses are impacted as little as possible.”
Conservative group leader Cllr Richard John, who represents the nearby ward of Mitchell Troy and Trellech, said he “got the sense there is still quite a lot of business opposition on Monnow Street”.
He said: “Talking to a number of businesses some felt there was no point taking part in the consultation as they thought it is a done deal and the council will do what it is proposing regardless.”
He also said he recognised some businesses would be reluctant to show their support if others felt their businesses could be threatened by the proposals and: “If you’re running a business no-one wants to get into a public debate in the Beacon.”
Cllr Griffiths said as well as public meetings the council conducted one to one interviews with 75 businesses on Monnow Street and he had seen “significant support” but no “absolute opposition” but respected that some businesses “feel threatened” and said the council needs to work with them.