MONMOUTHSHIRE needs an “oven ready” plan if it is to finally take advantage of Boris Johnson’s Levelling-Up legacy, the county’s Labour leader has said. 

Cllr Mary Ann Brocklesby evoked the former prime minister’s 2019 general election campaign slogan – when he claimed to have an “oven ready” deal for Britain’s exit from the European Union – as the council cabinet agreed its regeneration priorities. 

That has confirmed the council will prioritise Caldicot when it makes a third bid for UK Government Levelling Up funding, leaving previous failed bids to revamp Monmouth's Shire Hall and Market Hall, plus overhaul Chepstow Rail Station, on the shelf.

Plans to rejuvenate the town have twice been knocked back by the UK Government during the first two rounds of allocations from the multi-million fund, which was promised by Mr Johnson during his tenure as prime minister and is intended to spread investment across the country and “level up” areas that had been left behind or previously overlooked. 

In January the UK Government awarded £208 million to projects across Wales, but Caldicot, as well as plans for the Shire Hall and Chepstow’s train station, were rejected. 

The plan for Caldicot is in three parts:

The refurbishment of the leisure centre

Buying out and repurposing empty retail units from numbers seven to 43 Newport Road

Improvements to town centre streets.

Monmouthshire deputy leader Paul Griffiths, who is responsible for regeneration, has said the plan for Caldicot should be the council’s sole priority. 

Cllr Paul Griffiths
Cllr Paul Griffiths (MCC)

He said, other than the UK Government having confirmed it will run a third round of allocations, there is little detail about the process, though it is expected there will be £50 million available for projects across Wales. 

The Chepstow councillor said the authority has to be ready to make a bid, with a General Election expected in 2024. 

He said: “We need to be prepared as the timescale may be very short.” 

Previous cost estimates for the Caldicot project were around £25 million, and the idea of prioritising it without making any radical changes had been backed by the council’s Severnside area committee of local councillors. 

Council leader Brocklesby, who represents Llanelly Hill near Abergavenny, said the impending General Election added to the “uncertainty” around the funding but said it “may release funding”. 

And she said the council therefore had to be ready to take advantage: “We need to be prepared to have oven ready proposals that can go forward with whoever funds it in the end.” 

Magor and Undy councillor Angela Sandles asked what the prioritisation meant for other areas of the county such as Chepstow, Abergavenny and her own ward. 

Cllr Griffiths said the prioritisation didn’t mean other areas “are forgotten” and they should be prepared for further funding pots “as they become available” and that developing placemaking plans, which the council is doing with town and community councils, is required for accessing Welsh Government funding. 

At the meeting the cabinet also agreed that the redevelopment of Monnow Street, in Monmouth, which could cost £6 million, should be the council’s priority for the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns fund. 

Following the meeting the leader of the council’s Conservative opposition, Richard John, appeared to suggest the decision favoured part of the county represented by Labour in Parliament. 

Previous rounds of the fund have allowed one bid per Parliamentary constituency to be put forward and Monmouthshire has two constituencies, the Monmouth seat held by Conservative Welsh Secretary David Davies and part of Newport East represented by Labour’s Jessica Morden. 

Cllr John, who is able to attend cabinet and ask questions, but who remained silent during the discussion tweeted following the meeting: “Councils can make one levelling up bid per parliamentary constituency. Today Labour-led @MonmouthshireCC announced it’s putting forward just one bid – in Labour-held Newport East but not in Conservative-held Monmouth @DavidTCDavies @PeterFox6”. 

Headshot of Cllr Richard John, leader of Tories on MCC
Cllr Richard John leader of the Conservative group on Monmouthshire County Council (MCC)

He tagged in Mr Davies, Monmouth’s Senedd Member, and former council leader Peter Fox, and added a raised eyebrow emoji. 

Under plans yet to be confirmed by Parliament all of Monmouthshire is set to be brought under one constituency matching the county’s boundaries.