A DESPERATE plea to “help save Monmouth” has been issued by high street businesses hit by the “cruel timing” of a water network upgrade and roadworks, which have brought the town to a standstill.

Traders are reeling from the impact of a “perfect storm” where every access and exit to Monmouth currently has roadworks governed by either a one-way system or traffic lights.

In the run-up to Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter – key dates in the retail calendar – worried business owners have described the town centre as an “empty ghost town”, with some reporting a reduction in footfall of 90 per cent.

Local MP David Davies said there was a “general acceptance and understanding” that Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water must undertake vital work to replace the ageing Victorian mains water pipe in Monmouth.

But he said the disruption was proving “horrendously painful” and accused Monmouthshire County Council of “adding fuel to the fire” by approving a 12-week works schedule to install a new active travel route in Wonastow Road, Drybridge Street and Rockfield Road – which includes turning the roundabout by Bridges Centre into a T-junction and 3-way traffic lights.

Mr Davies, who lives in the town, met Chamber of Commerce president Sherren McCabe-Finlayson and David Christopher Jewellers – a stalwart of Monmouth high street for over 30 years - on Friday morning (9 February) to see first-hand how bad the situation is.

“The retail and hospitality industries are still struggling to rebuild and compete with the internet post-Covid,” said Mr Davies.

“We have the Labour Welsh Government slashing business rates relief from 75 per cent to 40 per cent and the Labour-run Monmouthshire County Council is seemingly content to pile on more misery with some very poor decisions that have all but destroyed town centre trade.

“Without support during this testing time, there are real fears about the future of our once vibrant and busy high street. As I witnessed, footfall is dramatically reduced, which is impacting terribly on sales, and if we don’t act now we risk losing these retailers for good.

“There is a great deal of anger and frustration over the lack of consultation and timing of these works - especially as the council said it was confident the two projects happening at the same time wouldn’t be a problem.”

Further inconvenience has been the loss of parking spaces at the free car park on Rockfield Road for the 12 weeks the active travel works will take to complete.

“To add insult to injury, there is a lot of worry about the accessibility of the town for tourists over the February half-term and Easter holidays,” said Mr Davies.

“Why would visitors sit in a gridlocked town centre when they could spend their money less than 20 miles away in Ross-on-Wye, Abergavenny or Coleford with ample parking and fully accessible high streets?”

Mr Davies has joined forces with the Chamber of Commerce and business community to put forward a list of suggestions as a possible way forward to reduce the immediate impact.

He has written to Cllr Catrin Maby, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and the Environment, calling on the council to:

Stop the work in Drybridge Street or at least keep the road system free of traffic lights while the area that has already been dug up is made right.

Ensure no further work is carried out in Monmouth, unless it is essential maintenance, until Welsh Water has concluded its programme of works.

Remove the traffic lights by the bus station to keep traffic flowing.

Ensure no further loss of car parking spaces to maintenance vehicles.

Introduce three hours of free parking to encourage people to continue using the town.

In his letter, Mr Davies has also asked the council to consider any specific and targeted rates relief by means of recompense to businesses that have been affected by these works.

He will be meeting with senior management at Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water shortly.