Multi-million pound funding bid should focus on Caldicot regeneration, says council
A third bid for millions of pounds of UK Government Levelling-Up funding should be concentrated on Caldicot, Monmouthshire council has said.
Bids to support the regeneration of the town have been knocked back by the Westminster government on two previous occasions – most recently in January, when plans to revamp Monmouthshire’s Shire Hall and overhaul Chepstow’s train station were rejected.
As well as a redevelopment of Caldicot Leisure Centre to create a wellbeing hub, the plan included the council buying up commercial properties from numbers seven to 43 Newport Road, and improvements to town centre streets.
The Labour-run council has confirmed it intends only putting a “strengthened” Caldicot bid forward for the third round of funding, which it anticipates could open this summer.
It has also said its priority for funding from the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns fund should be its revamp of Monnow Street, the main shopping street in Monmouth.
That approach has been backed by the council’s place scrutiny committee after it was briefed by deputy leader Paul Griffiths, who has cabinet responsibility for regeneration.
The Chepstow councillor said the Severnside Area Committee, of local councillors, has backed advancing the previous Caldicot bid and did not support “any radical rethink”.
The total cost of the previous Caldicot bid was estimated at £24 million, with a council contribution of around £1.9 million, and the Levelling-Up fund, which is intended to support left behind or overlooked areas, had a maximum available of £20 million for every project.
But, other than a third round of funding will be made available, Cllr Griffiths said there is little information available from the UK Government, though it’s understood the total available for Wales is likely to be £50 million.
Caldicot Cross Labour member Jackie Strong welcomed news that the council had recognised strengthening the bid with a greater emphasis on health and wellbeing, including plans to be a dementia- and disabled-friendly town, as the key rationale for why it should be supported.
She suggested that could support provision of facilities such as a changing places, larger disabled toilets with enhanced facilities, in the Newport Road buildings such as the largest unit currently occupied by the Store 21 community shop.
“If disabled people have not got access, or do not feel comfortable in the public realm, then they don’t go out,” said the councillor, who also asked what feedback had the authority received from its previous bid.
Regeneration manager Daniel Fordham said feedback was “limited in its helpfulness” as the authority had been told it had put in a “strong” bid and the advice wasn’t “enormously specific” on how it could be improved.
But, as well as focusing on health outcomes, including on the wider Severnside area, the council will use demographic and socioeconomic data it holds.
The Monnow Street scheme, which the council has held a number of consultations on, intends improving the pavement and addressing draining issues while maintaining it as a street open to two-way traffic.
The Welsh Government has allocated £44 million for schemes in South East Wales, and is also running a competitive bidding process, with projects needing to be completed by March 2025 and councils required to provide 30 per cent match funding.
It’s estimated the plan for Monnow Street will cost more than £6 million, with the council having to put in £1.8 million.
Conservative member for Llanfoist and Govilon, Tomos Davies, said he didn’t wish to pit towns against the countryside but wanted to know how the administration intends supporting the rural economy.
Cllr Griffiths said he agreed there is “nothing to be gained” in setting rural interests against urban and said the villages would “benefit as much” from revitalising the towns residents are also dependent on and said the previous Conservative administration had set out a Wye Valley Villages plan which was an example it should continue to follow.
Committee chair, Portskewett Conservative, Lisa Dymock said the committee backed the council’s approach but had questions about resources and recognised regeneration is focused on towns the rural economy shouldn’t be “neglected”.
By BBC LDRS
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