Funding has been secured this financial year to start the construction of the new Active Travel bridge across the Usk, and revised plans for the entrance gates to Castle Meadows have been agreed between Monmouthshire County Council and Transport for Wales.

A planning application to improve paths through Castle Meadows, Abergavenny will be considered in the near future by the Council’s Planning Committee. Planning discussions were delayed from July’s planning meeting while a query from Natural Resources Wales about the ecology of the site was explored.

Following the death of a dog in May, a trial cattle grid with a gate at Castle Meadows will be removed and replaced with just a gate, while the new bridge across the Gavenny will have no grids or gates and allow barrier-free access.

Other entry points that lead onto roads and car parks will have kissing gates replaced with easily opened, self-closing single gates and a cycle-width cattle grid for cycles and mobility scooters.

It is said that the grids will only be in use when cattle are grazing, which is usually between July and January, to give easy access for all users while keeping cattle enclosed; grazing by cattle is important to the biodiversity of the traditional water meadows.   

Cllr. Sara Burch, Cabinet member for inclusive and active communities said: “I am delighted that funding has been secured this financial year to enable the construction of the new Active Travel bridge across the Usk at Castle Meadows to begin. It is hoped that it will be completed in 2024 and will make it safer for people to travel between Llanfoist and Abergavenny.

“We have listened to public opinion regarding access points to Castle Meadows and as a result we will be removing the trial cattle grid. The original proposals are national best practice for active travel routes that cross areas where cattle graze, but clearly Castle Meadows needs a bespoke approach.

"The team have explored various alternatives following an incident early this year, including what has worked elsewhere and suggestions made by the public. This is a complex site and there are no easy solutions.

"We will now only install grids where we would expect dog owners to have their dog on a lead, such as the entrances from car parks and the road. There will be clear signage wherever they are installed. I am grateful to Transport for Wales for continuing to support us with Active Travel funding while allowing flexibility in how we deliver the scheme.

“This scheme is a big investment in Abergavenny’s future and we have to get every detail right. Our aim remains to enable everyone to enjoy the beautiful Castle Meadows including walkers, families with small children, people with limited mobility, cyclists and dog owners. People will be able to choose to use the new, safe, attractive, resin bound surfaces, or wander through the informal paths.

"The Active Travel routes will provide a safe and pleasant route for walkers and cyclists between Llanfoist and the different areas of Abergavenny, including the new King Henry VIII school and the station. We will continue to consult on the detail of the scheme at each phase.”     

There has been some speculation locally that dogs being walked on the meadows will have to be kept on a lead as a result of this scheme. However MCC have confirmed this to be incorrect – dogs will continue to be allowed off a lead when it is safe to do so on Castle Meadows. Dogs on or off a lead must always be under an owner’s control, especially around children, cyclists and cattle. And all responsible dog owners should always pick up after their dog.

The proposed route in Abergavenny is one of many across the country that have been proposed as a result of the Active Travel (Wales) act. The act aims to reduce the amount of car journeys by improving the active travel routes in towns, which in turn aims to reduce pollution, improve health and equality.

The scheme has been funded by the Welsh Government through the Active Travel Fund, administered by Transport for Wales. This money is ring-fenced for improvements to Active Travel routes. Each phase of the scheme is subject to separate funding approval, and construction in the Castle Meadows can only take place at certain times of year, making this a multi-year project.

For the latest information about the Active Travel project in Abergavenny and to view the frequently asked questions about the scheme please click here.