An Abergavenny resident has expressed concerns about council plans to change pathways and access points to Castle Meadows, claiming the council are looking to “urbanise the meadows”.

As part of their Active Travel programme, Monmouthshire County Council are looking at ways to provide opportunities for local residents to change shorter car journeys for more active modes of transport such as walking and cycling.

After receiving funding, plans for the Abergavenny scheme of the programme include improvements to existing paths and access points for Castle Meadows as well as a designated Active Travel crossing to provide greater accessibility to the Meadows for Llanfoist residents.

Access points through Castle Meadows will also be looked at as part of the plans with possible changes made to gates to allow spacing for cyclists, mobility scooter users and people with pushchairs to travel safely through without stopping to open and close gates.

Castle Meadows is a popular walking route in Abergavenny, and as one of the larger open green spaces in the town is especially popular with dog walkers who frequently exercise their dogs at the Meadows.

The area is also used for grazing cattle during the summer months.

After hearing of the council’s plans, one resident who visits the Meadows regularly with their dogs voiced their concerns.

In a letter written to the Chronicle, the resident said: “The Council just want to urbanise the meadows. At a recent Zoom meeting I attended between Active Travel, Monmouthshire Council and Friends of Castle Meadows, the Meadows was constantly referred to as a park as if it was in the middle of town. Any leisure use of the meadows was totally ignored, as it is considered as a way to travel to get across Abergavenny and not as the unique peaceful beauty spot it is.”

In their letter the resident raised concerns about the possible use of more tarmac on the Meadows to extend and widen pathways, and the effect that may have on bio-diversity and flooding at the Meadows, as well as the possible installation of cattle grids as access points in place of gates.

They wrote: “Any rural person knows that cattle grids are dangerous and cause many dogs to break legs and then maybe die. There are many disabled dog owners, some with mobility scooters or prams etc, who at present use the meadows but will soon no longer be able to. All present cyclists and mobility scooter drivers say they have no problem using the present gates. No regular user of the meadows wants cattle grids installed.”

The resident went on to say that the opinions of regular visitors to the Meadows are being ignored by the council and is calling for Monmouthshire County Council to organise further public consultation on the proposed plans.

Responding to these concerns, a Monmouthshire County Council spokesperson said: “Active Travel remains a key priority to Monmouthshire County Council in our response to Climate Change and in line with the Welsh Government Transport Hierarchy. Following our recent Active Travel Network Map Consultation a designated Active Travel crossing over the river Usk at Llanfoist was identified as one of the highest priority improvements for residents right across Monmouthshire.

There are no plans of ‘sticking a road through castle meadows’ with all upgraded paths being entirely designated for users in line with the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. Access points to the meadow will be designed with all users in mind ensuring ease of access, whether it be for Active Travel or Leisure purposes, as well as keeping in mind key factors such as the cattle that currently graze in the area.

Monmouthshire County Council

“Public consultation is set to launch shortly through a designated website, online survey and press release for the Abergavenny scheme which builds on the WelTAG process undertaken, individual consultation carried out and with key voluntary groups linked to Castle Meadows. The biodiversity and ecological sensitivity of Castle Meadows is a key factor in the management of the site and will remain so. The active travel programme takes these matters very seriously and will be looking to add benefit to the biodiversity of the site as part of the scheme.”

Speaking to the Chronicle about the council plans, Abergavenny Mayor Tudor Thomas said: “A number of people are concerned about this development and have contacted the Town Council. I am meeting with the Chair of Environment of the Town Council this week to discuss these concerns which are mainly about the proposed wide tarmac path and the installation of cattle grids. Any concerns will be raised with MCC.

“Whilst I would encourage and want to see more people walking and cycling, I am sympathetic to those who have raised concerns about the impact on the Meadows and believe further consultation is needed between the public and county council on any plans for changes at Castle Meadows.”