A BID has been launched to turn a HGV-embattled Monmouthshire town into a pedestrian-friendly location after decades of protests and demonstrations.

However the county council warn that it is far too soon to gauge whether the scheme will ultimately have any effect on traffic levels - or indeed when, if ever, the work would actually begin.

Monmouthshire County Council and Usk Town Council have announced a partnership with ARUP Consultancy to create what they describe as a ‘Forward-looking, aspirational master plan for Usk and Woodside.’ The plan will focus on designing an innovative street and public space in a bid to make Usk a pedestrian friendly town.

The statement admits, ‘The desire for a safe, friendlier highway has been sought by residents of Usk for many years. The quiet town has been subject to large vehicles passing through Bridge Street and damage to Usk Bridge is a regular occurrence. Pedestrians walking through Bridge Street report feeling unsafe and increased traffic has led to the street becoming an air quality management area.’ 

Residents gained a taste of what a pedestrianised space could feel like when Bridge Street and Castle parade were closed off for essential gas pipe upgrading in 2018.

Many reporting feeling safer to be able to walk freely through the street without the worry of busy through traffic and increased footfall was reported to have provided a boost to local firms.

Sustainability and future of retail and commerce, leisure, parking, as well as the traffic management were all issues deemed important to residents. 

In addition, the plan highlighted the ‘Very proactive and busy community sector with groups organising events, possibly the best known being the flower displays, resulting in Usk earning the ‘Town of Flowers’ title’.

Councillor Jane Pratt, cabinet member for infrastructure and neighbourhood services said, ‘We are really pleased to have an opportunity to partner Usk Town Council in this exciting initiative. For many years we have recognised that Usk requires a concentrated piece of work to identify the opportunities that will enable the town to be fit for the future through supporting local business and creating a destination where visitors and residents can enjoy the town.’

Mayor of Usk, Christine Wilkinson, said, ‘We are excited, not only to have ARUP on board for this next stage, but to have MCC joining to drive this forward.’

Damage to the Grade II listed Usk Bridge, built in 1747 and widened in 1836, has been costly and ongoing with hauliers flouting the weight restrictions and hitting the walls with wide vehicles.

In 2011 the Bridge had to be repaired 12 times and with ever-increasing traffic it has been feared the structure could eventually become unsustainable.

Substantial damage to the Bridge occurred in August, 2018 when a HGV carrying a fork lift truck attempted to negotiate the end of the south side of the bridge.

In 2016, an order to ban HGVs over 7.5 tonnes between 8am until 11am, and from 2pm to 6pm daily from using the Usk Bridge was met with objections as questions were raised about its effect on local businesses and haulage firms.

Jane Pratt told the Chronicle, ‘To offer any view on effects upon traffic would be to pre-empt the outcome of the planning exercise. However we are hoping to limit the amount of HGV traffic that may be using Usk as a short cut to destinations further afield.

‘The work is just one area of investment in to the town and will ensure that the town becomes a pedestrian friendly place which will lead to a positive impact on local businesses.

‘Any works will be subject to the planning exercise outcome and funding being secured. It is much too early to discuss any start dates for work.’