PROTESTERS are due to take to the banks of the Usk this weekend as part of a Save Castle Meadows walk which takes place on Sunday at 11am.

The walk aims to highlight ‘serious concerns’ about Monmouthshire County Council’s Active Travel Scheme in its current form: specifically, the plan to change the existing paths into 3m wide bonded tracks, to extend these wide bonded tracks across the grass for the full length of the meadows and to introduce cattle grids at all the entrances. 

This follows MCC’s recent announcement that its Active Travel Plan has taken a step forward after further revisions. 

Protesters will gather in St John’s Square (those with mobility issues will meet just inside the Byfield Lane entrance) before walking a circuit of the meadows to draw attention to their genuine fears of the consequences of these plans in their current form.

A spokesperson said: “Safety for all users seems to have been completely overlooked in these plans to mix new users simply wishing to commute across between Llanfoist and Abergavenny, with slower leisure users wishing to safely enjoy the unique charm and tranquility of Castle Meadows. 

"The plans to widen and extend the paths will also have a detrimental impact on the balance of the fragile ecosystem of these flood plain meadows. In particular it will involve disturbing the local otter population in contravention of S9 a,b and c of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

"The main impetus for cattle grids seems to be facilitating ease of access for fast cyclists on a mission to reach their destination. No other wheeled users wish to rattle across a cattle grid. For these users easy access gates would be a far better solution to allow ease of entry while keeping the cattle safely within the confines of the meadows.

"We suggest that the action of stopping to open a gate would also act as a prompt for cyclists to slow down and take care as they cross the shared paths of the meadows. This will be of particular concern when the ambitious new Velo Park opens in Llanfoist, increasing the number of cyclists simply wishing to commute across from one side of town to the other."

The group is not opposing the principle of a Shared Active Travel Route. "We are fully behind the project of providing a safe route across the River Usk for pedestrians and wheeled users, plus for allowing easier access for all who wish to enjoy this very special area. We believe, however, that the plan proposed by MCC has ignored guidance from The Active Travel Act which seeks to ensure safe routes that are attractive to all users."

The Save Castle Meadows group formed after the death of a local dog on the newly-installed trial cattle grid, following which, over 1200 people signed a petition to ask for the grid to be removed.

Save Castle Meadows is a group of residents from Abergavenny and Llanfoist representing those who regularly use the meadows for leisure - families, particularly those with toddlers and pushchairs, those hard of hearing or with sight impairment, those on mobility scooters, dog walkers and leisure cyclists.

Friends of Castle Meadows have issued the following statement in support of Save Castle Meadows action plan.

A spokesperson for the group said: "We, Friends of Castle Meadows, support the aims of the Castle Meadows Action Group to engage in a dialogue with Monmouthshire County Council. We hope that such a dialogue will result in less destruction of this precious habitat and one that is safe for all who use the Meadows.

"Join us on 2nd July and support our aim to retain the charm of Castle Meadows while at the same time improving its accessibility and creating a safer Shared Active Travel Route linking our communities. For more information please contact [email protected]

To add your support please join our Facebook group “Save Castle Meadows”."