After requesting help from Monmouthshire County Council for over five years to resolve parking issues around Usk Memorial Hall, the management committee is urging all hirers and users to contact the County Council once again, to outline the parking problems they face when trying to attend events at the Hall.

Memorial Hall chairman Peter McGowan said, ‘The car park alongside the Hall is a community car park supposedly available to all. However, each weekday there is a problem because nearly all the available spaces are taken up by the staff from Usk Prison, which is across the road from the Hall. Our activities start around 9.30am each weekday, by which time the car park is invariably full and our users struggle to find any spaces at all.’

He went on, ‘Nearly three years ago Monmouthshire County Council overhauled and re-surfaced the car park. During this time I sent numerous appeals to the County Council requesting that just a handful of spaces be made available exclusively for Hall users, but I was told this was not policy, even though there are dedicated spaces in the other main car park in the town.’

Further spaces have been lost since the re-surfacing because 8 spaces are now dedicated recharging points for electric vehicles, although at present it is rare that even one is used. ‘This makes it doubly frustrating for Hall users who are driving round and round trying to find an available space,’ said Peter.

Empty charging bays
Parking bays for electric car recharging (Julie McGowan) (Julie McGowan))

But the biggest frustration for user of the well used Memorial Hall is that nearby Usk Prison has car parking spaces behind its own building which staff very rarely use.

Usk prison car park empty
Usk Prison's empty car park (Julie McGowan) (Julie McGowan)

‘We have repeatedly asked successive Usk Prison governors over the years to urge their staff to use these spaces, which would go some way to easing the congestion, but their appeals fall on deaf ears – presumably because the community car park is slightly less far to walk to access the front entrance of the prison,’ said Peter. ‘Meanwhile, polite notices around the outside of our building asking that spaces be left vacant for hall users are completely ignored.’

Usk Memorial Hall is used for numerous activities covering all ages, as well as meetings for local organisations and vital services such as being a blood donor centre.

‘When the Welsh Blood service came here in February, the car park was completely full by 9am, before the service was up and running,’ Peter said, ‘so by the time the first donor was due to arrive, there wasn’t a single space available.’

As well as the Memorial Hall, the site is also home to the Centenary Hall, which houses the Scouts, and is regularly hired out to other users, and the children’s playground which was completely revamped by public fundraising some years ago.

‘So here we have three areas which form the main community heart of the town, helping the physical and mental wellbeing of numerous residents of all ages, yet many arrive, can’t park and go home again because the car park has become the domain predominantly of Usk Prison.’ Peter said.

The latest response from the County Council simply referred to a review of parking throughout the county due to take place later this year. ‘We don’t need another review for the County Council to know what the problems are with this car park,’ Peter said. ‘Mon CC has known these problems exist for years, and has consistently chosen not to help. Neither the committee, hirers or users have any faith that another year of reviews and consultation will make any difference.’