A LOCAL group gathered in St John’s Square on Sunday morning (July, 2) before walking a circuit of Castle Meadows in protest of the Active Travels Plan.

Around two hundred residents joined the protest walk organised by ‘Save Castle Meadows’, which worked to highlight the serious concerns surrounding Monmouthshire County Council’s Active Travel Scheme in its current form.

Jo Waters, the owner of Eva, the small dog who broke her neck on the trial cattle grid that formed part of the scheme, addressed the crowd at the beginning to further emphaise the problems presented. She expressed her dismay that at least four further cattle grids are still planned, despite widespread opposition and thay alternative cycle routes had not been explored to link the new Llanfoist bridge to the rail station.

The large crowd of peaceful protesters then walked through the meadows, a 3-metre wooden beam being carried at the front to represent the planned width of the new paths.

After holding a minute’s silence for Eva, the procession moved onto the bridge over the Gavenny, where the Active Travel plans for extending the new paths across through the upper grasslands of the meadows and beyond were outlined.

a spokesperson from Castle Meadows said: “These plans can only go ahead if the council acquires the land, so that part of the project remains uncosted. And if the new works go over budget, guess who’ll be picking up the tab?”

One protester added, “I am shocked that the council are going ahead with these plans, which represent a change of use for the meadows: from a tranquil refuge for people to walk their dogs, and enjoy its wild nature, to an urbanised thoroughfare for Active Travellers. It’s asking for trouble. Why can’t alternatives be found for cyclists to link the new Llanfoist bridge to town and the rail station? Bike lockers and safer roadside routes would surely be a better use of all this money from the Welsh government? Leave the meadows alone for all of us to enjoy, and stop paving it over.”

‘Save Castle Meadows’ formed recently, following the death of a local dog on the newly-installed trial cattle grid; over 1200 people signed a petition to ask for the grid to be removed, as a result.

The group of residents from Abergavenny and Llanfoist represent those who regularly use the meadows for leisure - families, particularly those with toddlers and pushchairs, individuals hard of hearing or with sight impairment, those on mobility scooters, dog walkers, leisure cyclists and Friends of Castle Meadows are all calling on MCC to recall the current plan and sit down to find a shared solution.

A spokesperson from Castle Meadows stated: “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.”