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Chamber's Viewpoint

I am writing this email in response to posts I’ve seen on social media and comments that have been fed back to me from members of the public taking part in the Monnow Street consultation. I had been trying to move onto the next steps for the town's future, but because of these recent dialogues I’m afraid I feel it necessary to state quite clearly, yet again, that the Chamber of Commerce, representing its members, has huge concerns regarding the Monnow Street proposal. Many of the businesses that took part in the workshops felt that they weren’t being listened to by the consulting team, made their comments, and left, not prepared to enter into any further dialogue and leaving expression of their collective views to me.

I appreciate that the consultants state that they have most of the businesses in support of their plans, but that is not the unsolicited feedback I am getting.

I have been making strong representation for months to make sure no-one is in any doubt about the negative impact many retailers feel these changes will make to their businesses, and to try and ensure the town debates this issue thoroughly. For several weeks, I have been receiving telephone calls, visits to my office, and emails from members of the public concerned about what has happened to our lovely town. They contact me because what I have been saying in the Press has resonated with them. What I have endeavoured to do is give the consultants a fair hearing and to make sure that as many people as possible get to see and comment on their proposals. After all, this is the biggest change to our town in a generation, if not in several generations and it will never be put back once it’s been installed; so, it has to be right.

This is especially true for those businesses who have put their livelihood on the line by opening in Monmouth, who pay high rates and rents to realise their dream. They should not and cannot afford to be subjected to the chaos the current regime has caused on a daily/hourly basis. Listening to their experiences is of paramount importance and they deserve to be heard, for without their presence and their commitment, Monmouth ceases to be a viable town.

I would not be shouting so loudly, but when I took over as Chair of the Chamber, the Agincourt Square consultation was reaching fruition. I raised huge concerns about the scheme but was told I didn’t know what I was talking about and that I just needed to give it time, as it would greatly benefit the business community. EVERY concern I raised has been realised and instead of it having enhanced the top of town it has done the opposite and killed the vibrant trade that used to be there. We have been left with a purposeless triangle of sloping paving and created frequent difficulties for vehicular and pedestrian movement in equal measure. This is why I have to make sure the decision-makers are listening this time around.

As previously stated, our membership is growing and as Chair I represent over 80 businesses, from the town’s largest employer to independent retailers, national chain-stores, professional services, and charities. From the feedback I have received, only two members are supportive of the Monnow Street scheme and even then, not in its entirety.

It is equally felt that as the levelling up funding is no longer available Monnow Street should be put back to pre-Covid structure while funding is sought. If this doesn’t happen, sadly, we are likely to see many more businesses closing, something I have been working hard to try and prevent. The town's businesses need everyone's support now more than ever as we struggle through a serious downturn in the economy.

Please, if you have questions about the Chamber and business views, DM us rather than debate things independently or question what the Chamber has or hasn’t said on social media; it simply muddies the water when we have been VERY clear in our emails and Press statements on how people feel. No-one but the business owners themselves, who may prefer not to comment for fear of losing trade, has the knowledge or right to comment on their behalf. One of our principal remits as a Chamber is to give them a voice.

Much as it would be a lot easier for me personally to stay quiet, I cannot do that. Somebody has to stand up and be counted. So, I am not acting on my own behalf but have the membership's complete authority to be their spokesperson.

Equally, if you are a business/sole trader that isn't a member and want to find out more about what the Chamber can do to help you please get in touch.

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