Monmouthshire County Council has celebrated the 175th anniversary of the Usk Show by promoting its services aimed at helping people across the county. Record numbers of visitors descended on Llandenny, Usk to soak up the atmosphere, beautiful sun shine and the wide variety of marquees, stalls and animals. 

The Monmouthshire marquee returned for the third year and was as popular as ever. This year the theme was ‘We Care’ – a wide range of council departments and organisations came together to promote services and projects that help people of all ages across Monmouthshire.

The marquee was filled with the sounds of the Monmouthshire Community Choir, Allegra Choir, the very talented young people from Gwent Music’s Brass Band ensemble and Swyn Celtiadd. 

Council-led projects ‘My Day My Life’ and ‘My Mates’ engaged visitors with anecdotal stories and case studies sharing just how people with disabilities are living life to the full. My Day My Life helps to provide a range of activities to help people gain skills and socialise. My Mates is a friendship group which empowers individuals to meet new people and go out and do the things they want to do.

Monmouthshire Foster Care Team chatted to potential foster carers. Members of staff were happy to answer questions and dispel myths about fostering to help babies, children and young people have the best start in life. Monmouthshire Supported Lodgings team chatted about the opportunities to help homeless individuals. Supported Lodgings allows households to offer a room to those who need a safe place to live whilst enabling them to gain specialist support from the Supported Lodgings team and young people’s homeless organisation Llamau.  

Visitors were drawn to the multitude of activities taking place outside the marquee. Little ones had fun jumping on scooters to ride on a specially made scooter track. The activity hosted by Monmouthshire Road Safety Team aimed to raise awareness of the benefits of active travel and promote road safety with both children and parents.

Monmouthshire’s Sports Development volunteers were inundated by families taking part in the mini golf area as well as boccia and skittles. Usk Tennis Club returned to the outside area with their inflatable tennis court. Visitors of all ages thoroughly enjoyed the activity.

Visitors flocked to take a look at the Riversimple Hydrogen car. The two seater ‘network electric’ car is powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Monmouthshire County Council has joined a partnership with Riversimple to trial the car in Abergavenny. The council aims to be carbon free by 2030, welcomes innovative ways to combat climate change and the trial is just one exciting aspect.

Leader of the Council, County Councillor Peter Fox OBE said:

“Monmouthshire Marquee never fails to surprise me. I was so pleased to see so many visitors both inside and outside the marquee chatting, listening and most importantly having fun and interacting with council departments and partner organisations. I would like to thank show organisers for inviting us to the show and everyone who worked so hard to make it happen.

I would also like to thank the Passenger Transport Team for stepping in to help transport visitors when organisers were let down by an external company.”

The Monmouthshire Foster Care Team will be at Caldicot Fireworks on Sunday 3rd November. Stop and chat to the team about the many ways you can help change a future. For more information call 01873 735950 or visit www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/fostering/

For more information about the Riversimple trial contact: Riversimple 01597 821060 or visit www.riversimple.com

Families in Monmouthshire who dedicate their lives to supporting and providing a home for children and young people have been recognised with a special ceremony at this year’s Usk Show.

On Saturday 14th of September, Monmouthshire County Council’s ‘Thank You for Fostering’ event saw over 30 carers and their families come together over tea and cake for a celebration of their outstanding dedication to fostering.

The special ceremony began with a word of thanks from Chief Officer for Social Services, Safeguarding and Health Julie Boothroyd, who welcomed all the carers and thanked them for their work. This was followed by a presentation of beautiful flowers hosted by Monmouthshire County Council Leader Councillor Peter Fox and Monmouthshire County Council Chair, Councillor Shelia Woodhouse.

Cllr Penny Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health, who was unable to attend left a special message for the carers.

“I want to take this opportunity to recognise your work and to tell you how much you are all appreciated. Your role is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for young people and you are key in helping to change their lives for the better. We are extremely grateful for the service you provide and I hope you will continue to foster and work with Monmouthshire for a long time.”

The celebration of Monmouthshire’s foster carers has become an annual tradition hosted by the Foster Care Team. The team were also on hand at the Usk Show throughout the day speaking to people about how they can become a foster carer with Monmouthshire.

Councillor Peter Fox said: “It was an absolute honour to host a special thank you event for our foster families. Some of our families having been fostering for over 25 years now so it’s great to recognise their commitment. The work they all do makes a huge difference to children and young people. We are constantly in need of more foster carers so we would encourage anyone considering offering a home to a child to get in touch. We have some wonderful opportunities to meet the team coming up soon so please go along if you have any questions.”

Monmouthshire County Council’s Foster Care Team are hosting a range of events for people to enquire about fostering.

Upcoming event:

What: Fostering Meet and Greet

Where: Three Salmons Hotel in Usk

When: 19th of September between 10.00am and 12.00pm. A later session will take place from 5.00pm to 7.00pm.

Fostering is an amazing, rewarding role which can last anything from five months to 25 years. The team are always looking for more people who can help babies, children and young people. For more information contact 01873 735950 or Text FOSTER with a name to 83222 or visit http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/fostering

Wales & West Utilities have begun exploratory works to replace the gas main on St Ann Street and a section of Wye Bridge in Chepstow this week, with temporary road closures, traffic orders and traffic management to commence next week for a period of approximately 7 weeks.

Given the highway environment within this area it will be necessary to implement a number of temporary orders to control traffic and parking and also provide traffic lights in places to support the operation of these arrangements.

In essence, the existing one-way system on Bridge Street, Church Road and Lower Church Street will be suspended to permit the flow of two-way traffic and also some of the existing on-street parking on Lower Church Street will be suspended to accommodate and allow vehicles to pass safely, if and when appropriate.  

Vehicular access for directly affected residents and emergency services will be maintained as far as is reasonably practicable and diversion routes will be clearly signposted.

Should you require further information or wish to discuss the logistics of the closure and how this might impact you please can these be addressed to Wales and West’s customer services team at enquiries@wwutilities.co.uk or alternatively phone freephone 0800 912 2999 or tweet @WWUtilities

Hundreds of Monmouthshire families have had the time of their lives this summer visiting the many Monmouthshire County Council attractions, taking part in the brilliant sporting activities, outdoor theatre experiences and castles.

Over 8000 people visited the Visit Monmouthshire website www.visitmonmouthshire.co.uk to find out where they could go to make everlasting memories.

Caldicot Castle provided the back drop for a magical experience for little ones mesmerised by Louby Lou and her team of storytellers. The sell-out story telling sessions saw children from all over the county get lost in the tales of white rabbits, swashbuckling pirates, dinosaurs and unicorns and hunt for the gingerbread man around the Castle grounds. The castle is looking forward to many more favourite tales being played out amongst the turrets and cannons.

Over 3,535 young people aged 5-12 years of age participated in the ever popular Mon Games. The sheer number of young people having fun through sport is a testament to the fantastic staff and volunteers who support the Mon Games initiative. This year saw the start of dance and gymnastic and outdoor adventure camps, mermaid school, alongside the ever popular Girls Can, football, rugby and cricket camps.

The team works in partnership with Newport Gwent Dragons and Gwent Outdoor Centres’ to provide the unique opportunities and saw 404 children and young people take part over 29 days.

At Old Station Tintern over 1500 people hopped on board the miniature train for a ride around the grounds and many families and explored the grounds to look for clues in the treasure trail.

Chepstow Museum hosted four Drop in and Make craft afternoons throughout August at The Drill Hall. Grandparents, parents and carers enjoyed a few hours making fun things with their little ones. Chepstow Tourist Information Centre became the perfect place for locals and visitors to meet with friends for a coffee before exploring the town, castle and a stroll along the river.

Monmouthshire is rich in history. This year saw the start of informative tours of the Monnow Bridge in Monmouth. Over 600 people visited the only remaining fortified River Bridge in the UK with its gate tower standing on the bridge. The tour is led by knowledgeable volunteers and has been a hit with locals and visitors since the tour began in April 2019.  

Abergavenny Castle provided the backdrop for award winning outdoor entertainment, 450 people came along and families brought picnics and blankets to revel in the grounds of the castle. Performances included the popular children’s book Gangsta Granny by David Walliams, brought to life by Heartbreak Productions. Illyria Productions brought Alli Baba and the Forty Thieves to Abergavenny and saw brilliant actors, a spectacular set and hilarious slapstick comedy entertaining people of all ages in a unique setting.

Cabinet Member for Mon Life, Cllr Richard John said:

“This summer has been immense. The feedback from all our leisure centres and attractions is so pleasing to see. The opportunities that Mon Life provide are incredible and I am so pleased to see so many children, young people and their families taking advantage of the unique activities. I look forward to seeing more partnership working with facilities such as our outdoor education service. Monmouthshire has so much to offer for families we really did provide the Summer they Want.”

Many more events and activities are planned for October half term. The Mon Games and sports camps are open for bookings. Pop in or call a leisure centre to book a place. All centres are open between 6.30am and 10:00pm from Monday to Friday, between 8.00am and 6:30pm on Saturday, and between 8.15am and 6:30pm on Sunday (holiday opening hours may vary).

Visit Monmouthshire is hub for all events and attractions, so much information. Plan the next few months, visit: www.visitmonmouthshire.com

Monmouthshire County Council returns to Usk Show for the third year. The council pavilion plans to be bigger and better than ever. Situated near the entrance to the showground, the marquee is the first port of call for a wide range of fun, free activities and information from a diverse range of services and organisations.

This year the council’s theme is We Care and will coincide with We Care Wales Week a national campaign running Monday 9th to Sunday 15th September by Social Care Wales which focuses on raising public awareness and understanding of career opportunities in social care and early years.

Monmouthshire Workforce Development Team are offering CPR taster sessions and will be able to offer advice to visitors about the many caring roles that are available in the county. Little ones are encouraged to come dressed as superheroes as the fantastic authors of Billy the Super Hero, a book to celebrate and inspire carers will be with the team. In the book, Billy a young boy who loves superheroes and is inspired to become a real-life superhero (a doctor) after seeing the way health and social care professional’s care for his Nan. Through Billy’s story, the book introduces the topic of health and social care to children with the aim of sparking an interest in its rewarding career prospects.

The book was developed by the Gwent Regional Partnership Team, Aneurin Bevan Health Board and Petra Publishing.

Monmouthshire Fostering Team will be on hand to chat to visitors about the many ways babies, children and young people can be supported by loving individuals and families. It’s not just youngsters who need support, the Supported Lodgings Team will be at the show to talk to people about the difference a room can make to a homeless adult or families life.

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board will be in the marquee providing visitors with information about the changes to healthcare provision in Gwent and will be able to answer questions about the new Grange University Hospital.  

Young families are encouraged to come in and take part in many free activities inside and outside the marquee. Monmouthshire Family Information Service will be chatting about the Childcare Offer, the wide variety of activities and groups available across the county. The FIS team will be joined by staff from Cymraeg Y Blant who will be able to offer all you need to know about the benefits and beauty of a bilingual education for little ones. Monmouthshire Sport Development will be providing the ever popular mini golf. A scooter track set up by Road Safety Team will help youngsters burn off some energy and have fun.

Monmouthshire County Council is committed to becoming zero carbon county by 2030 and are continually thinking of different ways to achieve the goal. The council has teamed up with River Simple to help trial the use of hydrogen vehicles across the county. The River Simple car will be on display outside the marquee and the team welcomes visitors to take a look and ask any questions they may have about the car.

Entertainment will be provided by Gwent Music, the amazing Monmouthshire Community Choir returns along with Swyn Celdiadd. New for 2019 is a Samba workshop and a brass band ensemble.

Usk Show takes place at Usk Showground, Llandenny NP15 1DD book your tickets in advance:  www.uskshow.co.uk/ or purchase them on day.

Monmouthshire County Council is developing plans to reduce its carbon emissions. The council declared a climate emergency in May 2019 and the plans will be examined by the Strong Communities Select Committee on the 26th September before being debated the County Council in October.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.  Significant change is needed before 2030 to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 °C to minimise risks from extreme weather events such as storms, the loss of important species and habitats and the resulting impacts on people, businesses and communities.

The local authority is already doing many things to reduce carbon emissions.  The council has a solar farm and has installed solar panels on lots buildings which generate the equivalent of nearly 20% of electricity the council uses and  99.5% of the electricity used by the council last year was from renewable sources.  The council is installing electric vehicle charging points around the county and is working with a local company to pilot hydrogen powered vehicles.  In 2018 councillors asked The Gwent Pension Fund to begin disinvesting from fossil fuels.

Cllr Jane Pratt Cabinet Member Whole Authority for de-carbonisation said, “These things on their own are not enough to tackle the Climate Emergency. New initiatives are required to make a difference across all communities and citizens in Monmouthshire – it’s about how we travel, live, eat, produce our food, shop and how we are inextricably linked to our environment.”

The council can’t reduce carbon on its own, the help of the public and businesses is vital.  This all needs to be done whilst balancing the needs of enterprise and supporting our rural economy now and in the future. Officers working on the plan have met with Community Climate Champions to ensure they are engaged in the development of the plan.

There are simple steps that everyone can take to reduce their carbon footprint, such as walking and cycling more, reducing, re-using and recycling waste and buying local food. 

The climate emergency will be one of the themes of the Monmouthshire County Council marquee at the Usk Show on Saturday 14th September. The council welcomes residents visiting the show to pop in and chat to officers and the many organisations.


Monmouthshire County Council has become the first local authority in the UK to move forward with an initiative aimed at finding solutions to loneliness and limited public transport in rural parts of the county.

The initiatives will be developed with the funding and support from the GovTech Catalyst: a UK Government scheme, run by the Government Digital Service, to help technology firms develop innovative fixes to public sector challenges. Since January, five projects have been developing concepts to tackle rural isolation. Two of these have now been selected to develop their solutions into viable products or services which could benefit communities in Monmouthshire and if successful could be scaled up in other parts of the UK.

Box Clever Digital and the Behavioural Insights Team will each receive up to £500,000 of funding (including VAT) from the GovTech Catalyst fund to develop their concepts.

Monmouthshire is a semi-rural county with diverse and beautiful surroundings, yet it is the diversity of the landscape which presents many challenges. Loneliness has a significant impact on people’s health and well-being while a lack of transport also limits the ability of people to access training and employment. 

Box Clever Digital has proposed a solution called ‘Thrive’ which is a digital platform that aims to boost skills and increase connections between people in their local community to prevent loneliness reducing referrals into health and social care services. Thrive also uses technology to unlock the potential of under-utilised transport provision including ride-sharing. 

The second project being delivered by the Behavioural Insights Team, sometimes referred to as the nudge unit, has proposed a solution called ‘Connector’ to increase our understanding of loneliness at a local level and develop targeted approaches that will make it easier for people to get involved with and access community activities that can increase well-being and reduce loneliness.

The team’s approach is powered by an understanding of behavioural science, and will aim to tackle the underlying mental and physical barriers to participation irrespective of people’s digital capability. 

Cabinet Office Minister for Implementation, Simon Hart MP said: 

“I’m delighted to announce that Monmouthshire’s GovTech challenge on tackling rural loneliness has progressed to the second phase of its development. Through the GovTech Catalyst we’re helping to drive innovation whilst developing better services for the public and saving taxpayers money.”

Monmouthshire’s Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Community Development, Councillor Sara Jones said:

“I would like to congratulate Box Clever Digital and the Behavioural Insights Team as they move into the next phase of the Govtech Catalyst. These two innovative projects were selected among a high calibre of projects which all presented fantastic solutions to the challenge of rural isolation here in Monmouthshire. I’m excited to see how both projects progress in the next phase.”

Clare Delargy, BIT’s Head of Social Capital, said: 

“We are delighted to continue working with our partners in Monmouthshire to build our service, Connector. BIT sees huge potential in combining our experience with behavioural science and data to encourage people to attend all of the excellent community activities already running all over the county. 

We know that increasing awareness of events alone is not enough to overcome psychological barriers to attending them, so our approach also addresses the social fears which may hinder participation, particularly for those who are lonely or isolated.”

Dan Scobie, Chief Technology Officer at Box Clever Digital said: “We’re delighted to be working with Monmouthshire County Council on such an important project; using technology innovation to tackle loneliness and transport issues across the county.

Box Clever Digital has a great history of innovating in the social care, legal, and transport industries, and we’re pleased to be able to continue to bring innovative approaches to tackling important issues in society.”

Both projects will run for twelve months from September 2019. Together these have the potential to provide the foundations for improved connectivity and well-being in Monmouthshire’s rural communities.

Monmouthshire County Council’s care home for people with dementia is on the lookout out for passionate gardeners to help tend to the community garden.

Severn View has recently acquired additional land and now needs more volunteers to turn the beautiful grounds into a fantastic sensory space for residents and visitors. The sensory garden will provide an opportunity to improve the wellbeing of residents, carers and volunteers.

An open day is taking place at Severn View, Chepstow NP16 5BS on Tuesday 10th September from 2.00pm. The day will provide an opportunity to find out more over a cup of tea and cake.

Cabinet member for Social Care and Health Cllr. Penny Jones said:

“Volunteering has a positive impact on individual and wider community wellbeing, this opportunity will have a direct impact on the lives of people in our communities.  Severn View is a special place and the garden is a real asset. We would really appreciate people’s involvement no matter how big or small a commitment, just helping out makes a huge difference.”

For more information contact: Sian Gardner, call 07815005013.

New pedestrianised streets and  a square in Abergavenny’s town centre have officially opened following a ceremony in the centre on Saturday the 24th of August.

The pedestrian areas, which have been three years in the making, now feature a new layout spanning from Abergavenny High Street into St Johns Square and through to the bottom of Frogmore Street where the Cenotaph proudly sits.  

The new layout provides safe and attractive access to Abergavenny’s main shopping areas whilst offering a fresh look to the town centre. The phased work has been carried out by local contractor Alun Griffiths and is estimated to have cost over £3million. The funding has come from the Welsh Government and the Morrisons development and was aimed at linking the various commercial streets in the town into a pedestrian friendly environment.

The design of the scheme was truly a joint effort between Monmouthshire County Council officers and members, Abergavenny Town council members plus various others from the town volunteering their time to work together to deliver the scheme.

Local retailers and shop owners have praised the contractors in particular for making all efforts during the course of the works to ensure disruption to their businesses was kept to a minimum.

Monmouthshire County Council Chair Shelia Woodhouse and key members of the project attended the opening ceremony. They were joined by contractors who were treated to a celebratory barbecue and drinks courtesy of local restaurant Casa Bianca.

Following the opening ceremony, Council Chairwoman Shelia Woodhouse said: “The new pedestrian areas in Abergavenny’s town centre have not only provided a safe route for the public through one of Monmouthshire’s most attractive towns but it has also provided a new and modern look to the centre. I want to thank the public and retailers for their patience while the work was carried out and I would also like to thank all staff and contractors who have carried out the work to the very best standards with the least disruption as possible. Thanks to Abergavenny Town Council, Team Abergavenny and MCC Officers for working so closely together making this a great example of teamwork and cooperation.”

Lucy Hywel representing Y-Fenni Business Community said: “The pedestrianisation works are a cause for great celebration bringing a new lease of life to the heart of Abergavenny’s retail offering.”

High tides are due. We will be monitoring the situation and if necessary, will arrange for the A466 through Tintern to be closed for short periods on the following dates and times:-

  • Saturday 31st August Between 21.25 – 21.55 (approx.)
  • Sunday 1st September Between 9.55 – 10.25 (approx.)
  • Sunday 1st September Between 22.10 – 22.40 (approx.)
  • Monday 2nd September Between 10.40 – 11.10 (approx.)
  • Monday 2nd September Between 22.55 – 23.25 (approx.)

The closure points will be as follows:

  • North End closure: Trelleck Road junction.
  • South End closure: Royal George junction.

Closure times are estimated based on the forecasted tide times. Natural Resources Wales will be monitoring the situation and issuing Flood Warnings as necessary. Road closures will only be temporary and only when tidal water actually overflows onto the highway. The road will reopen as soon as the water has receded from the highway.

Monmouth Leisure Centre is hosting a jam-packed weekend of free activities for the whole family to celebrate its first anniversary since reopening.

The free ‘Open Weekend’ kicks off on Saturday 7th of September and will offer a host of fantastic activities including swimming, Les Mills classes and spin sessions. There is also plenty on offer for children with soft play, crazy golf and access to the climbing wall.

The event is being hosted by Monleisure as a way of saying a big thank you to everyone who has used Monmouth Leisure Centre over the last year and people are also being invited to come and explore the fantastic range of new facilities on offer.

Over £7.4 million has been invested into the refurbishment of Monmouth Leisure Centre which boasts a children’s play centre, a café, a multi-purpose room for parties and meetings, a health suite incorporating jacuzzi, steam room, relaxation areas, treatment room and sauna, a spin studio, toning suite, spacious changing rooms and a large gym with the latest market-leading equipment. The centre is also home to a brand new 25m swimming pool located in the former sports hall.

Cabinet Member for Monmouthshire Leisure Centre Services, Councillor Richard John said: “We’re really proud of the newly renovated leisure centre in Monmouth, which has so much to offer the local community in terms of physical and mental wellbeing, fitness and fun for the whole family. Between the new school and leisure centre, our council has invested over £50million in the education and wellbeing of people of all ages in and around Monmouth.


“This weekend will be a great opportunity for anyone to see the fantastic facilities available to the public and would urge all local residents to come and see for themselves what a 21st century leisure centre looks like. The new leisure centre sets the standard high for what we want to achieve in the county’s other leisure centres, so more families in Monmouthshire can enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.”

For further information on activity timetables and availability like and follow Monmouth Leisure Centre on social media.

Students across Monmouthshire celebrated their GCSE results and other level 2 qualifications.

This year saw the introduction of new accountability measures for GCSE outcomes and changes to the way  results are aggregated. The council will continue to work and support schools, partners and the Educational Achievement Service to promote high standards across all schools to ensure that all of our learners reach their full potential.

Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: “I am delighted for all of our students who have received their results today.  Results days are always a mixture of excitement and trepidation but we can see today that the hard work and dedication of all of our students, their families and our schools’ staff has paid off.  I want to congratulate everybody for what they have achieved.”

Will McLean, Chief Officer for Children and Young People added: “Everyone should be very proud with of the results they have achieved today.  It is important we remember that these achievements are the result of lots of hard work and commitment on the part of the students but also those that support them at home and in school.”

A new scheme offering children in Monmouthshire ‘fun, friendship and food’ over the school holidays has been hailed a success following its first year of being delivered in the county.

The Welsh Government funded ‘School Holiday Enrichment Programme’ (SHEP) provides healthy meals, nutrition and food education, physical activity and enrichment sessions to children in specific areas of the county during the summer holidays.

The free four-week programme has seen over 260 children sign up across two schools in Monmouthshire, with sessions taking place in the morning at Overmonnow School in Monmouth and at Thornwell School in Chepstow.

The Monmouthshire County Council-led programme has been successful in ensuring all children who attend the sessions can access activities designed for their specific needs. This has included the provision of special break-out areas and quiet zones for children who may be easily overwhelmed or who need a quiet five minutes away from all the activities taking place.

The SHEP programme has been made possible through grant funding from the Welsh Government and generous grant aid from four town councils and some of the local community councils. Following the success of this year’s SHEP programme, the council has started to explore options to roll out the scheme to eligible schools in other parts of the county for 2020, with the aim of increasing the number of children taking part.

Cabinet Member for Social Justice and Community Development, Cllr Sara Jones has praised the scheme. On a visit to the scheme at Overmonnow School, Cllr Jones said:

“It’s wonderful to see the children so happy and enjoying the activities that they are able to get involved in. I really hope that we can continue that positive dialogue with our partners and continue to be successful in securing funding. It’s quite apparent if you look around you the success of these schemes. We really hope we will be able to deliver these in the future with the support of our partners.”

Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) is searching for new members for the Monmouthshire Local Access Forum.

Do you have an interest in public rights of way and countryside access?

The forum provides advice on the improvement of public access in the county for open-air recreation and enjoyment and it advises and assists with the implementation of the council’s Public Rights of Way Improvement Plan.

Members of LAFs are volunteers and include a range of people from the local community, including landowners and land managers, access users and those representing other interests, such as health and conservation.

Councillor Richard John, MCC’s cabinet member for Children & Young People and MonLife, said:

“Membership of the local access forum provides a great opportunity for those with knowledge and experience of countryside access issues in Monmouthshire to use that expertise to advise the council and other bodies on countryside access and recreation.”

The forum meets at least quarterly. Members are appointed on a personal basis, according to their knowledge, skills or experience of access to the countryside, including the interest of all users and owners/occupiers. Forum members will be able to claim reasonable expenses.

MCC is hoping to find members who will be able to contribute to the forum for the next 3 years.

To be considered for membership contact:

Monmouthshire LAF Secretary,

Countryside Section, PO Box 106, Caldicot Monmouthshire NP26 9AN. 

Tel: 01633 644850

e-mail: countryside@monmouthshire.gov.uk

or more information and application forms can be downloaded from www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/monmouthshire-local-access-forum/

Completed forms are required by 18 September 2019

Hugs and tears of joy at Chepstow School


Monmouthshire’s students are today celebrating another set of fantastic examination results, which will put them on the path to a brilliant future in universities, colleges and careers.

Across the county, the percentage of students achieving the very highest grades has improved upon last year’s results and across the key measures, all schools showed improvements in many areas.  All four secondary schools have achieved excellent results.  In all Monmouthshire secondary schools, staff are confident that students will gain entry to their preferred higher education courses.

Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: “I am so pleased to see how much our learners have achieved – they really should be so pleased of what they have achieved today.  These results demonstrate how hard students have worked with the support from their families and carers.  The results are also testament to the excellent work undertaken by our teachers and all of the teams across all four of our secondary schools.  Today is a day to celebrate their achievements before they take their exciting next steps towards a successful and rewarding career. Well done everyone.”

Will McLean, Chief Officer for Children and Young People added: “All of our pupils, teachers and families should be rightly proud of the achievements that have been recognised today.  We continue to see significant strengths across all four of our schools in both A-levels and vocational qualifications.  I am pleased that in a year where Wales has performed well compared to the other parts of the United Kingdom that Monmouthshire continues to achieve excellent results. Our young people can look to the future with confidence.”

Caldicot Castle will host one of the most prestigious archery competitions in the UK this September. The Archery GB National Tour Finals will take place on Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th September – adding to the historic building’s repertoire of hosting impressive and large scale events.

Caldicot Castle will be transformed into a head-to-head archery arena with the event running in the same format as the Olympic and Paralympic Games which is extremely popular with spectators. The event is free and everyone is welcome to attend. There will also be the opportunity for visitors to have a go at archery along with many other family activities throughout the day.

It is also the perfect opportunity for visitors to explore the tranquil gardens and wooded country park that surrounds the ancient castle – with the medieval towers offering breath-taking views of the parklands and surrounding area from the battlements.

The event partnership between MonLife, a service group managed by Monmouthshire County Council, Archery GB and Starling Bank was marked with a special preview event in the castle grounds on Tuesday 6th of August.

Cllr Bryan Jones, Vice Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council, commented: “We are really proud to welcome Archery GB to Monmouthshire. It’s wonderful to see everyone here today in the gorgeous setting of Caldicot Castle. I would like to wish everyone who is taking part in the prestigious Finals lots of luck – have a wonderful time.”

Neil Armitage, Archery GB’s CEO commented: “Caldicot Castle is such a fantastic location and will provide a spectacular setting for our modern format. We expect a close race for the finals on the back of a hugely successful international campaign – with six Olympic and five Paralympic quota places already secured for Tokyo, along with numerous international titles from World and European events.

“We are looking forward to working with Starling Bank and MonLife, along with our existing partners to build this into a world-class event – without their support it simply wouldn’t be possible.”

The best of British archery talent will be competing for the honour of becoming Archery GB’s National Champions. There will be 32 senior competitors taking part in four different archery competitions across the two-day event. In addition, the Key Event Finals will allow Britain’s best junior archers to take centre stage. Gates open at 10.30am and entry is free.

For more information about Caldicot Castle please see visitmonmouthshire.com

It’s just over a month (6 weeks) until the 2019 Abergavenny Food Festival rolls into town and plans and preparations are already underway. This year promises to be a great year to get involved and you could be part of it!

Visit Monmouthshire is partnering with Abergavenny Food Festival to offer volunteers the opportunity to welcome visitors to the festival and provide local visitor information at one of the biggest and most celebrated events in the county.

The two-day event kicks off on the 21st of September and will be held at key locations across Abergavenny. With a range of tasty activities for the whole family including wine and cheese tasting sessions and cookery classes for children – there’s plenty to get involved in.

Volunteer Town Ambassadors are needed to provide visitors with a warm, local welcome and to signpost them to the wide range of things to see and do during their visit, encouraging them to explore the beautiful town of Abergavenny and venture further across the county.

Anyone interested in being part of this exciting opportunity will be required to commit to at least one day (9.00am-5.00pm) over the festival weekend.

There’s a range of benefits available to those who take part. They include;

  • Opportunity to participate in volunteer recognition schemes
  • A chance to share skills and develop new ones.
  • A familiarisation trip around key attractions in the area on Monday 2nd September 2019
  • A full day’s training on ‘customer care’, ‘welcome’ and the ‘Abergavenny Food Festival’ on Thursday 5th September 2019
  • A Friday night event party ticket plus 2 x weekend tickets to the Abergavenny Food Festival
  • Opportunities to undertake additional training and development
  • Full insurance cover
  • Reimbursement of local bus travel expenses
  • Sandwich lunch and free car parking space on day of volunteering

Cllr Paul Jordan, Cabinet Member for Tourism in Monmouthshire said “I would encourage people to volunteer for this wonderful event in Monmouthshire – the food capital of Wales. What better way to meet people and give visitors a warm, Monmouthshire welcome to the county”.

For further information and to apply please click on this link

First up in Abergavenny Museum’s summer season of outdoor theatre in the fabulous setting of Abergavenny Castle grounds this August, is Sense and Sensibility on Wednesday 14th at 7pm. This funny, fast-paced and faithful new adaptation for outdoor theatre by The Pantaloons of Jane Austen’s much loved classic features live music, audience interaction, romance and heartbreak. Elinor Dashwood has a lot of good Sense. Her sister Marianne Dashwood has an excess of Sensibility. Together they make a snappy title for Jane Austen’s novel of scandals, scoundrels and severely sprained ankles. Eminently suitable for fans of all ages, it’s getting great reviews from audiences all over the country. The Pantaloons gave their first performance at Abergavenny Castle last summer with Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and went down a storm. Don’t miss them this year.

Tickets, Adult £14, Child £8, Family (2+2) £40, in advance from Abergavenny Museum tel 01873 854282

Bring seating – low backed chairs, rugs, etc, picnics and warm clothing for when the sun goes down. Gates open 6.15pm

Families across Monmouthshire are being encouraged to embrace the expected rainfall this week and take advantage of the many activities available across the county.

Whether it be splashing in muddy puddles or heading back in time at one of the many museums, there’s plenty on offer for families looking for something to do as the heavens open.

So here’s the council’s top ten things to do on a rainy day in Monmouthshire.

1.Tea, treats and trains – Enjoy a cup of tea and cake while enjoying all the sights and sounds of Tintern Old Station.

2. Make a splash – Slip on your wellies and go splashing in Monmouthshire’s muddy puddles.

3. Go adventuring – play among three floors of action-packed fun at Monmouth Leisure Centre’s soft play arena.

4.Take the plunge – enjoy a dip in four of Monmouthshire’s leisure centre swimming pools.

5.  Reach new heights – can you get to the top of Monmouth Leisure’s Centre’s climbing wall.

Picture by @happycowcottage

6. Be at one with nature – take a stroll along the stunning Wye Valley Walk.

7.Delve into the past – learn about Monmouthshire’s fascinating history with a visit to a museum.

8. Become a bookworm – explore the shelves in many libraries across the county.

9. Take a tour – venture around Chepstow on a guided tour to learn about the historic town. Tours are available every Wednesday at 6:30pm from the Chepstow Tourism Centre.

10. Become king for the day – explore the old architecture of some of Wales’ most majestic castles.

Don’t forget to share your rainy day photos with us by heading over to Monmouthshire’s facebook, twitter and Instagram pages.

Monmouthshire County Council begins a new four-year contract with Monmouthshire Housing Association for the maintenance and support of over 250 sites across the county.

The council’s Grounds Maintenance Team will provide grass cutting, shrub maintenance, weed clearance and related grounds maintenance for an initial four-year period with options for two extensions of three years each. The potential 10-year contract is valued at £2.5 million.

Monmouthshire County Council has been providing the service to MHA since 2008 when the housing stock was transferred under a Service Level Agreement. The new contract will be a continuation of the excellent service the Grounds Team have carried out over the years and it brings with it a continued commitment to help communities prosper.

Along with the maintenance work, the council is also offering a wide range of support to help tenants develop community garden schemes and access apprenticeships and work experience across Monmouthshire’s Waste and Street services.

Following the tendering of a long term maintenance contract in 2018, MHA carried out an extensive consultation with their tenants. The valuable feedback from tenants was pivotal in Monmouthshire County Council’s successful bid.

The contract reinforces the council’s commitment to its corporate objectives and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

It also offers exciting digital transformation opportunities for grounds maintenance and the provides the council with the ability to offer transparent, real time service updates to customers as well as new performance management metrics to excellent customer service.

Councillor Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services said: “I’m delighted that Monmouthshire County Council will continue its excellent work in maintaining the grounds for MHA tenants. It’s fantastic that we can continue to offer a high standard of service to the communities we serve for years to come.”

Michele Morgan, Director of Housing and Communities said: “MHA are pleased to continue working in partnership with MCC to provide a first class grounds maintenance service to our tenants and residents.  This new contract and service standards have been developed in conjunction with our tenants and will ensure that MHA’s communities continue to be fantastic places to live.”

Commercial Services Team are keen to work with more local communities and business, for more information email: Commercialservices@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Caldicot Castle and Country Park became the backdrop for a weekend of celebrations and fun for Monmouthshire Youth Service Diversity Festival. Over two days 2000 people visited the events and it was hailed a fantastic weekend celebrating inclusion, diversity and equality in Monmouthshire.

The weekend was a legacy to the very successful Youth Pride event which took place at Caldicot Castle in 2018. This year the event expanded into a two-day festival of fun for all ages on Saturday 27th July and Sunday 28th July. 

The two-day event was the idea of the Equality Street group made up of young people from Monmouthshire who felt there wasn’t a local pride event that catered for families and young people. The group worked with Monmouthshire Youth Service to raise the flag for LGBTQ+ young people and to enable families to attend a day where everyone was treated equally.

Youth Pride brought together young people from across the county on Saturday 27th July. The day aimed to provide young people with a safe environment to be themselves and gain information from a wide range of services and organisations who, from across Gwent, work with LGBTQ+ young people.

Many inspirational speakers took to the stage including co-founder of Stone Wall Lisa Power – the LGBT+ organisation fighting for equality for lesbians, gay and bi people. Joining Lisa on stage was Marcus DeVine, stand-up comedian and writer. Marcus entertained the crowds along with local performers including Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist Emile Harris from Rogiet.

A family fun day took place the following day with all families welcome to come along. Many organisations attended to provide information and support to families. The aim of the day was to bring people from all over Monmouthshire to celebrate diversity in a wider context than the Youth Pride. The event aimed to raise awareness and break down barriers for families including; opportunities for families who speak Welsh, BAME families, provided activities and support for those with additional learning needs and specific learning difficulties, disability and of course celebrated LGBTQ+ families. 

A wealth of activities were on offer from local groups and organisations. A local boxing group provided boxercise and Caldicot Castle hosted archery and mini golf. Arts and craft activities were a popular choice and live music enhanced the party atmosphere. Youngsters enjoyed the inflatables and took on the challenge of the climbing wall.

Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Mon Life said:

“It was a fantastic weekend. I was very pleased to be able to attend the Young People’s Pride day on Saturday. The coordination and organisation of the event by our very own LGBTQ+ youth group Equality Street was outstanding. I would like to thank the youth service and everyone involved in making the whole weekend a truly memorable experience for all who attended. I look forward to many more events at Caldicot Caste. It really is a beautiful setting for a multitude of events.”

Equality Street is a youth group which originally started as an LGBTQ+ group. It has evolved into supporting a wide range of young people and provides a safe environment for people to relax, be themselves and help their peers and the wider community. The group is based in Caldicot and is supported by Monmouthshire Youth Service, for more information or to join the group contact:

Gavin Breen: GavinBreen@monmouthshire.gov.uk

For more information about events at the Caldicot Castle: https://www.visitmonmouthshire.com/caldicot-castle/

Monmouthshire County Council has made an exciting commitment to a new venture to support the growth of the Med Tech sector by establishing Monmouthshire Med Tech (MMT), following a meeting with Cabinet on Wednesday 31st July. 

Monmouthshire Med Tech will develop an incubator facility in the county, to encourage and support start-up businesses. The facility will provide onsite business support and is aimed at attracting companies in the diagnostic and devices sector of medical technology. It is hoped that this exciting new venture will encourage more tech companies in the healthcare and healthcare technology sector to relocate to Monmouthshire.

Monmouthshire is a great county to start, locate and grow Med Tech businesses. It is important to support and nurture this sector, which is becoming central to an emerging eco-system fuelled by a number of successful companies already based in the county.

The Med Tech sector is a high growth market and it is exciting to be able to offer opportunities for above average salaries and encourage the creation of more successful businesses in Monmouthshire.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Cabinet Member for Enterprise said: “We are pleased to announce our commitment to supporting the growth of business and enterprise with the establishment of Monmouthshire Med Tech. MMT will provide an array of opportunities while promoting Monmouthshire not only as an excellent place to live, visit and work but also a great place to invest and expand businesses. The initiative further proves the council’s innovative and creative approach to building the sustainability and resilience of our county.”ENDS

A466 Tintern Update 1st August 2019

We would like to thank residents and visitors for their continued cooperation and patience. We hope to reopen the road by the end of the day on Friday 2nd August. The road will be reopened once cabins and large machinery have been removed. 
Due to the nature of removing the large machinery we hope that this does not pose any issues and we will endeavour to reopen the road safely.

At Livox, a small number of outstanding works will take place including final clipping of mesh, cutting and treatment of bars and general clean-up duties will take place until early August. To ensure the safety of contractors two-way lights to be set up while these works are finished but this will only be for a short period. Tintern is open for buisness and has so much to offer. We hope more and more people travel to this beautiful part of Monmouthshire.

For more information about Tintern and surrounding areas:
https://www.visitmonmouthshire.com/places-to-visit/Tintern-in-monmouthshire.aspx

R

Pupils and staff at Raglan VC Primary School have been praised for their new initiative aimed at tackling social isolation. The school’s Ein Cegin Fach’ community kitchen was officially opened on Wednesday 17th of July to guests including parents, teachers, members from the Raglan community and Monmouthshire County councillors.

The community kitchen project follows on from the success of Raglan VC Primary’s Owls and Acorns – an intergenerational initiative which aims to tackle loneliness and isolation by bringing together pupils and older people to enjoy arts, crafts and exercises. Following on from this the school wanted to do more to support the local community and look at further ways to reduce social isolation, which led to the kitchen project being born.

For the official opening, children in year four were set the task of providing an afternoon tea event to approximately 50 guests with a budget of £100. With this budget in mind the children had to prepare all the food, decorations and invitations. Produce grown by the pupils over the course of the year was used as part of the ingredients for the array of cakes and pastries on offer.

Ein Cegin Fach – which is based in the grounds of the school – will open to the community six times across the year. Each year group will get the opportunity to run the kitchen and meet members of the community.

Following the official opening, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Care and Health, Councillor Penny Jones said: “Social isolation is an issue faced by many older people. It’s fantastic to see younger generations going above and beyond to tackle this important issue and bring the community together. It was an honour to be a part of the official opening of Ein Cegin Fach and I look forward to trying more of the pupil’s delicious homemade snacks in the future.”

Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People added: “I’d like to congratulate the pupils of Raglan Primary, who planned, prepared and cooked for a lovely afternoon tea for the local community.  I am delighted that the Council was able to invest in this new community kitchen, which will enable pupils and staff at Raglan to continue their excellent engagement with the local community and enhance pupils’ learning experience.”

Raglan VC Primary Headteacher Eve Rowland said: “With the support from the school PTFA and members of Monmouthshire County Council, a space has been created which can be used all year round for curriculum learning and community events. The launch event was extremely well attended and enjoyed by all. We look forward to opening ‘Ein Cegin Fach’ to the local community for future events throughout the year.”E

Members from the Equality Street project receiving their award for promoting equality and diversity.

Monmouthshire’s Youth Service is being celebrated after a project promoting the equality and diversity of young people received a national award.

Members from the ‘Equality Street’ project and representatives from Monmouthshire County Council were handed the accolade at this year’s Youth Work Excellence Awards held in North Wales on Friday 28th of June 2019.

The project, which originally started as an LGBTQ+ group, has evolved into supporting a wide range of young people and provides a safe environment for people to relax, be themselves and help their peers and the wider community.

The project has successfully helped its members develop communication skills and gain confidence, resulting in the group working to produce Gwent’s first young person’s Pride event – which was attended by more than 750 people.

Upon receiving the award, group member Orlagh Williams, 16, said: “I am mind-blown to have won the award. The work I do with the group is fulfilling by itself and the idea that it’s worthy of this praise is overwhelming! I’ve been involved with Equality Street for a few years just because I see how important equality and diversity is. I am very proud of our group and really happy that Monmouthshire Youth Service has had this recognition. It is because of its dedicated staff that everything we’ve achieved has been possible.”

Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: “The accolade given to the Equality Street project just goes to show the excellent work being carried out by Monmouthshire County Council to ensure young people are given a voice and an environment to be themselves and celebrate diversity. I’m sure their fantastic work will continue to make an impact and be recognised across Wales.”

Following on from the success of the Youth Service’s Pride event in 2018, a bigger and better Pride Day is taking place on Saturday 27th July 12.00pm – 6.00pm at Caldicot Castle. The event hopes to be a hive of activity with live music and special guests including Lisa Power Co-founder of Stonewall and Emile Harris, Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist. The free event is part of the two day Monmouthshire Diversity Festival, a Family Fun Day is taking place on Sunday 28th July 11.00am – 4.00pm as part of the Diversity Weekend, the day will be full of fun and activities for all ages.

Tickets are required for both days and can be accessed via EventBrite: https://bit.ly/2Y6YceK

For more information about the weekend contact Darryl White: 07990788998.

Tintern and surrounding areas are open for business despite road works to the A466 to undertake stabilisation works of a 200m section of unstable cliff face. Monmouthshire County Council’s priority is to ensure that this road is safe. It will not be reopened until it is a safe route to travel through.

Due to onsite engineering difficulties the road closure has been extended and is expected to reopen on 2nd August. The council is continually looking at ways of completing the programme sooner but the safety of everyone working on the road is the priority. This highly complex engineering scheme involves ground anchors being drilled into the rock face. The amount of contractors, plant and machinery onsite has been increased and regular site visits are taking place to ascertain progress.

The diversion currently in place between Chepstow and Tintern is along one of the prettiest roads in Monmouthshire. So while it is not the quickest route to Tintern, the views along the way are incredible. Diversions are in place along the B4293 via Devauden and Trellech which can be found on the council’s website. For more information visit: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/2019/07/a466-closure-st-arvans-to-tintern / 

The destination itself includes a number of historic attractions, Old Station Tintern offers visitors young and old an opportunity to travel back in time to the age of traditional trains. The magnificent Tintern Abbey is breathtaking and a great place to visit with friends and family. Visit Monmouthshire offers a wide range of opportunities to explore the beautiful Wye Valley for more information: www.visitmonmouthshire.com/tintern

Communication between the council and businesses and residents will continue during the work. The nature of the work and closure of the road has led to disruption and has had an impact on businesses. 

Cllr Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Operations said:

“I understand the frustration of residents and businesses. We understand and empathise with those affected.

Our priority is to ensure that this road is safe. It will not be reopened until it is a safe route to travel through. We are working with the contractor to ensure completion of this highly complex engineering scheme as soon as possible.

Myself, fellow councillors and David Davies MP recently visited the site, the visit brought home the complexity of the site and the hard work being done by all involved to make the road safe for everyone to travel on.”

The ever popular Reading Agency, Summer Reading Challenge 2019 has blasted off for its twentieth year! Youngsters across Monmouthshire are being encouraged to grab their space suit and take a giant leap into their local library or Community Hub this summer.

This year’s theme is ‘Space Chase’. Give your children the Summer They Want by taking part in the challenge. To take part in the free activity, children and young people are encouraged to sign up at their local Community Hub or library and take on the quest to read six library books (or more!) over the holidays to collect special stickers to add to your ‘Space Chase’ folder.

Youngsters are encouraged to collect a range of stickers to find the aliens, save the missing books and complete the challenge. A wide range of free activities are taking place across Monmouthshire to coincide with the lunar theme from Lego workshops and space themed storytelling and craft sessions to colouring competitions all in a bid to encourage more and more residents to visit this summer. Children from five years old are welcome to take part and have fun.

At Caldicot Community Hub Lego Workshop are taking place on the following Wednesdays, July 24th, 7th August and 21st August, 10.00am – 11.00am. There is also a Space Chase storytelling and craft activities session on Wednesday 14th August, 10:00-11:00am.

Chepstow Community Hub has a variety of activities; Space Chase storytelling and crafts are taking place on the following Thursdays, the 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th of August from 11.00am – 12.00pm.

Monmouth Hub follows with space themed activities on Tuesday July 23rd 1.00pm – 6.00pm budding artists are welcome to come along to help build a huge Spaceship which will be on display in the hub throughout the summer. Stories and craft are taking place on August 7th 2.00 – 3.00pm.

Abergavenny Library hosts story and craft sessions on the following dates: Tuesday 30th July, Tuesday 6th August, Tuesday 13th August and Tuesday 20th August all at 2.30pm – 3.30pm and on Saturday September 14th 10.30am – 11.30am.

Fun activities are planned at Usk Community Hub a space themed craft sessions will take place on Wednesday 21st August at 10.30am. Intergalactic Story Time is taking place on Thursday 8th August at 10.30am. Fun for all ages on Monday July 29th a Planetarium will be on show from 10am – 4pm.

The brilliant storyteller Louby Lou will be on hand to entertain little ones at Caldicot Community Hub on Saturday 27th July and Wednesday 14th August 10.00am – 11.00am, Chepstow Community Hub on Saturday 10th August from 10.30am – 11.30am, Monmouth Hub Saturday August 17th 2.00pm – 3.00pm, two sessions will take place at Abergavenny Library on Friday 9th August 10.30am – 11.15am and 11.30am – 12.15pm.

Space Chase, Summer Reading Challenge 2019 themed colouring sheets will be available until 30th August in all Community Hubs and Libraries.

Cllr Paul Jordan, Cabinet Member for Community Hubs said:

“The Summer Reading Challenge is a fantastic initiative by the Reading Agency. I am sure many parents and schools welcome an incentive to pick up a book during the school holidays. It is pleasing to see so many free activities taking place in all of our Community Hubs to encourage children, young people and their families to visit. The school holidays can lead to boredom, but I am sure the vast range of activities will alleviate this for our youngsters.”

Find out everything you need to know about the Reading Agency, Summer Reading Challenge: https://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk/ and where your nearest Community Hub is located: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-hubs-libraries/

Monmouthshire County Council is proud to announce that three of its attractions and open spaces have retained their coveted Green Flag Award for the third year running by leading environmental charity, Keep Wales Tidy. The Flags will be flying at Tintern Old Station, Caldicot Castle Country Park and Castle Meadows Abergavenny in recognition of their excellent facilities and commitment to delivering great quality green space. The awards recognise the considerable efforts made by volunteers and park managers to reach these standards.

Monmouthshire’s parks are very popular with residents and visitors and have attracted a number of awards in recent years. Tintern’s Old Station has developed an excellent reputation as one of the area’s top visitor centres and was voted the UK’s favourite park in the 2011 People’s Choice Green Flag Award public poll.  Situated in a scenic wooded area next to the River Wye the Old Station is a hidden gem. In summer months a wide range of activities including a miniature railway and recently hosted its first dog show. 

Caldicot’s magnificent medieval castle is set in fifty-five acres of beautiful country park offering an ideal setting for picnics and walks against the background of the castle walls, with picnic tables and barbeques. The castle is a fabulous destination venue for tourism, special events and concerts, attracting people from far and wide. It has recently hosted a conference for medical professions from across the world, the magnificent grounds provided the backdrop for a truly medieval experience with a trumpeter fanfare, knights and the opportunity to have a go at archery. The Castle continues to be a beautiful setting for many weddings creating everlasting memories for those involved.

Abergavenny’s tranquil Castle Meadows are set on the banks of the River Usk.  This peaceful setting is just a short stroll from the centre of the town and was the location for the very successful 2016 Monmouthshire and District National Eisteddfod. A popular location for residents and visitors to take in the beauty of Abergavenny.

As well as our attractions two Caldicot Town Council managed locations have gained the accolade: Dewstow Cemetery and King George V Playing Field (Caldicot). The Awards also recognise the amazing commitment that Communities make to green spaces in the county. The following locations have gained Green Flag Community Awards: Crucorney Allotments, Bailey Park Sensory Garden, Laurie Jones Community Orchard, Abergavenny, Goytre Community Garden, Crick Meadow, Crick Woodland, The Cornfield, Portskewett

County Councillor Paul Jordan, Cabinet member with responsibility for Attractions said:

“It’s wonderful to hear that our attractions have yet again been awarded the Green Flag Award. The Old Station, Caldicot Castle with its Country Park and are among the venues that people flock to visit. I am particularly pleased that the awards recognise the outstanding dedication and role of the volunteers at each site. This summer I urge residents to visit our brilliant attractions as there is so much to see and do.’

County Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Countryside said:

‘I am so pleased that Abergavenny’s Castle Meadows has gained the recognition that it deserves. So many residents and visitors flock to Abergavenny and use the Meadows for dog walking, picnics and fun with their families. I hope that the area continues to be a place close to many people’s hearts.’

221 parks and green spaces have met the high standards needed to receive the coveted Green Flag Award and Green Flag Community Award. They include a diverse range of sites, from urban parks and housing estates, to university campuses and farms. The Green Flag Award programme is judged by green space experts, who volunteer their time to visit applicant sites and assess them against eight strict criteria, including horticultural standards, cleanliness, environmental management and community involvement.

Lucy Prisk, Green Flag Coordinator at Keep Wales Tidy said:

“The Green Flag Award programme continues to go from strength to strength in Wales, thanks to the commitment and enthusiasm of staff and volunteers across the country.

We can’t underestimate how important high-quality parks and green spaces are to our communities, our health and wellbeing, nature and economy. We want to encourage everyone to explore their local area and make the most of the award-winning sites on their doorstep.”

A full list of award winners can be found on the Keep Wales Tidy website www.keepwalestidy.cymru

For more information on the many attractions and places to visit in Monmouthshire take a look at: Visit Monmouthshire https://www.visitmonmouthshire.com/

The A466 is currently closed between St Arvans and Tintern to undertake stabilisation works of a 200m section of unstable cliff face.

Due to onsite engineering difficulties we have had to extend the completion date.  We are hoping the road will be open on 2nd August.

Our priority is to ensure that this road is safe. It will not be reopened until it is a safe route to travel through. We are working with the contractor to ensure completion of this highly complex engineering scheme as soon as possible.

We understand the frustration of residents and businesses. We understand and empathise with those affected.

Tintern is still open for business and people can access Tintern via other routes. Please do come and enjoy all that the beautiful Wye Valley and Tintern has to offer.

Thank you for your continued patience and cooperation.

Signing is in place at Chepstow, Monmouth and along the route with the main diversion along the B4293 via Devauden and Trelleck.

Abergavenny Museum has celebrated 60 years since it first opened to the public. On Tuesday the 2nd July over 80 guests, which included former and current staff, long-time supporters and local volunteers gathered in Castle House – which itself celebrates its 200th anniversary this year – to mark the occasion.

Many attendees included people who were involved with the museum in its early days. Among the guests was Barbara Jackson who attended the opening in 1959. Her uncle Alfred and father Ernest were also the driving force behind the setting up of the museum. Members of Abergavenny Rotary Club were present at the celebration to represent those members in the 1950s who had set up the first museum sub-committee. The commemorative event was also attended by Ken Key, who was part of the working party who transported one of the museum’s key artefacts – the Adoration of the Magi wall painting – from the Gunter House in a wheelbarrow. Other guests included Beryl Jones whose husband Gwyn was a founder of Abergavenny Local History Society and worked with pupils from King Henry VIII School to curate the Welsh Kitchen display in 1960.

Guests were treated to a speech full of humour about the foundation of the museum by former curator Frank Olding. Chair of Monmouthshire County Council, Councillor Sheila Woodhouse, gave formal thanks to staff and volunteers who have made the museum the success it is today.

Marking the celebration, Councillor Paul Jordan, Cabinet Member for Governance and Law said: “Museums play a vital role in learning about Monmouthshire’s rich history. It’s wonderful to see so many people turn out to commemorate this establishment and remember the significant part it’s played in Abergavenny and the wider community over the last 60 years.”

Monmouthshire County Council’s new Local Development Plan will impact on how and where people live, work, socialise, travel and enjoy Monmouthshire’s countryside – and crucially this is about how much the County will grow and what parts of Monmouthshire will grow (the ‘growth and spatial’ options). People are being asked to share their thoughts on the proposals being made as this will impact on Monmouthshire County Council’s planning decisions for the next 15 years.

Watch this to find out more: https://youtu.be/ZIcw-UosH8I

Please read this for more information: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/planning-policy/local-development-plan-revision/

Send us your thoughts here: http://monmouthshire.planning-register.co.uk/Home/Register

A drop in session is being held on at County Hall Usk, on Tuesday 16th July at any time between 1 – 7 pm.

Cllr Bob Greenland, Cabinet member for enterprise and land use planning said: “We welcome feedback from residents on the new Local Development plan proposals. We have options available so people can send us their thoughts online or come to speak to us on Tuesday 16th July – looking forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts.”

Young people from across the county attended the first Monmouthshire Youth Forum at County Hall, Usk on Friday, 5th July. The meeting, hosted by Monmouthshire’s youth forum Engage 2 Change provided pupils from the county’s four secondary schools with an opportunity to discuss and debate issues that are important to them. A range of officers from Gwent Police, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and Monmouthshire County Council who along with other organisations form the Monmouthshire Public Services Board (PSB) will use the voices of our young people to inform future decision-making.

The meeting provided a platform for young people to share their thoughts with representatives of the PSB. The voice of young people is integral to the work of the PSB. The meeting aimed to provide both young people and public bodies with an opportunity to become informed about what the matters are and why they are important. The forum is hoped to become a regular occurrence. 

Young people were eager to ask the various officers questions about the provision of mental health services for children and young people. Mental health has recently been voted the most important issue for young people, in addition to homelessness and knife crime.

In 2018, 2,787 young people from across Monmouthshire participated in the ‘Make Your Mark’ campaign and voted on the issues that were most important to them. ‘Make your Mark’ is led by the British Youth Council and aims to provide young people with an opportunity to influence debates in the House of Commons by Members of Youth Parliament.

Young people posed thoughtful and informed questions. Those who attended the event were able to ask face-to-face questions but also had the opportunity to use an interactive online tool. The online tool allowed young people not attending the event to get involved too. The meeting, which took place in the Council Chamber, was also livestreamed which aided more people to watch and listen during the session or at a later date.

The young people heard from Richard Blakemore – Chief Inspector at Gwent Police, Mike Richards – Superintendent at Gwent Police, Dr Luke Jones – Regional Head of Children Adult Mental Health Service (CAMHS) Transformation Programme at ABUHB, Bronwyn John Head of Partnerships at ABUHB, Mark Hand Head of Planning at Housing & Place-shaping at Monmouthshire County Council, Ian Bakewell Housing & Communities Manager at Monmouthshire County Council, and Rachel Lewis Planning Policy Manager at Monmouthshire County Council.

Cllr Richard John Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said:

“I am so pleased to see young people at County Hall and utilising our council chamber. The forum provided a perfect opportunity to help our Public Services Board hear the views of our young people and provide pupils with the chance to ask the people who make the decisions about the things that really matter to them. I hope to see more opportunities like this in the future. I would like to thank our partners at Gwent Police and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board for coming along and look forward to more partnership working in the future.”

The Monmouthshire Youth Forum is supported by Monmouthshire’s Youth Service. For more information contact Jade Atkins – CharlieJadeAtkins@monmouthshire.gov.uk

The meeting can be viewed via the YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfm0nB_YKtg

Visit https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/psb/ for further information on the Monmouthshire PSB.

Monmouthshire County Council is delighted to have welcomed the debating team of Goytre Fawr Primary School to County Hall for their debate on Wednesday 3rd July. 15 eager pupils took over the council chamber to present arguments on whether the Welsh language should be taught as the second dominant language in schools.

It’s the second time enthusiastic youngsters from the school’s debating club have visited the chamber to demonstrate their public speaking skills. The group is made up of 25 members ageing between 8 and 11-years-old. The pupils spent a number of weeks preparing and practicing key debating skills before taking part in mini debates.

This year’s topic was decided following the school’s recent focus on the Welsh language and the new Curriculum for Wales. Pupils were also interested in the idea of learning Welsh alongside the modern foreign languages the new Curriculum has a place.

The debating club was founded in 2016 by the school’s Chair of Governors Kathryn Edwards, the club is aimed at giving children the opportunity to have more experience of public speaking while helping to improve their listening skills. The extra-curricular activity has proved successful in developing the pupils’ confidence and ignited their interests in topical matters.

Councillor Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: “It’s wonderful to see young people engaging with Monmouthshire County Council and sharing their views on topical matters. Monmouthshire’s children have shared their enthusiasm for Welsh language and culture in today’s discussion about the importance of the Welsh language to our children. Da iawn pawb. We look forward to welcoming the team back to the chamber in the future.”

Commenting on the success of the debate team, Kathryn Edwards said: “I wanted the pupils to really think about debating skills – they have enquiring minds, they are interested in what is going on around them and it was putting that to good use. It’s also really easy to forget that listening is just as important as speaking when debating. Taking time to consider other viewpoints is vital.”

Kathryn has plans to build on this year’s event with the aim of making it even bigger and better for their next visit.

Reflecting on her experience in the chamber, 11-year-old Amelia, Chair of the debate team said: “It was good fun. It’s given me confidence and will help me speak in front of an audience in future.”

Fellow pupil Gabby added: “I enjoyed being able to say what I believe. We need to stand up for our own points of view. We need to have our own choices. It has improved my confidence.”

Residents are welcome to attend two engagement sessions to provide views on the proposed plans to improve Agincourt Square and Monnow Street, Monmouth. The historic market town has been the source of discussions with the local community for over 10 years with varied views on how to improve the area to enhance the town.

The engagement will help to shape the detail of the development aimed at creating a public space where pedestrians are welcomed. Traffic will continue to flow but the enhancements will make the area more pedestrian-friendly. The work will bring high-quality surfaces and landscaping with an aim to better manage the traffic in area to improve accessibility and safety. All these design considerations will create the environment and sense of space to transform the area into a historic, cultural destination. The council will support local shops and businesses whilst the work takes place to ensure the town continues to be a popular choice for residents and visitors to shop local.

Monmouthshire County Council has been successful in acquiring £450,000 of Welsh Government funding to enhance the scheme. This is in addition to £90,000 from the Monmouthshire County Council Highways budget and £45,000 from Monmouth Town Council.

Residents are encouraged to attend public exhibition and engagement sessions at Shire Hall. The plans will be available throughout the day to view. A number of presentations are also planned on the days of the engagement to look at the proposed design, street layouts, timescales and more information about the funding streams.

Engagement sessions will take place at the Shire Hall, Monmouth:

  • Tuesday, 16th July 2019 drop in from 9.00am – 7.00pm

In depth presentations will take place at 10.00 am, 12.00pm, 4.00pm and 6.00pm

  • Saturday, 20th July 2019 drop in from 9.00am – 1.00pm

In depth presentations will take place at 10.00am and 12.00pm.

Cllr Jane Pratt Cabinet Member for Highways said:

“This is an exciting development for the town of Monmouth and will provide residents and visitors with a safer space to walk through to socialise and shop. I encourage residents to attend a drop-in session to better understand what is proposed and what we and our partners hope to achieve.

Residents are welcome to drop in to an engagement session or share their thoughts via an online survey:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/GJ8Z9F7

Artist impression of plans for Agincourt Square from Priory Street, Monmouth

Monmouthshire County Council is the first local authority in the UK to manage, run and open a community Post Office. The new Post Office, which is based in on Maryport Street, Usk started trading on 1st May and was officially opened on 27th June.  It will enable local people and businesses to continue banking in the town after the town’s only bank and the former Post Office both announced closure plans within a few weeks of each other in 2018. Monmouthshire County Council, Usk Town Council and the Post Office joined the event which celebrated the effective partnership working which made this possible. Local fundraiser for leukaemia charities – Georgina Hathaway – who was nominated by local people as a community hero cut the official ribbon.

Guests were delighted to hear from John Rogers, a Postal Historian, who travelled from West Berkshire as part of his research, and became the first customer when the Post Office started trading last month. John highlighted how important a social and economic influence the Post Office has had in Usk since it first opened in 1730. 

Cllr Sheila Woodhouse, Monmouthshire County Council Chair, a former Postmistress herself, said: “I know just how important Post Offices are and continue to be from many years working in community Post Offices – they really are very special. The opening of a Post Office in Usk Community Hub demonstrates the benefit of Usk Town Council and Monmouthshire County Council working together to make a difference in the community. I would like to thank the officers from Monmouthshire County Council, Usk Town Council and Neil Jenkins from the Post Office who have all worked together to make this happen.”

Cllr Paul Jordan, cabinet member with responsibility for Community Hubs expressed: “This evening has been a great example of how Monmouthshire’s Community Hubs are continuing to evolve helping us maintain local accessible services that people value. This Post Office in Usk is already very popular with 4,559 transactions being made in the first month alone. There has already been interest in this approach from other councils showing that this is an example of how Monmouthshire leads and others follow.”

Post Office Change Manager, Neil Jenkins said: “We understand how important having a Post Office is to residents in Usk and we are confident that this new modern Post Office service will meet the needs of the local community and secure services for the future. This really has been a wonderful project that really proves the benefit of collaborative working to make things happen I’d like to wish Monmouthshire County Council every success in this new exciting venture.”

John Rogers, Postal Historian commented that: “The Post Office is the true hub of any town or village so it’s fitting that the Post Office is here in the Hub in Usk. You can’t see all the benefits of a Post Office to a community on a balance sheet, but they are most definitely there. Post Offices give a remarkable value- added asset to society by bringing people together in an age when many of us are spending so much time on our screens, whilst still providing everybody with important services. It’s vital in any community for people to come together and meet face to face when taking advantage of the huge range of different transactions available. Use it or lose it.”

Cllr Christine Wilkinson, Mayor of Usk added: “I am delighted to be here in Usk’s new Post Office, we were devastated when the last bank closed and feel incredibly proud that we worked with Monmouthshire County Council and the Post Office to stop the Post Office – that so many people rely on – closing too. I am so proud that the wonderful Georgina Hathaway was nominated by local people as the local hero to cut the official ribbon. Georgina and her husband Tom have fundraised continually for leukaemia charities raising over £170k in memory of their daughter Jane.”

The outstanding contribution of volunteers who support Mon Life – Monmouthshire County Councils Tourism, Leisure, Culture and Youth services were celebrated at Caldicot Castle on Wednesday 26th June. Mon Life delivers a wide range of services which touch every resident in the county. It provides youth, sporting, tourism and cultural services across the county and volunteers play an integral part to delivering a high standard of services.

The service has over two hundred volunteers ranging from enthusiastic teenagers to passionate octogenarians who give their time, commitment, skills and life experience to add value to the council’s wide variety of attractions run by the museum service, youth service, sports development team, countryside service and Tintern’s Old Station visitor centre. Ninety Mon Life volunteers attended the event and received certificates to recognise their hard work, dedication and commitment.

The following awards were presented on the evening:

  • Young Person Volunteer – Chloe Whatley
  • Adult Volunteer – Sue Hogan and Angela Bishop
  • Group Volunteers – Monmouthshire Sports Leadership Academies
  • Environmental Volunteer – Path care Walking group
  • Inspirational Volunteer – Harry and Eira Steggles
  • Outstanding Volunteer – Bill Duke
  • Above and Beyond Volunteer – Catherine Baker.

Volunteers are a vital asset for all MonLife’s services. The council offers a wide range of opportunities to support volunteers including training, support and guidance to ensure that volunteering is a valuable, enjoyable experience. Volunteering can enable individuals to enhance existing skill, increase knowledge, meet new friends and boost confidence which in turn benefits their health and wellbeing.

Councillor Richard John, Monmouthshire’s Cabinet Member MonLife said:

“Volunteering is a rewarding, fun and social way to help our community.

Volunteers work with our countryside service to ensure our rights of way are accessible for walkers, while those assisting our museum staff catalogue and preserve history for future generations, help maintain the historical grounds and guide people around our collections and exhibitions.

Other notable examples are the willing helpers at Tintern’s Old Station who run the miniature train and pass on their valuable knowledge of the local area as well as those young volunteers supporting a range of activities to encourage their counterparts to be active while enjoying sport and recreation.

I sincerely appreciate the tireless energy, time and commitment given by volunteers from across our county, all to improve people’s lives and the communities in which they live.”

Find out more about volunteering with Mon Life a service group managed by Monmouthshire County Council, contact Tracey Thomas, email  traceythomas@monmouthshire.gov.uk  or telephone 07818 016924.

Monmouthshire County Council launches the very successful ‘The Summer They Want’ campaign for the second year running from 1st July 2019. The Summer They Want, aims to support parents and carers in planning engaging activities for children and young people during the school holidays. The campaign focuses on the wide variety of activities and events taking place in Leisure Centres, Museums, Castles and Tourist Attractions across the county throughout July and August.

For parents of primary aged children, July marks not just the start of summer but the beginning of the six week break from school. The Monmouthshire Games (TMG) offers days packed full of fun, friendship and physical activity for children aged 5-12 years of age at all four Mon Leisure Centres.

The Monmouthshire Games provides a unique opportunity for both children and parents. Participants can meet new friends, develop new skills and confidence whilst parents are content knowing that their child is safe, happy and having hours of sporting fun.

When booking a place at The Monmouthshire Games, there are two options to choose from; option one provides activities from 9.00am until 3.00pm and costs from £13.00 per day. Option two, which runs from 8.00am until 5.00pm, includes breakfast and after games club, and costs from £15.00 per day.

In addition to the twenty nine days of programmed activities under The Monmouthshire Games, MonLife also offers a variety of specialist TMG camps delivered by inspirational coaches from the Sports Development Team.  The TMG activity days provides children with the opportunity to try something new or fine tune existing skills.

In previous year’s football, rugby and Girls Can camps have proved incredibly popular. New for 2019 are Mermaid School, Cricket Camps, Dance & Gymnastics Camps, NRG Junior Gym Sessions and for those who love the great outdoors, Adventure Camps.

Football Camps will run every Friday throughout the summer holidays at Abergavenny Leisure Centre and every Tuesday at Caldicot Leisure Centre. The days are a perfect opportunity to fine tune your little ones skills, be provided with extra specialist training or try the game for the very first time.  It is a popular camp for children age 5-12 years old and parents are advised to book in advance to secure a place. 

Cllr Richard John, Cabinet Member for MonLife said:

‘The Monmouthshire Games is a fantastic addition to the summer. Over 4,500 children have participated in the sessions since April 2018. This is proves just how popular the sessions are.

School holidays can be challenging for parents, but in Monmouthshire we’re offering affordable and exciting opportunities to get involved in a wide range of fun activities.  I encourage all parents to take a look at the website for more information.”

For more information visit – https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/things-to-do/monleisure/the-monmouthshire-games/.  To book a place, call or pop in to a MonLife leisure centre to find out more.

TMG specialist camps require advance booking and places are limited, parents are advised to enquire as secure a place. 

Staff from Chepstow Leisure Centre have been working in partnership with Chepstow South Wales Fire and Rescue Service to offer valuable lifesaving advice to over 500 children during Drowning Prevention Week, 14th – 21st June. The team have been working to deliver The National Fire Chiefs Council, ‘Be Water Aware’ campaign, which runs every June.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the danger water can pose and cut water-related deaths by 50 per cent by 2026. With around 34% of accidental drownings happening in the summer it is important to remind and educate people of the dangers water can pose.

Local primary schools including St Marys Primary, the Dell Primary, Pembroke primary, Thornwell Primary, and Shirnewton Primary have a taken part in water safety lessons. Children attending Mon Leisure swimming lessons have also benefited from CPR Demos and the opportunity to wear Virtual Reality goggles which highlight the dangers water can pose.

A number of community events and activities will continue to take place to raise awareness of the ‘Be Water Aware’ campaign and raise funds for the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Royal Lifesaving Society. A car wash took place on Saturday 22nd June and the leisure centre will continue to share the fun photos of the community who pose in the campaign’s photo frame. In recent years a lifesaving ring and rope have been installed outside The Riverside Wine Bar thanks to funding supplied by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service.

Sadly over 700 people drown in the UK and Ireland every year- equivalent to one every 10 hours and whilst lifeguarded swimming pools are one of the safest places to take a dip it is important to educate people on the dangers at the beach, rivers, lakes, quarries and even water around the home; to find out more water safety tips visit www.rlss.org.uk   

Cllr Richard John, Cabinet Member for Mon Life, said:

‘I was fortunate to be invited by Duncan and the team to visit the leisure centre during Drowning Prevention Week. I am so impressed by the commitment of Duncan, fellow Mon Life colleagues and officers from South Wales Fire and Rescue to work hard to raise awareness of the dangers water can pose. I hope the partnership continues for many years to come. Swimming is an important life skill, Mon Life can offer many options for residents of all ages and abilities to improve confidence and skill. I urge everyone to also take some time to visit the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) website to find out how to become more water aware.’ Learning to swim is so important, Mon Life offer a range of swimming lessons for children and young people of all abilities from parent and baby sessions to life saving lessons for more able swimmers. For more information visit: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/things-to-do/monleisure/swim/

Monmouthshire County Council celebrated the official opening of the award winning Monmouth Comprehensive School building on Friday 21st June. The Lord Lieutenant, Brigadier Robert Aitken CBE along with the Head Boy and Head Girl of the school unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the occasion. The event was attended by Councillors, governors, staff, students and parents who all witnessed the opening of the largest civic building to be built in Monmouthshire.

The building was a collaboration between Monmouthshire County Council and Welsh Government along with BDP Architects and Interserve who delivered the outstanding building.

The building has already been recognised internationally and has won two awards within the last month, Digital Innovation Award at the Constructing Excellence in Wales Award and the prestigious ‘Project of the Year’ Award at the 2019 Wales Education Building Awards.

Award judges said that this project;  “Provides great value for money, is a very well designed school with a variety of learning areas which supports many different ways of working and it also creates a sense of community.”

The awards recognise the state of the art building and design. A massive investment in technology and creative use of light and space provides a mature learning environment, more akin to a university campus or office environment in the world of work. The building provides endless opportunities and teaching and learning at the School has been enhanced immeasurably.

The construction of the building saw a significant investment within the local economy with 80% of the construction costs being spent on sub-contractors within a 25-mile radius of the school site, while apprenticeships were also offered and taken up.

The new facilities provide pupils with an innovative and digitally rich teaching and learning environment with the flexibility to meet the changing needs of the Welsh education system now and into the future. It boasts state of the art AV systems, activity studios, dance and performance spaces, a sports hall and presentation hubs.

The building enhances the school’s ability to achieve its vision of ‘Learning to lead our lives’.

Cllr Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said:

“Students and staff put on a sensational gala opening, including several stunning musical performances.

This opening is such a proud moment for the county of Monmouthshire – completion of a 21st century school that is low carbon, packed with technology and ready for the new curriculum.

Building this new school has been a long journey and I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to its success including council officers, governors, students, teachers and our partners in Interserve, Welsh Government and BDP.

Between the new school and the new leisure centre, we have invested £51.5million in the education, health and wellbeing of people in Monmouth – the biggest single investment in the town in generations. The introduction of an innovative learning and wellbeing campus is a real community asset for the people of Monmouth and the surrounding area.

I have every confidence that with its inclusive ethos, strong leadership and now a brand new home, Monmouth Comprehensive School will continue to empower its pupils to achieve.

With two new secondary schools delivered in Caldicot and Monmouth, we want every pupil in Monmouthshire to be able to learn in a 21st century school and the challenge now is to deliver that for pupils in Abergavenny and Chepstow.

I feel incredibly proud of what we have delivered in Monmouth and feel excited about the generations of ambitious, capable lifelong learners who will pass through this school.”

Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education, said:

“Congratulations to Monmouth Comprehensive on their official opening under the 21st Century Schools Programme; the most ambitious school building programme since the 1960’s. Earlier this month I officially launched ‘21st Century Schools and Colleges’, the second phase of this programme, which will see a further investment of £2.3 billion to provide our pupils with the learning environments they deserve. I wish all the pupils and staff the best of luck in their new, award winning school.”

Headteacher, Vaughan Davies, said: 

“Leading the whole school, Deputy Headteacher, Tim Bird supported all in creating this wonderful new building. For five years he held weekly meetings, sometimes daily, where every aspect of the design and build were explored with students and staff. His dedication and commitment ensured that everyone had an opportunity to be part of creating an environment for learning in the 21st century. The entire community owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Tim and everything he has done to further education in Wales and beyond.

It has been a tremendously exciting time for our school and we have hosted many schools from the United Kingdom and Europe, who are at the start of their building programmes.  They have all been keen to learn how the school approached its new build. Monmouth, Monmouthshire and Wales can be enormously proud of what has been achieved.

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Mrs Jane Baker who has given 42 years of service to the school and 49 years to MCC.   The opening of the new school was the realisation of a dream for Mrs Baker after 42 years making sure that the school environment was spectacular for students.”

Lord Lieutenant, Brigadier Robert Aitken CBE said:

“It was a privilege to be invited to join the students at Monmouth Comprehensive School for the gala opening of their new school building. Amazing performances by the students and a thoroughly enjoyable evening – well done everyone Monmouthshire County Council.”

Monmouthshire County Council celebrates the official opening of Monmouth Comprehensive its award winning 21st Century School on Friday 21st June. The Lord Lieutenant, Brigadier Robert Aitken CBE along with the Head Boy and Girl of the school will unveil a commemorative plaque marking the occasion.

The school has been built as part of the Welsh Government’s 21st Century School Programme. In conjunction with Monmouthshire County Council and Welsh Government, the school was created and designed by students, staff and parents. Architects BDP and Interserve, worked with the community to build a school for the future.

The school has recently been nominated for eight prestigious awards. It was successful in winning the Digital Innovation Award at the Constructing Excellence in Wales Awards. Last night the school and project team were delighted to receive Project of the Year award at the Education Buildings Wales Awards, which recognise and showcases fantastic design and build of schools, colleges and universities across Wales, judges said:

‘This project provides great value for money, is a very well designed school with a variety of learning areas which supports many different ways of working and it also creates a sense of community’.

The pioneering design of the building reflects the vision of the school to provide every student with the skills, knowledge and attitudes to ‘learn to lead their lives’. Across the school there are a range of learning spaces that allow for individual, group, class and Year group learning.

Cllr Richard John, Cabinet Member for Children and Young said:

‘I am so proud of each and every member of the teaching team, building team and local authority who have gone over and above to make Monmouth Comprehensive a fantastic facility for our learners. It is so pleasing to see the school and its ethos being recognised for such esteemed awards, as an innovative forward thinking school. Monmouth, Monmouthshire and Wales can be enormously proud of what has been achieved.’

Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education, said:

“Congratulations to Monmouth Comprehensive on their official opening under the 21st Century Schools Programme; the most ambitious school building programme since the 1960’s. Earlier this month I officially launched ‘21st Century Schools and Colleges’, the second phase of this programme, which will see a further investment of £2.3 billion to provide our pupils with the learning environments they deserve. I wish all the pupils and staff the best of luck in their new, award winning school.”

Headteacher, Vaughan Davies, said:  

“Leading the whole school, Deputy Headteacher, Tim Bird supported all in creating this wonderful new building. For five years he held weekly meetings, sometimes daily, where every aspect of the design and build were explored with students and staff. His dedication and commitment ensured that everyone had an opportunity to be part of creating an environment for learning in the 21st century. The entire community owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Tim and everything he has done to further education in Wales and beyond.”

The new school environment and the creative teaching and learning strategies that are being practiced are being recognised internationally and educational leaders are listening and want to learn from what’s happening. In recent months the school has been a beacon for good practice and has played host to many schools from the United Kingdom and Europe who are at the start of their building programmes. They have all been keen to learn how the school approached its new build. In September, the school will be part of an International Conference in Denmark, with the school delivering the Key Note Presentation about self-regulatory learners.

Monmouthshire County Council is urging residents to remain vigilant after receiving reports of unsolicited emails offering Council Tax refunds. The message reportedly tells householders they have an outstanding refund and encourages them to click on a link. 

Monmouthshire’s Revenues team advise it’s not official council correspondence and residents should exercise caution before providing any details to a third party.  The Council recently had to issue similar warnings when residents described receiving phone calls advising them they were entitled to a rebate on their council tax bill.

Monmouthshire County Council Enterprise Team celebrates Employability Week with a roadshow across the county.

The team has regrettably cancelled the forthcoming Employability Day which was due to take place on Friday 21st June at County Hall, Usk. The Enterprise Team will continue to host a number of roadshows across the county in a bid to increase awareness of the many projects available to encourage residents to gain training or employment opportunities. 

The employability roadshows are taking place:

  • Abergavenny Market, Tuesday 25th June 11.00am – 2.30pm
  • Caldicot Jobs Fayre, Choir Hall, Caldicot Tuesday 25th June 11.30am – 2.30pm
  • Usk Hub, Wednesday 26th June  11.30am – 2.30pm
  • Chepstow Hub, Thursday 27th June 11.30am – 2.30pm
  • Monmouth Hub, Friday 28th June 11.30am – 2.30pm 

The team will hold a social media takeover day National Employability Day Friday 28th June, to highlight the good work being be delivered by Employability Providers in Monmouthshire. The Enterprise Team urges local businesses to join in on the day, tag @MonmouthshireYE and use the hashtag #empday2019.

The Enterprise Team is made up of three projects that aim to engage and empower residents aged 16 and over to gain qualifications, find employment or training. The projects; Inspire to achieve, Inspire to work and Communities for Work Plus are helping many residents benefit from the expertise of staff the unique partnership they have with local organisations and businesses.

Communities for Work Plus has made outstanding progress since it began in July 2018. The team has worked with many residents of Monmouthshire to gain work or training and exceed its outcomes set in 2018.

For more information contact Steve Cooper StephenCooper@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Tintern and surrounding areas are open for business despite road works to the A466. Summer is here and marks the start of fetes and activities in the Wye Valley. A time to visit Tintern Abbey and take stock of the beautiful Monmouthshire Countryside. Monmouthshire County Council urges residents and visitors to take care due to the essential stabilisation work to the Wye Valley, A466 Tintern to St Arvans road. Work is expected to continue for five weeks, the contractor is working to a completion date of Friday 19th July.

The area has been the subject of extensive studies and consultation before allowing the work to proceed. Monmouthshire County Council is working closely with the contractor to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum and has been assured that the contractor is working a pattern of 11 days in 14 and an eleven hour working day.

However, the work is complex and involves ground anchors being drilled into the rock face. The council is working closely with the contractor to continually investigate how the works might be amended to reduce the road closure.

A diversion is in place along the B4293 via Devauden and Trelleck which is hoped to enable residents and visitors to visit and travel through the Wye Valley. For more information visit:
https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/2019/06/a466-closure-st-arvans-to-tintern/ h

Communication between the council and businesses and residents will continue during the work. The nature of the work and closure of the road has led to disruption and has had an impact on businesses.

In coming weeks a number of events are taking place, residents and visitors are encouraged to use the diversions in place to visit Tintern Fete on Saturday 29th June, take a look around Tintern Old Station, walk around the Abby and pay a visit to one of the many pubs in the area.  

Cllr Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member for Operations said:

‘I understand and empathise with those affected by the road closure. The work is taking place to ensure this beautiful part of the county can be accessed safely by many people now and in the future. I applaud the work of my fellow councillor Ann Webb, her consistent positive communication with local residents has ensured spirits are high and the village and its businesses flourish’

Find out everything going on in Tintern throughout the summer, head to www.visitmonmouthshire.com/tintern

Nominations for the Monmouthshire Volunteer Achievement Awards 2019 are now open. The awards celebrate the inspirational volunteers who work hard and give up their time to help their community.

Monmouthshire County Council is delighted to work in partnership with Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations, GAVO to recognise the outstanding people that live in the county and provide an opportunity to say huge ‘Thank You’ for their contribution to Monmouthshire.

Monmouthshire residents are welcome to nominate individuals who they feel provide invaluable contribution to the County. The awards are a perfect opportunity to recognise the commitment of individuals and groups that hundreds of individuals, community groups and showcase the impact they make on life in Monmouthshire. 

A number of local businesses and organisations sponsor the awards and enable GAVO and the council host the 2019 Volunteer Achievement Awards. A list of the awards:

Adult Volunteer – Kindly sponsored by Charter Housing
Group

Kindly sponsored by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

Young Volunteer – Sponsored by Gwent Office of Police & Crime Commissioner

Environmental Volunteer – Kindly sponsored by Chepstow Round Table

Trustee Volunteer – Kindly sponsored by Caldicot Town Council

Personal Journey – Kindly sponsored by Bethany Homes

MCC Chairman’s Award – Kindly sponsored by MCC

All nominations will be assessed by an independent judging panel, winners and those awarded Highly Commended Volunteers will be invited to the event.

Cllr Sara Jones, Cabinet Member

‘We are extremely grateful to the thousands of volunteers that share their time to support others in our county, the difference they make to people’s lives on a daily basis is incredible.  Taking the time to say thank you to our volunteers is so important to us, our volunteers enable communities to exist and many don’t even acknowledge the difference they have made. So if you know someone who makes a difference, please – nominate them today!’

Clare Watkins, GAVO Volunteering Team Manager said:

“It’s great that we are able to bring everyone together at the Awards evening to honour the County’s unsung heroes and it’s fantastic to see Local Authority and GAVO, along with a range of partners including many Third Sector groups & charities and the local business community, all working together to celebrate the impact of volunteering within Monmouthshire. The evening always brings us many inspirational volunteering stories and if you know someone who really deserves an award, continuing with this year’s Volunteers’ Week slogan – ‘It’s Time to Celebrate’, we encourage you to nominate them now.”

Nominations can be made online at: www.gavo.org.uk/recognition (Please read the guidelines before submitting). Closing Date for nominations, Friday 19th July.

Clare Watkins, Volunteering Team Manager Tel: 01633 241566 Email: clare.watkins@gavo.org.uk

Monmouthshire County Council Trading Standards team have many handy hints and tips to keep residents safe. The team is supporting the National Scams Awareness campaign which aims to raise the profile of the variety of scams and tricks that are currently taking place across the UK. Scams affect all sections of society; collectively, individuals across the UK are losing an estimated £10 billion a year due to fraud.

The Trading Standards Team highlight that many residents don’t think they’ll be duped; in particular those in the ‘life established’ group, primarily those mid-40 to mid-60s, are least likely to think they will be a victim of a scam. The team would like to stress that no-one is immune; scams are widespread and can be sophisticated.

The latest technology is being used, targeting people online, through emails and social media platforms, or they can take the form of tried and tested methods such as doorstop selling, unsolicited letters and cold calling.

While there is an obvious financial detriment attached to scams – a recent National Audit Office report revealed that the average financial loss to scam victims aged between 75-79 years old is £4,500 – there can also be longer term and equally detrimental impacts on people’s self-esteem. Those who fall victim to scams often feel a sense of shame. That stigma can also lead to an under-reporting of scams, with victims embarrassed to come forward.

Cllr Sara Jones, Cabinet Member for Trading Standards said:

“‘Stop, report, talk: be scam aware’ is my message to people in Monmouthshire. Although many people have come into contact with scammers, very few people are speaking up about this issue. People can sometimes feel foolish or embarrassed talking about, or reporting their experiences, but sadly this means scammers are getting away scot-free.

In reality, all of us can have the bad luck of being targeted with a scam. We hope the Scams Awareness campaign, will encourage people to share their stories and learn tips to stop scammers from running off with people’s money.

Gareth Walters, Trading Standards Manager of Monmouthshire County Council has important tips for consumers:

  • If a deal sounds too good to be true it often is – err on the side of caution and don’t make a snap decision when making a purchase
  • If you haven’t heard of a company, do some research through customer review sites and testimonials to check they’re legitimate before parting with your money
  • If you are at all unsure about the business you’re dealing with, do not provide your bank account details

If you’re worried that someone you know has become victim to a scam, look out for the following. Are they:

  • Receiving more mail than usual?
  • Receiving unsolicited calls or spending more time on the phone?
  • Struggling with money or have they withdrawn large amounts of cash recently?

If you think someone you know is being scammed, take the following steps:

  • If you’re worried about telephone scams look into installing a call blocker
  • Encourage them to tell their bank immediately if there is any suspicious activity or transactions from their account or credit cards
  • If they’re struggling to pay bills or outstanding debts encourage them to visit their local Citizens Advice

You can also take the following steps to safeguard yourself and others:

  • Be suspicious if you’re contacted out of the blue, even if it’s from a name you recognise
  • Never send money to someone you’ve never met
  • Never give out your bank details unless you are certain you can trust the person contacting you
  • Don’t be rushed – you never need to make a decision straight away and if you feel pressured say “no”
  • Suspect a scam? Hang up, wait five minutes to clear the line or use another phone to call
  • Don’t suffer in silence – speak out about scams

If people are in doubt about whether or not an offer is genuine, they should contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 05 (Welsh language) or 03454 04 05 06 (English language) or their local Citizens Advice.

If people have been scammed they should report it to Action Fraud.

Find out more information about how to stop, report and talk about scams by visiting https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/wales/consumer/scams/scams/ or calling in to your local Citizens Advice office.

ENDS

Hi Everyone

I would like to provide you with an update on home to school transport from September 2019. The following information is for new applications only and not those who are already attending school and on our transport as there should be no changes to existing ones. 

Free home to school transport

By now you should have heard if you are eligible (or not) for free home to school transport from September 2019. Transport routes, pick up and drop times and bus / taxi driver details will not be confirmed until the end of the summer.

If you are not eligible but still require home to school transport this is what you need to do:

Please complete this form for concessionary transport ASAP


Post 16 travel requirements

Traditionally this has always continued into the autumn term while we work through who does/does not require travel. This year we are aiming to allocate post 16 spaces on home to school transport much earlier.

Please complete this form ASAP (by Friday 5th July) if you require post 16 travel? We then allocate places on a first come, first served basis. Don’t worry if young people aren’t 100% sure what they are looking to do from September (naturally depending on their GCSE results circumstances might change), but if young people have an idea about where they would like to study from September please get your applications in now so we can start planning (we can still make any changes required in August).

We have received some queries about transport from September 2020, but I’m afraid that we will be focusing on the next academic year before we look at options for September 2020.

You can contact us at passengertransportunit@monmouthshire.gov.uk however, please bear with us if we take a while to respond as we are busy getting plans in place for the next school year.

Best wishes

Richard Cope

Passenger Transport Unit Manager

Monmouthshire County Council are joining the “Refill Revolution” this June for National Refill Day on the 19th June!  As part of the council’s commitment to becoming a plastic-free county, lots of council buildings have now registered as Refill Stations.  This means that members of the public can bring their own re-usable water bottle and get it refilled for free.  If just one in ten Brits refilled once a week, we’d have 340 million less plastic bottles a year in circulation!

This will help people to save money, stay hydrated and help prevent plastic pollution at source. Residents can download the Refill app from www.refill.org.uk to find out where they can get their bottle refilled.  Places which are Refill Stations also have a window sticker to show the public that they are welcome to refill there.

Monmouth Hub, Abergavenny One Stop Shop, Gilwern Library, Chepstow Hub and Monmouth Leisure Centre have all registered or are in the process of registering as Refill Stations.  Other sites will be following suit when arrangements have been put in place.  These join a wide network of cafes and other venues which already offer refills.

Cllr Jane Pratt, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Decarbonisation and Plastic Free Monmouthshire said,

“The council takes its plastic free Monmouthshire commitment very seriously.  As well as taking steps like using glass milk bottles for all school milk and stopping our use of disposable cups in our buildings, joining the Refill scheme seems to be a great way of helping our residents and visitors to reduce single use plastic.  A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and it’s predicted that figure will rise by another 20% by 2021.  We need the UK and Welsh Governments to do their part in challenging this, but it is important that the council also plays their part.”

Monmouthshire County Council and Usk Town Council are delighted to be working in partnership with ARUP Consultancy to create 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 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 whilst Bridge Street and Castle parade were closed off for essential gas pipe upgrading in 2018. The work was initially feared by businesses and residents but fears were soon alleviated. Residents reported feeling safe and were happy to be able to walk freely through the street without the worry of busy through traffic. Increased footfall resulted in a positive impact for local businesses.

Usk Town Council and Monmouthshire County Council have been working to find a solution via traditional traffic orders but there has been little progress. The Masterplan focuses on work by the late Ben Hamilton-Baille and the Future Usk community survey and consultation exercise will provide a baseline upon which to build ongoing community engagement activities.

The Town Council’s Future Usk community survey undertaken with Usk residents highlighted various issues that are important. The sustainability and future of retail and commerce, leisure, parking, as well as the traffic management were all issues important to residents.  In addition the town has a 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.

Cllr 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 Usk to be fit for the future through supporting local businesses and creating a destination where visitors and residents can enjoy the town alike. We very much look forward to seeing the results’.

Mrs Christine Wilkinson, Mayor of Usk, said “We are excited, not only to have ARUP on board for this next stage, but to have MCC joining with us, to drive this forward. As well as creating a visionary, future-proof, Master Plan – very much with the ‘shared space’ ethos at its heart – ARUP will explore, attract and secure funding streams so that dreams can indeed become realities”.

For more information contact:

Sadie Beer, Monmouthshire County Council Town Centre Project Engagement Officer  

call 07970036191 or email: sadiebeer@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Usk Town Council Clerk Tracy Huxley, email clerk.usk@usktown.org or call 01291 673011

Disability gardening project Greenfingers, based at the Melville Theatre, Abergavenny is helping to brighten up local communities and Monmouthshire County Council offices with fantastic planters filled with beautiful blooms. The project  is part of the My Day My Life initiative led by Monmouthshire County Council and aims to empower people with learning and physical disabilities to learn new skills meet new friends.

The team have been busy making beautiful wooden garden planters and filling them with gorgeous plants. Individuals involved in the project recently provided the councils Registry Office based at County Hall, Usk with two boomingly beautiful planters.

Greenfingers is very much a community based project and welcomes members of the public to come in and have a look around and make a purchase. Planters are made to order and delivered to households as well as offices.

A sister project of Greenfingers helps to maintain several community green spaces in the local area including Linda Vista Gardens and Bailey Park.

In 2018 the project was delighted to receive an award from Abergavenny Town Council for special contribution to the enhancement of the area in the Abergavenny in Bloom competition. This coming year the project will be providing plants to a variety of local organisations including Abergavenny Library and Our Lady and St Michael’s Primary School to help brighten up the town in readiness of Abergavenny in Bloom 2019.

Cllr Penny Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Care and Health said:

‘Greenfingers offers so much to both individuals with disabilities and the wider community. I am so pleased to see that the project is helping to brighten up County Hall in Usk and I congratulate them for their special contribution award in 2018. The impact of gardening on both mental and physical health and wellbeing is immense and I love to see this project helping many people in the community to stay well and active. I encourage residents to pop into the Melville Theatre and take a look at what Greenfingers has to offer.’

The project is open to the public Monday to Thursday until 3.30pm and Friday till 3.00pm. Residents are welcome to visit the project and place orders for planters. For more information please contact: 01873 854489.

Staff from Monmouthshire Flying Start received expert advice and a hands on Physical Literacy training session from Monmouthshire Sport Development Team on Monday 3rd June at The Acorn Centre, Abergavenny.

Physical Literacy (developing skills such as running, jumping, hopping, throwing and catching) is essential for any sport or physical activity.  The team have provided the Physical Literacy Pre School programme with over 33 childcare settings in Monmouthshire for the last four years, in partnership with the Healthy Schools Network, this session was an extension to the existing provision. Flying Start is a Welsh Government funded programme for preschool children and families. The training complements the varied activity sessions that take place in Flying Start settings. 

The Sports Development Team provided valuable insight in to the importance of developing fundamental skills from an early age to provide the confidence and competence to take part in sport and physical activity for the rest of their lives.

Staff were engaged in a presentation on Anatomy and Physiology focusing on facts and figures to highlight the impact that regular exercise and physical activity can have to reduce the onset of preventable health conditions. A hands on session followed which saw Flying Start Staff raise their own heart rates with a series of fun games to highlight how exercise can be fun. Staff were impressed with the sessions praising the day as fantastic.

Cllr Richard John Cabinet Member for Leisure and Children and Young People said:

‘I am so pleased to see the Sports Development Team working in partnership with Flying Start to transfer skills to help our future generations. The development of fundamental skills such as running, jumping, hopping, throwing and catching are essential for any sport or physical activity is integral to happy and healthy life. The work of the Flying Start and other childcare providers in essential to provide rounded opportunities for our children and parents to embed positive wellbeing messages.’

‘Children need to be given lots of opportunities to develop skills from an early age to ensure they are confident and competent to take part in physical activity for the rest of their lives. The development of these skills is referred to as Physical Literacy, the fundamental skills that form the building blocks for lifelong engagement in regular physical activity. Monmouthshire Sports Development Team have been outstanding in enabling children from 4- 18 to gain skill and opportunities. I am so pleased to see the programme transferred to preschool children.

Monmouthshire Sports Development Team provide a wealth of activities for children and young people. The very popular Mon Games are a highlight of many young people’s holidays. For more information about the team contact Paul Sullivan: 

Email: paulsullivan@monmouthshire.gov.u, call 07825 853882 or visit www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/things-to-do/monleisure/the-monmouthshire-games to find out more about the Mon Games.

On 5th June Monmouthshire County Council’s Cabinet is considering a report on the Council’s financial performance for the financial year 2018/2019. The report highlights a budget underspend of £49k on a net expenditure budget of £139.6 million (excluding precepts and levies collected on others behalf).

The report flags a number of areas of spend where significant pressure continues to show. These areas are mainly the continuing growth in numbers of children being looked after by the Council, funding additional learning needs for children in Monmouthshire schools and increases in costs to provide free home to school transport for pupils. These three areas alone saw cost increases of £2.436 million during the year which have been managed by achieving savings across other areas of the Council.

Over and above this a small number of schools are reporting significant year end deficit positions that Governing Body’s will have to address this year.

Councillor Phil Murphy, Cabinet Member for Resources said “everybody realises how difficult it is to manage public finances in the U.K. right now and in England we are starting to see Councils fall over. I am pleased that yet again we have managed to deliver our agenda within budget but the public should be under no illusion that this is hard to do. We are not making easy choices and the outlook for the next few years is challenging unless Welsh Government decide that local government in this country matters to them and that rural counties start to get a level of financial support commensurate with delivering services in large sparsely populated areas.”

Councillor Peter Fox, Leader of the Council added “it cannot be right that some Councils in Wales have in excess of £100 million of unallocated reserves and continue to get disproportionate levels of grants from Wales Government on top of an overly generous annual settlement whilst we watch every single penny. It’s time to sort this out and Assembly Members and the Welsh Local Government Association need to rise to this challenge. In the meantime we will continue to run one of the most efficient, effective, high performing Councils in Wales working with and for all citizens of Monmouthshire.”

Max Boyce

Following his sell-out show four years ago, Max Boyce returns to Caldicot Leisure Centre on Saturday, 5th October – it’s going to be an incredible night! Max’s 2018 tour has been extended into this autumn due to overwhelming public demand.

Max Boyce has entertained people worldwide for more than 40 years with his ability to paint pictures in word and song. An extensive youthful audience has recently discovered this exceptional entertainer, taking him into their hearts and making him a true modern day folk hero.

Max’s live performances need no introduction; the audience’s reactions and standing ovations speak for themselves. Don’t miss out on the unique experience of seeing Max Boyce live in concert, and being able to say, “I Was There!”

Tickets at a cost of £28 (subject to booking fee) are available from: httsp://boroughtheatreabergavenny.co.uk while doors open at 6.45pm on the night. Head to the website for further information or email events@monmouthshire.gov.uk for any other queries.

Monmouthshire County Council has chosen a new Chairman to serve for the next twelve months. Councillor Sheila Woodhouse was elected at the council’s annual general meeting on May 14th following nomination by Council Leader Peter Fox. Councillor Fox said: “Sheila is an extremely hardworking and respected person and has been an excellent Vice-Chairman during the past year.”
Councillor Woodhouse was born and raised in Abergavenny, educated in St Albans RC School and Monmouth Comprehensive School and enjoyed a successful career with the Post Office, rising to become branch and area manager. She is an active volunteer in and around the town and has a long-standing connection with Abergavenny’s Gateway Club, is a member of the WRVS, is involved in Abergavenny’s twinning association and was the founder and secretary of Abergavenny Mind Association as well as participating in many other causes. Councillor Woodhouse serves as the member for the Grofield ward and has previous experience in her new role having served as Mayor of Abergavenny. Her consort for her year of office is her husband, Chris who served as Monmouthshire’s Chairman in 2007 while her chaplain is Canon Mark Soady.
Councillor Woodhouse said: “What an honour and privilege to be elected as this year’s Chairman. All councillors and parties represented here today are committed to the well-being of the people of Monmouthshire. Through difficult and trying times their co-operation has underpinned everything we stand for and I will do my best to ensure all opinions are heard and heard fairly.”
Councillor Woodhouse’s chosen charities for her year of office are the Alzheimer’s Society and Gwent Music – the local authority music service in collaboration with Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Newport and Torfaen councils.
The outgoing Chairman, Councillor Peter Clarke said: “This has been an amazing year and it has passed very quickly. Monmouthshire is a wonderful place where everyone is very courteous and keen to help. Highlights for me include witnessing the fly-past of the RAF’s last remaining Lancaster Bomber in Chepstow to remember a Dambusters squadron pilot who lived in the town, and hearing amazing performances by the children and young people of my chosen charity, Gwent Music.”
Councillor Bryan Jones who represents the Goetre Fawr ward was elected as Vice-Chairman of the council.

All Monmouthshire residents who are registered to vote in this week’s European Parliamentary election can do so at their polling station (with or without a polling card). Monmouthshire County Council residents can find their nearest polling station at maps.monmouthshire.gov.uk

Monmouthshire County Council has assured residents in the Magor and Undy area that they will be entitled to vote in Thursday’s European Parliamentary election even if they have not received their poll cards. The council has been made aware that that the Royal Mail has not delivered poll cards to some properties in Magor and Undy but Returning Officer Paul Matthews has stressed that residents will be able to participate in the election, provided they are registered to vote.

Paul Matthews said: “We apologise for a situation that is not of our making and outside our control. If anybody has any queries please would they contact our elections team by email: elections@monmouthshire.gov.uk”.

Tintern’s Old Station visitor centre will provide a warm welcome to volunteers willing to decorate and plant seeds and flowers in surplus boots and wellies donated to Monmouthshire’s recycling team. The planting session takes place on Tuesday 28th May between 11am and 2pm and the brightly coloured footwear will welcome visitors and hikers including those training for the Macmillan charity’s Mighty Hike fundraising walk scheduled for 7th September. The Old Station nestles beside the River Wye in the heart of the Wye Valley just north of Tintern.

Community groups, volunteers and school children from the nearby Llandogo Primary School will join in the fun and create their own works of art. Monmouthshire’s grounds maintenance team has donated some gorgeous bedding plants to brighten up the boots and encourage bees and other pollinators.

The creative footwear will be on display all summer and will feature in a treasure hunt to spot the ‘booti-ful boots’. Visitors to the station are encouraged to share pictures of their favourites on social media with the hashtag #bootifulboots.

The Old Station’s idyllic 10 acre area boasts the best of what Monmouthshire has to offer with its café providing a varied selection of food as well as family events, live music throughout the summer, a children’s play area and zip wire.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Innovation, Enterprise and Leisure said: “I’m looking forward to seeing the gorgeous boots appearing around Tintern Old Station. I would encourage hikers, day trippers and holiday makers alike to enjoy all the station has to offer in the spectacular setting of the Wye Valley. We’re looking forward to welcoming people training for Macmillan’s Mighty Hike – it’s definitely worth attempting the Devil’s Pulpit climb before the big day!”

Volunteers are invited to drop in to the booti-ful boots event any time between 11am and 2pm on 28th May at Tintern Old Station, Tintern, Chepstow NP16 7NX. In addition, any unwanted old boots or wellies and spare craft materials or paint will be gratefully accepted at the Old Station before 28th May.

Local business are invited to attend Monmouthshire County Council’s Employability Day on Friday 21st June from 9.30am at County Hall, Usk. The morning marks the start of Monmouthshire’s Employability Week, which aims to inspire and recognise the wonderful work of the council’s Youth Enterprise team and the Monmouthshire Employability Partnership.

The Employability Partnership is made up of Monmouthshire County Council – Youth Enterprise and Community Learning, Monmouthshire Housing Association, Melin Homes and PaCE (Parent Child Care and Employment) working together to improve employability opportunities for the citizens of Monmouthshire. Communities for Work Plus (CfW+) celebrates its first year of delivery in Monmouthshire with outstanding employment outcomes.

The day is an opportunity for local businesses to share their views to help the council understand more about the resource needs of local businesses so that apprenticeship schemes in Monmouthshire can be designed around the needs of local businesses and ensure that young people are prepared for the future of work.

A Monmouthshire County Council spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to supporting enterprise in Monmouthshire and encourage local young people to develop skills that will aid a brilliant career now and in the future. We welcome views from all local businesses to help us design our apprenticeship programmes based on their needs. I look forward to meeting a wide range of local businesses – all welcome.’

The morning will also provide an opportunity to celebrate achievements of citizens that have made outstanding progress to enter into education, employment or training.

The event will begin at 9.30am at County Hall in Usk, refreshments will be served until 10.00am a variety of guest speakers will be present and end at 12.00pm.

For more information and to book a space contact Steve Cooper StephenCooper@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Monmouthshire County Council Waste and Street Services are pleased to announce that a contract with Monmouthshire Housing Association has been secured to provide maintenance and support to over 250 identified sites.

The council’s Grounds Maintenance team will provide grass cutting, shrub maintenance, hard standing clearance, weed clearance and related grounds maintenance for an initial period of 4 years, there is an option for 2 extensions of 3 years each. The total value of the contract is £2.5 million for the potential 10 year duration.

The contract brings with it a continued commitment to help communities prosper. Tenants will benefit from the support of Grounds teams helping tenants to develop Community Garden Schemes. MHA prides itself in working with communities to help tenants obtain employment and training opportunities.

The council will work with MHA to support the Passport to Work training scheme. Significant community benefits have been agreed, including a variety of opportunities across Waste and Street Services including apprenticeships, work experience and work placements.

Monmouthshire County Council have been providing the service to MHA since the housing stock was transferred under a Service Level Agreement. In 2018 MHA tendered a long term contract for the provision of Grounds Maintenance to their sites, properties and for day works following extensive consultation with their tenants. Monmouthshire County Council were identified as the preferred bidder for the Monmouthshire Housing Association Grounds Maintenance Contract.

Gaining the contract reflects the incredible work of Monmouthshire County Council in securing a high value contract in highly competitive market. The council strives to provide an excellent service providing first class grounds maintenance services to communities.

Councillor Bryan Jones Cabinet Member for Waste and Street Services

‘It is fantastic to hear that Waste and Street Services have won the contract. The team has worked incredibly hard to achieve it. Monmouthshire has provided the service for many years and we are pleased that MHA have awarded us the contract in such a competitive arena. The determination, professionalism and diligence of all staff has paid off. The high standard of service we provide will continue for many years to come and enable job security for our staff.

A new pilot project Nature Isn’t Neat will be launched during Monmouth Town’s Bee Festival at The Nelson’s Garden on Sunday May 19th. The pollinator project provides communities with information and ideas to encourage more and more bees, butterflies and other insects to populate and pollinate gardens, meadows, hedgerows and verges.

The project has been funded via the Welsh Government Rural Communities under the LEADER measure of the Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 aims to encourage the public to think about how they can protect species that help provide a vast amount of food.

The project, based in Monmouth is led by Monmouth Town Council in partnership with local experts from Bees for Development, Transition Monmouth, Bee Friendly Monmouthshire and Monmouth Meadow Group. The project is supported by Monmouthshire County Council and will run until June 2020.

The project is looking for residents, local schools and community groups to get involved and join the Twitter or Face book pages. It provides an opportunity for communities to share what is already happening to boost pollination in Monmouthshire.

Cllr Bryan Jones Cabinet Member for Biodiversity said:

‘Pollinators are so important to help our environment thrive, Nature Isn’t Neat is a great example of how groups can work together to make a positive impact in the county. We pride ourselves with our commitment to biodiversity in Monmouthshire we are constantly looking at the ways we can positively manage our green spaces to encourage bees, butterflies, flora and fauna to visit. I encourage residents of all ages to think about what they plant, no matter how big or small your garden the new project can help you make a difference.’

There are many ways to find out how to make a positive impact or find out what existing activities are taking place via the Nature Isn’t Neat social media channels: Follow @natureisntneat on Twitter and Nature Isn’t Neat on Facebook.

Residents are encouraged to take part in a short survey to find out how much communities understand about pollinators and what the project can do to help increase awareness and pollinators in Monmouthshire. The survey is available:

https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/nin/

More activities, regular updates on social media, workshops and competitions will take place in coming months.  For more information contact NiN@monmouthshire.gov.uk.

Monmouthshire County Council Foster Care Team will be celebrating Fostering Fortnight from Monday May 13th until Friday 26th May with a series of drop in sessions at locations in the north and south of the county. Residents are encouraged to come along to find out how fostering can change a child’s future.

Fostering Fortnight is a national campaign to raise the profile of fostering and to show how foster care transforms lives.

Foster care offers a variety of opportunities, and provides the ability to make a huge impact the lives of babies, children and young people in Monmouthshire. Fostering can be a short term, long term or respite care. In particular there is need for carers who can offer a placement to vulnerable mothers or fathers and baby, to provide support and guidance in assisting them to develop their parenting skills. The Monmouthshire Foster Care team are happy to provide information on all options in a bid to encourage more people to transform the lives of children and young people who need extra care and support.  

The drop in sessions are taking place at:

St Pierre Golf Club on Thursday 16th May 10.00am – 12.00pm and 5.30 – 7.30 pm

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny on Thursday 23rd  10.00 am –12.00pm and 5.30pm – 7.30pm.

Cllr Penny Jones Cabinet Member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health said:

‘Fostering Fortnight is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of Foster Carers. Whatever your situation, if you are considering becoming a foster carer please come along and speak to our friendly team who would like to meet you. Just one conversation could start your journey to transform the lives of babies, children and young people in Monmouthshire.’

Foster care is an enriching experience as one Monmouthshire Foster Carer explains:

‘My best experience of being a foster carer is that each week I hear from all the children who have been in my care, they come and tell me all about what’s happening in their lives. It’s so lovely when you are that close to them all it’s the best feeling in the world.’

Avid listeners to Sunshine Radio can hear friendly adverts promoting the drop in sessions. 

For more information text FOSTER to 60060 with a contact name or call 01873 735950. Find out more about the fostering journey via the Monmouthshire County Council website, visit www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/fostering for more details.  

Monmouthshire County Council is introducing changes to Household Waste and Recycling Centres. From Saturday June 1st residents will be required to provide proof of residency in the form of a permit to gain entry into all sites. The date also marks the start of part time closures at all HWRC’s.

Every household in Monmouthshire will receive one permit which will be sent along with an information leaflet. The permits will be issued free of charge and are expected to reach residents by June 1st. Residents who do not receive a permit by June 1st are urged to contact 01633 644644 or email Contact@monmouthshire.gov.uk to obtain a permit. A driving licence will be accepted in the interim period.

One permit will be issued per household, the permits are transferable between vehicles where a household has more than one car. If a permit is lost or forgotten a valid driving licence displaying a Monmouthshire address will be accepted by staff.

Meet and greet staff will be present at all sites. Residents are asked to display permits on their windscreen so they are visible to staff when entering the site enabling staff to easily see them and reduce the time a visit takes.

The permits have been introduced in a bid to prevent an influx of waste from neighbouring authorities being placed in the four HWRC across the county which has huge financial implications on the authority. Many neighbouring authorities have introduced similar schemes.

Permits are already in place for Commercial type vehicles and trailers, the new permit must be displayed along with these permits.

Part time closures of House Hold Waste and Recycling Centres will be implemented from Saturday 1st June.

The following sites will be closed:

  • Llanfoist HWRC, closed every Wednesday
  • Five Lanes HWRC, closed every Thursday
  • Mitchel Troy, closed every Monday and Thursday
  • Usk, closed every Tuesdays and Friday

Councillor Bryan Jones Cabinet Member for Operations said:

‘The changes to Household Waste and Recycling Centres have been implemented to make savings. Part time closures to HWRC’s have been shaped by resident’s feedback during a recent engagement exercise. I hope that residents understand that part time closures are positive and have led to savings being made without any permanent closures. There have been considerable changes to waste and recycling in recent months, I would like to thank residents for their continued cooperation during this process.’

More information can be found on the Monmouthshire County Council website:

www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/household-waste-recycling-centres/

Monmouthshire County Council, along with the other four Gwent local authorities, is conducting a feasibility study on the need for more electric vehicle charging points across the county.  The council wants to hear the views of local residents on the need for such a service and locations where they could be placed.  Findings from the feasibility study will help the council plan future provision for the county.

Councillor Bryan Jones, the council’s cabinet member for county operations said: “To have more electric vehicle charging points across Monmouthshire will help us work towards a greener, cleaner environment”.

Residents in Monmouthshire are asked to contact the council if they have a current need for charging or would consider switching to an electric vehicle if on-street charging was available.

Councillor Jones continued: “Would you consider swapping to an electric vehicle if there were more charging points across Monmouthshire?  We are particularly keen to hear from residents who have or are considering an electric car but who cannot park or charge off-street near their property.”

Residents across Gwent are being encouraged to complete an online survey available via :https://getinvolved.torfaen.gov.uk/pssu/electric-vehicle-charging-points/ residents will be asked to select which county borough they live and will be asked to include their postcode when responding so that local authorities can understand where most demand exists.

This information will be used as evidence to support funding opportunities.

The deadline for responses is 20th May.

For more information and to provide feedback call Rural Programmes Coordinator Mark Lloyd on 01633 644865 or email MarkLloyd@monmouthshire.gov.uk

The offices will be closed on Monday 6th May

We will reopen at 9 am on Tuesday 7th May.

If your enquiry is urgent please telephone 0300 123 1055

For Social Services emergencies please call 0800 328 4432

All of your Recycling & Waste collections will run one day later that week.

Monmouthshire County Council’s environmental health and waste & street cleaning teams joined in partnership with other public bodies by holding an awareness day on Thursday 11th April to draw attention to the anti-social nature of dog fouling.  Working with local town and community councils and the police, efforts were centred on the north of the county, particularly Gilwern, Clydach and Goetre, in line with the community-led Give Dog Fouling the Red Card initiative.

Also focussing on the anti-social nature of fouling were pupils from Gilwern Primary School.  As well as discussing the matter with residents and highlighting affected areas with chalk-based sprays, they have designed new signs for Llanelly Community Council aimed against dog fouling.  As with previous awareness days residents gave positive feedback, recognising the need to continue drawing attention to dog fouling, which remains an environmental concern.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health, Councillor Sara Jones said: “Noticeable improvements have been made in recent years with a reduction in fouling on our streets and sports grounds.  We really appreciate the efforts made by the vast majority of dog walkers who collect and properly dispose of the waste.  Incidents still occur though and hotspots remain throughout the county.  Awareness days such as this serve as a good reminder, particularly when local children are involved in initiatives which is always pleasing.  The message is simple – please bag it and bin it.”

Local authorities and Gwent Police are empowered to issue fixed penalty notices and owners failing to pick up their dogs’ excrement face a £75 on the spot fine.  If the person refuses to pay, and the case is taken to court the offender may be fined up to £1,000.  Dog owners failing to pick up can easily be reported to the council via: http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/home/streets-parking-and-transport/recycling-and-waste/dogfouling/

The offices will be closed  on Friday 19th ,  Monday 22nd  & Tuesday 23rd

We will reopen at 9 am on Wednesday 24th April.

If your enquiry is urgent please telephone 0300 123 1055

For Social Services emergencies please call 0800 328 4432

There will be refuse/ recycling  collections on Friday 19th

And one day late the following week.

A local charity launched a dementia-friendly café in the Palmer Community Centre, located within the heart of historic Chepstow on Saturday 13th April. Co-funded by Monmouthshire County Council and the Welsh Government Integrated Care Fund administered by the Gwent Regional Partnership Board, the project run by Chepstow Senior Citizens Trust is set to considerably benefit people living with dementia in the area and their families.

Various methods for helping people living with dementia have been installed at the café, including sound baffling to reduce echoing, solid colour schemes to reduce the risk of visual confusion, variable and natural lighting modules to recreate daylight, and clear signposting to and from the café.

Margaret Gore, Operations Manager at the Centre said: “Popping into town for a coffee and a chat is something that many of us take for granted, but for someone living with dementia this can be a deeply frustrating and difficult experience. Café layouts and colour-schemes can be confusing to a person with dementia, poor lighting can cause illusions and noise deemed acceptable to café staff and customers may be distressing and disorientating.

Margaret continued: “We are so excited to have redeveloped the café into a dementia-friendly café, where people can feel safe and secure, enjoy refreshments, socialise and take part in activities. We hope to appeal to the general public too, with plenty of space for families to enjoy lovely home-cooked style food made by our team of staff and volunteers.”

Margaret’s team are working with charities and other organisations to hold regular and organised meetings, groups and classes at the new facility.

Peter Farley, Chair of Chepstow Senior Citizens Trust added: “We are very appreciative for the support received from Monmouthshire County Council and the Welsh Government to bring this project to fruition and we are particularly grateful to staff from the council’s building maintenance team, the council’s consultant Rhodri Dean and A.J. Quinn Building Contractors Ltd. We are also very thankful for the support given by Chepstow & Caldicot Lions who are providing new equipment for our kitchen.”

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health, Councillor Penny Jones said: “With the number of dementia cases set to rise by 82% in the next 12 years, providing safe and secure environments is of vital importance to the community. Chepstow’s new dementia-friendly café is a very welcome facility and will offer much support and contribute to the well-being of people living with dementia and their families.”

Monmouthshire’s residents have been urged to ensure they are registered and eligible to vote in the European Parliamentary Election.
To vote in the election on Thursday 23rd May applications to be included on the electoral roll must be received no later than Tuesday 7th May. Electors already registered can expect to receive their poll cards by Thursday 18th April. This is later than normally expected due to the uncertainty surrounding this election. Additionally, with a number of bank holidays in the approach to the election, residents wishing to make alternative voting arrangements should do so as soon as possible taking into consideration the deadlines detailed below.
Registering is quick and simple. Just visit: www.gov.uk./registertovote and complete the online registration process. Alternatively, residents may apply for the appropriate forms or check their names are on the register by contacting Monmouthshire County Council’s Election Office on 01633 644212 or email elections@monmouthshire.gov.uk. Residents who have received a poll card for these elections at their address are already registered and eligible to vote.
Residents can vote even if they are away by applying for a postal vote by 5pm on Wednesday 8th May or by a proxy application form, when another person votes on their behalf (not postal or emergency proxies) by 5pm on Wednesday 15th May. Electors already registered to vote by post before 2nd April 2019 can expect to receive their postal vote around 10th May. Any applications for a postal vote received since 2nd April 2019 can expect to receive their postal vote around 17th May.
Monmouthshire’s 93 polling stations will be open on 23rd May from 7am to 10pm. Votes will be verified immediately after the polls close and counted on Sunday 26th May when the final votes have been cast across all 28 member countries of the European Union.
For further details visit: https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/european-parliamentary-elections-23-may-2019/

High tides are due. We will be monitoring the situation and if necessary, will arrange for the A466 through Tintern to be closed for short periods on the following dates and times:-

  • Friday 19th April Between 20.55 – 21.25 (approx.)
  • Saturday 20th April Between 09.15 – 09.45 (approx.)
  • Saturday 20th April Between 21.35 – 22.05 (approx.)
  • Sunday 21st April Between 09.55 – 10.25 (approx.)
  • Sunday 21st April Between 22.30 – 23.00 (approx.)

The closure points will be as follows:

  • North End closure: Trelleck Road junction.
  • South End closure: Royal George junction.

Closure times are estimated based on the forecasted tide times. Natural Resources Wales will be monitoring the situation and issuing Flood Warnings as necessary. Road closures will only be temporary and only when tidal water actually overflows onto the highway. The road will reopen as soon as the water has receded from the highway.

Local author Godfrey Brangham will deliver a talk entitled Poisoners: the Sandwich, Cake and Cup of Tea in Usk’s community hub at 7pm on Thursday, 25th April. This free event is organised in conjunction with the Reading Agency charity and its World Book Night celebration of books and reading for pleasure. Tea, coffee and light refreshments will be available.
The talk will examine three murders; one with a sandwich, one with a cake and one with a cup of tea.
Godfrey Brangham was born in Pontnewydd, Cwmbran and was educated at West Monmouth Grammar School before qualifying at the Welsh School of Pharmacy. Later, he obtained an MSc in wound healing and tissue repair at the University Hospital Wales.
Godfrey Brangham’s previous works include the historical work Hangings and Hangmen at Usk Prison, The Day’s Portion, an Arthur Machen miscellany and Where Memory Slept, a biography of Arthur Machen’s wife, Purefoy Machen.
Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community hubs, Councillor Paul Jordan said: “All are welcome to attend this event to enjoy a fascinating talk from Mr Brangham. Our community hubs across the county offer similar occasions throughout the year and they are all well worth attending.”
For further information, email uskhub@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 01291 426888. Usk Community Hub is based at 35 Maryport Street, NP15 1AE where there are two free car parks nearby.

Visitors to Monmouth will see a new addition to town in the form of artwork celebrating the well -loved cattle market. Monmouth is one of 79 communities to be involved in the Sustrans national social history project The Portrait Bench.

The Portrait Bench project aims to recognise and remember inspirational individuals in towns across the UK. In Monmouth, Jim Shankland, the auctioneers assistant for agricultural estate agents/ auctioneers known then, as Rennie Taylor and Till, today just known as Rennies along with Welsh Mountain Sheep and a Hereford Bull have been commemorated in three life size steel portraits.

Life-size figures have been cut from sheet steel and installed by a simple bench which encourages locals and visitors to sit or step up into the space and become a part of the portrait. The bench is located at the southern end of town on the old livestock market site.

The features of each character have been simplified while retaining their essential characteristics. The characters reflect those things that are important to the community and celebrate the uniqueness of each location.

The characters were chosen by the Monmouth Links Steering group from a list of suggestions put forward by the public. Communities across the UK nominated local people for the contribution they have made to local life, culture or history to become the figures on their local Portrait Bench to be part of a collection of over 250 portraits.

Cabinet Member for Operations Cllr Bryan Jones said:

‘Monmouth is a town rich with history, I am so pleased that the livestock market has been commemorated in such a thoughtful and interactive way. I hope that locals and visitors to the town take a minute to sit on the bench and think about what once existed in the town. It is fantastic to see local people remembered and even more pleasing to see nominations came from local residents.’

Sustrans is a charity to promote and enable people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day. Find out more visit:  www.sustrans.org.uk

Find out more about Connect2 in Monmouth and how to find this portrait bench at www.sustrans.org.uk/portraitbench

Abergavenny’s Borough Theatre is celebrating news that an Arts Council grant will enable welcome improvements to the structure of the building, making it a suitable setting for international performers, local community groups and school celebrations. Monmouthshire County Council, the owner of the theatre will also provide match-funding for the project which is expected to cost about £300,000.

Among the enhanced features will be new seating, improved access and lighting and a makeover for the foyer area.

This work will reduce day-to-day running costs and provide a safe working environment within a professionally equipped venue as well as offering a better service to theatre-goers.

Councillor Bob Greenland, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for cultural services said: “The work to be carried out is in line with the theatre’s business plan so we can present a programme of events drawing from the local to the global – celebrating, entertaining, challenging and engaging our community and those who come to visit us. It will provide a boost to theatre and the performing arts in the region and means we can offer customers a premier quality experience in a professional setting.”

For further information on the Borough Theatre visit: https://boroughtheatreabergavenny.co.uk/

Monmouthshire County Council has organised a range of great activities for children over Easter holidays!

The county’s four leisure centres in Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth will once again run the very popular Monmouthshire Games for seven days packed full of fun, friendship and physical activity – there is something for everyone. To find out more visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/the-monmouthshire-games – or contact the nearest leisure centre to book.

The Monmouthshire Games also features specialist rugby, football and new outdoor adventure days at selected venues for all abilities.

Coaches from the local Newport-based Dragons team will deliver two rugby camps from 9am to 3pm on Thursday 18th April at Caldicot Leisure Centre and Thursday 25th April at Chepstow Leisure Centre. All sessions will be delivered by the Dragons community coaches and in partnership with Monmouthshire Sport Development. The cost per child is £18.50 and bookings can be made by telephoning Caldicot Leisure Centre (01291 426850) or Chepstow Leisure Centre (01291 635745).

Football camps will take place at Abergavenny Leisure Centre and Caldicot Leisure Centre from 9am to 3pm on Friday 26th April. The cost per child is £18.50 and bookings can be made by telephoning Caldicot Leisure Centre (01291 426850) or Abergavenny Leisure Centre (01873 735360).

A new venture – The Monmouthshire Games Outdoor Adventure Days – will give 12 to 15 year olds the opportunity to challenge themselves, learn new skills and have fun in the great outdoors.

Monday, 15th April features “High & Mighty”, an opportunity to climb and abseil while the following day sees “Wet & Wild” with canoeing on the River Wye. Both days run from 9am to 5pm and the cost is £35 per person per day. Places are limited so anyone interested is urged to book early by ringing Monmouth Leisure Centre (01600 775135). All equipment and transport from Monmouth Leisure Centre is provided and all activities are delivered by fully qualified and trained staff. Children are requested to bring a packed lunch.

The council’s community hubs and libraries have a packed Easter programme for youngsters. Chepstow Community Hub features Easter stories and crafts from 11am to 12noon on Tuesday 16th April and Thursday 25th April for five to eight year olds while baby rhyme time sessions take place from 2.15pm to 2.45pm on Thursday 18th April and Thursday 25th April. On Friday, 26 April, under-fives can enjoy story time from 10.15am to 10.45am.

Caldicot Community Hub will offer a baby rhyme time from 2pm to 2.30pm on Tuesday 16th April and a Lego workshop for five to nine years olds from 10am to 11am on Wednesday 24th April. In addition, under-fives will be treated to story time from 2pm to 2.30pm on Thursday 18th April and Thursday 25th April, while three to eight year olds can go on a bear hunt – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt takes place from 10am to 11am on Wednesday 17th April.

Gilwern Library hosts the ever popular Louby Lou who will entertain children aged four and under from 10am to 10.45am (cost £4) on Tuesday 16th April. The library also holds Easter colouring sessions on Wednesday 17th April (1.30pm to 4.30pm), Wednesday 24th April (1.30pm to 4.30pm) and Friday 26th April (10am to 1pm & 1.30pm to 5pm).

Abergavenny Library will offer Easter stories and crafts plus an Easter egg hunt for under-fives from 10.30am to 11.15am on Thursday 18th April with another Easter egg hunt for all ages on the morning of Saturday 20th April. Welsh language baby rhyme sessions take place on 2.15pm to 2.45pm on Thursday 18th April and 2.15pm to 2.45pm on Thursday 25th April. More Easter stories and crafts with a bunny dance will feature for the under-fives from 10.30am to 11.15am on Thursday 25th April while older children will look forward to Minecraft sessions. These run from 10am to 12noon on Wednesday 17th April and 10am to 12noon on Friday 26th April – there is a charge of £8 an hour for both Minecraft occasions.

Usk Community Hub will join in Monmouthshire’s Easter fun with Going on a Bear Hunt for three to eight year olds from 10.30am on Thursday 18th April and Easter stories and egg decorating for three to nine year olds from 10.30am on Thursday 25th April.

Easter stories and crafts will be offered at Monmouth Community Hub at 2pm on Wednesday 17th April. In addition, there will be a baby rhyme time at 10.30am on Monday 15th April and an under-fives’ story time at 2pm on Tuesday 16th April.

All Easter community hub and library events are free unless stated otherwise.

Monmouthshire’s museum service is hosting a fascinating intergenerational workshop at Abergavenny Castle from 10am to 12noon on Saturday 13th April with an aim to bring people together to find inspiration, have fun and enjoy writing. Led by local writer Lynn Clausen, children and adults will work in pairs to record their memories of the castle. Recommended for ages seven and over, the cost is £7 for two participants and includes a short tour of the castle and grounds followed by a creative writing workshop. For full details of this Abergavenny Writing Festival event, telephone the museum on 01873 854282.

Chepstow Museum is running an egg hunt and competition to design the ideal decorated egg starting at 11am to 4pm from Monday 8th April to Sunday 28th April with Easter puzzles to take home.

The museum also offers drop-in craft afternoons on Thursday 18th April and Thursday 25th April from 2pm to 4pm at the Drill Hall. These sessions are suitable for children of all ages but they must be accompanied by an adult. A donation of £2 for children over three years is suggested towards the cost of materials and refreshments.

Also at Chepstow Museum from 11am to 4pm on Tuesday, 16th April is a display presented by David Smith of the RSPB highlighting exciting projects making a positive difference to reverse trends in the significant declines of wildlife over the last 40 years. The display will also include a variety of fun, interactive activities for children to learn more about how they can help UK wildlife in their own gardens.

All three of Monmouthshire’s museums – at Abergavenny, Chepstow and Monmouth – have Easter activities for children, trails and quizzes, things to make and period clothes to try on. Special activities associated with current exhibitions include discovering the history of Abergavenny’s Castle House and grounds, fabulous artworks at Monmouth by former art teacher Otto Maciag and his pupils, and Chepstow Museum’s special display, “Stuffed, Pickled and Pinned”, showcasing 50 wonders of the natural world from museums across Wales and the importance of these collections to the study of natural sciences.

A project instigated by occupational therapists and physiotherapists at Monmouthshire’s integrated health and social care team based in Monmouth has benefitted to the tune of £2,150 thanks to the generosity of a local housing body. The Owls and Acorns intergenerational initiative, which tackles loneliness and isolation among older people, has received a cheque from the Monmouthshire Housing Association that will allow it to expand its activities.
Owls and Acorns currently meets once a week in Raglan Primary School bringing together older people and children from foundation phase classes to enjoy arts, crafts and exercises for one and a half hours. This shared activity benefits both parties.
The award from the Monmouthshire Housing Association was granted via its Pitch for your Project funding scheme – this offers the opportunity for local groups and charities with brilliant ideas for their community to bid for a cash donation. It means that Owls and Acorns can shortly introduce its services in Usk and Monmouth and staff involved in the scheme eventually hope to work across Monmouthshire.
Chief Executive of Monmouthshire Housing Association, John Keegan said: “We are delighted to support this fantastic project to allow it to expand beyond Raglan to other parts of the county. These initiatives don’t happen by accident; they need people dedicated to their community and willing to put in the hours to make those communities strong, active and vibrant. We have funded several intergenerational projects over the years and love seeing people coming together and finding they have so much in common and are so willing to share their stories and time. We wish Owls and Acorns continued success and would like to congratulate them on a really high quality bid for support”.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Care and Health, Councillor Penny Jones said: “This is a fabulous gesture by the Monmouthshire Housing Association and is much appreciated as it will improve the well-being of an increased number of older people across the county and it offers them an alternative to living with loneliness and isolation. I have seen for myself how successful this project is and would like to thank the staff involved for their work to develop it.”

Contact LucyHeath@monmouthshire.gov.uk for further information on Owls and Acorns.

Talented young artist Matt Dixon (known in the art world as Matt Crossfield) recently exhibited his work in Usk’s Coleg Gwent campus, receiving favourable reactions from those attending. Matt (24) lives in Caldicot and graduated from the University of South Wales in 2017 with a BA Honours Degree in Animation.

The one day exhibition was sponsored by Arc Spectrum, an innovative community project which provides creative activities for children and adults with a variety of communication and sensory needs. Matt himself has high functioning autism and is a member of the project. Arc Spectrum works in partnership with Coleg Gwent, Monmouthshire County Council’s ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) Stakeholder Group and Action for Children.

Matt won the Young Cartoonist of the Year 2018 award presented by the British Cartoonist Association for his animated drawing featuring US President Donald Trump on the Mexican border. Matt also published a children’s book called “Rusty the Red Dragon” last October.

Currently, Matt has been commissioned to illustrate a book series called “The Forest Railway stories” for publisher Lightmoor Press. Based on the Dean Forest Railway, the first book in the series is called “Counting Sheep” and will be available this Easter.

County Councillor Penny Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health said: “Matt’s exhibition displays work by an extraordinary young man and it was fascinating to see the wide range of his talents. We hope he will exhibit in County Hall soon for the benefit of members, staff and visitors.”

For more information on Matt and his work visit: www.mattcrossfield.com

Monmouthshire County Council has agreed two proposals that will guide school admissions and school catchment area strategies for the foreseeable future. Members of Monmouthshire’s cabinet meeting approved these changes on Wednesday 3rd April.
The revised school catchment areas policy will come into effect from the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year and will create the following amendments to the present arrangements:
• The catchment area for Monmouth Comprehensive School will be enlarged to align with the primary catchment areas for Usk Church in Wales, Trellech and Llandogo primary schools.
• The catchment area for Abergavenny’s King Henry VIII Comprehensive School will be enlarged to align with the primary catchment area for Goytre Fawr Primary School.
Councillor Richard John, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Children and Young People said: “I would like to thank the hundreds of people who came along to our 11 public meetings and drop-in sessions or submitted online responses for taking part in this detailed consultation on significant changes to secondary school catchment areas.
“There is clear evidence of public support for these changes, which align primary and secondary school catchment areas, better enable peer groups to remain together on the transition to secondary education and empower parents to make an informed choice about their preferred school.
“It is only right, that as we continue to invest millions of pounds in brand new schools, that families who live in Monmouthshire, pay council tax in Monmouthshire and elect councillors in Monmouthshire to make decisions about school funding, can access school places in Monmouthshire.
“For the areas of Goytre and Usk, which in future will form part of King Henry VIII Comprehensive School and Monmouth Comprehensive School’s catchment areas, we will continue to work with Newport City Council, the admissions authority for Caerleon Comprehensive School, to ensure that siblings of pupils already in Caerleon will continue to be prioritised in Newport’s admissions criteria. As the admissions authority for Caerleon Comprehensive School, Newport City Council will continue to consider applications from the Usk and Goytre areas as ‘in catchment’.
A review of the council’s home to school transport will be undertaken to take into account these changes. This policy review will not affect pupils attending Welsh-medium or faith schools.
Meanwhile, new school admission arrangements coming into effect from the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year will determine the criteria for which applicants are awarded places to their preferred school when demand exceeds capacity. These arrangements will mean that children in a school’s catchment area will be prioritised over those children who have a sibling at the school but live outside the catchment area. However, there will be a five year transition period to reduce the likelihood of splitting existing sibling links.

Councillor John added: “The changes to our schools admissions criteria will help keep peer groups together on the transition to secondary school and help ensure fairness in accessing primary school places for families within primary school catchment areas. These changes were supported by the vast majority of the hundreds of people who took part in the consultation and I feel reassured that there is such strong public support for our new school admissions policies.”

The council consulted widely over both proposals, holding eleven meetings in the schools affected, providing an online questionnaire and inviting interested parties to write with their views.

Monmouthshire County Council is working in partnership with housing charity Llamau to launch a project aimed at helping young people and vulnerable adults by providing additional support and becoming a protective factor in assisting individuals to steer clear of homelessness.

The Supported Lodgings project has been created to tackle growing homelessness and to find an affordable community-based solution. The scheme provides someone with a room of their own in a private home where they are a member of the household, but are not expected to become a member of the family. The householder, or host, provides a safe and supportive environment, working alongside professional services to help and support that individual in rebuilding their life.

Councillor Sara Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for housing and homelessness said: “The concept of supported lodging is well-tested with a number of authorities already helping young people but our new project will lead the way by including adults and older people. Anecdotal evidence suggests that placing some individuals within a better supported or family setting can have positive outcomes compared to other options.”

The council and Llamau are currently actively looking to identify prospective hosts across Monmouthshire. Hosts will not need special qualifications and may be married or single, working or unemployed. All that is required of them is a spare room with a willingness and ability to help individuals develop the skills and confidence needed to live independently and provide a safe and warm environment for adults. In exchange for providing a room, Llamau will provide the host with a weekly payment while the person receiving support will make a contribution towards costs and utilities.

Councillor Penny Jones, cabinet member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health added: “Llamau and the council will provide ongoing training and guidance, as well as financial and practical support. Both organisations acknowledge that all persons are different so we’ll guide hosts and those accommodated to agree necessary support. This could include tasks like cooking, budgeting, bills, education or emotional support.”

Llamau already runs similar projects in the Vale of Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire, Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot and Newport, enabling the council to visualise the benefits of entering into a supportive co-working relationship with the county’s communities to combat homelessness. The authority recognises the good practices and positive outcomes applied elsewhere and will adapt these – with the additional element of working with adults and older people.

Funded by the council by means of the Welsh Government’s Supporting People Programme, the project has few overheads as it is community-based and operated in addition to currently available provision.

Contact Llamau on 01633 244134 during office hours for an informal chat, or email enquiries@llamau.org.uk – for further details log onto: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/supported-lodgings/

On Saturday April 6th The Old Station, Tintern, Caldicot Castle and the Monnow Bridge open their doors for summer. All three attractions offer free entry and provide both local people and tourist’s an opportunity to visit a variety of buildings set in picturesque locations.

The Old Station is set in the heart of the Wye Valley next to the River Wye and is very near Tintern, the beautiful backdrop for recent Netflix comedy drama series, Sex Education. The Station’s café offers delicious treats and refreshments alongside a brand new children’s play area and zip wire. The perfect free family day out, and also a great base for walks along the Wye Valley.

In addition to free entry, visitors to The Shire Hall, Monmouth can now book a two free tours of The Shire Hall and Monnow Bridge. Visitors to The Shire Hall, Monmouth can visit the historic courtroom, travel down to the cells and walk around the beautiful Georgian building.

Visitors booking on the Monnow Bridge tour are asked to meet at the Monnow Bridge, the only remaining fortified river bridge in Great Britain. Tours are led by volunteers and provide in depth information on all aspects of the bridge, its history and the guard room.

The first tour of the season begins on Saturday 20th April and will run every Saturday from 1.30pm – 3.30pm until Saturday 26th October. Tours are limited to a maximum of six people and need to be booked in advance.

For further information and to book, please visit: www.visitmonmouthshire.com/thedms.aspx?dms=72&shop=43&prod=10205

Caldicot Castle offers a variety of activities, the castle set in beautiful tranquil gardens and a wooded country park is open from 11.00am to 4.00pm Tuesday to Sunday, entry is free. Refreshments are available from the on-site café, the grounds are the perfect place to sit and enjoy a cup of tea and delicious cake.

Families are welcome to participate in an Easter Egg hunt on Friday 19th April. Children are welcome to wear an Easter bonnet, a parade will take place at 12.00pm. A range of activities will be on offer including face painting, games and plenty of Easter activities for the children to enjoy.

The castle plays host to a free Monmouthshire Games Sports day for children and families on Tuesday 23rd April 11.00am – 4.00pm.  The day will provide an opportunity for people of all ages to try a new sport or simply have a look around the castle.

Cllr Bob Greenland Cabinet Member for tourism said: 

“It is great to see our attractions growing in popularity year after year. We are so lucky to have such unique, historical buildings brimming with character and intrigue. We are so pleased to be able to offer days out for free of charge to be enjoyed by all. All three attractions provide an insight into our unique heritage and provide both indoor and outdoor experiences so can be visited in all weather. With the added bonus that they are all free to enter. I urge as many people as possible to make a Monmouthshire Bucket list and visit all of our attractions this summer.’

Visit www.visitmonmouthshire.co.uk for more information on what’s on and where to go this summer.

On Monday April 8th  Cymraeg i Blant Monmouthshire is hosting a Parti Piws/Purple Party at Monmouth Leisure Centre 1.30pm – 2.30pm. The event coincides with Dewin and Doti’s tenth birthday, the loveable mascots of Mudiad Meithrin. The party is open to children aged 0-3 years, along with their parents, carers, grandparents who are all encouraged to wear an item of purple clothing.  A wide range of activities including access to the soft play area, baby and toddler rhyme time, crafts plus many more will be on offer.

The event is free for babies under 12 months, children aged 1-3 years a small charge of £3.10 is required – which is the standard cost to use the soft play at the Leisure Centre. The Parti Pwis/ Purple Party is also taking place across the  multitude of Welsh Medium childcare settings in Monmouthshire. For more information about the Purple Party contact Michaela Carrington Michaela.carrington@meithrin.cymru

At the party parents and carers will have an opportunity to find out more about Cymraeg i Blant. Cymraeg i Blant or Cymraeg for kids is managed by Mudiad Meithrin and provides information, support and advice for to promote the advantages of bilingualism from an early age. Cymraeg i Blant offers a wide range of fun activities for children and their families, including baby massage and baby yoga sessions, and story and song groups.  

There are a number of opportunities to attend a bilingual activity sessions in Monmouth. Cymraeg i Blant are planning to hold free weekly sessions of Baby Yoga, for babies aged from ten weeks old at Monmouth Leisure Centre from Monday 29th April from 1.00pm -2.00pm. The ability to speak Welsh is not required to attend – there is a warm welcome for everybody. The sessions will also help build parents confidence to use Welsh with their child.

A new Cylch Ti a Fi / Babies and Toddlers group has been established at Rockfield Community Centre on Monday’s between 9.45am – 11.15am. The group provides a perfect opportunity to meet up with other parents and carers to socialise and share experiences in an informal Welsh atmosphere. Babies and toddler develop an awareness of the Welsh language through range of activities, stories, rhymes and song.

Cllr Richard John Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said:

‘Bilingualism provides children and young people with a valuable additional life skill — the ability to communicate in two languages. In Monmouthshire, we are lucky to have a range of Mudiad Meithrin groups that are fun, informal and provide the foundations to begin a child’s bilingual journey. I hope that many parents attend the Purple Party in our newly refurbished Monmouth Leisure Centre or pop along one of the many Meithrin groups.’

For more information of Welsh medium childcare activities or settings visit Monmouthshire Family Information Service website: www.monfis.org.uk/  or follow @cymraegiblantmynwy  Face book page.

Young people from Caldicot School met with County Councillors from across Monmouthshire County Council on Friday 15th March to find out more about democracy and the role of the council. The event was organised by Monmouthshire Youth Service and aimed to give young people a voice and more knowledge about the role of the council and impact it has on communities.

The day provided an opportunity for young people to discuss and share things that are important. Councillors happily answered questions from pupils. Questions were interesting and varied, it provided an opportunity to really see what is important and how young people feel about the issues that affect them both nationally and locally.

Some of the most talked about issues on a national level were Brexit and climate change. Pupils asked pertinent questions about local issues such as waste and recycling, period poverty and hospital waiting times all of which affect them and their families.

Youth Worker Jade Atkins, engaged pupils and councillors in an interactive workshop informing pupils of the 54 articles as stated in the United Nations Convention of the Child. The session was both fun and thought provoking.

Cllr Sara Jones, Cabinet member for Social Justice a passionate advocate for young people’s rights, shared with pupils her thoughts on the importance of speaking out.

Councillor Sara Jones said:

‘I was so pleased to see pupils engaging with councillors, the questions that were posed were well thought out and relevant. It was clear that young people are engaged in national politics and it was great to see pupils raising local issues that are important to pupils and their families. I look forward to more events to enable more young people to find out more about democracy and politics and realise the importance of having their voices heard.’

The day was rounded off with a tour of County Hall where pupils met officers from a wide range of departments, a perfect opportunity to capture a behind the scenes look at the council.

Feedback from pupils was positive:  “I’ve enjoyed the day it was really interesting to hear everyone’s opinions. I really liked the Q&A session.”

“This was a great experience. My favourite part was when we had a chance to discuss relevant issues with councillors. I would like to do a debate on a specific issue, I think it would be really fun.”

Monmouthshire Youth Service are looking for more young people to get involved in the county youth forum Engage 2 Change. The forum brings together young people aged 11-18 years and helps them to get involved in local issues and meet new people. For more information contact: Jade Atkins

Charlie-Jadeatkins@monmouthshire.gov.uk  or call 07790355724.

A team from Monmouthshire County Council’s Social Care, Safeguarding and Health directorate has earned a much sought-after recognition after being nominated for the BASW (British Association of Social Workers) 2019 Cymru Awards.  The council’s Adult Disability service won an award for the best social work team in Wales at a ceremony at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday, 20th March.

The team was nominated for an innovative housing project that took place in partnership with the Monmouthshire Housing Association, the Monmouthshire Reablement service and Pobl Care & Support, enabling five individuals with a learning disability to take occupancy of individual flats in Abergavenny. Seven teams across Wales were also shortlisted for this award and the Adult Disabilities Service Team Manager, Julie Heal said: “We were absolutely delighted to win this accolade, especially as the other teams in our category had submitted such impressive entries.”

In attendance were Julie Boothroyd, Monmouthshire’s Director of Social Care, Safeguarding and Health and Eve Parkinson, Head of Adult Services as well as Julie Heal and her team and also Sarah Vaughan, Senior Occupational Therapist representing the Abergavenny Integrated Team.  Three of the tenants at the Abergavenny complex also attended the awards ceremony and one of them described it, “as the best night ever”.

Louise Dovey, social worker based in Monmouth’s Monnow Vale integrated service was unable to attend the ceremony but was shortlisted for the award of innovative social worker.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Social Care, Safeguarding and Health, Councillor Penny Jones said: “To win such an award at the BASW Cymru ceremony demonstrates the high standard of social care in the county and our Adult Disability team richly deserves this honour for its consistently impressive and inspiring performance.”

Do you have a good idea? If three other people were willing to help, what would you love to do to make your community a better place?

Monmouthshire County Council’s Community Partnership and Development Team are eager to help local individuals and groups achieve their community ambitions. The team are engagement specialists and aim to help develop and empower groups and individuals who want to make their town or village a better place and are currently taking their expertise out to communities via the Big Ideas roadshow.

The Big Ideas roadshow has had a successful start. Residents from Monmouth have been sharing their ideas at a variety of locations across the town. The community has come together and embraced the concept of sharing ideas via little cardboard people. Ideas are on display in Monmouth Hub, this will be replicated at community hubs across the county.

Pupils from Osbaston CIW Primary, Monmouth loved filling in dream clouds to reveal their Big Ideas. More school visits are planned in coming weeks.

The team are eager to listen to ideas and provide valuable information and support to make ideas become a reality and are looking forward to meeting more people from Usk, Raglan, Abergavenny, Caldicot and Chepstow in coming weeks.

A wealth of information is available, including how to obtain funding, opportunities to link individuals to groups who have similar goals and offer training opportunities to anyone who gives their time to help others. 

A series of drop in sessions will take place along with visits to local community groups and meet and greet opportunities in popular public spaces across Monmouthshire.

The Team will be visiting a range of locations across the county in the next four weeks, covering Usk, Abergavenny, Caldicot and Chepstow. The following dates are for the coming week with more dates for Caldicot and Chepstow to be publicised at a later date.

Usk Hub – Thursday 21st March 1.00pm – 4.00pm and 5.00pm – 7.00pm

ACE Centre, Abergavenny – Monday 25th March 9.00am – 11.00am

Abergavenny Leisure Centre – Monday 25th March 5.00pm – 7.00pm

Abergavenny Market –  Tuesday 26th March 10.00am – 2.00pm

Residents are welcome to contact the team via the Monmouthshire Facebook page, twitter @MonmouthshireCC or email Partnerships@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Cllr Sara Jones Cabinet Member for Community Development and Social Justice said:

‘This is a fantastic opportunity for communities to get the help and support they need from the Community and Partnership Development Team. The team works in partnership with a range of organisations and has a wealth of knowledge to unlock the potential of individuals and groups in Monmouthshire to help communities help themselves. I urge anyone who has an idea no matter how big or small to get in touch.’

To find out more visit www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/partnerships 

Monmouthshire’s trading standards service is urging residents to remain vigilant after receiving further reports of fraudulent telephone calls from individuals purporting to be from the council tax team. Householders are told they are entitled to a rebate on their council tax bill and the caller then attempts to obtain bank card details.

Trading Standards Team Leader Gareth Walters warned: “Residents have reported that callers appear convincing and already know their full name and address. They may also claim that the council holds incorrect information about the number of bedrooms and the council tax band of the property in a bid to make the rebate seem more plausible.”

Residents should contact Monmouthshire’s council tax team on 01633 644640 or email: counciltax@monmouthshire.gov.uk if they wish to check any council tax information. Alternately, they can check their account on-line: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk – they are strongly advised not to respond to phone calls or text messages suggesting they may be eligible for a refund.

Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for public protection, Councillor Sara Jones added: “As we move into the months where Monmouthshire residents receive their new council tax bills we think it’s possible that scammers will use this opportunity to target people. Residents need to be very wary of anyone requesting bank card details over the telephone.”

Residents wishing to report such calls and get practical advice should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Services helpline on 03454 040506.

Staff from eleven Monmouthshire schools who successfully attended five days of training across the spring term, received certificates of achievement from the Abergavenny mayor, Councillor Teslin Davies who attended as a guest at a ceremony in Magor this week (Monday, 18th March). Councillor Davies has a background in education and additional learning needs.
The fifteen staff had trained to become qualified Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs) and the course enables them to develop skills to help pupils in the county’s schools with temporary or longer term emotional needs. The ELSAs will receive ongoing support from the Educational Psychology Service through regular supervision.
The ELSA programme forms part of the council’s commitment to work with schools to ensure the inclusion, achievement and well-being of all pupils, including those whose learning is affected by emotional difficulties. It was developed to build the capacity of schools to support the emotional needs of pupils from within their own resources.
ELSAs are trained to plan and deliver individual or group programmes of support. They might work with pupils who present as anxious, shy, sad, or angry as well as supporting them to develop social and friendship skills or improved self-esteem.
The course was carried out by Monmouthshire’s Educational Psychology Service (EPS). Dr Casey Stephens of the EPS said: “The ELSA programme has been running for four years in Monmouthshire and there are currently 29 ELSAs working in our schools. The programme continues to go from strength to strength and is becoming well embedded in many of our schools. Evaluations of the project have shown that ELSAs make a positive impact on the emotional development of children and young people. Specific outcomes have included academic success, increased school attendance and reduced referrals to outside agencies as well as positive changes in pupils with social emotional and behavioural difficulties.”
Councillor Richard John, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for Children and Young People said: “Having completed their training, our latest members of staff to achieve the ELSA award will be able to help children with emotional difficulties and at an educational disadvantage to overcome their problems, improve their emotional wellbeing and to achieve in their schooling.”

Monmouthshire County Council’s preparations to assume responsibility for parking enforcement from Gwent Police are well underway.

Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) will be introduced on Monday 8th April when the council takes on powers to enforce on-street parking restrictions in Monmouthshire – in addition to the off-street car parks that the council already manages. The police will continue to be responsible for dealing with dangerously parked vehicles, obstruction and moving traffic offences.

Councillor Bryan Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for county operations said: “Inconsiderate parking can often lead to congestion or issues with public transport and prevent emergency service vehicles from accessing areas as well as causing problems for local businesses when vehicles overstay their time outside shops.

“The council will create a dedicated civil enforcement team to manage parking traffic regulations within the county. This will lead to improved parking in areas with existing problems as well as an increased turnover of parking spaces and improved safety for pedestrians and road users. It will also discourage inappropriate and inconsiderate parking on restricted zones like double yellow lines or zig-zag markings and create a safer highway network for all road users.”

Under CPE, the council will be able to enforce:

• Double and single yellow lines
• Disabled bays
• Limited waiting bays
• Taxi ranks
• Coach bays
• Loading bays
• Zig-zag markings at schools (if restrictions apply) and pedestrian crossings
• Double parking or parking too far away from the kerb edge
• Parking in bus stops

A penalty charge notice (PCN) will be issued to a vehicle when a civil enforcement officer witnesses it parked in contravention of an order. Two levels of penalty charge are set by the Welsh Government and will depend on the severity of the contravention. The charge will be £70 for the most serious contraventions and £50 for lesser ones.

If the PCN is paid within 14 days of receipt of the notice, the charge will be reduced by 50%. If no payment is received or no representations are made within 28 days, the council may issue a charge certificate and the charges will be increased to £105 for the most serious of offences and £75 for lesser contraventions.

Motorists will be able to pay PCNs by post, using the envelope provided with the PCN, online by visiting the South Wales Parking Groups page www.swpg.co.uk (credit/debit card payment) or by telephone on 033 332 008 67. Additionally, motorists will be able to appeal the charge if they believe it has been wrongly issued. It should be noted that the registered keeper, or user of the vehicle if hired, is responsible for paying the PCN.

Income generated by the charges will contribute to the cost of the service and any surplus will go towards the county’s traffic initiatives and road improvements, in line with Welsh Government guidance.

High tides are due. We will be monitoring the situation and if necessary, will arrange for the A466 through Tintern to be closed for short periods on the following dates and times:-

Thursday 21st March Between 7.50 – 8.20 (approx.)

Thursday 21st March Between 20.20 – 20.50 (approx.)

Friday 22nd March Between 8.35 – 09.05 (approx.)

Friday 22nd March Between 21.00 – 21.30 (approx.)

Saturday 23rd March Between 09.20 – 09.50 (approx.)

Saturday 23rd March Between 21.40 – 22.10 (approx.)

Sunday 24th March Between 09.55 – 10.25 (approx.)

The closure points will be as follows:

North End closure: Trelleck Road junction.

South End closure: Royal George junction.

Closure times are estimated based on the forecasted tide times. Natural Resources Wales will be monitoring the situation and issuing Flood Warnings as necessary. Road closures will only be temporary and only when tidal water actually overflows onto the highway. The road will reopen as soon as the water has receded from the highway

A community engagement event in Monmouth next week will aim to bring residents and local groups together to build new relationships and strengthen existing networks to benefit the town and local area. Organised on behalf of the local community it will take place from 4:30pm to 8pm on Wednesday, 27th March in Monmouth Comprehensive School and will include funding bodies, voluntary and third-sector organisations, communities and statutory bodies. It follows the success of similar occasions in Abergavenny and Chepstow.
The event will raise awareness of the excellent support – including advice, guidance, funding, and training opportunities – offered to volunteers and community groups while introducing organisations seeking funding to those providing it. It will also provide an opportunity to thank individuals for the area’s impressive volunteer-based activity.
In addition, the meeting will identify members of a core steering group to produce and deliver a Vision for Monmouth plan to support community initiatives.
Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for community development, Councillor Sara Jones said: “We’re aiming for an informal gathering and welcome the participation of anyone who lives or works in the area with its best interests at heart. We want to get as many together as possible, knowing that through talking to each other, great ideas can result.”
Anyone wishing to attend can reserve a place by visiting https://www.facebook.com/events/1188529647985996/ though organisers will also welcome those arriving on the evening.
For further information contact Monmouthshire County Council’s Communities and Partnership Development Officer, Joe Skidmore – JoeSkidmore@monmouthshire.gov.uk

New waste and recycling collections started in Monmouthshire on Monday 4th March to improve recycling services and minimise costs. These changes represent one of the biggest operational changes that Monmouthshire has undertaken for waste collections – with the introduction of a separate glass collection service, changes in collection times and new waste collection vehicles.

Monmouthshire collects from approximately 44,000 households which used to equate to 102,000 collections per week. From March 4th collections have been reduced to 80,000 per week. New collection times were promoted via a leaflet and the website has been updated to highlight new collection times.

Some residents have been impacted by collection issues. Crews are working well past their normal working hours with some out until 7pm to rectify problems. Monmouthshire’s contact centre and hubs have been extremely busy with enquiries on the recycling changes and garden waste permit renewals.

What to do if you are impacted by waste and recycling collection delays:

• Please report any issues through the ‘Recycling & Waste’ section of the My Monmouthshire app which is available to download from your app store or message Monty, Monmouthshire’s chatbot via the monmouthshire.gov.uk website or via Facebook messenger: @MonmouthshireCC.
• The contact centre is currently experiencing a large number of calls due to waste and recycling change queries and waiting times are longer than usual. If customers wish to hold on, their calls will be answered as soon as an operator becomes available.
• Any residents who still require a glass collection box can go to their local community hub to collect one.
• Residents looking to clarify their new collection dates can visit: monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste

Carl Touhig, Head of Waste & Street Services said: “I would like to apologise to any residents who have been impacted by delays in their waste collections and would like to thank them for their patience at this extremely busy time. Please bear with us and give positive support to the collection crews, contact centre and hub staff who are doing their very best to get the issues resolved. It’s not an easy job for the crews who are doing an amazing job, working long hours in rainy and windy conditions”.

Monmouthshire County Council joined other local authorities and civic dignitaries, community groups and charities throughout the United Kingdom to take part in local flag raising events and ceremonies of dedication to mark Commonwealth Day on Monday March 11th.

At 10am in the grounds of County Hall, the Chairman Councillor Peter Clarke led a ceremony to celebrate the union of 57 nations across the world and read a message from Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary General. The Secretary General’s message highlighted that the occasion acknowledged publicly and collectively the continuing aspiration of the Commonwealth to build on common traditions and uphold shared values of democracy, inclusive development and respect for diversity.

Councillor Clarke then raised the flag. Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for governance read the Commonwealth affirmation while the Rev. Malcolm Lane led prayers.

Attending were:

• Murray Kerr – Deputy Lord Lieutenant
• Nick Ramsay AM
• Mayors of Chepstow Town Council, Caldicot Town Council and Monmouth Town Council
• Mayor and Consort, Usk Town Council
• Chairs of St Arvans Community Council and Rogiet Community Council
• Helen Morgan, Head of School for Land-based Courses and Sport at Coleg Gwent’s Usk Campus with students representing Coleg Gwent
• Representatives from Gwent Police and GAVO
• Monmouthshire County Council councillors and staff

Further information can be found at the Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth website: http://www.flyaflagforthecommonwealth.co.uk/

Do you have a good idea? If three other people were willing to help, what would you love to do to make your community a better place?

Monmouthshire County Councils Community Partnership and Development Team are eager to help local individuals and groups achieve their community ambitions. The team specialises in helping to develop and empower groups aTnd individuals who want to make their town or village a better place, and are looking forward to meeting people in a variety of locations throughout March and April.

The team will be on hand to listen to ideas and provide valuable information and support to make ideas become a reality. A wealth of information is available, including how to obtain funding, opportunities to link individuals to groups who have similar goals and offer training opportunities to anyone who gives their time to help others. 

There will be a series of drop in sessions, the team will also visit local community groups and be present in public spaces across Monmouthshire. Children and young people from local schools will be participating in the engagement process as the team are eager to listen to the ideas of future generations.

The Team will be visiting a range of locations across the county in the next five weeks, covering Usk, Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth. Come and meet the meet the team in Monmouth week commencing Monday 11th March.

Drop in to Monmouth Hub on Tuesday 12th March 5.00pm – 7pm or Friday 15th March between 1.00pm – 4.00pm. Visit Usk Hub on Thursday 21st March 1.00pm – 4.00pm and 5.00pm – 7.00pm and share your ideas with the team at Abergavenny Market on March 26th 10.00am – 2.00pm.

More locations and dates are planned. Residents are welcome to contact the team via the Monmouthshire Facebook page, twitter @MonmouthshireCC or email the team.

Cllr Sara Jones Cabinet Member for Community Development and Social Justice said: ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for communities to get the help and support they need from the Community and Partnership Development Team. The team works in partnership with a range of organisations and has a wealth of knowledge to unlock the potential of individuals and groups in Monmouthshire to help communities help themselves. I urge anyone who has an idea no matter how big or small to get in touch.’

Find out more about the Community and Partnership Development Team at: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/partnerships

Email ideas to Partnerships@monmouthshire.gov.uk

This short film explains more about the aims of the team:

A competition to design new cards for Monmouthshire’s library service has attracted over 130 entries with impressive submissions from school classes and individuals resulting in difficult decisions for the judging panel. Four to seven year olds were invited to design a card for junior members while young people aged between 8 and 15 were asked to create one for teenagers.
Three entries from each category were shortlisted by the judging panel, which included local author and illustrator Shoo Rayner. Following the shortlisting a public poll via the council’s community hubs’ Facebook account drew over 600 votes and determined the winning designs. The winner of the junior competition was five year old Ariana McCarthy from Abergavenny while runners up were Gethin Griffiths (7) of Monmouth and Abigail Esbester (6) from Magor. Lucy Brady aged 13 from Caldicot won the teenage design section with Arwen Skinner ( 12) and Owen Hill, (15), both from Caldicot, runners up.
Prizes were donated by Friends of Abergavenny Library Service, Friends of Caldicot Library and Friends of Chepstow Library. Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for libraries and community hubs, Councillor Paul Jordan said: “It’s good to see such talented artists in the county and our grateful thanks are due to everyone who submitted a design. We are thrilled with our lovely new cards! I’d also like to thank the supporters of our library service who supplied prizes.”
For further information on the council’s community hubs and libraries log onto: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/community-hubs-libraries/

Community groups in the Chepstow area enjoyed a successful networking evening on Wednesday 6th March giving an opportunity to promote the positive work they carry out in the vicinity.
The event was organised by a steering group of local activists with support provided by Monmouthshire County Council’s Community and Partnership Development Team, the Bridges organisation and the Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations (GAVO), and featured individuals, groups, clubs and organisations like Age Cymru Gwent, Bulwark Community Centre, Chepstow Action for Youth, Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Debt Centre, the local rotary club and the University of the Third Age (U3A).

Held in Chepstow’s Community Hub, the evening offered those attending the ability to meet and learn from people with similar interests, to discover what useful and complementary activities are arranged in the locality and to find out more about free support available to volunteers. Also included were a series of masterclasses on holding community events as well as learning and development for volunteers, safeguarding and fundraising – all were well attended.

Twenty five local groups set out stalls within the hub and contributed to the event over the evening. Bulwark Community Centre’s volunteer-run Top Stop Coffee Shop provided tea with Chepstow’s Tesco store generously donating cakes.

Councillor Sara Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for community development said: “People have been very complimentary about the evening with quite a few expressing how useful it was to connect with other groups working locally. The steering group is currently planning a similar event for communities around Chepstow in the early summer and we’ll look forward to another successful gathering.”

Events have been held across Monmouthshire to celebrate the achievements of the county’s women with Caldicot and Monmouth Comprehensive schools running special International Women’s Day occasions for girl students. A variety of speakers attended Caldicot School following a Facebook appeal asking local people to nominate women who inspire them – 101 comments were received with some amazing examples of the difference that women make in their communities every day.

Inspiring stories were shared and discussions held to help girls consider their future goals. Speakers included:

• Catherine Baker – local volunteer who makes a difference in her community as part of a Rogiet parkrun (Co-Event Director), Friends of Rogiet Countryside Park, Magor Rainbows, Magor and Undy Crime Prevention Panel and Magor CIW Primary PTFA. Catherine said: “My advice is to do the things that scare you. There will be so many hurdles in your life to overcome but you won’t succeed if you don’t try. I do something unpaid to benefit the community. No one can make you volunteer. If you embrace the idea of giving up time to help others I would recommend volunteering; you will learn new skills, increase confidence and expand your network. Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”

• Chloe-Beth Morgan-James is a Welsh beauty queen who won the Miss Wales 2008 contest and competed in the Miss World 2008 competition held in South Africa. Chloe shared that: “People who achieve things that they never thought they never could inspire me. People make a snap judgement about me. It’s helped shaped me as a person. Other girls need to support each other e.g. around period poverty. Being judged by other women and putting them down for achieving something. Always be kind as you never know the struggle the girl next to you might be going through and you never know when that girl might need to help you. Filter out negative energy and have a genuine, real group around you – to be there for your friends, your mum or your sister. Be kinder to each other and be kind to yourself. Don’t judge, don’t make snap comments and be kind.”

 Carol Bogue-Lloyd – VP of Europe Retail and Consumer Products who has been responsible for large Contact Centres and Customer Service Operations across the globe and brings over 30 years’ experience from the Utilities and IT Customer Contact Centres and Service Desks. Carol highlighted: “Nothing’s impossible – go for it. Learn and much as you can and enjoy what you’re doing with a smile. This has been a brilliant day and it’s been inspirational, we can take on the world.”

• Jayne Brown – who offers sports and fitness days to leisure centres and schools and works within the Health Care and Complementary Therapy sector. Jayne inspired everyone in the room explaining how: “You can do anything you like, you’re fabulous – we’re all equal. Work hard and ask questions. Push yourself and your friends and that’s how we can all succeed. If they are looking to set up their own business, link to Big Ideas Wales and register and we’ll send you the details. Any teacher or head teachers in schools, colleges and universities who’d like a role model to come in to speak to them should visit the Big Ideas Wales web pages.”

• Irene Cameron– who was awarded an MBE for Services to Education in 1995. Irene was appointed as a magistrate in 1981 and a Member of Young Offenders Tribunal. Irene was the chair of Newport Committee for Macmillan Cancer Support for many years and acted as a local councillor. Irene commented: “I like to get involved in things to make a difference, I have found today quite inspiring.”

• Eira Culverwell from Big Ideas Wales – runs a company called Resolveit who provides training and workshops in how to stay safe within the Defence and Security sector. Eira holds three black belts, a fourth Dan in Kyokushin Karate and runs a martial arts club in her spare time. Eira shared: “I was bullied in two schools and I wasn’t as confident as I am now. I hated going to school because every day was a complete nightmare. Your power is the only confidence you can have. Find something you’re passionate about and run it full pelt. Even when training as a black belt I refused to hit back in anger. I live, train and work. I study every day. If your idea is weird and you love it – run with it, it might make you money. Write down your goals, they’re really important; I write down my goals and I follow them”

• Maddison Davies – who holds four different black belts and was the youngest ever Team Wales Taekwondo member. Maddison’s career high so far was being a Commonwealth Games Bronze and an Olympic Qualifier Bronze. Within the next couple of years, Maddison hopes to make it to the Olympic Games and win gold. Maddison expressed: “I am inspired about being different to other girls like myself. I may be small, but the fight in me, the ability to dream, the desire, the passion and drive to push through adversity to push through hardship that doesn’t come with height or weight or gender – that comes with heart. As women, we survive and we may seem small but we are mighty.”

• Joanna Goodwin – ex-Caldicot School pupil and Head of Digital Practice at the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Joanna advised young people to: “Be a boat! You are a warship with all the guns and armour around you – don’t let any rubbish going around you make you sink. I’m inspired by people who challenge the norm and push to build things better and do things a bit differently.”

 Helen Kings – Managing Director at Touchstone, a UK-wide property management firm which specialises in the private rented sector and build to rent. Helen said: “The more you take yourself get out of your comfort zone, get involved, ask questions and be enthusiastic, the quicker you will grow. Get out, talk to people and try lots of different things.”

• Andrea Rodley – County Commissioner for Girl Guiding Gwent while being a full-time mum. Andrea said: “I want to give girls the opportunity to get out and experience fun, friendship and travel. Don’t be self-conscious. Just be joyous in everything that you do.”

• Eleri Rosier – a reader in Marketing and strategy at Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Eleri is a volunteer for Raglan Music Festival which takes place throughout the weekend of 7th/9th June. Eleri feels: “Inspired by people who push themselves completely out of their comfort zone and who achieve amazing things despite overcoming difficult obstacles. You can be whatever you want to be, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!”.

• Elaine Theaker – who runs her own law firm, Advantage Legal. Last year at the age of 54 Elaine rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in a tiny rowing boat and achieved two Guinness World Records. Elaine described how: “try it – you can astonish yourself. I’m proud of starting my own business from scratch. I’m delighted that the opportunity was there so I took it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – but by saying yes to opportunities that come along that opportunity might lead to something else. I finished my A levels not knowing that I wanted to do, I tried a job in law. Don’t ever turn something down as it might just be a life changing opportunity. There are no silly questions.”

At Monmouth Comprehensive seven inspirational guest speakers shared their career journey and success stories with girls from Years 9 and 10. Speakers ranged from a foreign diplomat to fire fighters.

Cllr Sara Jones, Monmouthshire’s Cabinet Member for Social Justice said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing from the amazing women in Monmouthshire today. I feel really proud to live in a county where people can achieve their goals whatever they might be – career, sport, volunteering – the list goes on. Some fantastic discussions were held today, with lots of advice for young people about how to plan for the future. Girls shared their views on how our communities can improve now and in the future. I hope that the young people who took part in the discussions today feel inspired to pursue their dreams – whatever they might be. I fully support this year’s International Women’s Day campaign which is committed to building a gender-balanced world. Everyone has a part to play.”

Monmouthshire County Council has purchased the freehold of the Newport Leisure Park on Spytty Road in Newport for £21m.  The 141,000 sq ft property includes a dominant 13-screen Cineworld cinema, xercise4less gym, Home Bargains superstore, Energi Adventure park and a range of restaurants such as McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Harvester. 

The large 11-acre site includes 705 free car spaces and links through to the Newport Retail Park and the Tesco Extra on the Eastern side of the city.  Large amounts of new housing are being developed in the surrounding area which is also close to the potential new route for the planned M4 link road. The Park is in a prime location in South Wales

The park has seen significant new investment in the past three years as well as many new tenants so that it is now fully let.

Alder King acted for Monmouthshire, and KLM and Cooke Arkwright acted for Otium on the transaction.

Paul Matthews, CEO of Monmouthshire County Council, said: “ We are pleased to have secured a well-let, long income asset that will provide an excellent annual return for the Council and help us to sustain our wider service delivery portfolio in the years ahead.  Newport Leisure Park serves a large catchment area in South Wales and taps into the long-term demand for experiential consumer spend and leisure activities. It is the latest addition to our commercial investment portfolio following our recent acquisition of Castle-gate Business and Science Park”

Ashley Blake, CEO of Otium Real Estate, said: “We have invested heavily into Newport Leisure Park since acquiring it in 2015.   Five new tenants have joined the offer, the park has been refurbished and existing tenants have enhanced their fit-outs.  We are delighted that Monmouthshire County Council has had the foresight to acquire this asset and that the South Wales area will continue to benefit from this long-term, secure investment following our work to regenerate the park. We have enjoyed the experience of working with Monmouthshire County Council and wish them well for the future.”

Our contact centre is experiencing a large number of calls due to queries relating to waste and recycling changes so waiting times are longer than usual; this is purely due to the volume of calls we are receiving.  If customers wish to hold on, their calls will be answered as soon as an operator becomes available – alternately, they can use My Monmouthshire to log queries or message Monty, Monmouthshire’s chat bot via the monmouthshire.gov.uk website or via Facebook messenger: @MonmouthshireCC.   We are doing our best to answer the queries as quickly as possible but waiting times can be as long as 20 to 30 minutes.  We thank you all for your patience at this extremely busy time.

Monmouthshire County Council has established a new partnership with three local game angling clubs to manage and control fishing on the Abergavenny Town Water. Merthyr Angling Alliance, Isca Anglers and the Gwent Angling Society have been successful in bidding to manage the stretch on the council’s behalf.

The clubs understand that management of the beat will focus on benefiting future generations and consequently all angling for youngsters under 17 holding a permit will be free of charge. They will also have to possess the relevant environmental fishing licence, currently free for children under 17 years.

New rules for the stretch have been agreed and the most significant is the fishery will work entirely on a catch and release basis for at least the next two years. This will establish and collate evidence of the existing wild trout and salmon populations.

The only methods of fishing permitted will be fly for trout and fly or lure fishing for salmon. Lure fishing for salmon will only be allowed with a single barbless hook to ensure the safe return of any fish caught.

Local and visiting anglers without membership of any of the three clubs can purchase permits to fish. Prices for annual, weekly and daily permits have been revised and reduced and are available at Keith Price Garage in Abergavenny. They will also be available shortly through the Wye and Usk Fishing Passport scheme www.fishingpassport.co.uk .

Development days for those interested in the sport will be arranged with coaching from licenced and qualified angling coaches and instructors.

Councillor Bryan Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for countryside services said: “I look forward to a long and successful partnership with the three clubs to benefit the management of this valuable stretch of one of the country’s finest waters.”

A new weekly Chatterbooks group for eight and nine year olds is starting in Abergavenny Library on Friday 8th March from 4pm to 5pm. At Chatterbooks sessions children can meet new friends while discovering and sharing a passion for reading as they talk about books and take part in games, craft activities and competitions. The sessions are free and all are welcome.

Chatterbooks is the UK’s largest network of children’s reading groups and has been created by national charity, The Reading Agency.

Councillor Paul Jordan, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for community hubs and libraries said: “Reading for pleasure is a very important factor in helping children achieve academic success and it opens their eyes to a whole wide world, not only in childhood but throughout life.”

Contact Abergavenny Library on 01873 735980 for more information.

As spring approaches, Monmouthshire’s grounds maintenance service will work to support the environment and provide a boost for wildlife by modifying mowing practices. Teams will mark open spaces with blue or white topped stakes to highlight areas likely to be suitable habitats which have been identified by council staff, residents or through the council’s partnerships with local groups. These include Bee Friendly Monmouthshire, Bees for Development and Gwent Wildlife Trust as part of the Nature Isn’t Neat project funded by the Vale of Usk Rural Development Plan for Wales

The work supports the National Pollinator Strategy and the council’s long-term objectives to improve the health of Monmouthshire’s natural environment, and includes a reduction in mowing frequency and an increase in mowing height. This approach will allow plants in grassland greater opportunity to flower, providing more food for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. The longer grass also provides homes for many other exciting forms of wildlife. In addition to these benefits, less frequent mowing allows grasses and associated plants to put down deeper roots making them more resilient to drought. Through deeper roots, grass also helps to open up the soil, allowing better absorption of water to reduce localised flooding. Longer grass also slows water run-off on slopes.

Areas identified will be mown in the autumn with grass clippings removed to reduce soil fertility, consequently enabling more indigenous wild flowers to flourish.

Monmouthshire’s residents can expect to see this approach adopted in a range of locations around the county, particularly around the edges of open spaces and around trees – edges are often the least disturbed and most bio-diverse. Trees can also benefit from changes below ground in the soil, improving conditions for their roots.

Councillor Bryan Jones, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for landscapes and bio-diversity said: “Our new approach to mowing will create new habitats for pollinating insects and help increase their numbers throughout the county, while adding to the area’s natural beauty and promoting a wider range of flora and fauna. Such practices are key to ensuring our long-term sustainability.”

For more information visit: waste&streetservices@monmouthshire.gov.uk.

Monty, Monmouthshire County Council’s chatbot is the first local authority bot in Wales and among the first of Welsh language bots. Since Monty’s launch on 25th January thousands of customers have benefitted from speaking to him for answers to many of their questions about all things Monmouthshire. Residents can access Monty via monmouthshire.gov.uk or on Facebook messenger: @MonmouthshireCC
Monty is constantly evolving and learning how to answer residents’ frequently-asked questions with customers able to access information faster at any time, day or night. Customer service staff have seen improvements as relatively simple questions like reporting a missed bin collection can be resolved immediately by Monty to free staff to help people with far more complex needs – such as homelessness or adoption. Since the launch, Monty has been posed a range of queries involving school meals, snow day updates and garden waste to more complex questions around benefits and council tax queries.
Council Leader, Peter Fox said: “We’re really proud of Monty, who replies to everyone in Welsh or English to give people in Wales the choice when engaging with us digitally. I would encourage everyone to speak to Monty this St. David’s Day as the more replies and answers he learns, the faster we’re going to be able to provide people with the information they want, when they want it.
“We are constantly innovating in Monmouthshire and it has been wonderful working with our South Wales tech company partners, We Build Bots to expand our digital capability into machine learning and artificial intelligence. I would like to thank our colleagues who are working with Monty to ensure that responsiveness improves all the time.”
Paul Shepherd, CEO at We Build Bots added: “Monmouthshire County Council has a reputation for innovation so it was a natural choice when we were looking at councils to approach to discuss our AI and automation tools. The fact that we could flex our bilingual capabilities on this project was a bonus. We’re committed to helping local authorities all across the UK save time and money while delivering improved citizen experiences, and our work with Monmouthshire has been a precursor to a number of other projects in the sector.”

Pupils from across Monmouthshire took part in a competition to name the council’s new fleet of recycling vehicles with imaginative waste related names. Pupils and parents let their imagination run wild. The range of names were varied and the competition was extremely strong. The competition created a stir on the council’s social media channels, a number of residents stepped in with their favourite names too.

The overall winner ‘Sir Binwy’ was the idea Cameron Gilchrist a pupil from Cross Ash Primary School, Abergavenny. An additional prize was awarded to Trellech Primary School for submitting the most entries. Education and Awareness Officers Sue Parkinson and Paul Qualye visited both schools along with one of the new lorries on Friday 22nd February. Cameron and pupils from Trellech Primary were presented with a bundle of new books for their school library in recognition of their efforts.

Pupils at both schools had the opportunity to explore the lorries, which can collect 2000 bags of waste. It was a fascinating experience, pupils were eager to ask questions, find out more and learned vital facts about the lorries. Some pupils even got hands on and were keen to press the loading and compression buttons, and were fascinated by the lorries ability to open up and tip out bags of waste and recycling.

The new vehicles will be on the road from Monday 4th March. Look out for the following names:

Sir Binwy, O Bin-Wan-Kanobe, Rhys Seiclo, Binny McBin Face, Taclus Ted, Binnie The Pooh, Bin Terfel, Rob Bin Hood, Binderella, Mission Bin Possible, Bin a Long Day, Bin Around Town, Bin Diesel, Ter-Bin-Ator, Bindiana Jones, Gunge & Roses, Bin and Dunnit, Dumpledore, Nick Binit and Jonny Trash.

Cabinet Member for Operations Cllr Bryan Jones said:

“I was so pleased to see how many suggestions came in from local schools and the public. I am sure the names will make residents smile, they certainly made me chuckle.”

“I am so pleased with the response to recycling in Monmouthshire. The new fleet of lorries will enable more of our waste to be separated providing a better quality of recyclable materials.”

“The changes will result in new collection days for our residents I hope that they will continue to support our efforts and adapt to these changes.”

“Residents are urged not to worry about collection day changes, a letter will be sent in the post which will inform them of the changes.”

For more info about collection days please visit:  https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/recycling-and-waste/  or ask the councils chat bot Monty by visiting https://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/ or messaging the Monmouthshire Face book page.

***We’re pleased to say that our earlier IT server issues and systems problems have been rectified and you can now log reports on My Monmouthshire or take payments for garden waste registration at our community hubs or the contact centre.***

We apologise but due to IT server issues and a problem with our systems we are currently unable to log reports on My Monmouthshire or take payments for the garden waste registration at our community hubs or the contact centre. Our IT providers hope this will be rectified by 12noon today. Could you please try later once the systems are up and running and we will be happy to assist you.