THE Secretary of State for Wales' recent visit to Chepstow, during which he backed proposals for a town bypass, has re-ignited a decades-long debate on the feasibility of the project and the condition of the town's infrastructure.

Alun Cairn's support for the bypass was welcomed by Conservative councillors, who at the time called it a positive intervention by the UK government.

But county councillor Armand Watts (Labour, Thornwell ward) said he was unimpressed by the nature of the secretary's support, which failed to address how a bypass would be financed.

"If we know the Welsh government controls the A48, and Gloucestershire controls the English side, where will the money come from? Nobody can tell you" Cllr Watts said.

"What's the minister doing turning up and saying there’ll be a bypass? Politicians build up expectations and have no idea where the money will come from.”

Mr Cairns has recently promoted his vision of a Western Powerhouse, through which the commercial and industrial capabilities of Wales and the south west of England are unified, in a system similar to the Northern Powerhouse project unveiled by the UK government last year for the north of England.

Cllr Watts said his constituents, who have heard plenty of talk about a bypass in the past, were “fed up” and wanted action to be taken to improve the area’s infrastructure.

“Everyone’s got an opinion about the bypass, but nobody’s got a solution,” the councillor said.

“Ideas have to be costed. It’s all very well for people to have different ideas, but [those ideas] all have problems.”

Cllr Watts urged Monmouthshire County Council to work with its Gloucestershire counterpart to “forget about the border” and “think about the long-term infrastructure” of the region.

A spokesman for the Monmouthshire authority issued the following statement on its plans for infrastructure in and around Chepstow: “The council is collaborating with the Welsh Government, Gloucestershire CC, Forest of Dean Council and Highways England on a Chepstow Transport Study. This commission includes a review of the problems and potential solutions including the provision of a new by-pass. We’ll also be working with them as we progress our replacement local development plan (LDP).”

While Cllr Watts dismissed Mr Cairns’ comments as part of the “plenty of talk” about the bypass, his fellow county councillor, Paul Pavia (Conservative, Larkfield ward), said the minister’s backing was a cause for optimism.

“Political support at the top end of government is important,” Cllr Pavia said. “To have the secretary of state back the proposal lends it considerable weight. Political momentum generates enthusiasm locally.”

Cllr Pavia said he hoped the Welsh government would follow suit and back the bypass.

The next stage of the county council’s review is to provide feedback on its findings to the review group at the end of the month.