WORK to renovate the Cross area of Caldicot town centre begins this week – the first stage of a wider programme of regeneration which is hoped to boost local business and increase footfall in the town.

The renovations will be funded by Monmouthshire County Council and the Welsh Government. In their design plans, they say the “key to Caldicot’s future” is to encourage people to use the town’s high street for different purposes – focusing on local produce, small enterprises, dining and entertaining, and a balanced daytime-night time economy.

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Visiting Caldicot this week, the Free Press found the mood among traders to be optimistic, though some shared concerns about the duration of the project and possible disruption.

Announcing the start of the project this week, county councillor Jane Pratt, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for operations, said: “The work will enable the town to become a vastly improved and more connected space, promoting businesses and encouraging visitors and residents to use the town. Disturbance will be kept to a minimum and I urge residents to continue to visit the town while work is going on.”

This first stage of the project, covering the Cross area, will involve an estimated 30 weeks of works. By the end, a new road surface will have been laid; new bus shelters, lighting, benches, and trees will have been put in place; and historic shop fronts will have been renovated with complementing colour schemes.

This stage of renovations will cost an estimated £1.57 million, Monmouthshire County Council said.

In Caldicot this week, many business owners were upbeat about the project, and hopeful about its longer-term benefits, although other traders had concerns.

Nick House and Tracey Clements, whose Wye Valley Studios shop lies just inside the boundary for the Cross renovation project, were among those in favour of the project.

“We’re all for it, and we’re pleased it’s going ahead,” Mrs Clements said. “The town looks tired, it needs a facelift and more footfall – if people don’t use it, it’s going to die.”

Mr House said high streets across the UK were “taking a hit” and that the regeneration project was a positive step.

“We’re all suffering the effects of online shopping,” he said. “It’s not easy in the present climate, so anything to help shop owners is a move in the right direction.”

The project will cause some disruption for firms in the Cross area, the council warned business owners last week.

Gill Waters, who owns Caldicot Pet Supplies, said she was concerned about the 30-week construction period and its effect on deliveries to her shop. Lorries dropping off large palettes of supplies will be unable to park at the Cross while the work is being carried out.

“I’m not looking forward to the hassle out here,” she said. “It’s a lot of money to spend to make [the town] look pretty.”

She suggested the money could have been spent instead on reducing business rates in Caldicot.

Another business owner in the Cross area said the project had “snuck up on us all, but I’m sure it will all be fine, with the cooperation of the council”.

Aaron Reeks is the director of Caldicot Town Team, a community organisation aimed at improving the town’s prosperity.

He said the team was “very pleased” work was starting but felt the project should have prioritised other areas first – specifically the pedestrianised part of Caldicot’s main shopping area.

“I think that would have more impact on businesses and customers than the Cross on its own,” he said, adding: “However, we’re well aware they have to start somewhere, and I’m very impressed with how the Cross is going to look once it’s completed.

“It will provide a more upmarket ambience to the town, which I think Caldicot needs and deserves.”