BUSINESS owners, councillors and residents in Chepstow have called for clarity over plans for the town's historic Old Wye Bridge.

The Grade One listed bridge has been earmarked for possible closure, triggering concerns about the impact the changes could have on congestion.

The bridge, which is more than 200 years old, needs repair work because there are substantial cracks, which would be exacerbated by high volumes of large vehicles, despite similar work already being done in 2016.

Monmouthshire County Council says the bridge can remain open, but the number of vehicles able to cross will be limited and must be lighter than three tonnes.

This process is likely to continue for six months, while the safety of bridge is assessed.

Chepstow councillors say they were under the impression the bridge would be closed to all vehicles from the end of June.

At a Monmouthshire council meeting, Cllr Paul Pavia called on officers to work with the government to analyse the impact the changes will have on congestion on the A48, which is the only other main route from Chepstow to Gloucestershire.

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“It seems that MCC want to keep safety measures of pedestrianisation for at least the rest of this year, if not some of next year, but if that (High Street - closed at he moment to vehicles for social distancing reasons) is shut at the same time as the bridge, then there is very little resilience in the local road network,” Cllr Pavia added.

“If an accident should occur on the A48 or another part of town, then there is no pressure release valve. This could bring the town to a complete standstill and would bring immense misery to road commuters and residents.”

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Cllr Armand Watts said he is particularly concerned come September during rush hour, and has called on the council to get the work done sooner rather than later.

“We were told five years ago when similar work was carried out that the integrity of the bridge would remain for 20 years. Serious questions need to be asked why work needs to be carried out again at the taxpayer’s expense," he said.

Cllr Jez Becker - for St Mary’s - said the long-term solution to congestion issues and the maintenance issues at the bridge must be a bypass, but added that the closure of the bridge to heavy vehicles could be a good thing for businesses.

“It could have a positive impact because of the reduction in through traffic,” he said.

“But it is clear the A48 is already under too much pressure. I think it could be good for the bottom of Chepstow town, but will be detrimental for connecting the two communities.”

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Dawn Floyd, who owns St Mary’s Collectables on St Mary’s Street, said: “They won’t have a high town if they close the bridge as well as the High Street.

“Chepstow has been so quiet these last few weeks. We are never notified about these things. We had no idea the high street would be closed and we had no idea about the plans for the bridge."

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Tim Melville, coordinator and chairman of Transition Chepstow - which aims to address long term congestion in the town - said he has “severe concerns about the implications of the changes on the A48”.

A Monmouthshire County Council spokeswoman said: “Our intention has always been to keep the bridge open to pedestrians and cyclists.

“For vehicles, structural engineering consultants have confirmed that if we limit the number of cars crossing at any one time and only allow vehicles lighter than three tonnes to cross, then the bridge can remain open.

“The bridge will require installing interactive monitoring equipment to assess how the structure behaves under lighter loading.

"This will allow us to determine a longer term management plan for the cast iron bridge. Traffic management arrangements are currently being considered and will be introduced shortly."