Monmouthshire street furniture ban saga set to continue

Monmouthshire street furniture ban saga set to continue
Monmouthshire street furniture ban saga set to continue
Image caption Stephen's Bookshop on a busy Church Street before street displays were taken down

A controversial decision to ban street furniture from Monmouthshire's towns will be discussed in a special meeting.

The move was blasted by business owners, with 3,320 signing a petition saying it destroyed the "colour and vibrancy" of Monmouth's Church Street.

Council bosses said they wanted to make towns more accessible to wheelchairs, buggies and the visually impaired.

But after a backlash since plans were introduced, a forum will give business owners a chance to air their views.

The new rules - which came in last month - banned items such as tables and chairs, fruit and veg stalls, advertising boards and potted plants from outside businesses.

To have these, traders would need to prove they were "safe and secure" and then pay hundreds of pounds for permits.

But business owners in Monmouth, who had placed displays outside for decades reacted angrily, refusing to pay and some threatened to close their shops in protest.

The issue has proved a topic of much debate and has divided opinion.

Monmouth MP David Davies urged fellow Tories running the council to take a "commonsense approach" while disability campaigner Nathan Davies praised the move for making towns more accessible.

Now the local authority has recognised the "significant interest" shown in the issue over recent weeks.

"Our towns are beautiful and vibrant places, attracting many visitors from all over the world," said cabinet member for operations, Bryan Jones.

"I love the 'café' culture I see in our towns and do not want to hinder this."

Image copyright Munday & Jones/ Alex Hilu
Image caption Munday & Jones greengrocer once had a colourful display - but now the street outside the shop is bare

Public meetings have been held in Abergavenny and Monmouth with councillors gearing up for a debate on the issue.

It will feature a presentation on the thinking behind the move before a 30-minute forum giving the public, business owners and campaigners a chance to give their views.

Councillors on the communities select committee will listen to these submissions, with its chairwoman Jane Pratt saying: "We are aware of the importance of this issue and the need to debate this fully and as soon as possible."

She added the meeting will allow councillors to "fully understand the implications of the policy on businesses and residents" before making recommendations.

The meeting takes place on 30 July.

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