The president of the chamber of trade in Monmouth has hit out at the “disgrace” the way the roadworks have been handled in the town.

Sherren McCabe-Finlayson told the Beacon that what has been allowed to happen in Monmouth “and the way it is being handled, with no-one accepting responsibility, is a complete disgrace.”

When they were first made aware of the upcoming programmes of work, they told MCC and Welsh Water that the plans for the town would “close businesses down”.

“What has been allowed to happen in Monmouth, and the way it is being handled, with no-one accepting responsibility, is a complete disgrace. The Chamber of Commerce has been telling MCC and Welsh Water since last September, when we were first made aware of the upcoming programmes of work, that the plans for our Town would close businesses down. The first incident of this occurred on Friday, to a new business that was doing okay, until the Welsh Water and MCC work started and the ease of movement around the town was curtailed, making it difficult for customers to get to them. 

 “Yes, other problems have happened, such as the landslide on the A40 and road surfacing but when you run a business you make allowances for those kinds of 'Acts of God'.  You have a back-up plan, which is something that doesn't appear to have been put in place for Monmouth.


“It is soul destroying when you've built up a business, and have loyal, regular customers who suddenly stop coming – not because you've done anything wrong but because it's 'too difficult' for them. Once a customer finds a new shop or service they like in a different town, they conceivably become loyal to them and don't come back just because things have returned to normal in their own home town.  

“It is not just the independent traders that are suffering at the moment; the multiples are too. Last week, the town was quieter than during Covid. Imagine having to sit in your place of work for 7 hours without seeing a single person through your doors. Especially when you know that you've not just your business overheads but also domestic ones to worry about. 

“As Chamber representative, I proposed earlier in the year that as a gesture of goodwill Welsh Water might consider covering the cost of free parking in the town during the 12 month+ period that the works were happening. This was discounted as being too expensive, especially as there was a contingency for businesses whose trade was sufficiently affected to submit claims for compensation. Individual businesses can apply for compensation but not every business will be eligible because they have to prove loss of earnings linked to footfall.  They then have to negotiate with forensic accountants, an exercise which can be time-consuming and daunting, or they have to pay a financial advisor to help them, incurring even more costs. Just because a compensation scheme is on the table, doesn't make the hardship bearable for businesses that have to survive during the period when their claims are being scrutinised. 

“Monmouth Chamber of Commerce is a non-political organisation and during my tenure in office I have worked across the political spectrum, showing no bias to any particular Party. 

“The businesses feel that during the difficulties their customers are facing there should be free parking as an incentive to retain or attract customers. I have been ignored on this. County Councillor Jane Lucas has asked during full-Council meetings on four separate occasions for free parking to be implemented. She has been turned down each time, by the Head of Economic Development at MCC. None of the other Monmouth County Councillors have supported her on this issue. Our MP, David Davies is the only other person who has given assistance and tried to get answers when all other avenues have been closed to the Chamber. To add insult to injury, MCC recently and without prior notice, also raised the parking charges in Monmouth! 

“We all know that MCC is cash-strapped; what Council isn't? But when they agree to a work schedule that is going to affect a town as greatly as Monmouth currently is experiencing, there should be mechanisms in place to LISTEN to what is needed and HELP should be forthcoming. Perhaps senior Councillors could delay taking their upcoming pay increases to help fund this. Pro rata, the Council isn't suffering financially to the same extent our town businesses are. There should also be in place a means by which business rates are deferred for the duration of a project of this scale, and our Council should be making representation to the Senedd to see this happens. 

It's time to STOP, LOOK, LISTEN and come up with solutions that HELP Monmouth's Town Centre survive by really taking on board what people need, not what Government officers think is good for us!

Sherren McCabe-Finlayson

“It's about time Governments and Councils woke up to the realisation that they should stop penalising small business. The more extreme expense they impose the fewer there will be. Recent reports have shown that the amount of online shopping is reducing, with people focussing on shopping 'local'. Small businesses can be seen to be closing their online presence because of this trend. This brings real hope for the survival and future of our town centres, as long as official bodies stop using them as cash-cows to fund their dwindling coffers. 

“I have nothing to gain from the role I am in. Everything I do for the Chamber members is done voluntarily. When I sit in a two-hour meeting with MCC and Welsh Water I am the ONLY person around that table who isn't being paid to be there. I am actually losing money, because that's two hours I can't give to my own business! I do not have political aspirations or affiliations, so I am not doing this to further my career. My ONLY motivation is supporting the membership, and giving them a voice that they wouldn't otherwise have, and trying to do what's best for Monmouth.  

“While I appreciate that I am not going to manage to get Welsh Water or MCC for that matter to stop digging up our town and making everyone's lives difficult, what I sincerely hope is that the next time plans of this nature are considered the primary focus for everyone round the table is how it's going to affect the businesses and residents.  And most importantly, just because there is funding available, is it really going to improve the lives of those people, and is it what they want?  

“I hear and read a lot about how important it is to focus on mental health issues within a community, yet it appears that no-one has considered the mental health and wellbeing of our business owners during everything that has been implemented in Monmouth over the past four years. Shame on them. 

“It's time to STOP, LOOK, LISTEN and come up with solutions that HELP Monmouth's Town Centre survive by really taking on board what people need, not what Government officers think is good for us!” 

In an effort to help the businesses and thank customers for their continued support, Monmouth Chamber of Commerce has organised a draw that gives everyone making a purchase of £10 or more, within the town, the opportunity to win £100 worth of shopping vouchers, redeemable at member businesses. Just email your receipts dated between 1st April and 21st September 2024 to [email protected]. Multiple entries accepted, see social media and posters in stores for full details.