THE new base of a much-loved Monmouth charity is to open just outside Chepstow.

The long-rumoured merger of the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies (SWHP) with large national charity Redwings has become clearer this week, after a planning application came to light having been lodged with the Forest of Dean District Council.

If successful, the application will see the new centre built at Sheepcot Farm in Miss Graces Lane at Tidenham Chase. It will be much larger than the previous St Maughans base, with a visitor centre (including café and gift shop), offices and staff accommodation.

There will also be barns converted into stables, a veterinary hospital area and 52 parking spaces.

The 38-acre former farm and most recently go-karting centre, will become home to the charity’s equine residents, of which the Monmouth SWHP base currently houses more than 50, with hundreds out at loan homes.

The merger with the country’s largest equine rescue charity is the vision of the late Jenny MacGregor, who founded SWHP with husband Alasdair but sadly passed away at the end of last year.

Writing in her final newsletter to those who supported the charity over the years, Mrs MacGregor wrote: “During the past 15 years we have enjoyed a very warm relationship working with Redwings on the mountains and have always been grateful for their support in taking on some of our horses when we have been very full.

“Some three years ago we were in advanced discussions for a merger with Redwings. At the time I felt I was not quite ready to hang up my spurs but after a recent spell in hospital and time to reflect I have decided the time has come to hand over the reins. Talks have resumed with Redwings and I am delighted to announce a merger. This will safeguard the future of SWHP, meaning that all the equines in our ownership including those in adopted homes have a safe future.

“I do hope and urge all our kind, generous and dedicated supporters to continue to support Redwings SWHP at its new home in Monmouthshire. I am confident that in handing SWHP to the Chief Executive Officer of Redwings, Lynn Cutress, who Alasdair and I have known for many years, and also their senior vet Nicholas de Brauwere, Head of Welfare and Behaviour, that our beloved SWHP could not be in better or safer hands.”

Mrs Cutress added: “The planning application at Sheepcot Farm has been made so Redwings Horse Sanctuary can find a permanent base for our ongoing horse welfare work in Monmouthshire and South Wales. Meanwhile our merger with the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies remains ongoing.”

If the plans get the green light it is thought 12 jobs will be created.