David TC Davies says his local county council is planning congestion charges
Welsh Secretary David TC Davies has renewed his attack on his local county council’s transport plan, accusing it of planning to introduce congestion charges in four market towns.
Mr Davies has already highlighted a proposal in Monmouthshire County Council’s draft Local Transport Plan 2024-29 that would see tolls reintroduced for environmental reasons on the Severn bridges that link England and Wales.
Although the idea appears in the transport plan, the county council does not have the power to bring back tolls on the M4 and M48. Such power is held by the UK Government.
The council’s Labour leader Mary Ann Brocklesby sought to fend off criticism of the proposal, saying: “It’s not something we are doing nor are we considering doing it and we do not intend lobbying for it.” However, Mr Davies pointed out that a press release issued in November 2023 when the draft plan was published states: “Monmouthshire County Council has today launched a public consultation on our draft Local Transport Plan, which will shape our vision and ambition for transport in and around our county. With a focus on creating a sustainable, integrated and accessible transport network, the county council is seeking your views on its proposed vision, objectives and strategic framework for the future development of Monmouthshire’s transport network.
“The Local Transport Plan will also inform the emerging replacement Local Development Plan and Regional Transport Plan, which is being developed by the Cardiff Capital Region.”
Now Mr Davies has homed in on another section of the council’s draft plan headed “Roads, Streets and Parking”. It states: “Our Local Transport Plan reflects our commitment to creating a transportation network that not only ensures the safety and efficient movement of all road users but also prioritises and promotes sustainable choices such as active travel and public transport. Through strategic planning, collaboration, and continuous improvement, we aim to create a road and street environment that enhances the quality of life for our residents and visitors while contributing to a greener, healthier future for Monmouthshire.”
The plan adds: “We aim to deliver schemes that will reallocate road space, particularly within the four market towns, prioritising pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport, creating safer and more accessible environments.”
Together with a number of other proposals, it states that there will be ‘a strategy for congestion and emissions zones that promote cleaner air’, adding: “In line with the Wales Transport Strategy, we will upgrade, improve and future-proof our road network, addressing congestion pinch points and investing in schemes that support road safety, journey reliability, resilience, and modal shift. Such schemes will be subject to review and further consideration in the context of the Welsh Government’s Roads Review.”
The county council does have the power to introduce congestion charges.
Mr Davies said: “Monmouthshire County Council’s plan to bring in congestion charges affecting the county’s four market towns of Abergavenny, Monmouth, Chepstow and Caldicot will deal a devastating blow to residents who rely on their cars to get around.
“This is a clear intention that is spelt out in black and white on page 57 of the council’s proposed Local Transport Plan. The only possible interpretation of having a strategy to create ‘congestion and emissions zones that promote cleaner air’ is to introduce congestion charging, as has happened in London and elsewhere.
“I would urge all residents of Monmouthshire with concerns about these proposals to email Monmouthshire County Council as soon as possible and express their opinion. It’s a rural county and many people rely on their cars. The council’s transport plan is very anti-car and intent on punishing financially those who drive. Under these plans, those driving from one market town to another could find themselves charged twice.”
A spokesman for Monmouthshire County Council said: “Monmouthshire is committed to reducing carbon emissions and improving the air and environmental quality of its communities. We already have air quality management plans in place and recognise the need to put a strategy in place to manage small areas of congestion.
“There is no suggestion in the draft Local Transport Plan of an intention to implement a charging regime. Our intention is to identify opportunities to improve public transport options for residents, businesses and visitors alike.
“Rather than anti-car as has been suggested by Mr Davies, the draft plan states: ‘in line with the Welsh Transport Strategy, we will upgrade, improve and future proof our road network addressing congestion, pinch points and investing in schemes that support road safety, journey reliability, resilience and modal shift’. This demonstrates our recognition that car journeys will remain a key element of the transport network in the county.
“The draft plan has been developed through a series of workshops with local people, organisations and considered by the council’s scrutiny committee and Transport Forum. Rather than dismiss ideas raised in these conversations, they have been captured and are now being tested against wider opinion. Mature organisations have to be open to debate on difficult issues, even where ideas are contentious. How does anything improve without a willingness to consider new options with citizens in a balanced collegiate way?”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.