Saturday, 8 May 2010


Monmouth constituency, depending on your point of view is blessed (for want of a better word) with David Davies as its MP, someone who is well known for being opinionated on many matters - some controversial, some not so controversial. Yet there are topics upon which Mr Davies is entirely silent, not a single comment - one to these is the ongoing controversy that surrounds the questionable role of Conservative run (badly run in many peoples eyes) Monmouthshire County Council in the fate of Abergavenny Livestock Market.

The fate of the livestock market in Abergavenny is something that has animated for the right reasons a great many people in and around Abergavenny - townspeople, small farmers, small business people and visitors to the town, who are concerned about the long term economic consequences of losing the Livestock Market and replacing it with (as has been proposed once more) a supermarket.

The ongoing campaign to Keep Abergavenny Livestock Market (KALM) and to preserve the unique character of Abergavenny as a traditional market town has shown that both local residents and many local small farmers wish to retain the Cattle Market in Abergavenny. Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) has been trying to close this issue and make its decisions behind closed doors out of sight and out of mind.

What should have been a real opportunity to get things right and to work closely with local people to preserve the livestock market and sympathetically redevelop the unused portion of the livestock market has become a key issue for many people and a serious bone of contention with the County Council. The campaign to Keep Abergavenny Livestock Market (KALM) has effectively presented MCC with a real opportunity to begin the whole process afresh, this time working hand in hand with concerned local residents, farmers and small businesses to ensure that Abergavenny retains its Cattle Market and its fundamentally unique character as a market town.

Oddly enough, this has not happened! MCC is still hell-bent on removing the Livestock Market from Abergavenny and refuse point blank to talk to those people campaigning for an alternative solution. The Conservative Party in Monmouthshire has effectively closed ranks, the sitting Conservative AM, Nick Ramsay amazingly made himself scarce to avoid having to receive some 5,000+ signed letters of objection at the National Assembly last year and has been conspicuous by his silence (just like David Davies MP) ever since. 

There is a bigger issue at stake here than the fate of Abegavenny Livestock Market - across Monmouthshire (and many other small and larger towns across England and Wales) many people have taken note of the fact that we have to often in the past seen ill-thought out unsympathetic redevelopments that have had a detrimental effect on the local economies in both Chepstow and Monmouth and elsewhere.

The ongoing campaign retention of the cattle market (and the concerns expressed to me on the doorstep over the years in various election campaigns in Monmouth constituency, when in and around Abergavenny) should be acted upon for they are a real opportunity to do something fundamentally different, something that should be able to address both environmental and economic concerns and contribute to the retention of the unique character of the market town that is Abergavenny.

At some point the National Assembly will have to take note and action for National Assembly Ministers, under Section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 have the power to call in any applications for planning permission for their own determination, something that clearly needs to be done in this specific case. While there is a tendency to consider that development proposals are best dealt with by planning authorities that know their area, its needs and sensitivities, it is pretty obvious that with regard to MCC, and the redevelopment of Abergavenny and its cattle market this is clearly not the case, hence the need to call in this proposed development.

Planning applications can be called in when they raise issues of more than local importance, issues which are in conflict with national planning policies; could have wide effects beyond their immediate locality; may give rise to substantial controversy beyond the immediate locality and are likely significantly to affect sites of scientific, nature conservation or historic interest or areas of landscape importance which covers almost every aspect of the proposed redevelopment of Abergavenny cattle market.

Most people can see that Abergavenny needs to retain its unique, attractive features and not join the sterile trend towards large retail and supermarket-dominated clone town centre deserts – save for MCC. In the not so recent past a whole range of suppliers, traders and small businesses who sell to consumers and too each other have along with whole communities suffered from this increasingly well recognised but misguided model of retailing and economic development. Elsewhere in Monmouthshire, the damage done to Monmouth and Chepstow by ill-thought out retail chain dominated economic redevelopment - no one in their right mind would want to damage Abergavenny’s economy and unique character as a market town.

In the meantime the decisions made by Conservative run Monmouthshire County Council in relation to the disposal of the Livestock Market site in Abergavenny need serious scrutiny. On one level alone (and there are more areas of concern) it is clear that the County Council (which will gain financially from the disposal of the asset that is the Livestock Market) is not and has never acted as an impartial participant in the planning process.

The continued silence of Monmouth Constituency's Conservative representatives David Davies MP in Westminster and Nick Ramsay AM in Cardiff should also be noted as they are clearly following the party line at the expense of the their constituents interests and at the expense of the future sustainable prosperity of the town of Abergavenny and the north west of their constituency and beyond. It's pretty clear that any invitation to join them (the Conservatives) in government does not run to Monmouth Constituency - I wonder what David ("Call me Dave") Cameron would think of that? 

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