News that Conservative dominated Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) and the supermarket Morrison's have exchanged contracts for the sale of Abergavenny's cattle market site, will come as no surprise to the residents of Abergavenny. MCC have, over the years been hell bent on disposing of the cattle market site, in an increasingly desperate attempt to boost the local authorities coffers.
MCC has struggled to balance the books for many years, it has suffered from a poor financial settlement, this is a situation that has clearly driven the Authority to dispose of its assets for financial gain. The harsh reality is that MCC is (as are many local authorities across Wales) far too small to be viable in terms of finances and delivery of services. Taking the long view, local residents are still paying the price for the demise of Gwent.
Most people could (and can) see, with the exception of MCC and its planners; that the public, given a choice, are more than happy to buy local produce and to support local retailers - they don't particularly want to shop in chain dominated high streets. A successful dynamic and diverse economy has a place for the larger retailer and the supermarket chain, but, not at the expense of everything else and the destruction of our small town high streets.
For a number of years there has been an ongoing campaign to Keep Abergavenny Livestock Market (KALM) and to preserve the unique character of Abergavenny as a traditional market town shows. Survey, petitions and research have over the years shown that both local residents and many local farmers wish to retain an active Cattle Market in Abergavenny. MCC should if it had half a brain made the most of a real opportunity to get things right when it came to planning the long term economic future of Abergavenny.
KALM effectively presented MCC on a number of occasions with real opportunities to begin the whole process afresh, by working hand in hand with concerned local residents, farmers and small businesses to ensure that Abergavenny retains its Cattle Market and it’s fundamentally unique character as a market town. For reasons of short term financial gain MCC Conservative Councillors have chosen not too do this.
Across Monmouthshire (and elsewhere in England and Wales) 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 retention of the cattle market in Abergavenny presents 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.
The 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.