South East Wales

'Challenges' for Monmouthshire after Severn bridges tolls cut

The Severn bridges
Image caption The Severn bridges will come under the control of the UK Government in 2018

Monmouthshire could face pressure on housing and infrastructure after the Severn Bridge tolls are cut, its council leader has said.

Cllr Peter Fox said the county must "rise to the challenge" of becoming a more popular place to live.

Fees will drop to £3 when the crossings go into public ownership by early 2018, under UK government plans.

Property prices have been rising in the county as Bristol workers "capitalise" on lower house prices.

"It's really exciting and unlocks a huge amount of opportunity for people and businesses in Monmouthshire as the gateway to south Wales," Mr Fox told the BBC.

"The bridge toll was like an economic barrier but now we have a huge chance of tapping into the booming Bristol market.

"But there are challenges - as this area will become very popular and desirable, pressure will be put on housing demands and our infrastructure."

Image caption Peter Fox is leader of Monmouthshire council and deputy leader of Cardiff Capital region

Bristol is the UK's fastest-growing economy outside of London and its house prices are the fastest-growing in the country.

Chepstow, Caldicot and Magor in south Monmouthshire are becoming popular commuter towns and estate agents say around 80% of home buyers are now coming from the Bristol area.

As a result, property prices have been rising quicker than the Wales average, figures have suggested.

"We'll have to rise to the challenge as we've got a lot of thinking to do," said Mr Fox, who is also vice-chairman of the Cardiff Capital Region.

"One of the dilemmas we'll have to face is the need to increase housing in Monmouthshire to cope with the expected increased demand from commuters from Bristol.

"As house prices rise as a result, we'll need to deliver more affordable homes to ensure local youngsters can afford to remain here. That is a concern.

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Media captionCaldicot residents give their views on the proposed Severn bridges tolls cut

"We'll need extra infrastructure like doctors surgeries, schools and roads with extra capacity but that will be funded by developers."

Two large housing developments are planned at Chepstow's old dockyard and near its hospital while a new estate is heading for Undy, bordering the M4 motorway near Magor.

The Severn Tunnel Junction railway station in Rogiet has recently undergone an £8m refurbishment, while a new train station at Magor has the backing of Monmouthshire council and is part of the new South Wales Metro proposal.

Mr Fox said he hoped the toll reduction can attract business back to the county and keep local youngsters in Monmouthshire.

"I'm excited about the extra jobs we can possibly create," he said.

"We want our children to have the opportunity to remain here, bring up their family and have a high-paid job rather than leaving the county to fulfil their aspirations.

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