WITH the news that the Severn Bridge tolls will be cut in half in 2018, commuters are rejoicing over cheaper journeys both in and out of Wales.

In the second week of January, the UK government announced it had launched a consultation into plans to drop tolls on the crossings once the bridges return to public ownership, which is expected to take place either at the end of this year or early 2018.

This would mean that toll prices will be halved to £3 for cars, vans and small buses and £10 for lorries and coaches.

The cuts have been welcomed by the majority of people, including Monmouthshire councillors and businesses.

Although the majority of residents in Monmouthshire and South East Wales see the cuts as positive, there are some who are worried about the impact the cuts could have.

As well as the price of the tolls being slashed, there is also the possibility that they could also be removed entirely between 10pm and 6am, when less than 10 per cent of daily traffic crosses both bridges.

Both of these announcements from the government have brought positive and negative reactions.

Councillors around Monmouthshire have mixed views on the cuts, but many believe it will bring in more tourism to the county.

Cllr Bob Greenland, the cabinet member with responsibility for enterprise, said the toll reductions will bring more positive than negative to Monmouthshire.

He said: “It is our intention to continue to promote Monmouthshire as the place to develop businesses that cover southern Wales and the west of England.

“Clearly with more jobs comes the need for more housing, with additional school places an important consideration. We have already asked for a fresh look at our housing allocation.

“This will be particularly important if there is pressure for those living close to Bristol to move to Monmouthshire.

“Let’s remember that Bristol salary levels are higher so we can assume that this will provide more spending opportunities here.”

However, some councillors have also said that as well as bringing tourism into Monmouthshire, the cheaper prices could mean people may travel to larger shopping centres in England, such as Bristol’s Cribbs Causeway.

Chepstow town councillor Hilary Beach said: “It is a good thing generally, particularly for people in the Chepstow area as its going to make quite a difference if you are needing to go across the bridge.

“Alternatively, it is positive but I know some people are worried. If people can go across the bridge and do shopping, then that will affect us. Cribbs Causeway isn’t that far away.”

Ms Beach also said the cuts could have an effect on house prices, making them unaffordable for others.

House prices in the Bristol area are some of the highest in the UK I think,” she said.

“Even with the bridge toll prices at the moment there are people who are coming across from Bristol to buy houses.

“We are already short of housing and we need affordable housing here. It could have a huge effect if house prices go up.”

With many people having already relocated to Chepstow from Bristol, the reduction in bridge toll prices could bring an even larger influx of house prices across into Monmouthshire.

Charles Heaven, the owner of Crown Estate and Letting Agent, which is located in Chepstow’s High Street, said many house buyers the firm sees are not from the area.

He said: “For people wanting to live somewhere different, it’s normally a nicer place to live as it’s not as built up. We are also in a great area to commute.

“At the moment there are not enough houses in Chepstow but the problem is the infrastructure and the impact that has on the traffic.”

He added: “When houses do go on the market they are soon gone very quickly. Who knows exactly what will happen in a few years.”

Speaking about the impact the cuts could have, Mr Heaven said it could mean that in the future, a lot of young people in Chepstow and Monmouthshire might not be able to afford the rising cost of house prices.

“It might mean people who are born here and have been here all their lives might end up moving elsewhere or might have to move elsewhere,” said Mr Heaven.

“Because of the rise in house prices they might not be able to afford the prices here. We could have people from all over but not from here.”

As well as having an impact on housing, there may also be an effect on businesses moving over from Bristol.

Commercial property agent and advisor M4 Property said it has noticed an increase in demand for commercial property since the cuts were announced.

The company is based in Newport and covers the majority of South Wales and the borders.

Director of M4 Property, Dan Smith, said: “We have experienced a noticeable increase in demand for commercial property, particularly industrial units in the Chepstow and Caldicot areas, since it became clear that the tolls would be reducing substantially.

“Commercial property is considerably cheaper locally than Bristol and therefore with the reductions in the bridge toll, more companies are taking the decision that is now feasible to relocate this side of the bridge.

“We are currently marketing a 68,000 sq ft industrial building at Severnbridge Industrial Estate, which was formerly occupied by Tata Steel. The majority of the demand for this unit is coming from Bristol companies who are struggling to find similar accommodation in Bristol.

“Another important factor is that companies are suggesting that they feel it is easier to recruit a skilled workforce in South Wales when compared to Bristol. The tolls have for a long time been a barrier to businesses in South Wales.”

The increase in businesses coming across to Monmouthshire could mean more workers and also more tourism.

Many businesses shared their delights at the cuts, and hoped the reductions would bring more people to their town centres and high streets.

In August last year, the National Assembly of Wales, released data which showed the drop in people shopping in their local high streets.

In Monmouthshire, between 2005 and 2015, Abergavenny town centre lost 56 per cent of its shoppers, Caldicot 29 per cent and Chepstow 10 per cent. Monmouth gained five per cent between 2005 and 2015 but saw a drop of 40 per cent between 2013 and 2015.

Usk lost three per cent since 2005 but have made an overall gain of 14 percent since 2013.

Matt Taylor, the owner of Chepstow Books, located in Mary Street, Chepstow, said although the cuts could mean people travelling across to shop in Bristol, it may mean that more people travel to Chepstow and there could be more shoppers.

He said: “It will drive disposable income into Chepstow. It will make the area more active and there will be more opportunities.

“I think it’s something that is really positive for us. A lot of people will go to Chepstow and it will increase disposable income.

“For businesses like us that host large events, we usually have several people that come over from Bristol, but with the cuts hopefully that means more people can come over to attend our events.

“Chepstow has something quite unique, it has little boutiques and independents that nowhere else has. We also have a lot of history here so that could appeal to people too.”

The owner of St Mary’s Collectables, Dawn Floyd, said she could not understand the negativity towards the bridge cuts.

“It’s absolutely marvellous news,” said Ms Floyd.

“It should have happened years ago. I think a lot of us thought it would be happening sooner.

“I thought it was going to happen this year and I feel we were led to believe it would be happening.”

What are your views on the Severn Bridge toll cuts? Get in touch and share your views by emailing alice.rose@gwent-wales.co.uk or calling 01633 777 083.