EFFORTS must be made to help businesses in Chepstow town centre ahead of the removal of the Severn Bridge tolls, a meeting has heard.

Shop closure announcements including the long-established Herbert Lewis department store has led to Monmouthshire County Council (MCC) attempting to attract new retailers to the town.

Chepstow's Chamber of Commerce is also actively working to help businesses in the town centre.

At a meeting of the Lower Wye Area Committee, James Woodcock, business and sites manager at MCC, said the removal of the bridge tolls at the end of the year will bring both challenges and opportunities to the town.

"Even more people are likely to travel out of the area to Cribbs Causeway or to Bristol city centre," he told the meeting on Wednesday.

"There is then a challenge in ensuring the retail offer of Chepstow town centre appeals to visitors."

Mr Woodcock said the county council is looking to reach out to retailers following recent store closures in the town. But he said business rates and changes in how people do their shopping has created challenges.

"We are conscious that in this climate there are a limited number of national retailers looking to move into the town," he added.

Nevertheless, opportunities are also being created by the tolls removal, the meeting heard.

Mr Woodcock said the county council is looking at developing coach tourism trips as more people are likely to make short-term visits to the area.

Community councillor Graham Down called for more urgency to help businesses in the town centre.

"There's no sense of urgency," he said.

"We've heard down the line. Chepstow is dying on its feet, we cannot wait down the line."

But Cllr Jez Becker said progress is being made and praised the efforts of the Chepstow Chamber of Commerce. He said people are ready to move into some of the empty shops already and that the growth of online shopping means there is a need to 'reinvent' the High Street.

Cllr Phil Murphy said the county council is doing its best to help where it can.

He said: "We have identified over 600 businesses where assistance can be given and we have contacted them.

"Within the limited scope we are doing everything we can."