DAILY traffic jams and "dangerous" conditions for pedestrians could all become a thing of the past in Usk, after two councils signed up consultants to make the town more pedestrian-friendly.

ARUP has been brought in by Monmouthshire County Council and Usk Town Council to create a safer environment for the people who live in and visit Usk, but there is no clear consensus locally as to how this should be achieved.

Currently, shoppers in Usk town centre must contend with a daily barrage of lorries and other large vehicles which charge down Bridge Street, the main thoroughfare.

Bridge Street also forms part of the A472, and many drivers of goods vehicles use the route as a short-cut to Caerphilly county and Blaenau Gwent, rather than travelling down to the M4.

This can create a testing environment for Usk's residents and visitors, who report regular run-ins with larger vehicles driving up onto the pavements in Bridge Street because the road is too narrow.

"Last week, a tractor mounted the pavement, and I had to be pulled out of the way," said business owner Stacey Grout. "Customers say they've been clipped by wing-mirrors – it's a worry for the older people in the community."

But this could all change if ARUP finds a solution.

Speaking after the firm's appointment last week, Monmouthshire councillor Jane Pratt said: "For many years, we have recognised that Usk requires a concentrated piece of work to identify the opportunities that will enable the town to be fit for the future through supporting local businesses and creating a destination where visitors and residents can enjoy the town alike.


"We very much look forward to seeing the results."

Christine Wilkinson, mayor of Usk, said: "We are excited, not only to have ARUP on board for this next stage, but to have the county council joining us, to drive this forward.

"As well as creating a visionary, future-proof, masterplan - very much with the 'shared space' ethos at its heart - ARUP will explore, attract and secure funding streams so that dreams can indeed become realities.”

But how should the town be made more pedestrian-friendly?

Jay Parrish, who works in Sprokwobbles Coffee House on Bridge Street, has always lived in Usk. He said journey times along Bridge Street could last as long as 40 minutes on the worst days.

"If there are two lorries coming towards each other, you haven't got a chance on the pavement," he said. "It's dangerous. The pavement is thinner in certain parts."

In some sections of Bridge Street, the pavement was measured at 90 centimetres (three feet) wide.

Mr Parrish said he hoped there would be a restriction on lorries entering the town.

His colleague, Allyson Dancer, said the air quality in Usk had suffered because of traffic.

"You can smell the fumes all the time," she said.

She suggested introducing a business-hours traffic ban in Bridge Street, allowing for part-time pedestrianisation.

"It would be much healthier, and would be nice to put things out on the street," she said.

But other business owners said pedestrianisation would not suit everyone.

Ms Grout said it would "kill the town" and destroy the visibility of many businesses.

Her colleague at USK Emporium, Simon Curtin, said the town had already lost its bank and post office within the past year.

Ms Grout suggested adding another pedestrian crossing, or using cameras to enforce a business-hours ban on larger vehicles using Bridge Street.

In Twyn Square, butcher Neil Lewis, was in favour of pedestrianisation and suggested bypassing the town altogether.

"If you had a bypass for the through traffic...it would cut down a third [of the traffic in the town]," he said.

His colleague, Jane Williams, said a bypass would "make the town more profitable because people would feel safe to walk on the pavement".

She added: "It's quite frightening when the lorries come through."