CHARGING people to use the Heads of the Valleys road could cut Blaenau Gwent off to tourists and businesses, the council’s leader fears.

Cllr Des Hillman was reacting to suggestions that creating more toll roads could be the only way for the Welsh Government to fund its transport ambitions as its budget is squeezed.

The Welsh Government’s research service is looking into different options, with one expert suggesting charges on the Heads of the Valleys road could fund safety and capacity improvements.

But Cllr Hillman said: “We aim to make Blaenau Gwent as accessible as possible. Any form of charges could act as a potential barrier for some visitors to the area. Tourism, like all sectors, is an area affected by the current economic situation.

Making the Heads of the Valleys road a toll road may have a detrimental impact on tourism in Blaenau Gwent and the Heads of the Valleys area.”

He added that the move would be an “unacceptable obstacle” to encouraging new businesses into the area and have a “detrimental effect”

on the regeneration of Blaenau Gwent.

While he admitted that safety is important, he suggested that tolling motorists to fund measures could change people’s willingness to use the road.

Cllr Hillman added: “A fair charge price depends on people’s abilities to pay and how important the use of the road is to them.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The Minister with responsibility for transport is currently working with his officials to prioritise schemes in the National Transport Plan that will then be delivered over the next three years. We will be exploring different methods of delivering these schemes with a greater emphasis placed on close collaboration between local authorities.”