BUSINESS owners in Tintern are becoming increasingly frustrated as 12 weeks of planned road closures harm visitor numbers at the start of the usually busy tourist season.
Many traders in the village rely on the summer season to be their busiest time of year, but since May 7 Tintern has been practically cut off from the main tourist entry point – the A466 from Chepstow – because of repair works to the roadside embankment between Tintern and St Arvans.
“As you know, April-to-October is the tourist season,” Sonia Bryant, business partner at Stella and Rose’s Books said. “To have a major route closed during these months is diabolical.”
She said that while her bookshop had an online operation, the number of visitors to the shop in Tintern was down, adding: “Businesses in Tintern are suffering. The pubs, eateries [and] hotels would normally be very busy at this time of year, but the going is slow.”
Vin Kennedy, of The Filling Station Cafe, said: “Sadly everyone has been affected by it. The whole situation is frustrating – it’s had a big impact on everyone.
“The timing is the worst time of the year for local businesses as the season is from Easter to October. I understand the work has to be carried out but these roadworks are having a major impact on local businesses, residents and visitors to the Wye Valley.”
Monmouthshire County Council said its contractor was working to finish the embankment repairs by Friday, July 19.
The area had been the subject of extensive studies and consultation before allowing the work to proceed, a spokeswoman for the local authority said in a statement this week, and assurances had been given that the contractor was working 11 hours a day, in a pattern of 11 days in 14.
But this was called into question recently by Monmouth MP David Davies, who visited Tintern to hear local concerns about the road closure.
He said some local people had told him that they had walked the route and noticed that nobody seemed to be working there.
Mr Davies met Tintern community councillor Rita Edwards, who told him that businesses were “desperate for the work to be finished and for improvements to be made to the other roads in the area which are falling apart”.
After their meeting, Mr Davies said: “The continued closure of the road is causing devastation for businesses in Tintern. There are ways through but as we saw today, the alternative routes are narrow and in very poor condition.”
The diversion currently in place takes Tintern-bound travellers along the B4293 via Devauden and Trellech.
But the route is lengthy and narrow, even for locals, Ms Bryant said, making it unappealing to people who don’t know the road.
“The diversion to Trellech is nonsense when one wants to get to Tintern,” she said. “I tried the diversion the last time the road [was] closed, and it took me an extra 20 minutes on what should have been a 10-minute journey from Chepstow to Tintern – and I know the roads. Customers, suppliers, [and] tourists won’t know the roads, so it will take them longer.
“I have to come to Tintern from Chepstow Monday-Friday and have to use the back lanes.
“These, of course, are full of other locals who know the roads doing exactly the same thing and so the likelihood of coming across another vehicle on your journey and being forced to reverse is high.”
The local authority agreed the road closure had “led to disruption and has had an impact on businesses” and was working with its contractor to find ways to reduce the closure period.
County councillor Jane Pratt said: “I understand and empathise with those affected by the road closure. The work is taking place to ensure this beautiful part of the county can be accessed safely by many people now and in the future.”