Monmouthshire (Welsh: Sir Fynwy) is a predominantly rural county in south-east Wales, covering an area of approximately 880 square kilometres, with a population of 93,000 resulting in a low population density of 1.1 persons per hectare. It is home to diverse landscapes of exceptional quality, including the Brecon Beacons National Park, Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Usk Valley and Gwent Levels.
The county is in a strategic position with significant economic advantages, being located near growing cities such as Bristol and Cardiff. However, despite having a good road network, public transport networks within the county are weak. The bus services that link the towns and the more rural settlements have been reduced and the rail network between the county and its surrounding cities suffers from inadequate frequency and high fares.
Half of the population lives in the main towns of Abergavenny, Monmouth, Usk, Caldicot and Chepstow. 80% are economically active; of those active, 8% work in the tourism sector.
An increasing number of the population speak Welsh. Monmouthshire’s culture is a source of great local pride and enthusiasm, with a rich social and industrial heritage appealing to a range of visitors.
Living Lab transitions
Transitions in the region are guided by the seven well-being goals set out in Wales’ Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2015. This Act aims to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales and gives a legally binding common purpose for national government, local government, local health boards and other specified public bodies.
Monmouthshire’s population is forecast to increase by less than 1% by 2040. The area has an ageing population with 12.1% of the population aged 75 or over, which is the highest in the South-East Wales Region. Over the last ten years, the number of people aged 65 and over living in the County grew by 26%, with a 34% increase in those aged 90 and over. Conversely there was a fall of 9% of those aged 0-14 and 3.6% of those in the working age population.
Economic growth between 2008 and 2015 was below the UK average and there are concerns that they will not be enough people of working age to provide key services in the area in the future. To address this issue, the Council are seeking opportunities to build new, affordable housing targeted at economically active people and working households. Homes built on the identified sites will be net-zero carbon ready, and the aim is to ensure the sites are well-connected to existing towns and villages, to ensure people can access their local community.
Monmouthshire’s Economic Growth and Ambition statement sets out priorities for raising the county’s profile as a place to invest and do business. It aims to attract investment and funding to create an inclusive economy, which is equitable, sustainable, stable, participatory and growing. This will include encouraging businesses to land and expand in the county, to create sustainable employment opportunities for local people.
Monmouthshire County Council’s Draft Community and Corporate Plan 2022-2027 sets out the Council’s ambition for the county. It includes the following overarching purpose: for Monmouthshire to become a zero-carbon county, supporting well-being, health and dignity for everyone at every stage of life. The plan includes six objectives:
- Fair place – to live where the effects of inequality and poverty have been reduced.
- Green place – to live and work with reduced carbon emissions, making a positive contribution to addressing the climate and nature emergency.
- Thriving and ambitious place – full of hope and enterprise.
- Safe place – to live where people have a home and community where they feel secure.
- Connected place – where people feel part of a community, are valued and connected to others.
- Learning place – where everybody has the opportunity to reach their potential.
The county has already developed infrastructure which will support these objectives. For example, Monmouthshire Hubs bring together Council, Library and Adult Learning services, creating a single point of access for communities. MonLife, the Council’s leisure service offer, aims to enrich people’s lives through participation and activity and build strong communities in Monmouthshire. This has included investing £2.5m in leisure facilities and offering activities to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Monmouthshire’s natural environment is recognised as one of its greatest assets, with large numbers of sites with protection designations. Agriculture and forestry are both important parts of the landscape and economy. However, the anticipated impacts of climate change will put pressure on ecosystems, soils and biodiversity and the services that they provide.
Monmouthshire County Council have responded in several ways, most notably declaring a climate emergency in 2019. This saw the development of a Climate and Decarbonisation Strategy for the county and is reflected in the Council’s purpose ‘to become a zero-carbon county, supporting well-being, health and dignity for everyone at every stage of life’.
In partnership with SSE Energy Solutions, Monmouthshire County Council are delivering a county-wide decarbonisation initiative which has seen 22 council-owned buildings reduce their carbon emissions. In addition, council officers and Councillors receive Carbon Literacy training, which covers climate change, carbon footprint, and how everyone can do their bit.
In collaboration with Cardiff Council, and through the Cardiff Capital Region Challenge Fund, Monmouthshire County Council are supporting three projects to develop innovative solutions which can significantly improve the sustainable production and supply of food. Monmouthshire was recognised by Sustain, a food and farming charity, as a leader on food and climate change, for the actions they have taken to address local food and farming’s impact on the climate and nature emergencies.
Monmouthshire Hubs offer computers with free internet access and run computer skills courses. This offering is part of the Welsh Government’s Digital Communities Wales initiative, which aims to create a more digitally inclusive Wales.
Monmouthshire was also a partner in 5G Wales Unlocked, a co-innovation project that aims to unlock the potential of rural areas. The county has hosted trials of two use cases: tourism and the diverse rural economy. These trials have enabled the Council to explore how 5G can deliver on its policy to support a thriving and well-connected county.
Residents can also make use of the My Monmouthshire App. This is a way of communicating with the Council by providing online access and enable 24/7 self-service access. It provides the latest updates from the Council, local services information and can be used to report issues.