A plan first approved in 2011 to build a huge dragon near Chirk is looking to have new fire breathed into it via a further five year extension.
The planning application is first on the agenda for Wrexham’s Planning Committee tomorrow afternoon, where the request is to extend current planning permission by five years.
The aim of the project is to build a huge 41.5 metre high concrete tower, featuring a public viewing platform. At the top of this will be placed a bronze sculpted dragon, a further 23.5 metres high with a wingspan of approximately 57 metres.
Below will be a two-storey ‘curved visitor centre’ with floor space of 2150sqm, housing a cafe and education/gallery area, a restaurant and a ‘multi-use’ area. The plans also include a ‘lodge’, detailed as ‘parking area for 221 cars, 6 buses and 18 bicycles in the north east corner of the site along with a small building at the car park entrance to manage traffic movement’.
In a comprehensive list of Councillors, relevant bodies such as the National Trust, Cadw, neighbours and the like there are no objections to the plan itself.
The stated criticisms appear to be based on wider third party traffic issues and could be for Council’s enforcement to look at, including:
- The neighbouring car boot sale has grown out of all proportion and it is not policed at all’
- The neighbouring McDonald’s restaurant greatly adds to vehicles on the country lanes, not to mention the litter created. The business is now 24/7 and creates unsociable behaviour in the area
- The neighbouring nursery has caused more traffic on the country lane.
The application report before councillors uses bolding and underlining to highlight “The Council cannot revisit the original permission and reconsider whether it should have been granted in the first place”, with the Council Officer exploring any changes since 2011 and opting to recommend the application tomorrow for approval.
In this Council planning document of January 2011, the P/2010/0568 which is effectively recommended for extension tomorrow, it is stated: “The ‘Welsh Dragon’ proposal is submitted in connection with the charity – Frank Wingett Cancer Appeal – based in North East Wales. A new company – The Dragon Experience Limited (DE), will be formed.
“The site is owned by Wrexham County Borough Council and subject to Executive Board approval it is proposed that the Frank Wingett Cancer Appeal Fund (FWCA) is granted a ground lease for a term of 125 years with an option to purchase the freehold exercisable only following completion of the development.
“FWCA will grant a licence to DE to implement the proposed development and operate the business. In return for the use of the site, DE will donate 25% of the Tower admission income to FWCA. ”
The 2011 application P/2010/0568 referenced in the new planning application does note a report by a consultant: “Firstly, given that the proposed development is funded entirely by the private sector and that a lease (and future sale of the land) would not be granted unless ‘proof of funds’ were evidenced, there is no financial risk to the Council.”
In 2012 we asked Wrexham Council what the status was of the project and were told: “Wrexham County Borough Council has granted planning permission for the project and has co-operated with the Appeal in offering to make available land at Chirk Park, subject to terms.”
In May 2013 the Executive Board discussed a ‘Part 2’ secret document on the project and resolved that terms and conditions of a lease be agreed for the site, which would include a ‘ground lease’ ‘subject to a reduced initial rental, followed by further payments based upon the commercial success of the scheme’ although no mention of a sale of the freehold.
Since 2013 there appears to be no public decision that we can spot in terms of background to or outcome on what has previously been described as ‘disposal’ of land (freehold or otherwise), or progress or details on the lease agreement.
In 2015 we spotted nearby non-council owned land for sale at £2,500,000 with potential building scheme for 73 houses – at a time where development land for housing was seeing lots of planning applications, and wider talk of a requirement to build 12-13,000 new houses in the local area.
We asked Wrexham Council if any lease has been entered into with regards to the land for the proposed Dragon project, and if not, how far the process to identify proof of funds for the venture has gone, and what the current position was with regards to Wrexham Council. Wrexham Council did not respond to the questions.
The report is before the planning committee tomorrow afternoon at 4pm – which you can watch live via the Council’s webcast.