The ‘vision’ for a major regeneration masterplan, which aims to revitalise the Mold Road gateway into Wrexham, has been released by key backers with the hope the ‘aspiration’ will lead to firm plans emerging later this year.
Wrexham County Borough Council, the Welsh Government, Wrexham AFC and Wrexham Glyndŵr University have come together to announce their vision behind the Wrexham Gateway Project – a large-scale civic and economic redevelopment which aims to revamp a large area near the Mold Road corridor, one of the major routes into the town. The announcement comes off the back of a consultants report on ‘masterplanning’ co-funded by the Welsh Government and the Council to look into development options in the area.
Key elements of the project desired includes the development of a large public transport interchange at Wrexham General Railway Station; the redevelopment of the Kop end of the Racecourse Stadium and the ‘wider development’ of the Racecourse; the creation of a major, a regionally important conference venue, and more.
No diagrams or plans have put into the public domain, nor any funding announced as of yet on what is due to be a vast project over multiple sites with a likely large price tag.
Currently the proposals being developed are detailed as follows in the informationally sparse report before councillors (full PDF here):
- Creation of a high quality, attractive and legible gateway to Wrexham town centre that provides a sense of arrival – creating a positive first impression;
- Regeneration of the Kop end of the Racecourse Stadium to provide an extra five thousand seated stand to help realise its potential as a first class Regional and National Level, year-round, multi-functional stadium that is capable of hosting international-standard sport;
- Development of facilities that provide economic impact to the North Wales region such as conferencing, exhibition space and a four star standard hotel, in close proximity to the Racecourse Stadium, with parking provision – along with the exploration of direct pedestrian links to Wrexham General Station;
- Enhancement and facilitation of improved active travel connections to Wrexham General to support the provision of an integrated travel hub, promoting multi-modal transport and enhancing connectivity to employment opportunities that includes improved bus and drop off access and improved pedestrian access;
- Explore the creation of transport orientated development opportunities, which enhances the presence of the train station along Mold Road and includes a mixture of exciting uses, such as residential, office and leisure that supports the wider town centre offer and creates a vibrant location to live, work and spend time in.
Wrexham.com noted that there had been positive aspirations for decades in terms of the football ground, and enquired to Wrexham Council what would be different this time around to make this a reality.
Cllr Mark Pritchard, Leader of Wrexham Council, answered us talking of new people in place to drive plans forward: “The University has got a new head there. We as a council have changed, people will come and people have gone there’s a new desire and want to improve Wrexham as a place and as a region.
“I can always tell and sense when things are right. I’ve been in a lot of places where things are wrong. But on this occasion, I believe that the right people are around the table and are around the table for the right reasons. And that’s why I think subject to the funding, and partnership work, that we can deliver this. I believe that, or I would not be in the room.”
“I can assure you I would not sign up to something and put myself forward, or false dawns, I wouldn’t do it. I’m not in that camp never have been. I honestly believe that’s why we’re all working so hard to deliver it. Because I think we can deliver.”
Council Chief Exec Ian Bancroft replied to our question by giving the context to the ‘aspirational statement’, “I think the first thing is everybody’s on the same page. The whole symbolism of joint aspirational statements, that everybody on the same page is really critical.
“We can’t promise on what’s going to be delivered. I absolutely something will be delivered out of this, and I think that’s why it’s important at this stage to be keeping our options open.
“We are all saying we’re all aiming for a level of aspiration, which is four star hotel, which is 5000 seats, which is really, really aspirational. But within the study, we’re also right to have options so we know in terms of gauging the market, there is a deliverable option out there
“The reason we want something that’s a public private partnership is that without a level of public investment, you can’t get the level of ambition that we’re describing.
“I think it’s right to be reaching for the stars, but be clear about the aspiration, we can’t promise exactly what will be delivered at the end of this, but I am absolutely confident that there will be something major and significant that’s delivered at the end of this.
“That is the difference, everybody is on the same page at the beginning, we are clear about the level of ambition, and aware of the past history and the sensitivities surrounding it.”
With Council and Welsh Government support in effect meaning public money, we asked if Wrexham Football Club being a fans owned community club helped was a positive.
Mr Bancroft replied, “It absolutely does. Clearly that if we’re working with an organisation that has charitable and social objectives at its heart, then we know that the way that they use finance is in relation to achieving that purpose. I think that is different from the way other organisations are set up and structured.
“I think there will be challenges all the way through this, if we think about the mixture of funding, if we think about who might operate each bit, we’re going to have discussions that things won’t remain exactly the same. I think that is hard for the university, it is hard for Welsh Government, it’s hard for us, and it’s hard for the football club.
“But I think the relationship between those organisations at the moment is of that strength, that we’re able to be able to take on some of those difficult issues that we couldn’t have done in the past to say, ‘Well, actually, how do we get this right for the good of Wrexham?’ because there will be compromises for everybody.”
“If we want to achieve this master plan, it won’t necessarily work perfectly for the university won’t necessarily work perfectly for us as the Council, the football club, or Welsh Government. But if we get the compromises right, then it will work for Wrexham and all four partners will have major benefit out of it. ”
“So yes, I think it is really important that the there is a social purpose to the football club, I think the intent of all partners, which is enshrined in the legal structure of the football club, is of a social nature. But, we are aware of the reality that we have to be commercial if we want to achieve this as well. And that’s why it’s got to be a balance of public and private.”
We asked about timelines and the next steps involved.
Mr Bancroft told us, “We would expect to be coming back out to the autumn, with an idea in terms of the feasibility, the master plan and the options. So today is the aspiration, then autumn, what we think is potentially deliverable.
“The other thing that’s really important is that this stage is about testing out with the public and stakeholders.”
“Are we all up for this level of aspiration? There’s almost a feeling of ‘Is this what Wrexham wants to see?’ Because, in a sense, how ambitious are we?
“This needs to be a joint ambition, it can’t just be for bodies, it needs to be a feeling and a groundswell of opinion that this is what Wrexham wants to achieve.”
Wider reaction to the announcement has also emerged in the jointly issued statement, with comment from all stakeholders pictured.
Cllr Mark Pritchard, Leader of Wrexham Council, said: “We’re incredibly positive about the goals outlined within this new Mold Road corridor masterplan. This is an incredibly ambitious piece of work which will play a key part in the regeneration of Wrexham, and I’m very pleased to note that we have a number of strong key partners working alongside us to accomplish these aims.
“There are some fantastic potential projects set out within the masterplan, and we won’t be able to achieve them on our own – which is why, if approved at Executive Board, we will then engage with key stakeholders on the vision, and how they think we might reach these goals.”
Ian Bancroft, Chief Executive of Wrexham Council, said: “I’m very pleased to announce the vision of the Wrexham Gateway Partnership, which has the potential to bring millions of pounds worth of regeneration work into Wrexham.
“While ambitious, the goals set out within our vision can be realised through the partnership, with the plans combining a number of exciting key elements across business, academic, housing and sporting infrastructure.”
Professor Maria Hinfelaar, Vice-Chancellor of Wrexham Glyndŵr University, said: “The Mold Road regeneration will create a much improved gateway into Wrexham for residents, students and visitors. This feeds into our Campus 2025 strategy which is about the university and Wrexham as a whole for the future prosperity of the town.”
Ken Skates, Welsh Government Economy and Transport Minister, said: “The plans under development by the Wrexham Gateway Partnership aim to deliver transformational change on a local and regional level.
“There is much work ahead and together we have the opportunity to achieve improved connectivity within Wrexham and across the wider area as well as creating business premises which could drive strong economic growth.
“The plans also include proposals to develop the Racecourse Ground which would see the facility become a more active hub within the Wrexham community and provide it with the ability to attract more international events and the football club with a home which is fit for the future. The Wrexham Gateway Project is an ambitious and exciting development and one which I am keen to drive forward working collaboratively with our partners.”
Spencer Harris, Director of Wrexham AFC, said: “As well as being the home of Wrexham AFC, the Racecourse Ground is an asset of strategic importance for Wales. Along with our partners in this vision, we are extremely excited about this regeneration project including the potential to make the stadium a viable option for international events.
“As we are owned by a community benefit society, it is fitting that the aims of this project would return significant benefits to Wrexham and the region.”
Further reaction is emerging locally, Lesley Griffiths AM has regularly corresponded with key partners along this journey and has welcomed today’s announcement. She said: “This ground-breaking development is something everyone in Wrexham will support.
“Discussions between partners have taken place over a number of years to reach this point and there is no doubt the Welsh Government has been the driving force behind this comprehensive endeavour.
“I am particularly pleased the land adjacent to the Racecourse Ground has been secured and that Kop redevelopment is very much on the agenda.
“The far-reaching proposals outlined in the Wrexham Gateway Project have the potential to transform a major part of the town and I will continue to work with the relevant bodies to help ensure this vision becomes a reality.”
Local MP Ian Lucas has told us: “I’m very pleased that the partners involved in this project are putting forward proposals concerning this site. However, it is absolutely imperative this process is opened up for the wider public in Wrexham, so they can have their say about its impact on the town and the broader region.”
The Council’s Executive Board are meeting next week and will note the aspirations, and likely approve further work, and “authorise the Chief Officer Housing & Economy… to secure further resources, if required, to aid and enhance the outcomes of the masterplan”.
Top pic: Lots of happy stakeholders who will hopefully be working together to deliver what is aspired to!
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