‘Truly exciting plans’ for the former iron and steelworks site in Brymbo have the ‘potential for a world class tourist venue for Wrexham’, councillors were told today.
The Brymbo Steelworks site has been the subject of redevelopment proposals since it saw its closure in 1990. Formed by ex-workers and local history enthusiasts, Brymbo Heritage Group came together with landowners Brymbo Developments Ltd in 1994, to become the Brymbo Heritage Trust and develop a regeneration project for the site.
Aiming to be phased over a twenty-year period, the redevelopment proposals are seen to have the potential to bring a wide range of benefits to Wrexham in the long term. In particular, a tourism and heritage based vision after the discovery of the 300-million-year-old Brymbo Fossil Forest in 2004.
Today members of the Executive board agreed a report’s recommendations to support the Trust’s proposals to gain more funding in the development of the former iron and steel works becoming a visitor attraction.
The Board authorised the Head of Housing and Economy to provide more of their time towards the Trust’s proposals and that in support of the Trust, the Lead Member for Communities and Partnerships, Cllr Hugh Jones, was also given the green light write a letter of support to prospective funders.
Cllr Jones described the programme as one that is ‘truly exciting’ with the ‘potential to develop into a world class tourist venue in Wrexham.
“These proposals are really exciting and the industrial heritage of Wrexham aligns with that of Ironbridge,” said Cllr Jones.
“If you look at the links with Wilkinson development and Wilkinson family that stretch back to the late 1790’s through to the end of steel making in the 1990’s, Brymbo Steelworks was the last in a long line of industrial activity which includes mining, lead smelting, quarrying and brick making.
“Significantly part of this, we’ve got the 300-million-year old fossil forest that has been found. I remember asking an expert from the British Museum about the level of this status in terms of how important is it. He said that it is probably unique in the United Kingdom, it was certainly one of the finest in Europe and it has world status. I believe we have the potential here in Brymbo to have yet another world heritage site.”
He went on to say: “It’s interesting that the Brymbo Heritage Group describe themselves on their Twitter page as a ‘bunch of passionate amateurs’. This bunch of passionate amateurs have managed to raise £162,000 in revenue funding, £91,000 in capital funding, has had support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, from the Princes Regeneration Trust and from CADW. Not bad for a bunch of enthusiastic or passionate amateurs!”
Other members of the Executive Board, including Cllr Neil Rogers also added their support: “Fossil forest is quite a significant find within the world and I think there’s an opportunity there for that to be developed. It’s an opportunity for the Trust to strengthen as well, so I’m happy to support the scheme.”
Cllr David Kelly added: “For me this is excellent. It goes beyond just what is happening in Brymbo. There’s no reason why Wrexham couldn’t have a scheme like Ironbridge.
“The type of minerals we have throughout the county borough are quite unique really. Brymbo Heritage are keen to take this further to promote the county borough with multiple heritage sites to offer a unique industrial heritage experience.
“You could say the fire went out in the steelworks, but this will relight the fire, I’ve no doubt about it.”
Cllr Jones made further comment regarding the instrumental work that’s gone into the project: “I also want to make reference to the work of Cllr Paul Rogers, the local member who was instrumental in bringing together the council officers and the number of key stake holders to ensure this project went forward.”
Cllr Paul Rogers finished by saying: “It is vital that the Welsh Government recognise the importance of this site and the need for investment and to create jobs. Obviously we have some jobs onsite, but it falls short of the amount of jobs which were promised when the steelworks were closed and we need to keep campaigning to try and deliver those jobs that were promised to the local community.”
Councillor Mark Pritchard jumped in at the end of the agenda item, adding: “I have to, as elected member of Rhostyllen, mention John Iron Mad Wilkinson. When in school I was taught that the industrial revolution was started in Rhostyllen, Bersham. I have to put a marker down for that!”
Cllr Hugh Jones perhaps laid the groundwork for a future turf war in historic sites, by stating, “Without Bersham, Ironbirdge would not be built.”
A mini-trivia session then broke out with Cllr Kelly having made an observation regarding ‘relighting the fire’ in Brymbo, a reference of course to the steelworks furnaces, prompting a pop quiz. Cllr Pritchard used his extensive Take That knowledge to point out that was sung by LuLu, but noting: “She did not work at Brymbo though!”