A campaign has been launched to try and save a former children’s home which was at the centre of an abuse scandal from demolition.
The building was infamous as its use as Bryn Estyn home, with decades of abuse being carried out at the centre with many being investigated in recent years – along with the rediscovery of a previous thought ‘pulped’ report.
It was later known as Erlas House and used by Wrexham Council as a conference and training centre, but members of the ruling executive board decided it was no longer needed and voted to knock it down in January.
They were told the site could be used for a new primary school to serve land earmarked for 1,600 new homes instead.
Back in January we wrote how Cadw had refused listing three times, including a letter from Cadw that notes: “Erlas House has been considered and rejected for listing three times previously; first in 1995 as part of a community resurvey of Holt, again in 2013 in response to a query from your authority and then once more in 2015 in reply to a query from a member of the public”
As we wrote in 2015 soft market testing took place over a possible sale of the building as-is. However a move to knock the building down could generate cash savings for the council, along with freeing up a potentially valuable building site.
This year the projected expenditure to keep the site mothballed was previously detailed as £36,000 broken down to £29,000 in Business Rates, £2,200 in Security Costs & £4,800 on utilities and premises costs, which are currently paid out of the squeezed Education budget.
However, with demolition work yet to take place, members of the Save Our Heritage group are now calling on the council to reverse the decision.
Representatives of the community interest company, who successfully fought plans to tear down the Groves School in Wrexham, acknowledged the building’s dark history, but said they felt it was worth retaining.
In a statement posted on their website, they said: “The fate of Bryn Estyn Hall, located on the western side of Wrexham, was decided at a recent meeting of Wrexham Council.
“When this news was reported in the media, there was a surprising number of people who thought that despite the building’s past history, it was worthy of a second chance.
“Save Our Heritage, together with Wrexham Civic Society, are campaigning to save the building and surrounding land, with a view to bringing it back to life.
“The abuse that some children experienced can never be forgotten and should not be brushed aside.
“Our choice to start this campaign has not been taken lightly as we are aware that this will be a controversial subject.
“However, looking at the bigger picture, the building’s long history and its connections to the town of Wrexham, we recognise that this is too valuable a place to lose.”
The Jillings report, completed in 1996 but not published until 2013, found there was “extensive” mistreatment of youngsters at the home, which closed in 1984.
The property, which has also been used as office space, has been mothballed by the council and is currently costing its education department £36,000 a year to maintain.
Demolition work is expected to be carried out by next autumn, but among those who have voiced support for preserving the building is former Bryn Estyn resident Keith Gregory, who has spoken of being abused there.
The ex-councillor said: “Knocking it down is not going to help our problems. As children, we were abused there and it was bad, but it wasn’t the building.
“For a lot of us it was our home because we didn’t have parents. I go there every Boxing Day and have done since I came out of there in ’75 because it helps me. I just hope the people of Wrexham really back this.”
Despite the objections, the council said it had no intention of changing its plans.
A spokesman for the local authority said: “Moves to enable the demolition of Erlas House began in January this year, including ecological surveys and similar work.
“While there is no timetable in place, this decision is still in hand.”
Wrexham.com / Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).
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