The output of work between “critical friends” and local stakeholders over how to drive investment and improvements to Wrexham has been released – including identifying a “core brand” for the town centre.
The group of ‘civic leaders’ has benefitted from external facilitation and the involvement of “critical friends” from different sectors to define a vision for the town centre. Following a number of workshops, the vision was agreed as being “A vibrant Town Centre ready for further investment”.
Cllr Pritchard explained the group as ‘coming together in a non political manner to see what they think of the town’. He said: “They all have a passion and enthusiasm for Wrexham, and they have given up their valuable time to discuss and come up with this document.
“They looked at the town warts and all, but it is refreshing they are there with a common purpose and no politics to find solutions. When there is politics sometimes things can get lost.”
Cllr Pritchard avoided political specifics, but did note: “During the election I did not comment but the town centre was one issue raised. I am looking forward to working with our new MP’s.”
Wrexham Council Chief Executive Ian Bancroft said: “We are lucky we have got a group of leaders with their heart in Wrexham. They are all Wrexham based.
“On one level the group is about creating relationships and networking, but also working together with a common purpose to promote and build Wrexham as a vibrant place.
“The group looked at Rhyl and Birkenhead and how they leveraged investment and what has been done there. A ‘brochure’ of investing in Wrexham to lever investment can be created, and we hope for buy-in from Welsh Government.
“The time is right, Wrexham needs to be at the front of the queue for investment. We are building a consensus view with Ministers.”
Members of the Group are in the process of securing endorsement of the report from their organisations / businesses and therefore the Council is asked to signal its support for the document and the vision and direction of travel it represents.
The town centre and gateways to it could see some remodelling, with the old Woolworths building being cited as one that is ‘too big’ and some 70’s architecture also seen as detrimental to the future of the town centre.
Cllr Pritchard said ‘anyone can join the group’ as long as they had ‘passion to improve Wrexham’, calling this new report ‘refreshing’ while noting it did not tread on the toes of the town Masterplan – which was approved in 2016, which itself was based off a ‘Prospectus 2025’ document first publicly mooted in a now ancient 2015, with the subsequent decade flying by.
Cllr David A Bithell also gave his support to the report, “I welcome it, I support the aspirations of it and what the future holds for example the transport hub. There is negativity out there, but the key message is it is 2020 and Wrexham is open for business.”
The Civic Leadership Report 2019 on Wrexham (PDF here) gives a ‘vision’ of the town centre’s strengths and also its weaknesses and puts forward eight ideas to build on those strengths and address the weaknesses.
The 1,500 word twenty page document is an output from a group that has met over the last year, and is based off a idea thought to have come from the council’s new Chief Executive Ian Bancroft.
The document has three ‘asks’ at the start, which are made to the Council Leader and Welsh Government Ministers. They are asked to pledge support and work towards the common purpose of improving the town centre, asking them to ‘become partners, investors and champions’ for that goal, and assist in ‘delivering Wrexham’s pitch to a wider cross-sector audience of partners’.
Several issues with the town centre are listed which could be applicable to any place in Wales or the UK, including; anti social behaviour, low consumer confidence, large redundant buildings and poor quality public realm areas.
The issues are then addressed by several ideas:
– Creative engagement, with it noted the wider Wrexham economy is healthy and incomes are good but Town Centre spend doesn’t follow.
– Finding financial solution to knock down and invest in town centre buildings, noting high quality specifications will refresh and energise the town centre.
– A new entrepreneurial loan fund to ‘to stimulate and sustain entrepreneurs that push the envelope’
– Improve transport routes and methods to encourage local people to travel in to town
– Safe lively spaces in town, and good gateways into town
– A more defined town centre ‘core’, with smaller units of independent traders offering quality products and experiences.
– High quality residential accommodation, and it appears a discouraging of identikit flats with encouragement of ‘innovative design that is complementary to the Town’s heritage’.
– Creation of a high quality prospectus for the town, with a ‘clear brand’.
Membership of the Civic Leadership for Wrexham is listed in the document as leaders or owners of:
Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
Development Banks of Wales
Net World Sports
North Wales police
St Giles Church
The Lemon Tree
Wrexham Business Professionals
Wrexham County Borough Council
Wrexham Glyndŵr University
Once the report gets the nod through the Executive Board tomorrow “consultation and engagement” will take place and “proposals for delivery of activities will commence”.
Top pic: From the existing Masterplan document.
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