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Councillors To Decide Next ‘Urgent’ Groves Step – As Local MP Asks If ‘Secret Meetings’ Took Place

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Monday, Dec 12th, 2016.

Councillors tomorrow will consider a report on the Groves school – which is being treated as an ‘item of urgency’ due to a possible legal challenge to the recent listing.

The report to Councillors tomorrow updates them on the current position of the now re-listed Groves , and requests delegation of authority to the Leader of the Council to ‘determine the Council’s response to that decision in light of professional advice’ – a possible legal challenge to the listing.

The report notes that the Council have had copies of the expert advice given to the Cabinet
Secretary by Cadw, and also copies of their own independent assessment of the building, which ‘concurred with Cadw’s expert advice’ – that is to say it ‘did not meet the criteria’ for listing.

The report adds: “…further legal advice will be obtained in order to identify any options open to the Council to challenge this latest decision through the courts”

The much talked about covenant on the site is mentioned under the usual ‘implications’ section, “In regard to the future of the site, large parts of the site are subject to restrictive covenants that state, in general terms that: (i) the only buildings that can be erected on the land are those that are connected with Wrexham County Schools (school-house, dwelling house) (ii) the land will not be used for any other purposes other than as a site for such buildings and as recreation or playing fields for use in connection with these schools.

There is a hint that a legal challenge to the covenant would be possible, for the first time that we can recall, “Any suggested use of this building for anything which conflicts with these covenants would need sanction of the Courts. As with any court proceeding the outcome of those proceedings cannot be guaranteed although it would be hoped that they would look favourably upon any proposal to put such valuable space close to the town centre to some reasonably beneficial use rather than leave it to stand empty and derelict.”

This could be a route taken if the building is retained, as an options document says that conversion to a primary school could be ‘unviable’ due to costs.

Wrexham.com has been passed a letter today in response to questions by local MP Ian Lucas earlier this year. The letter in question is dated 26th February this year during a period when several letters appear to have been exchanged, and was sent to Mr Lucas (via second class post) and was signed from the Council Leader Mark Pritchard and the Lead Member for Education Councillor Michael Williams.

It tells Mr Lucas that they both feel “it is such a shame you seem determined to fuel speculation that there is some kind of hidden agenda with regards to the Groves site”, referring to linking consultations about Alexandra and Plas Coch to the Groves issues as ‘at best unhelpful and at worst mischief making’.

This afternoon Mr Lucas has told Wrexham.com “The council leader and lead member told me earlier in this year they had held discussions on the future of the site – but also that this information should not be shared with others and should be treated as confidential. The council made clear they had identified “prospective partners” in these discussions, which they were not willing to share “in a public forum.”

“If the future of the Groves site was discussed by some councillors, yet even the fact that these discussions were taking place was not shared with others – how can the council say no secret meetings about the site took place?”

A section of the letter to Mr Lucas is copied below, referring to the previously confidential information,

After this letter was sent, on March 9th, we documented an exchange between Cllr Michael Williams and Cllr Malcolm King where the latter queried about faith schools being consulted over the site, and if options for development had been given (you can read our report here).  We reported Cllr Williams’ reply as “Discussions were confirmed with the Catholic Diocese, specifically with the Bishop and other members of the Trustees Group, on the topic of land provision on the Groves site to replace St Mary’s School.”

In that report we also referenced Mr Lucas talking about a letter – which we believe is the one passed over today.

Interestingly we note that at the time the Groves was subject to a failed ‘call in’ based around a process issue on notification times. Recently there has been complaints about the Plas Madoc agenda item tomorrow, again over process and times of notifications.

At the time of writing we are unaware of any Councillor starting to put the wheels in motion to put forward proposals changing the notification periods, or any changes to the systems and processes involved.

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