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Councillors to scrutinise impact of Town Centre Masterplan so far

Last April Wrexham’s Town Centre Masterplan (complete with large greyhounds)  got a green light from councillors, and this week a committee will be looking at the progress made so far.

The plan was introduced by lead councillors last year as being an ‘aspirational’ document that had 323 consultation responses from the public before being firmed up.

With the plan being quite fresh, the impact on the Local Development Plan (LDP) is a common theme on its wider impact: “It would be premature to discuss how the Masterplan has shaped the LDP before these meetings have been held.”

The report before councillors notes the formation of a ‘Town Centre Regeneration Delivery Group’ which has met three times this year, and has formed these terms of reference to their work. Their purpose is described as “…a forum / management network supporting the effective co-ordination of all physical regeneration activities in the town centre to ensure delivery of the agreed priorities as defined in the town centre masterplan”

The membership is listed as 16 council officers from various departments, with other officers and partners possibly invited or co-opted as required. It is stated that the group will create a ‘Delivery Plan’ that will progress the Masterplan aims and objectives.

There are examples of progress in a table at the footer in the report to councillors that includes Tŷ Pawb, the Cats Protection plans for the old fire station, the Ebenezer Chapel demolition and plans and the Welsh ICE / Town Square project.

There is analysis of planning applications in the primary shopping streets, however even with the data given it is concluded: “Given the short timeframe since the Masterplan was approved it is too early to judge its success in planning terms, there will inevitably be a time lag before planning directly impacts on the town centre.”

The Masterplan contained a ‘considerable amount of study and research’ from Council reports and external consultant reports costing thousands of pounds, and with the Quarterbridge Report being kept confidential (Wrexham.com failed in a FOI for its release) we enquired if any of the data would be placed into the public domain as it could be useful for the public. A year later we have not spotted any being released despite being told ‘a lot will be’ at the time.

Weight is again given to the Town Centre Forum and it’s Steering Group, in this case saying: “It is recognised that in order to bring schemes forward a wider partnership approach is required to harness both the support and expertise that is present in the private sector.

“The Town Centre Regeneration Delivery Group will seek full engagement with the Town Centre Forum and the Town Centre Steering Group amongst other stakeholders, once the initial mapping work has been completed and reviewed against the Masterplan framework.”

Despite the table being titled ‘Actions by Masterplan Theme’ and a field for ‘Lead’ there is no evidence what role, if any, the Masterplan played in the actions themselves, nor on practical examples of the outreach work to encourage private investment.

There is mention of a planned application to the ‘Targeted Regeneration Investment Programme’ from Welsh Government, however as with the common theme, it appears too early to judge or report on outcomes.

This week councillors will meet to scrutinise the progress, and form their own recommendations after their debate on the topic.

In what is a rarity the Committee Chair has issued a media statement – with Cllr Rodney Skelland saying: “I know there’s a lot of interest in Wrexham Town Centre at the moment – from the media, businesses, stakeholders and members of the public alike.

“As such, I would recommend anyone who has an interest in the town centre follow the webcast of the meeting – or come along in person – and look into the kind of work that’s taking place to co-ordinate the regeneration and continued health of the town centre.

“I look forward to what promises to be an interesting debate.”

The full final masterplan document from last year can be viewed via this PDF – be warned it is a huge 31 meg

The meeting on Wednesday will be webcast, so for those who wish to tune in or watch in person, it is at 4pm – or you can watch via the catch up service.

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