Posted: Mon 1st Jul 2019

Glyndwr’s mammoth planning applications to be decided later – Lead councillor says “stuck in a traffic queue at peak-times for longer” is “small price to pay” for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Monday, Jul 1st, 2019

Hundreds of new residential and student flats could be approved later today, with councillors encouraged to give them all the green light to help fund campus developments at Glyndwr.

A total of nine applications submitted by the institution will go before planning committee members this afternoon – all of which have been recommended for approval by the council’s chief planning officer.

They feature as part of Glyndwr’s multi-million plans to redevelop its Plas Coch and Regent Street sites as part of its Campus 2025 development.

The project has involved a assessment of the university’s estate, which has been as deemed as not fulfilling “the principles and objectives of Glyndwr University and therefore needs a significant package of investment and redevelopment for the University to sustain a viable position within the higher education sector.”

It is also noted that: “The applications are all linked through the pressing economic, social and environmental case for Glyndwr University to improve its overall estate.

“Once the development identified within Campus 2025 is delivered, then this will bring substantial benefits.”

There is no figures presented to explain how much is required for each part of the campus development, or how much each planning application output is thought to contribute to the overall figure, so it is impossible to know which are most important to the viability of the overall project.

Last week also reported that plans for two housing developments in New Broughton and Rhosnesni on land owned by the university were also recommended for approval.

The university says that the “residential developments proposed would generate the income required to facilitate the Campus 2025 Masterplan development.”

The extensive plans for the campus include the demolition of the university’s student union along with “other redundant buildings’ to “provide a new learning gateway building”.

It is also proposed that a new engineering building, sports hall extension and redevelopment of the multi-use games area takes place.

However concerns have been raised about the loss of car parking spaces on the site and an increase in “pressure on the congested main routes around town”.

But Chief Officer of Planning and Regulatory, Lawrence Isted, notes that there are already surplus spaces at the university campus and that a car parking management plan could be secured by condition being imposed.

A revamp of accommodation on the site has also been put forward for the site, which includes the demolition of “redundant” student halls at the Plas Coch Road side of the campus.

If approved this would make way for the development of up to residential 410 apartments on the below space:

The current student halls are largely vacant, with a report due before councillors stating that “the cost of repair and modernisation goes well beyond their value and it is now deemed that the Wrexham Glyndwr University’s student accommodation requirements can be met elsewhere through private provision, their acquisition of the Wrexham Student Village and its unbuilt potential.”

Although similar issues have been raised regarding increased traffic and congestion on the Plas Coch and B&Q Roundabouts, Mr Isted states that the “proposal represents a residential development in a sustainable location and form which would be assimilate well in a town centre location.”

He adds: “Whilst it is accepted that the increase in density of the site will inevitably result in some increase in traffic movements, I am not convinced that this will result in a detriment to highway safety, but more of an issue for minor inconvenience which will only occur in Wrexham regardless of this proposal as a result of natural population and development growth.”

The plans have also been welcomed by Cllr Wynn, who along with calling for additional parking for the apartments, says: “Having spent the last week holidaying with my two very young grand-daughters my mind has focused on the need for certain sacrifices to be made by the current generation to ensure we can ensure a future for those that will follow us.

“If that means being stuck in a traffic queue at peak-times for longer, then surely that is a small price we ought to pay.”

There are complaints noted, including that the proposal will result in the loss of a quality hockey pitch which has been used by a local club for a period of 18 years and a claim that the ‘university’s replacement facility is not considered suitable’.

Although the wrong end of the campus, another notes: “Reassurances are sought that this application will result in the building of a spectator stand at the Kop End of the Racecourse ground with minimum requirements for 5000 spectators”.

The specific application document in question contains no such assurances.

The demolition of the student accommodation on Plas Coch would see that capacity replaced with 107 new flats at the Regent Street Art College site. This would be along with the refurbishment of the building and the demolition of ancillary outbuildings, which is covered in three separate applications due the listed buildings and conservation areas involved.

The community council has voiced concerns on the plans, wanting part of the redevelopment “reduced in height by 1 preferably 2 floors” while noting: “The huge reduction in the provision for car parking is unacceptable and will undoubtedly impact negatively on local residents resulting in more congestion in residential side streets nearby.”

There is reference to the former Border Brewery, which we think means the former Wrexham Lager offices.

The planning document also notes a possible future proofing or different use if student flats are no longer needed: “The proposal makes efficient use of developed land within the town centre, providing residential accommodation which could be capable of adaptability for future uses should the student accommodation market change in the future” meaning that a conversion to flats now could see residential at some point in time with councillors fully forewarned.

On the main university campus plans have also been lodged to build nearly 200 student flats on Crispin Lane.

There has been an ongoing ‘Gateway Masterplan’ created by consultants expensive enough to require co-funding from both Wrexham Council and Welsh Government, with the hype noting how large the piece of work is and how engaged the various stakeholders – including Glyndwr University – are with it.

The ‘Gateway’ covers Mold Road, the campus, Crispin Lane and the Kop area of the football ground amongst others.

There is no mention of the word ‘masterplan’ and the references to ‘gateway’ in the planning document for Crispin Lane is about something entirely different. It is unclear why such an apparently major piece of work is ignored in a planning application over land highly relevant to it.

The community council (Offa) notes of the Crispin Lane development: “This seems to be in line with the original approved Wrexham Village proposals”.

Famously Wrexham Council’s planning committee decided on the Wrexham Village plans in April 2009 in a move that was described back then by a committee member in the meeting as ‘taking a gamble’, with that spin of the planning roulette wheel meaning a win for Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts rather than Wrexham. That meeting was attended by then manager Dean Saunders.

The council’s highways department, notes: “Access onto Mold Road from Crispin Lane is poor and junction improvement required by the previous planning permission have not been implemented.”

However as we documented, the council could not or would not enforce the right shrubbery on the previous development, so a proper junction could be far too much to ask.

In the current application, Mr Isted states: “The additional traffic generation from the development and its impact upon the junction with Crispin Lane and Mold Road was considered serious enough to warrant junction improvements.

“These were required to be carried out prior to the occupation of the development. These works were not carried out and it is considered that the timescale for the enforcement of this condition has now expired.”

No reason is given as to why such a serious requirement was not enforced.

The officer goes onto say: “I am satisfied that sufficient justification exists in this instance to re-impose this condition.”

No reason is given as to why such a condition is now thought to hold any more weight this time around, and why the new developer is picking up the bill for works that the Council should have ensured were carried out.

The officer also discusses parking, and appears to believe students don’t have, or bizarrely even want, cars: “Given that the units are solely for the use of students, I see no reason why any occupier should, or would desire to have a motor vehicle during their occupancy.”

It is noted from an unnamed ‘neighbour’, the development is claims to “not hinder access to any future development of the KOP end of the Racecourse stadium”, however no evidence is given to validate that claim.

Commenting on the Crispin Lane plans, Mr Isted states: “The principle of residential development has already been accepted on this site.

“The proposed scheme represents an opportunity to continue the regeneration of the southern end of Crispin Lane. The proposal accords with planning policy at a local and national level.

“The proposal also forms part of a wider strategy, aiming to release funds to enable the university to make significant investment in its own campus to secure its long term future.

“In this regard I am satisfied that the planning application should be approved and I recommend accordingly.”

The applications will be discussed by planning committee members at 4pm this afternoon. The meeting is open to the public and will also be webcast on the Wrexham Council website.

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