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Groves Demolition Row Rumbles On Ahead Of Scrutiny Meeting

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Wednesday, Feb 3rd, 2016.

Councillors will meet this afternoon to reassess a decision to knock down the Groves school buildings, with further criticism over decision being made public.

Local MP Mr Lucas has written to the council’s Head of Corporate and Customer Services, Trevor Coxon, to make clear he opposed the plans as they could be ruled to be against the council’s constitution.

In his reply, Mr Coxon disputed this and suggested the proposals needed to be brought forward under health and safety grounds.

However, in a further letter to the council, Mr Lucas states: “I appreciate that you have to act on instructions and do not, therefore, intend to engage in protracted correspondence. I want you to be clear, however, that I do not accept any of the reasoning you put forward. In particular, I think it is indefensible for the Executive Board to have made the decision to demolish without public consultation and I do not accept that there is a “significant and imminent” health and safety issue.

“The latter description is not even included in the Report to the Executive Board which made the decision and appeared out of thin air in your letter. The position has not changed materially in the decade since the property has been vacant.

“I will continue to oppose this dreadful decision which I believe is bringing Wrexham and its Council into disrepute.”

Speaking this morning, Mr Lucas said: “The council are acting in an inexplicably heavy handed manner on this issue.

“There seems to be a rush to demolish the Groves, and the main grounds put forward to me by officers – which are health and safety concerns – would not appear to have changed materially in the past decade the building has been empty.

“I will continue to work with campaigners who want the council to consult with the public on this issue – and I would urge people to add their names to the petition on the UK Parliament website.”

The petition can be found at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/119801

A copy of an email purportedly sent by Council Leader Mark Pritchard which mentions health and safety issues of those gaining access notes: “In September 2015 a group of approximately 20 youths broke into the building and they went about systematically smashing nearly all of the internal windows with iron bars, punching holes in walls and pulling down ceilings. As well as the significant deterioration caused by water ingress following earlier vandalism, the extensive damage caused by the youths has created a real risk of contamination by asbestos fibres that would have previously been encapsulated within the fabric of the building.”

Wrexham.com requested further details from North Wales Police who confirmed an incident (S144877) was logged on the evening of the 21st September 2015 at the Groves school. Police say they did receive a report of criminal damage, with security calling the police after around 20 youths in ‘late teens’ were seen around the building. The report notes access was believed to be gained by bending back metal shutters and there was damaged caused. No arrests have been made in connection to the incident.

Another letter has been made public over the last 48 hours, this time via local Assembly Member Lesley Griffiths’s Facebook Page where she copied a reply from the Principle of Coleg Cambria David Jones, who has given their timeline of events.

The statement notes how the preservation of the Groves building was part of the loose agreement with Wrexham Council, “The “in principle” purchase included a number of conditions specified by the council, including a requirement to preserve the original school building. No contracts were exchanged, and there was no formal agreement to purchase/sell.”

Further, an indication on the timeline of the decoupling of Coleg Cambria from the redevelopment of the site is noted as: “We were informed, in confidence, by WCBC officers in late summer 2015, that Council leaders had reviewed future school requirements in Wrexham and had decided that they needed to retain the Groves site for future development.” and later in the statement: “Cambria’s governors met (HR, Finance & Estates Committee) on 9 November 2015. We must stress that the college had not at any point withdrawn the offer to purchase the Groves site prior to this governors’ meeting.”

It also notes that Coleg Cambria had expended not only time but money via various fees, and would be listing these under ‘losses’ in their annual report to Welsh Government.

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