Wrexhamites are being asked for their opinions on the ‘Master Plan’ for Wrexham – a document which outlines what the future of the town centre could be. We spotted the consultation online prior to its official launch, so have taken a look…
The existence of a forthcoming Masterplan for Wrexham was first unveiled in March 2015, when members of Wrexham’s Town Centre Forum were presented with an outline of the timeline for the project and an overview of what the Masterplan could entail. However up until now very little detail has been released on what the plan actually involves and the new consultation adds little meat to the bones.
In March members of the Town Centre Forum were told by Lead Officer for the Town Centre Masterplan, Chris Smith: “We are compiling a study, including research into retail needs, transport, housing and markets to get an overview where Wrexham is at the moment.
“We have done soft market testing in the town to see what the aspirations are for the town centre. We are pulling information together now into broad ideas on where we would like to take the town centre. From members (Councillors) we have a draft vision – a 21st century town for people to live in, invest in and visit.”
The masterplan focuses largely on the Bodhyfryd site, which includes the Police Station, Magistrate’s Court, other ‘minority’ land holdings although there was debate on where the line that defines the town centre should be drawn.
Over the past 12 months there has been much speculation regarding the future of the Bodhyfryd site, with the demolition of the police tower scheduled to take place in 2016 and most recently the Memorial Hall included in a shaded area on a Arts Hub development details marked as ‘redevelopment’.
Details of why the town is developing a masterplan are listed at the start of the consultation, with the online survey stating: “The reason for having a masterplan is to have a longer term plan for the town centre so that any short-term plans and projects have a goal to reach.
“We as a Council want to work with other people interested in Wrexham Town Centre to improve the town’s sense of identity and to attract more people. We can do this by improving the activities available in both the day and the evening by improving the town centre for residents and making the town greener and a more pleasant environment.”
The document continues on say: “We want to build on Wrexham being the largest town in North Wales and a place where people come to shop. We want to make Wrexham a place where people come to meet each other and do different things.”
We have been through the consultation and one observation is the number of questions which ask ‘do you agree’ with often non-specific options. For example with Question 6 (as listed below) participants are presented with two statements, however can only agree or disagree with both, rather than one or the other.
Further, most questions appear to be asking for agreement on positive statements that are very hard to challenge. Direct questions are lacking, and specifics on the nitty gritty of actual plans are few and far between with the focus on general concepts and invitation for comment.
The consultation begins by asking about the participants ‘interest in Wrexham Town Centre Masterplan’ and presents a list of seven objectives, which have been ranked in ‘priority order’.
Section Two of the ‘Masterplan Consultation’ goes onto retail, with the document stating: “The aim for retail in the town centre is for Wrexham to build on its strong sub-regional position as a major shopping destination; continuing to diversify the retail offer and developing complementary leisure, restaurant, cultural and arts attractions in an attractive environment.”
The first question of the retail section begins with an ‘arts and cultural’ focus, asking participants if Wrexham Council should encourage ‘niche and specialist retail’ along with branded shops – quite a similar question to one that appeared in the Arts Hub consultation.
At present use of retail space on the main town centre shopping artery (Hope Street and Regent Street) is restricted to retail space only. This was first noted in a planning application submitted in June 2015 to open an estate agents in the former Thornton’s store on Hope Street. Further questions continue onto ask about alternative uses for empty buildings in the town centre including leisure and housing and possible unspecified medical facilities.
Section Three moves onto accessibility around the town centre, with the document stating: “We want people to be able to get into, and around town easily. We also want to encourage more people to walk, cycle and use public transport.”
As with previous sections, the theme of the accessibility questions begin with another question asking if people agree ‘that we should support development that encourages the use of walking, cycling and use of public transport? And that we should develop a network of pedestrian-friendly routes that connect across the town centre?’
Question 12 is asked with much of the town centre already being pedestrianised and also containing car parking, with no guide if it could mean managing or reducing the current car parking spaces in the town. Locally it is rumoured plans could include a park and ride system, however such specifics are not mentioned.
The section continues onto ask participants if they ‘agree that we should make sure that there are sufficient public spaces that are attractive for people to stay in for a while during their visit?’ and agains offers the chance to feedback any further comments / suggestions they may have, without giving examples of what new public spaces could be created or which ones could be reduced.
Attractive and Distinctive
The fourth section focuses on creating ‘an attractive town centre that has identity and character and that is a great place to visit’. With the document continuing onto state: “We want to have high quality buildings and spaces and places where people are happy to stay for longer.”
The questions within the section largely focus on the identity and character of the town centre and ask participants if they agree that the town should celebrate local character, culture and history; if it should be made sure that the town has a distinctive identity and if there should be more green areas to create a space where people want to stay longer.
Again the questions each begin with a ‘do you agree’ element – however as with the question featured above, Wrexham.com can’t think of a scenario where someone would not want the town to have a distinctive identity which makes people want to visit.
Living in The Town Centre
Section Five centres on people living in the town centre and making it a ‘great place to live’. The section begins with what seems to be a redundant question asking ‘do you agree that we should make Wrexham a place where people want to live?’, with no detail if those conducting the exercise have any specific plans in mind to not make Wrexham a place where people would want to live.
As with question 20 (as above) the next question asks if the number of people living on the edge of the town centre should be increased and if accessibility to the town centre should be improved as a result. No detail is given to where the new residential areas could be sited, nor where new routes into the town centre could be created.
Offices and Services
Along with increasing the number of people who live in the town centre, other suggestions to increase footfall and the number of people include providing spaces for businesses to ‘help make the town vibrant and busy’.
The two questions are put forward in the consultation to make the ‘town vibrant and busy’ include: “Do you agree that we should try and improve the quality and availability of office space within the town centre?”
The second question focuses around changing use of some buildings that have been empty for a while to accommodate either housing of office space – suggestions for empty space which have been mooted for a while, however often rebuffed as being outside the Council’s control due to ownership being in private hands.
Further Comments on The Masterplan
The consultation ends with the chance to put forward any comments you may have on the Masterplan – the only section which does not ask if you agree or disagree with something aside from the comment sections.
As with the previous sections there are a maximum of 2000 characters to feedback any observations you may have about the Masterplan or any suggestions you have which you think should be included.
No maps, research data results, or supporting documents are provided in the online consultation, and with the formal launch this week Wrexham.com will of course report if and when they become available.
At present the consultation is only available on the Your Voice – Wrexham site, which can be found here however it is expected to go on the Wrexham Council website tomorrow.