‘Masterplan’ Which Will Shape & Transform Town Centre Set For Approval
Plans that could shape and transform the future of Wrexham Town Centre over the next decade are set to be formally adopted next week.
Details of Wrexham’s ‘Town Centre Masterplan’ were unveiled in October 2015, providing a strategic vision that could shape the town centre over the next ten years, with over 300 people taking part in the recent consultation on its contents.
The Masterplan will become part of the planning framework of Wrexham as part of the evidence base of the forthcoming Local Development Plan (LDP) and its subsequent formal adopting, meaning the Masterplan will be a ‘framework for decision making for proposals within the Masterplan area’.
The hefty 84 page document laid out proposals for the town centre, including retail, new housing and further pedestrianisation (to name but a few things!)
A forthcoming report to Councillors explains the: “Town centre strategy promotes the creation of a town centre destination, improved public space, a diversified mix of leisure, arts and culture supported by development of niche and specialist retailing.
“Improved accessibility will help draw footfall through the town centre from and to key edge of centre destinations such as Eagles Meadow and Island Green. This will be supported by the delivery of key development sites, access improvements, public realm works, design improvements and the delivery of residential development.”
One reoccurring question from readers relates to the conversion to or creation of extra residential buildings without definitive plans of creation of extra services to support them, usually with medical related provision being the most mentioned.
The below image shows the ‘town centre’ that is covered by the Masterplan, with some interesting extensions to Penymaes Avenue at the back of the Groves site, up to the Green Dragon in Hightown but the ends of Caia and Rivulet Road not included. With huge footballing bias we did enquire if the Racecourse Ground could be sneaked in to help with possible future funding after the recent fan owned long term lease, and it was described as ‘early days’ but not entirely ruled out.
Contrary to popular belief the number of Council owned properties in the town centre are quite low, therefore the rents of shops and offices for many buildings are out of their control. There are however several levers that can be pulled by Wrexham Council to achieve the aims of the document.
One such option is the creation of a Business Improvement District, where extra tax or a levy is charged to businesses inside a defined area and that money is ring fenced to improve the area to benefit not just the businesses but the community too. Such schemes are in place in Bangor, Caernarfon and even Chester, however Cllr Neil Rogers told us the idea did come before the Town Centre Forum and several hundred letters were written to gauge the appetite for a Wrexham BID however ‘nearly no responses’ were received.
Business Rates could also come into play on a local level depending on future political developments, with Council Leader Mark Pritchard telling us he would favour Wrexham Council controlling them locally saying: “We would be a lot better at it” than national Governments.
The Masterplan contains zero references to the local health board, or even the word medical, however we are assured Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board was ‘notified’ of the plan, yet it is unclear if or what they responded and inputted. The Masterplan does however explain future plans: “The Council will work closely with its Local Service Board (LSB) Partners who represent the health, education, emergency services and voluntary sectors, to ensure LSB partner services reflect the Masterplan”
The below pictures are still included in the Masterplan, giving an artists impression to how the town could look in the future:
The Masterplan shows the Cenotaph and Memorial Hall in the middle of the Bodhyfryd development site where a mix of housing and retail could be built, and we asked Cllr Neil Rogers if any decisions had been taken over their future, and if consideration had been made to move them elsewhere.
Cllr Rogers did not give a definitive yes or no answer, but echoed the words in the Masterplan itself saying their importance was ‘made quite clear in the early member workshops’ and their ‘significant importance for Wrexham’ was clear.
The Masterplan itself says: “While the hall could be considered as part of a wider re-generation scheme, the hall is home to war memorials, regeneration would need to be sensitive and there has been no decision to include this site as part of the wider regeneration scheme.”
The plan contains ‘considerable amount of study and research’ from Council reports and external consultant reports, 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. Notices on Sell2Wales.gov.uk indicate for example the ‘public realm’ study was priced at £18k with the full list below.
Wrexham.com was told ‘a lot of it will be’ however there will be elements that are not possible to be made public due to third party confidentially. We were told the Council ‘have a duty to our partners to keep their confidence’ and any non-standard releases could affect who would feel inclined to work with Wrexham Council in the future. Summaries of some report findings can be found at the footer of the Masterplan document.
(Evidence base list – internally created by Wrexham Council and external consultants that may or may not be made public in part or in full)
Bodhyfryd Mini-Masterplan (BDP, 2015);
Employment Land Review (BE Group, 2015);
High Street 2020; Priorities for Action (MMU; 2014)
Housing Market Needs Assessment (Arc4, 2015);
People’s Market Feasibility Study (Ash Sakula, 2014);
Valuing Wrexham’s Urban Forest (Forest Research, 2014);
Wrexham Retail Floorspace Assessment (Peter Brett Associates, 2014);
Wrexham Town Centre Building & Streetscape Analysis (WCBC, 2014);
Wrexham Town Centre Accessibility Study (Ryder Landscape Consulting, 2015);
Wrexham Town Centre Masterplan; Report of Findings from Stakeholder Workshops (Planning for Real: 2015)
Wrexham Town Centre Public Realm Study (AECOM, 2015);
Wrexham Transport Accessibility Study (Crowd Dynamics, December 2009); and
Wrexham Urban Area Bus Frequency Map, (WCBC 2014)
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