Plans to turn a historical miners rescue centre into student flats were rejected by the Council’s Planning Committee last night.
The proposed developments would see the building turned into student accommodation, with internal alterations creating accommodation for 19 students. The building was chosen because its ‘sustainable location’ which provides easy access to the train station, Glyndwr University and the town centre.
The Maesgwyn Miners Rescue Centre was listed by CADW (Welsh Government’s historic environment service) in 2010 for its historic interest and has been described by locals as a ‘rare example within Wales’.
On the 5th August 2010 Cadw inspected the site, and issued a notice to the owner saying that they intended to make it a listed building and that there was a four week consultation period. On the 18th of August 2010 the owner started to demolish the rear part of the building. He was instructed to stop by the Council since he had not completed the necessary safety forms. Cadw issued an immediate listing status to give it protection.
Following this incident, in April 2011 local car dealer and former Wrexham Football Club co-owner Neville Dickens pleaded guilty and was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £1,700 costs for partially bulldozing the centre without permission. It is understood that Mr Dickens no longer owns the site.
The CADW listing lead to one of the main issues raised surrounding the historical value of the building, and whether this would be lost if the building was made into student accommodation. The Chair of the committee said the “Building is unique in its form and its use. This is an opportunity rather than something that will cause damage”.
Chairman of North Wales Miners Association Trust, Alan Jones said: “The bespoke built Miners Rescue Station has played a major part in the mining story of this area not least during the Gresford disaster of 1934.”
Cllr Graham Rogers said: “This building has been an important part of our culture and heritage. The concern is if it goes through it will be lost. We have a duty to protect the heritage of the town.”
The Council’s planning officer did advise members to “Judge on the merits of the application itself, dont judge on the condition of the building as it stands as it is not relevant”.
Another main concern raised was the potential problems with parking that would be caused by the development; particularly as parking on the Maesgwyn Road is already a problem. The developments would include four parking spaces for the student accommodation, which was seen as inadequate for the amount of students who would be living in the building.
Alan Jones said: “Some of the residents of Maesgwyn Road have concerns that this 19 bedroom development will compound the problems they face when it comes to street parking. Assuming the four spaces are accepted as being sufficient then it is important that they are permanently made available for use”.
It was stated that ten spaces would be required under Council policy for such a development, with the Council planning officer stating that the four spaces meant that with “Just six is not a significant shortfall” despite that being 60% short.
Cllr Kevin Hughes supported the plan saying “We have a derelict building and a proposal to return it to former glory.”
Cllr Keith Gregory asked “What provisions are made for disabled people?”
Cllr David Bithell also queried the lack of parking comparing it to the recently redeveloped Walnut Pub, and saying that the report pointing towards the majority of students coming by train or bus as “illogical”.
The proposal was refused 11 votes to 6, on the grounds there was insufficient parking, over intensification of use and no protection to the integrity of the listed building.
The Wrexham Village Student Development & Wrexham Planning
The highly controversial ‘Wrexham Village’ student development on the former car park of Wrexham FC had a mention in last nights meeting, as the planning officer referred to 150 car park spaces being allocated due to concerns raised in planning. It was indicated such parking was unneeded as “The development is virtually complete and 50% of the car park is not used”.
We wrote back in July last year how planning aspects of Wrexham Village have not yet been completed, and contrasted the planning application notes to the end results specifically in terms of plants and trees that have not been planted or maintained. There has been no change in the months since that article has was written.
The student flats have been seen as controversial for Wrexham FC fans, as they were told all profits were due to go into the club, but they were since told the club will ‘not see a penny more’ and has had all it will have ‘upfront’. Former Wrexham FC club owners Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts still own the very popular Wrexham Village flats, with the football ground being sold to Glyndwr University and the debt laden football club to supporters for a token sum. In January the new owners, the Wrexham Supporters Trust, published accounts showing how much a hole the club was left – to the tune of minus £442,000 (report here). Such figures contrast strongly with the reported £40,000,000 student flat development.
Early 2011 it was reported in the Daily Post that Wrexham Council ‘officials’ were ‘probing the Racecourse deal’ to discover if any pledges made at the time of planning consent had any impact and were being honoured. At the time of writing we (still) cannot find any outcome of such a probe, or even if it took place, on the Wrexham.gov.uk site.