Members of the council have approved a watered down approach towards tourism for the county borough.
In 2012, Wrexham Council commissioned a report from Team Tourism to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of Wrexham County Borough as a visitor destination. At the time we reported on the mixed response from members of the council (read more here). Despite concerns raised at the time, the plan, which included the need for more effective links between the visitor hubs identified, was approved.
Given the current reshaping of services, the destination management plan has been further revised so as to prioritise two of the original key hubs identified, the World Heritage Site at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Wrexham Town Centre.
Several members at the meeting of the Employment, Business & Investment Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday expressed concern with reference to the council’s ability to maintain the current aesthetic standards of the key hubs. Among them Terry Evans, who stated: “First impressions count. Visitors expect cleanliness, and we can’t expect them to return if we can’t get the basics right.”
Council Leader and member of the Wrexham Destination Management Partnership (WDMP) Neil Rogers, called for ownership from the local community and working with community councils to address litter picking and menial tasks.
The most recent progress report (accessible here) states the council have been unable to prioritise areas including grass cutting and litter provision at the key visitor hubs due to resource constraints.
Cllr William Baldwin suggested charging for the toilet facilities at the World Heritage Site as a way to fund upkeep, going as far to suggest charging £1 per visit. Karen Whitney-Lang, Strategy & Regeneration Manager pointed out internal council officers are currently putting together proposals which include the possibility of charging for toilet facilities, car parking and entrance at the World Heritage Site. These plans are due to be presented to the Executive Board around April.
Asked about the overall progress of the WDMP, Chair of the group and Landlord of the Bridge End Inn Peter McGivern gave a pragmatic view claiming good progress had been made with limited means. But reminded the committee that other councils were in a similar position, often needing to cut back on funding for their respective tourism hubs.
Members were particularly interested to hear more about the proposal to form a Town Centre Steering Group who ‘will become responsible for steering and overseeing the management and development of the town centre’. Cllr Phil Wynn stated this group could pick up any points in relation to town centre upkeep. When asked of who would comprise this group Karen Whitney-Lang said this currently being looked at.
At present it’s unclear as to what relation this group (if any) will have to the monthly Town Centre Forum. This was a question asked by John Gallanders of AVOW earlier this week at the forum.
There is cause for some optimism in Wrexham’s future offering to tourists however. One Councillor suggested more frequent use of the Racecourse as a potential concert or events venue, particularly given the nearby transport links. In addition there could also be a sculpture trail in the offing sometime next year, with arts groups in Wrexham being consulted on how best to utilise the £12,000 budget the council have to put towards it.
The Destination Management plan is to be reviewed again in 12 months time, where members of the council will consider the progress made in increasing visitor numbers to Wrexham and the surrounding areas.