The future of the former Groves School building is once again doubt with Wrexham Council winning a court order, with ‘Welsh Ministers’ conceding they ‘erred’.
UPDATE 3:20pm: We asked Welsh Government if we could be provided with a copy of the correspondence mentioned in the Court’s order. We also asked if any decision on if a reconsideration and re-determination of the decision will be taking place, and if so , if that is achievable inside the apparent deadline set by Wrexham Council.
A Welsh Government Spokesperson said: “As the matter is currently under consideration it would be inappropriate to comment at this time”.
UPDATE 1:25pm: We have read a copy of the final order from the Courts, which although short orders that the listing decision on the Groves of the 22nd August is ‘quashed’.
The Defendant, the ‘Welsh Ministers’ ‘do reconsider and re-determine the application to list the former Grove Park School’, with Wrexham Council allowing a week for this.
The order notes the Defendant ‘shall pay the Claimants legal costs in the sum of £7,500 within 14 days’.
It appears that Wrexham Council wrote detailing their claim on the 7th September, with the ‘Welsh Ministers’ ‘accepting’ that the claim should succeed, ‘conceding the claim’ and writing on the 22nd that ‘the Defendant erred in failing to provide adequate reasons for the decision’.
UPDATE 12:50pm: A full detailed statement has been issued by Wrexham Council.
“The Council can confirm that it has been notified that the Cabinet Secretary, Ken Skates, AM, has consented to an order of the High Court quashing his decision to list the former Groves School. This follows an application by Wrexham Council to the High Court seeking a judicial review of the Cabinet Secretary’s decision to list taken on 22 August 2016.
“The order is made on the basis that it is accepted that the Secretary erred in failing to provide adequate reasons as to why the building should be listed.
Cllr Mark Pritchard, Leader of Wrexham Council, said: “I am pleased the council has successfully applied for and been awarded its costs of having to make the application which will be met by the Welsh Government.
“I can confirm also that the council agreed that it will not carry out any works which may affect the former school’s architectural or historic interest until after 30 November 2016 giving the Cabinet Secretary a reasonable opportunity to reconsider the application to list the Groves. I hope that any new decision will be made promptly and will reflect the consensus of expert opinion, which has very clearly indicated that the building does not meet the Welsh Government published criteria for listing. If, at the end of that time, it is not relisted for adequate reasons, the council will be free to decide the future of the building in its unlisted state.”
“We regret that we had to reach this position with regards to the Groves, but feel our decision to challenge the listing through the courts has been entirely vindicated by this order.”
“It is also regrettable that the campaign group, Save Our Heritage, now seems to be putting further unfair pressure on the Cabinet Secretary.”
“At the end of this process it is sincerely hoped that the council will be free to decide the future of the buildings in its unlisted state and I can confirm this administration remains committed to providing appropriate and much needed 21st Century education on this site.”
“I recognise this group’s right to their opinion over the future of this building but I also recognise the views of the broader community who have made clear to me that they wish to see this site appropriately utilised for the wider delivery of future education in Wrexham.”
The ‘Save Our Heritage’ group referred to included the following:
“After so much hard work by so many people, to find out that the school is no longer safe from demolition is heartbreaking; and yet again shows that the Council refuses to listen to the wishes and views of the people of Wrexham” group member Sarah Roberts said.
Lynne Williams from the campaign group added: “We really hope that CADW and the Minister makes the right decision at the end of November, and re-list the building.
“It has so much potential, yet it’s a shame that the Executive Board at Wrexham Council lack the vision and ambition to make use of this building.
“Re-utilising a building with such cultural and historical significance, makes so much sense from a financial and environmental perspective. It’s constructed of high quality materials, and it will outlast any of the new build schools, such as the one at Hafod Y Wern, by many decades.”
Original information we wrote this morning:
In the latest twist in the Groves School saga, it has today been confirmed that Wrexham Council have been successful in their legal challenge against the listing of the site – we are awaiting a fuller detailed to what this means and what the full ruling has said.
The former all girls school was to receive a Grade II listing due to its ‘architectural interest’ – with Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, Ken Skates confirming the listing in August 2016 (this is a clarification from an earlier version of this article that noted the listing was by CADW – with Wrexham Council pointing out it was Mr Skates ‘himself’.)
Speaking at the time of the Listing in August, Mr Skates said: “On the balance of the evidence presented to me, considering the merits of listing the building against the published criteria and in light of all the representations and all of the advice that has been submitted, I have agreed to the listing for the building’s special architectural interest as a building of definite quality and character as a key example of an interwar girl’s grammar school in the neo-classical tradition (in a 1930s interpretation) surviving largely intact.”
In September 2016 Wrexham Council’s Executive Board voted to legally challenge the decision to List the Groves School building.
The emergency meeting was held in Part 2, meeting members of the press and public were unable to stay to watch the full debate or the overall decision.
At the time there was controversy surrounding the decision with Council Leader Mark Pritchard saying there was a ‘pre-prepared press release’ which would be issued following the Executive Board’s decision.
Wrexham Council said at the time of the challenge, “The confidential legal advice led members to believe the Secretary’s decision was contrary to all the expert evidence, which concluded that the building does not meet the criteria for listing and in the absence of documentary or expert evidence in support of listing the decision was clearly challengeable.”
It is now possible that the building could be demolished this side of Christmas.