Posted: Wed 19th Apr 2023

£17 million+ Kop stand boost given green light by Wrexham Council

Wrexham.com for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Apr 19th, 2023

Councillors have given the green light to move a huge sum – that Wrexham.com understands to be in excess of £17,000,000 – from one side of the Gateway project to another.

Last week, Wrexham Council’s Executive Board announced their political intention to “consider a new package to finance key parts of Wrexham Gateway project, including the new Kop” with a ‘substantial’ sum being reallocated.

Back in 2020 land to the rear of the Kop stand at the Racecourse was acquired by Welsh Government, and in 2021 Ministers announced a £25m funding package for the eastern part of the project. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​Recently funding for the Kop / western side of the Gateway project was up in the air to some degree after the £18.5m ‘Levelling Up’ bid for the Wrexham Gateway project was rejected by UK Government for a second time – and concerns that any third tranche would be out of time. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Previously the council have explained the ‘Plan B’ funding move as “… a substantial amount of the £25 million grant given to the council by Welsh Government will be reallocated from the eastern side to the western side. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ The Council will in turn apply for external funds and guarantee a minimum of £8m being available for the east side scheme. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​”

The finance proposals were stated as ‘substantially’ helping fund the western side, “…including the Racecourse Ground and new Kop to return international football to the stadium and deliver regional and national events”.

Yesterday saw a closed-door session of the Executive Board voting in favour of the move.

With the section of the meeting being held in ‘Part 2’ private session, we can’t report on any questions or responses during the consideration of the reports.

However, after the meeting we caught up with Council Leader Mark Pritchard, and asked him the outcome of the vote, he said, “I can’t divulge that information because it was in part two, but what I will say with regards to the vote, it was a positive outcome. Absolutely.”

The recent press release from the council allowed some simple maths to take place, along with working through some historic information, pointing to the council’s contribution being in the region of £17-18 million – a figure confirmed to us by other sources. We asked Cllr Pritchard if he would like to comment on the sums involved, and if there was any further details on the finances he could share.

Cllr Pritchard said, “I can’t divulge any contractual agreements with reference to agreements and the finance. What I would say is there has been discussions with regards to funding, but that has to stay in the ‘Part 2’ meeting. But, I think everybody around Wrexham will understand how the funding has been supported.”

We asked about the two development areas that make up the ‘Gateway’,  Cllr Pritchard said, “People do get mixed up with the western and eastern side. So let’s let’s concentrate on the football stadium side, that was the decision today, that we would support working through partnership with the Welsh Government, with the football club with FAW and obviously the university.

“I’d like to say a big thank you to everybody who’s worked together to come to this decision. I’m really pleased with the football side of it.

“Now, if you go over to the opposite side of the road, on the the railway station site, obviously, there’s lots more work to do on that site. We have aspirations to deliver that as well. We’re going to call it phase two.

“But, what we’re celebrating today, the Phase One has been completed, it has been agreed. That will now be completed in the timescale of our partners. But, we mustn’t lose focus now to the other side with regards to redeveloping that site.”

With such a substantial figure, we asked about the appropriateness of a council funding what is a privately owned business.

Cllr Pritchard said, “Again, I can’t comment on the financial agreement, because that’s a decision between ourselves and our partners.

“What I can say is that every penny that we have spent on this project is money well spent. If you look what the football club brings to Wrexham and North Wales, and the city and old town, it’s substantial.

“Can you imagine in the future when you drive past there, you’ve got a four sided stadium. You’ve got the redevelopment of the stands, you got a conference center alongside it. You can hold internationals.

“The contribution that that will bring to the local economy and further afield is enormous.

“Can you imagine internationals being held? Right after the Notts County game, I went into the city center with my family and we went for a drink, the atmosphere was fantastic. All the pubs and bars were busy,  the amount of money which is spent in the local economy is is substantial. So every penny that we’ve spent in this partnership is money well spent. Absolutely.

“I have no problem with saying that publicly. It’s a fantastic decision today by the Executive Board to work in true partnership with our partners.”

The Council Leader reflected on the journey to this point, “There was a lot of Doubting Thomases around the table. I remember briefing people at the time, telling me ‘oh it will never happen’ or ‘you are too aspirational.

“I knew from day one when we had the new owners for the football club, we had individuals who had a passion, who had a commitment to deliver on their promises and to take the action to take the football club forward and to support all the partners to improve the economy.

“There really, really is a buzz around the place now. It’s a fantastic, fantastic atmosphere.

“It was a pity really that members of the public couldn’t hear the debate in the Guildhall, but there was so much commitment and pride on what we’re doing.

“I remember a long time ago, when Wrexham was having a difficult time as a football club. A lot of people wouldn’t work with them certainly in the past. We wouldn’t work with them as a football club because of the owner issues and, and we all know in the past the Supporters Trust worked hard to keep things afloat, I think that should be celebrated.

“Wrexham Football Club has got fantastic history and heritage and now the new owners are are making their own history. We’re on a new journey with new owners, with new partners. This is not the finish of the council working with partners, we are still committed to work with them to find more financial support and more funding, and we will put bids in and we’ll work with any governments to bring more money into Wrexham”

Councillor Pritchard reiterated his thanks to a range of partners, adding, “It has been a pleasure working with the new owners, and I would like to say a big thank you to them, their staff and everyone. I would thank our staff and officers as well, and from all partners who have worked tirelessly on this.

“We were all devastated when the announcement came in that we weren’t having the Levelling Up funding,  a lot of people said it’s finished you won’t get there and it won’t happen. But we all rolled our sleeves up, all the partners, and today we delivered the dream.”

 

Top pic: Council Leader Mark Pritchard, and club co-chairmen Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney.



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