Posted: Mon 27th Jun 2022

Campaigners to defy Wrexham Council ban on Welsh Independence march

Wrexham.com for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Monday, Jun 27th, 2022

Organisers of the upcoming Welsh Independence march due to take place in Wrexham on Saturday have expressed their dismay at Wrexham council refusing permission for the event to take place on Llwyn Isaf.

They say the event, and march, will be going ahead – with the current published route map for the march element stating “Llwyn Isaf > Queen’s Square > Lord St > Duke St > Hope St > High St > Tuttle St > St Giles Way > Queen St > Queen’s Square.”

In correspondence seen by Wrexham.com the organisers were told by the council that following advice from the Legal and Economic Development departments the council would be rejecting the attempt to book Llwyn Isaf, as they “would consider the Independent March a political march” and thus it contravenes a council protocol that states “Events will not be permitted which in the opinion of the Town Centre Manager promote political parties, groups, organisations or individuals, or which are deemed to be political canvassing.”

The officer said to organisers, “Whilst I appreciate you say in your email it is not party political, a rally to campaign for the national independence of Wales is a political topic.”

As readers will be aware a market is planned for Queen’s Square by organisers, which has also required the permission from the council for the booking, and has been allowed.

Organisers have pointed to Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights (Freedom of assembly and association) as well as questioning why the council have allowed the use of their land for both Queens Jubilee events and Armed Forces Day in recent weeks.

The debate harks back to pre-Wrexham.com times in 2011 where the then, and until recently, the council’s head of assets and economic development, Steve Bayley was quoted by the BBC in June 2011 as saying there were “no legal grounds to prevent a political party from hiring either Queen’s Square or Llwyn Isaf, subject to maintaining the neutrality of the council during an election period” after a review of the protocol was planned amid concerns the EDL could have used the space. The protocol being cited now was last updated in January 2011 – an update of one that had been in place since 1998.

 

 

Wrexham Council holds the title of the land inside the red line which includes Llwyn Isaf

Wrexham Council holds the title of the land inside the red line which includes Llwyn Isaf

Local organiser from Indy Fest Wrecsam Pol Wong said: ” The protocol is clearly nonsense and there is no logic to how it’s being applied. If events that promote an individual aren’t allowed, why did the Jubilee celebrations go ahead? If events promoting organisations aren’t permitted, why did armed forces day go ahead?”.

“The Indy fest is an opportunity to discuss an exciting idea and celebrate our Nation. Our event is not being considered fairly and with the same standards as previous ones”.

“There is also a fundamental democratic right to freedom of expression as set out in Human Rights Legislation. We are clearly legally entitled to hold this event to discuss the future of the Welsh nation with thousands of others from across Wales. I don’t believe the council’s stance is lawful.”

“This will be the fourth Independence march held across Wales. Previous marches held in 3 different local authority areas and under 2 different police forces have gone ahead without incident. This situation with Wrecsam council really is unprecedented. Previous events held in Cardiff, Caernarfon, and Merthyr have been family friendly days that have attracted thousands from across the country. They’re a great boost for the local economy and a chance for people to get together to discuss the exciting options ahead for Wales.”

“We have a fantastic lineup of speakers on the day, Dafydd Iwan will be performing Yma O Hyd and there will be a market on Queens Square full of stalls selling local and Welsh produce.”

“We have made enquiries with north Wales police following the council’s decision and they have confirmed they have no issue with the parade happening”.

“We’re really looking forward to the event and can’t wait to welcome thousands to Wrecsam.”

For those interested, we also looked at other WCBC owned titles nearby, which also helps define the edge of Queen's Square.

For those interested, we also looked at other WCBC owned titles nearby, which also helps define the edge of Queen’s Square.

The Corporate Governance & Policy Scrutiny Committee in 2011 looked at the protocol issue, after it was considered at an earlier Executive Board meeting in February 2011.

Back in April 2011 the Scrutiny Committee deferred discussion and recommendations as it appeared there were questions over who owned what. The item came back before the committee in June 2011, unfortunately as is common of the era there is no reporting of what went on at the meeting, but the minutes note:

The Head of Corporate and Customer Services had advised that there were no legal grounds to prevent a political party from hiring either Queen’s Square or Llwyn Isaf, subject to maintaining the neutrality of the Council during an Election period. The Council owned all of Llwyn Isaf and the majority of Queen’s Square and the remainder was highway adopted by the local Highway Authority, that is, Wrexham County Borough Council and was subject to a Traffic Regulation Order made in 1999 prohibiting all vehicles from travelling across the adopted highway on Queen’s Square and part of Rhosddu Road. There were no recorded public rights of way across either Queen’s Square or Llwyn Isaf.

The committee made three recommendations to the Executive Board, that ended up on the October 2011 Executive Board agenda, with this report considered – although the actual policy not publicly viewable as hidden behind a login on the link in the PDF.

The minutes (nor report) do not indicate any debate around political use of the space, with finances around charging appearing to be the main thrust – with the new protocol approved – the one circulated in February 2011 and likely the one dated January 2011 used today.

It appears despite concerns at the time the new protocol could be used to block events deemed political promotion, councillors back then still approved it, possibly having being advised by the senior officer several weeks earlier ‘there were no legal grounds to prevent a political party from hiring either Queen’s Square or Llwyn Isaf’.

A decade of economic development could be compared and considered by the current crop of councillors, as the report back then gives some performance stats: “During the financial year 2010 – 11, there were 253 bookings at Queens Square and Llwyn Isaf. Of these, 114 were commercial uses. There were 27 bookings for Llwyn Isaf including two at the bandstand. There were eight special markets in addition to the 104 outdoor and local produce markets.”

We have approached Wrexham Council for comment.

 

Current 2011 protocol below for reference

 



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