Posted: Thu 24th Jun 2021

Centre 67 set for demolition as motion to delay rejected by majority of councillors for people living in or visiting the wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jun 24th, 2021

Calls to pause the demolition of a building in Rhosddu for six months have been rejected by a slim majority.

Five Plaid Cymru councillors had put forward a motion to debate the future of Centre 67 at an Extraordinary General Meeting of Wrexham Council.

They proposed that demolition of the building – also known as the old Vicarage – was paused for six months after a previous application effectively timed out.

Future use of the site was mentioned in a partially secret meeting last year, with the possibility of social housing on the site referenced throughout the public section of the meeting.

In their motion the councillors called for the six month pause to be used to allow for public consultation to take place and potentially find an alternative use for the building rather than knocking it down.

Speaking at last night’s meeting, Grosvenor councillor Marc Jones questioned urged councillors to “take the motion seriously” and to not “wreck a part of our heritage” without first exploring every option.

He noted that he was aware of interest in buying the building, including “two credible options” to take over the site.

Cllr Jones said: “One of those offers from a local business that wants to develop a training academy is still live. I’ve spoken to the local business owner and she’s confirmed that in the last couple of weeks.

“There is another offer I’m aware of, but there may be more if it’s marketed. There’s also the option of a community venture.

“None of this can happen with the shadow of demolition hanging over us.

“There is an aspiration to develop the wider site for affordable housing. I fully support that, given the 500 people on the council house waiting list for Rhosddu. We need starter homes and retirement partners in our part of Wrexham but that aspiration can be achieved without demolition.

“Sometime between 2017 and 2020 the decision to proceed with demolition was taken. That demolition is now imminent, would probably have taken place without this motion having to be submitted.

“I’m sure some of you will be thinking why wasn’t more done before this 11th hour. The truth is that without access to the building, it was impossible to assess the state of the place and its potential, prospective bidders pulled out because they were rebuffed and COVID, of course has taken its toll.

“This motion reflects the wishes of the Community Council and the wider community in allowing a pause to take place.

“Why a six month pause? Because I believe it’s to enable new options to be considered, especially in light of the new post pandemic circumstances.

“It’s important I think when we’re looking at a really significant decision like this, that we do look at every alternative. I accept that in six months time if there is no acceptable alternative, then this demolition will no doubt proceed.

“But I would implore you to take this seriously, please don’t wreck a part of our heritage or built environment and a potential community asset without exploring every option.”

The motion was backed by fellow Plaid Cymru councillor Phil Rees, who described it as a “substantial, stone built building that fits well in its environment”.

However Leader of Wrexham Council, councillor Mark Pritchard said there are plans to use the site to create new social housing for the Rhosddu area.

He also gave an overview of the recent history of the site, including a decision to mothball the site in 2014 and a decision to commence with the demolition, for a cost of £40,000, made back in 2020 after the building had been marketed.

Cllr Pritchard said: “We have plans for this site, to clear the site and to put social, affordable homes on that site.

“It’s a gateway into Wrexham. As the local member said, there is a massive demand for social housing within this authority,

“We have a massive demand for social housing, we have a massive demand for all of Wrexham but especially close to the town centre.

“We have aspirations in Wrexham to improve our social housing stock. We’ve spent millions of pounds on upgrading our social housing stock because we want the tenants to live in good accommodation.

“We have a masterplan, we have aspirations and we want to build social housing on the site.”

In a long and impassioned speech councillor Malcolm King, who was a lead member when a decision was made to mothball the site, explained issues he had encountered with the building when he was in the role.

He said: “Why is Wrexham, in all its political views over the year, been so poor in looking after our heritage unlike Chester, that has been so much more successful.

“I first came across this plan to get rid of it before the election not the last one, the one before.

“I raised objections, I couldn’t believe the report was accurate and turned out not to be accurate, about you couldn’t get DDA compliance”

“But I’ve been faced with that sort of misinformation ever since, it’s almost like there’s this huge determination to get rid of this this poor, unsuspecting building.

“I became the lead member after that election for lots of things including property and I was told it would cost me £30,000 a year keeping it up.

“When I asked Steve Bayley he said it was nothing like that. He came back to me with the figures and it was something like £360 a year, not £30,000.”

He also claimed that he was told a car park couldn’t be built on nearby grass due to a tree protection order on a “dead sapling”.

Cllr King added: “I think it’s disrespectful of the citizens of Wrexham that we should not look after our built heritage better than we have better than we do.

“And I think it’s disrespectful to the fine stonemasons who did a fantastic job, which we should be proud of.

“I’m all in favour of having housing there, but you can get it there without knocking it down.”

The motion to pause the demolition of the building for six months was rejected by a slim majority, with 16 councillors voting in favour and 20 against. Six members of the council abstained from the vote.

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