Posted: Mon 4th Jul 2022

Consultation opens for Kop – design inspired by local area’s mining history for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Monday, Jul 4th, 2022

The consultation period for the new Kop is open, ahead of the formal submission for permission for the redevelopment.

Draft documents have been published with Wrexham AFC also saying they will host meetings “with those groups or individuals who have a specific interest in part or all of the proposed Kop Development”.

The published plans, design statements and data documents have beeb published ready for the public to give feedback for plans for a 5,500 seater Kop stand, inclusive of a 500 capacity hospitality area, with a 600 capacity exhibition space, new public realm and associated works.

They state “The proposals will provide 500 seats in the hospitality on the upper tier of the Kop and the ground flood concourse will be key circulation space on match day, while accommodating up to 600 visitors on non- match days for events and exhibitions. The Kop Development also includes a relocated Club Shop, enhanced community facilities and offices.”

The Kop planning application not only sees an upgrade of the stadium, but an upgrade of ‘celebrity’ that addresses the local councillors on the Planning Committee. Previously developments at the Racecourse saw now talkSport pundit Dean ‘Deano’ Saunders wow the committee, but now in 2022 it is worldwide megastars Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds who are communicating with perhaps your councillor.

Mr McElhenney & Reynolds say: “When we first became custodians of the Club, it was declared that returning the Racecourse Ground to a four-sided stadium was a priority for us. Not only will this increase the capacity and accessibility for our loyal fans but it is also the biggest step towards ensuring the Stadium meets the criteria of UEFA’s Category 4 status, which will allow Men’s international football to return to North Wales, with the support of the FA of Wales.

“This planning application follows a great deal of work and consultation with WCBC, our loyal supporters, our neighbours, key stakeholders, and the local community in Wrexham. We are encouraged by the very positive feedback to date for our proposals from the huge number of people who have engaged through social media. This feedback only further endorses the excitement we feel for AFL Architect’s design, which include hospitality, community facilities, Club Shop, and exhibition space. The Consultation will continue through the determination period to ensure all interested parties can have their voice heard.

“The Club looks forward to working with WCBC during the determination period of this application which is submitted to be complimentary to the emerging Wrexham Gateway project.”

The documents also give an insight to the striking design of the new Kop stand, with an examination of local culture and history to form up a building that reflects Wrexham in its fabric.

The reports explain, “Various coal textures were studied to reflect the area’s mining history. Various forms of coal set a strong influence for the development of the proposals. Consideration of 3D textures at both close-up and even microscopic levels have influenced the cladding colour, texture and window positions.” Documents contain images of burning coal, “in turn reflecting Wrexham AFC’s club colours. This has also influenced the red brick plinth against the dark clad form above.”

“The local area’s mining history informed several options for the new stand in the initial stages of the project. The new stand’s size and scale was reminiscent of the large industrial buildings that served the various mines in and around Wrexham.”

“The next step in the development was to bring in the coal element, by making the upper form that accommodates the offices and hospitality a dark textured form that rises over a local red brick plinth. This then leads to the coal form starting from a lower level on the southern side, rising up to a double height space on the northern corner. The coal form at this point cantilevers over the fully-glazed hospitality entrance and club shop.

“The coal form steeply ramps down on the north and south gable ends, to express the seating terrace behind. The roof is folded down at each end, creating a dramatic contrast between the coal form and the lightweight roof.”

The new Kop will dominate the Racecourse, dwarfing the current stands.

The new Kop will dominate the Racecourse, dwarfing the current stands.

The documents also give an insight to the fanbase for the first time in years following a 2021 fan survey and various other data points. One email dataset noted nearly 10,000 readers saw 99% based in the UK, and 83% of those had added at least one game in the 21-22 season. Two visualisations are provided, the first shows that many registered supporters originate from Wales and the surrounding English counties. Just over half the number of supporters registered live further afield and are “therefore unlikely to attend matches on a regular basis”.

As ticket holders are more likely to be representative of supporters that regularly attend a home match the second image shows that the majority (63.8%) of ticket holders live within the four postcodes that make up the urban area of Wrexham. The other key areas of origins are the rural areas surrounding Wrexham, Chester and Shrewsbury, with smaller numbers originating from Manchester and Crewe.

The survey shows the majority of home supporters use the car to travel to home matches (73%), with 27% travelling by non-car modes. A total of 56% of supporters drive or are a passenger, parking either on Campus or in the city centre/elsewhere. Up to 15% of supporters are dropped off, which could include trips being made for other uses such as retail, leisure or other. Walking (12%) and rail (10%) are also key modes of travel, reflective of the proximity of the Stadium to supporters’ homes, city centre and to Wrexham General Rail Station.

Other interesting data shows 40% of fans arrive in Wrexham 1-2 hours before kick off, and 38% in the hour before kickoff.

Ground floor plan shows the 'exhibition' space.

Ground floor plan shows the ‘exhibition’ space.

The new stand and other developments will potentially mean an extra 636 away attendance on average, and another 5,724 home fans on average – a total increase of 6,360 fans a game. That is a significant increase compared to the existing 8,640 capacity – and last season the average attendance for home matches at the Racecourse was 8543 – with games over 10,000 now back on the record books.

How the extra fans and the impact on the locality will be handled is detailed in the Match Day Access Strategy and Interim Travel Plan,  they look to Chester Racecourse for some data points on how events will also be handled. Current plans appear to rely on the wider town parking and transport infrastructure – and lack of other events using that capacity – to help cope with the new bigger demand.

Future ‘interventions’ are discussed, although clearly stated as ‘not part of the proposed scheme’ and are there to give an idea of what could be considered to deal with the looming issues, there is no real explanation as to why they are not possible as part of the planning application. Included in the possibilities for the future is a “review of the impact of on-street parking on the residential communities surrounding the Stadium may highlight the need to include additional protection”, with a ‘bespoke’ residents parking pass one such idea. Special buses, footway improvements and a new footbridge to the station are similarly noted in this non-committed idea section.

One other notable omission is a mention of a rumoured multistorey carpark that appeared to be earmarked for part of the university’s site under the Gateway redevelopment banner – something separate to this planning application. One person familiar with the matter had indicated it had been removed from the wider plans due to a change in policy from Welsh Government that prefers to invest in projects that will reduce carbon emissions.

Preliminary ecological appraisal notes no recent observations of bats, invertebrates or reptiles – the latter a surprise considering Wrex the Dragon lives in a cave under the stadium, and Sam Ricketts was manager in 2018 before slithering off to Shrewsbury.

The consultation is open until  5pm on Thursday 28 July 2022, and you can take part via the dedicated online site here, or write to: Freepost RUEA-USTX-YYLL , Royal Pilgrim Communications (WAFC), 15 Queen Square, LEEDS, LS2 8AJ.

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