Council urged to ‘put foot down’ as developers seek more time to start Wrexham Air Products housing scheme
Wrexham Council has been urged to “put its foot down” as the owners of a former manufacturing site seek more time to deliver a housing scheme.
The Air Products site in Acrefair, near Wrexham, has stood empty for almost a decade after the plant was closed, resulting in approximately 200 people losing their jobs.
Permission was granted for a mixed-use development, including housing and both commercial and leisure units, in 2012.
It was followed by outline approval for 232 houses to be built being given in 2018.
However, the plans have yet to move forward and Wrexham Council has been asked by community leaders to reject an application to allow an extra 18 months for the proposals to progress.
It follows site owners Prospect Estates Limited making a successful bid to drop a requirement for affordable housing last year.
Expressing his frustration at the latest move in comments submitted to planning officers, local councillor Derek Wright said: “This site was vacated around nine years ago and after much deliberation by the local community, it was decided to allow planning permission without the social housing element, only the need for 106 funding for primary schools.
“We then heard the developers are advertising this land for sale with no need for social housing and now they want to delay building.
“Isn’t it time the council put its foot down and insist they start to build?
“I also understand the developers on the second part of the site are promoting the sale of the land nearest Llangollen Road as that has no need for social housing.”
He added: “It appears these people can do or say anything they want for their own gain.
“My understanding when planning permission was agreed it was to tidy up this blot on the landscape. Now it appears that can wait a few more years or more.”
The company previously sought to remove a condition requiring it to enter into a Section 106 legal agreement to pay between £1,960 and £2,352 per house towards boosting the capacity of nearby primary schools.
But the firm later agreed to drop the request after the council’s education department said there was “pressure and oversubscription” in the area’s schools.
The authority’s chief planning officer has recommended councillors should approve the developer’s bid for a time extension ahead of a meeting next week, despite the concerns raised.
In a report, Lawrence Isted said: “Whilst I am aware that this is the second planning permission for redevelopment, granting permission for the extension of time requested will give greater certainty rather than less about the future pattern of development.
“Unless this extension of time is granted, it will not possible to seek reserved matters approval for layout, scale, appearance and landscaping and in turn it will not be possible for a developer to commence development.
“Refusal of this application therefore increases the possibility that the site will continue to remain vacant for the foreseeable future.”
He added: “Whilst noting the comments made by the community council and the local member, the Council cannot compel a developer to implement a planning permission.
“Furthermore, in this case, all of the necessary approvals required to enable development to commence are not yet in place.”
The request will be considered by members of the council’s planning committee at a meeting on Monday, April 12.
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter
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