Posted: Mon 24th May 2021

Councillor questions £45k ‘Green Infrastructure’ project that saw four trees planted as ‘town centre council’ mooted for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Monday, May 24th, 2021

Councillors debating the town centre have floated the idea of a new representative body, or ‘town council’ to focus on the area.

The suggestions came after the report before councillors revealed that four trees had been planted as part of a £45k Welsh Government Green Infrastructure pot of money, that was aimed at ‘creating the conditions’ to develop and maintain footfall in the town centre.

Such works are targeted at ‘creating an offer that persuades a prospective shopper to come to Wrexham Town Centre and not choose another competing opportunity’

The report explained the tree scheme:

Place Making
4.24 In March 2020 the Council secured £44,956 from Welsh Government Green
Infrastructure projects through the Environmental Growth on your Doorstep scheme.
This funding will deliver pilot schemes that contribute to the attractiveness of flexible
open spaces and supporting other regeneration activity, the proposals identified will
deliver social, economic, social and environmental benefits. Two Pilot projects were
approved at a Lead Member consultation in August 2020.
 The first project delivered was a memorial Tree on Queens Square to Mark one
year of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the lockdown and how life has changed
for all concerned.
 The second project was a new section of tree planting along Henblas Street
outside the Shop units. This project will enhance the shop fronts and the overall
area whilst providing benefits in Biodiversity. This added-value contributes
significantly to allow us to advance in this area in line with place making
principles to respond to and reinforce locally distinctive patterns of development
and landscapes that assist with the overall ambition for this area to be a
frequently used visitor space.
4.25 There is further programme of works planned for 2021/22, which will be identified
through the Green Infrastructure Project Team, comprising officers in Regeneration,
Environment, Planning and Town Centre Management to ensure a joined up
approach in the delivery of these projects

Speaking at last week’s employment, businesses and investment scrutiny committee, Grosvenor councillor Marc Jones asked: “The council applying for a grant, was successful to get two three planting schemes, we got £44,000 to plant the tree in the centre of Queen square, and three trees on Henblas Square.

“I think my my concern with this, and nobody’s opposed to tree planting, I’m not sure what was wrong with the old tree that was on Queens Square where, but there are claims made in this report about increasing biodiversity, which I find a stretch, I doubt four trees is going to increase biodiversity measurably.

“If it is, how are we going to measure that? Also it’s the old, old complaints about to what extent did the people in that department that was responsible for putting in the trees liaise A. with local businesses B. with the rest of the council’s interested parties and with town centre councillors?

“One specific department I wonder whether they consulted with was CCTV, because one of the complaints I hear from CCTV is that trees get in the way of good eyeline in terms of combating crime.

“I know that sounds nitpicking, but I think it’s important if we are to talk about a holistic, overall picture that we make sure that all the departments know what’s going on and are fully on board with it.

“Otherwise, things get done to the town centre, which other officers, myself as a town centre councillors are unaware of, and we have to pick up the pieces when people complain or people say ‘what’s going on here?’ So I really would appreciate more of that kind of interaction.”

He later added: “I would like to know about it before I hear there’s a tree being planted in my ward. I really do think we, the retailers, the people who actually have businesses in the town centre, the people who live in the town centre, have a right to know what’s happening.

“I’d like to think that the council will inform us of what’s going on, whichever department it is, at present there is an information deficit at times. I find that very frustrating because I can’t communicate that to my residents, I can’t communicate it to the businesses who ask me.

“So that’s a plea from me on behalf of other elements of the Council, this is not a criticism, it’s a constructive contribution.”

No further detail was offered in response to his questions on the trees.

Cllr Rodney Skelland offered a self confessed ‘depressing rant’ assessment on the town centre, but did note he thinks that the council needs to ‘think differently completely’, adding that local input could be best rather than the likes of himself on the committee discussing the issue.

He said: “Maybe putting people in charge, I always think town centres it should be run by the local people in town centres and not by me 14 miles from Wrexham, not involved in any business in town centre.

“People who run the town centre should be the businessmen who operate in the town centre not me.”

Council Officer Becky Lowry, Head of Service for Regeneration, pointed to previous comments around a possible new representative body to enable such localised discussion.

Ms Lowry said: “Some sort of town centre, I won’t use the words Town Centre Forum, but if there was a community council or a body that represented the town centre we’d have a lot more effective communication with an appropriate group of people.

“So maybe as a result of the Task and Finish Group, it’s not just about the physicality of what happens in the town centre, it is about the communication networks, and how that’s managed as well. And maybe a time sensitive, which we’ve looked at before within the council, especially the officers are working together effectively as well.”

Cllr Jones added: “I think a town centre council, of sorts, would be great step forward”.

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