Posted: Mon 7th Nov 2022

Councillors approve Kop stand plan – demolition work set to commence

Wrexham.com for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area
This article is old - Published: Monday, Nov 7th, 2022

Wrexham Council’s Planning Committee have voted to approve plans to build a 5,500 seat new stand at the historic Racecourse stadium.

With the approval confirmed demolition work will now commence to remove the old historic Kop, several weeks earlier than some draft plans had predicted.

Wrexham AFC Strategic Advisor Shaun Harvey told the committee in a succinct speech that the plan would mean the stadium would be ‘capable of allowing international football’ and that planning approval would ‘remove the last reason’ that UK Government could have to refuse Levelling Up funding as it would be ‘deliverable’.

Mr Harvey said, “In addition at a more local level the additional community use that we will be able to create by providing additional facilities to the club’s Community Trust will also be a big benefit to the local community. The timing of this decision in our application today is also involved with a decision on the application for public sector funding due to made on the 30th of November” – the ‘Levelling Up’ grant.

He added that Chairmen Rob and Ryan are investing a ‘significant sum’ to the development.

Cllr Marc Jones spoke as the local councillor and did not vote, and referred to the folly of being sucked into reciting the rich history of the club as there is a planning application before the committee, “With every development there comes side effects. I have to balance the negatives with the positives. The principle negative effect is the on street parking in my ward and adjoining ward, as it stands it is bad. Adding 50% to attendances will add significantly to parking problems.”

“There is one crucial difference between the transport system now and when the Kop was in its hey day , we used to have a decent transport system. That is not the case now and fans rely on cars.”

He added details of a previously private discussion between some local councillors and the club,  adding “the club should consider putting on supporters coaches and contribute to resident parking schemes on matchdays”, saying the costs being discussed were ‘negligible’ at £4000 pa.

The club have apparently made an offer that would cover first year costs, but does not cover ongoing costs or some setup costs, with an apparent stalemate – with it being mentioned in such a high profile planning meeting it appears that did not get resolved.

Brynyffynnon Councillor Phill Wynn spoke on behalf of residents, who he said all but one ‘expressed full support’ for the Kop stand, however “that comes with a request that planning condition, that the club cover the setup and running of matchday parking schemes”.

Citing many issues about parking problems Cllr Wynn pointed out as the club goes up the league the number of away fans increase as well, and reported a range of current fan issues including fans urinating, verbally abusive when asked to park considerably, fans parking inconsiderately, fans moving traffic cones put in place to control parking. Cllr Wynn said fans know the parking restrictions are ‘unenforceable by the police’ and therefore take the non-law into their own hands to the detriment of residents.

Cllr Wynn referred to the local inspectors comments last week quoting him saying congestion was a ‘serious concern’, and gave a quick history lesson that last time the Kop was open car ownership was lower, Crosville depot existed etc, so ‘it was not a like for like’.

Cllr Wynn also noted gigs and international football at the Racecourse, and said that was ‘acceptable’ for his ward residents if there was suitable mitigation in place with a parking scheme, quoting the cost to the club at 3p per spectator per game.

Cllr John McCusker commented, ‘what a problem to have’ and sympathised with local residents, but welcomed the development.

Cllr David I Bithell from a neighbouring ward welcomed the plans, but also reiterated car parking issues and suggested the local health board could use empty Maelor Hospital spaces on matchday to both raise revenue and help solve the problem. Cllr Bithell also suggested fans could purchase commemorative bricks in the new stand, much like the Mold Road Stand has.

Cllr Dana Davies raised the well documented phosphates issue specifically, noting a possible restriction of use of the stand on non-matchdays, asking for more information and querying “Whether we provide that delegated authority or whether we can actually mitigate some conditions?”

The officer replied, “You are not giving us a blank cheque, as it were, it’s very much conditional upon that appropriate assessment being undertaken.”

“The final suite of conditions in terms of managing the phosphorus impacts we need that appropriate assessment, and also in consultation with Natural Resource Wales”.

Cllr Davies indicated she was content to let the officers manage the issue, without the need of a condition of usage restrictions being made by the committee itself tonight.

Cllr Jeremy Newton said he was ‘in total agreement with the plans’ and asked why the roof was not being used for solar panels.

Cllr Graham Rogers also spoke on parking issues, but reminded his colleges about Active Travel in Wrexham.

No formal amendments to propose a residents parking scheme were put forward, nor any other mitigation or conditions, despite the plea to the committee Cllr Wynn for a condition.

In what turned out to be a straightforward planning agenda item councillors voted to approve the proposals before them, which includes delegation of some issues to officers to resolve.

Today’s decision was at one point earmarked for early January however has been made a month or two earlier, which should help the wider development programme. One early timeline we saw had construction due to start in March 2023, completion in July, with an official opening at the start of October.

The overall Gateway project is estimated to require a total investment of around £80-£90 million with estimated public sector subsidies of between £40 and £45 million.

The ‘Gateway’ site has been split roughly into two sections, the eastern section which will see an integrated transport hub as part of an improved Wrexham General station with possible redevelopment of the builders merchants yard and potentially the sorting office site to include 150 apartments and retail space.

The western side of the railway contains the redevelopment of the long derelict Kop stand at the Racecourse and surrounding land. That was going to include an exhibition centre and a new multi story car park, however those plans appear to have been dropped.

Today’s decision does not mean the entire project is clearly funded although it is progressing. Where the cash for the new stand will come from appears unclear, with a ‘Levelling Up’ bid result awaited possibly as soon as the end of this month, which could see £18m of funding associated with a wider improvement scheme including funds for the Kop stand.

Wrexham Council, via a large amount of Welsh Government money, have already pre-pumped ‘circa £2.5m‘ into the plans, with Welsh Government also purchasing key land. Previously we have queried the Council about the appropriateness of using public money, and if there was a backup plan if the ‘Levelling Up’ did not appear – more here.

Permission to knock down the Kop, alongside the removal and installation of new floodlights had already been previously approved.

Councillors unanimously resolved

That the Chief Officer Economy and Planning be given
delegated authority to GRANT planning permission subject to the following:
a) The satisfactory resolution of the outstanding matters referred to the in
the report in consultation with Welsh Government and NRW
b) The summary of conditions below; and
c) additional or amended conditions in light of any further responses from
Welsh Government and NRW.

 



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