Councillors “frustrated” as they are ‘asked to make decision on something they have nothing to decide on’ over Centre 67 demolition
There was confusion last night over why a report on the demolition of a historic building had been brought to the council’s planning committee when a decision to knock the property down had already been made, although councillors voted down an officers recommendation at the meeting.
The old Rhosddu vicarage also known as Centre 67, on Rhosddu Road, is due to be demolished after Wrexham Council announced plans to clear the site to make way for social housing.
The building has stood vacant for several years despite hopes that it could eventually be turned into a community hub.
In March Wrexham.com reported that a prior notification for demolition of the building had been submitted again after a previous application effectively timed out.
However a bid to pause the demolition of the property was made by Plaid Cymru councillors earlier this summer, who called for alternative uses for the building to be explored.
This failed with a majority of councillors voting against a proposal to delay knocking down the building by six.
Yesterday a report covering how this process would take place, such as the machinery that would be used and access to and from the site, but not the principle of demolition itself raised eyebrows amongst some councillors.
Cllr Jones said: “I’ve got to admit I was completely baffled at seeing this because we were told repeatedly that it was a delegated decision. So to have this in front of us is a bit of a surprise.
“It seems to me this this is actually the first time that people like the Clwyd Powys Archeological Trust (CPAT) are having an opportunity to have their say and they make it very clear that they are recommending retention of the building and an alternative use.
“So that’s obviously been dismissed out of hand because the principle of demolition has been established.
“I do find it a bit of a joke that we are considering the value of the trees – and they are valuable – to be more important, if you like to be worthy of bringing before this committee than the actual building, which I think anybody would recognise is a substantial building and will have an impact on the visual amenity .
“So it seems that we’re more concerned about what we’re doing to the trees than knocking the building down.
“I know nothing I say will make any difference whatsoever to what the people who have made this decision – the executive board – want to do.
“All we will be deciding basically is where to put the toilets and where to park the bulldozers.”
“Do we really need to be discussing that? I think there’s a far bigger principle involved to be honest with you because we’re wrecking Wrexham’s heritage, but that doesn’t seem to be something we’re able to discuss in a planning environment.”
However the meeting was told that as objections had been made to the application, it had to be brought to the planning committee for consideration.
The Chairman Cllr Morris noted he sensed “frustration” from the committee, “I understand where it’s coming from, because it does seem hard to get your head wrapped around it, yet we’ve been asked for a decision on something you’ve got nothing to decide on basically in my view.”
Planning Officer Matthew Phillips said: “In this instance prior approval has been required because further information was required to ensure that the demolition works didn’t adversely impact upon adjoining trees.
“But the principle of the demolition is established by the general permitted development order.
“To give you an analogy for that this is as if you were dealing with an application for reserved matters approval after outline planning permission is granted.
“This isn’t a consideration as to whether the building should or should not be demolished, that is a matter for the council as a landowner to make not as a planning authority.
“The method that the demolition has been put forward is acceptable as adequate provisions are in place to ensure that the demolition takes place without adverse impact upon neighbouring occupiers, without adverse impact upon ecology, and without adverse impacts upon trees.
“As such, there will be no reason to do anything other than approve this application subject to the conditions that have been set out in the report.”
There were calls from some committee members for some of the buildings heritage to be preserved to be incorporated into the future development on the site.
Councillor Frank Hemmings also asked whether CPAT’s request for a Level 4 Archaeological Survey of the building to be carried out, prior to any demolition work being undertaken, could be added as a planning condition.
He was told that this would be classed as an “unreasonable condition” as the principle of demolition had already been established.
However a vote to approve the conditions put forward for the demolition to take place were refused by councillors, with six voting against, four voting in favour and six councillors abstaining.
This lead to questions over what happens next, with Planning Officer Mr Phillips noting the “only conceivable reasons that he could see that would be given would be that the method of demolition will have an adverse impact upon the amenity of the area.”
Cllr Michael Dixon, who voted against the application, later he “wasn’t quite quick enough to try to support Cllr Hemming’s proposal that we should have considered an archeological survey” if that meant any historical records of the building were not lost.
Cllr Morris pointed out that consent had just been refused and that reasons for refusal can’t be submitted after the vote has been carried.
He added: “I think obviously what will happen is there’ll be another resubmission with similar sorts of things.
“It’s up to council what they do with that.”
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