World Heritage Site development set for UK Government Levelling Up Fund bid
Ambitious plans to increase the visitor experience at the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site could get a major boost if a UK Government Levelling Up Fund bid gets accepted.
Wrexham Council’s Executive Board are set to rubber stamp a submission of two applications to the UK Government’s “Levelling Up Fund“, which are based around the Wrexham Gateway project and developments in and around Pontcysyllte World Heritage Site.
In March 2021, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £4.8b capital scheme for ‘high value local infrastructure investment’, who explained of the fund: “It is also designed to help local areas select genuine local priorities for investment by putting local stakeholder support, including the local MP where they want to be involved, at the heart of its mission.”
Two bids for up to £20 million can be submitted for each whole parliamentary constituency. For Wrexham County Borough this includes one for Wrexham and one for Clywd South in partnership with Denbighshire County Council.
Wrexham Council say discussions were held with both Members of Parliament, in accordance with the funding guidance and the priority identified by Sarah Atherton MP for Wrexham, is to secure funding to bring forward key elements of the approved Masterplan for the Wrexham Gateway (more here)
The priority identified by Simon Baynes MP for South Clwyd, is to secure funding for infrastructure developments within the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct and Canal World Heritage Site (WHS), with Denbighshire County Council.
Wrexham Council Deputy Leader David A Bithell said, “One of Simon Baynes’ priorities is looking how to develop and improve the infrastructure around the Trevor Basin and to improve the overall experience there and our our World Heritage Site.
“We are working with Denbighshire Council as well who are also submitting part of their bid. These are really, really tight timescales, to put these bids in, Officers have been working around the clock to get these bids in. They are still working on the financial detail, as we speak, ready to put in the bids by the 18th of June”.
Included in the previously published masterplan are a glamping / camping site, a treetop walk “Telfords Treetops” and the creation of a new footpath along the former railway viaduct, improvements to the Trevor Basin area and creation of a Dee River walk which would include a new bridge.
Wrexham Council’s Chief Officer of Housing & Economy Steve Bayley explained elements of the bid, “The master plan itself was consulted on widely in the locality, so it’s developing elements of that master plan. There’s projects around rewilding, visitor welcome hub, woodland activity and education areas, River Dee walks, public realm and investment. The key thing for it at this stage is the visitor movement and management as well. There have been some conflicts between the local community and visitors to the site, we get over half a million people coming to the site every year. So improving the way we manage the visitors. and relieve the pressure on local residents is really important as a starter here, which is what we’re doing.”
Speaking of the challenges of the site he added, “It’s one of the only world heritage sites that’s open access. If you think about Wales, you’ve got the castles, you have to pay to go in and you’ve got a captive audience, you go through a gate, a turnstile, you pay, if you go to Blaenavon, the ‘big pit’, you pay, you go in. Here, you can just wander onto the 11 mile site. So how do you capture the revenue income from that, to benefit the local community? That’s one of the things we’re trying to sort out, so if you can focus the visitors to a particular locality, where they park and also then have visitor interpretation centers, and you have places where you can actually take cash often, that then gets recycled into the local community and benefits us for having a World Heritage Site which is what it is partly about.
Cllr Bithell added, “I would like to put on record my thanks to to Steve and his officers, Ian Bancroft (Chief Executive of Wrexham Council), and Leader of the Council Mark Pritchard, who’ve been really working tremendously hard over the last few months with Sarah Atherton MP and Simon Baynes MP to submit these bids.”
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