An Open Letter to Wrexham County Borough Council

This letter was published on February 15th 2017 in The Leader

I’d always assumed that people run for public office because they are driven by a desire to protect what is precious about their community. Your actions over the last few years have made me doubt that assumption.

I hope you will prove me wrong in the coming months by pursuing a resolution to the mess which you created when you allowed Wrexham Village to build on the ground around The Racecourse.

The decision to grant planning permission in 2009 was inexcusable. You ignored the legal advice obtained by Wrexham Supporters Trust, failing to tie Wrexham Village to a binding Section 106 agreement which would guarantee Wrexham AFC a share of the profit made from the sale of its land. Instead, you were satisfied by a non-binding agreement which offered no protection to the club. The promise was made that “all profits will go back into the club.” Not a penny has gone into the club from the development.

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Were you star-struck by the presence of Dean Saunders at the application meeting? Or did you simply decide that allowing property developers from over the border to profit from the project was preferable to ensuring the third oldest football club in the world got what it was morally entitled to in its time of crisis? I suppose we’ll never know; however, I do know that now is the time for you to put it right.

Wrexham’s identity is inextricably linked to brewing, mining, markets and football. Each of those four branches of our historic identity have withered in recent years. You have an obligation to protect what remains of them.

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A town’s identity is indivisible with its heritage. I assume that you see the logic of my argument as your Council Plan sets out the aim to “conserve and regenerate key buildings to raise the overall quality and feel of the infrastructure and public realm within the County Borough”. The campaigners to protect Grove Park School might raise their eyebrows when they read that sentence.

Wrexham fans will too. The level of protection offered by the council to The Racecourse over recent years would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragically pathetic. It was the fans who held candlelit vigils through the night in the face of the threat of demolition; the fans who objected to the Wrexham Village development; the fans who are now, through the Dismal Jimmy fanzine, pointing out the raw deal you have allowed to be given the club. The people of Wrexham have had to band together to protect an historic site because the council would not. Sadly, that is a familiar story.

Threatened with bulldozers, hemmed in by developments which were waved through by your planning department, The Racecourse still clings on. Is it easy to sleep at night, knowing that you’ve not lifted a finger to help? This isn’t any old stadium after all: it is the oldest international football stadium in the world. Its protection should be sacrosanct if you genuinely wish to “conserve..key buildings” in your town.

Mind you, in failing to respect the heritage of the town, you are at least maintaining the town council’s historic disdain for our history. After all, it took nearly fifty years for the council to provide a memorial to the Gresford mining disaster, a jaw-dropping act of ignorance in total contrast to similar memorials elsewhere. When it was opened, the surviving relatives of the victims were kept behind a security rope while the great and the good of the council hob-nobbed with Prince Charles and Princess Diana, of course.

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The development is now up for sale for £13 million. Now is the time to demand that the promise to pass the profits to the football club are honoured, to show that you might have been taken for a ride, but you aren’t going to lie down and accept it.

A further £5million would buy the empty plot on Crispin Lane which McDonald’s have expressed an interest in. A development there, waved through by your planning committee, would massively end the possibility of ever replacing the derelict Kop with a suitable stand. Sadly, your track record suggests you will neither force the developers to honour their word nor protect the stadium from further incursions.

Thus far, requests that you pursue Wrexham Village for the money they made from the development have been flat-batted as you hide behind the wording of your planning permission. You have also failed to answer four direct questions about the development which Wrexham.com put to you last August, and have refused Dismal Jimmy’s Freedom of Information request to provide a copy of the legal advice you say you received, which was contradictory to the WST’s, and led you to accept a non-binding agreement from the property developers.

The time for hiding has ended.

You represent the people of Wrexham. However, I have to say the football club is doing a much better job of it than you are. A fan-owned club, it works tirelessly to repair decades of damage done by previous owners to its relationship with the town. Parliament recently used its outstanding work for disabled fans as an example Premier League clubs should follow; the fans have funded the installation of a tombstone for a First World War veteran; the concerts the club organise are among the borough’s major cultural events. I could go on.

Isn’t it time you did the decent thing and lent a helping hand? To protect the heritage of the town, to respect the efforts of its people, to help give us a venue to be proud of?

Do the right thing. Make Wrexham proud.

Mark Griffiths,

Wrexham

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7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Wrexham County Borough Council

  1. It is beyond belief that the council did not insist on a section 106 agreement which would have imposed a legally binding obligation on the developers. An excellent letter – let’s see the response.

  2. This is such a good letter. Rational, well argued, measured. Thanks for writing it. And what an opportunity for the Council to surprise everyone and join the fight to Revive the Racecourse

  3. Superb letter Mark. The owners of Wrexham Village never did want the Racecourse ground protected within the Local Development Plan for obvious reasons. It took a huge, monumental effort to sway the Wrexham Planning Committee into agreeing to it being notated solely as a stadium for sport and recreation. The same protagonists (owners of WV) decision to separate the ground from the club and sell the ground to Glyndwr, will as we now know, cost the club another £10million pound lease over the course of 99 years. It was the best deal possible for the WST to achieve, but the club shouldn’t be paying for a home that it already owned. The local authority Wrexham Borough Council have as you say, got a proud history of doing absolutely nothing, except turn up when the free drinks, cups and trophies are being paraded. Their lack of moral fibre and accountability to protect the heritage of our town borough is an utter disgrace and especially to the local community. Disgrace is sadly the only apt word to use. It is also people like yourself, Dismal Jimmy, the WST and other independent supporters groups who bring hope and inspiration that despite the actions of others we will still see a better future.

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