NEW life has been breathed into an ambitious £4m project to build an iconic 80ft dragon on the gateway into Wrexham.
The man behind the plans, local businessman Simon Wingett, has launched a bid to source ‘crowd funding’ to get his ‘Waking the Dragon’ project off the ground.
Under revised proposals the impressive structure would be sited just off the A483 near the Halton roundabout at Chirk, standing on a 50ft man-made hill overlooking the gateway into Wales from England.
Mr Wingett believes the roaring dragon could attract up to 200,000 visitors to
the area from around the globe and create 90 full time jobs.
Key to the plans for the 12,000 sq ft site are a Welsh centre of excellence, farm shop, cafe bar, art gallery and tourism and business hub.
The dragon itself will be accessible via a double helix footpath up to a viewing platform, which will take you up to the dragon’s talons.
It will be surrounded at the base by 11 stone monoliths representing one of the story’s in The Mabinogion, which is collated from medieval Welsh manuscripts.
There would also be landscaped gardens with a large covered amphitheatre to stage education, theatre and other workshops as well as a sculpture park showcasing national and international works.
While the 56-year-old from Erbistock has had to scale back his plans, which have been in the offing since 2010, he is confident his plans to raise money will see his dream come to fruition.
He is asking people to invest in the project by buying a £95 loyalty card, which will offer them a lifetime of discounts at the site, including on food, drink, events and merchandising.
Money will also be raised for charity via a small car park charge which will go to Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Mr Wingett was inspired by a similar initiative launched by Scottish brewers BrewDog, who are currently on course to successfully raising £4m through crowd-funding to expand their brewery and bar division.
“There are landmarks all over the world, but not one of them has a charitable legacy,” he said.
“The minute we start building this everyone will be interested from China to people on our doorstep.
“I think it will be brilliant for Wrexham to have something world class.
“We’re going to put cameras in its eyes and on top of its wings so you’ll be able to see what the dragon sees.”
Regarding the funding for the project, Mr Wingett said: “The tower has gone and the building will be single storey, but we will have the world’s biggest dragon, it’s a massive selling point.
“I would like to raise the whole thing through the loyalty card, that will mean 40,000 would have to register.
“The project isn’t reliant on this, but I actually think it’s important people buy into history. I want it to be owned by people not companies.
“If we raise half of it through the loyalty scheme then in theory banks and organisations such as Visit Wales and Finance Wales require you to have at least 50 per cent to unlock their funding.”
He added there was also a possibility of the money being transferred into shares.
When asked whether he thought it would become Wrexham’s Angel of the North, he said: “In a way it is, but the Angel of North is not on the historical gateway into England, what we’re going to build is right on the historical gateway into Wales going back to Roman times.
“If you ask Tyneside they get 150,000 visitors and I think we can achieve more than that.”
The tower has already been granted planning permission by Wrexham Council, but Mr Wingett would need to go back to the planning department with the revised plans before any work can go ahead.
“We’ve got to prove to the council that we’ve got funding, so the more people that rally round our dragon the better,” he said.
“We want to stop people when they enter Wales. We want it to become a place you can be taught about what goes on in Wrexham and in North Wales.”
Anyone who wishes to register their interest for a prospectus can visit www.thewelshdragon.co.uk, contact Moneypenny on 0845 371 2422 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.