A WARTIME chemical weapons factory should be turned into a top tourist attraction for the region. 

That is the view of the Rhydymwyn Valley History Society (RVHS), which believes the valley’s works could bring in business and create jobs if they were developed as a destination.

But DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), which owns the site, says tunnels at the site are not safe enough to open to the public.

During the Second World War the facility at the Rhydymwyn Valley Works, near Mold, was used to produce mustard gas and also took part in research for the first atomic bomb.

DEFRA has asked historic building consultancy Purcell Miller Tritton to undertake a
condition survey of the buildings at the site and to create a preservation plan.

The RVHS says it is happy with this news but would like those involved to go a step further.

Colin Barber, chairman of the RVHS, said: “We’re pleased to a degree because the people involved are really top drawer. We think it shows commitment by DEFRA to the heritage of Flintshire.”

The RVHS would like visitors to be allowed to tour the underground tunnels.

Mr Barber said: “Everybody wants to go in the tunnels. In these parlous times when people are being laid off we need to invest in tourism.

“The beauty, history and mystery of the site should be available for the whole county to enjoy.”

He said the RVHS had plans to make sure the tunnels were safe, but a DEFRA spokesman told the Leader public access was not considered appropriate.

He said: “In health and safety terms the tunnels are a confined space and combined with the potential for toxic gas exposure, there is a risk to those accessing the tunnel network.”

He added: “DEFRA remains committed to the long-term management of the site as a nature reserve to exploit the ecology benefit of a closed environment.”

The RVHS has been told that DEFRA cannot fund restoration because it is government-financed, so the society hopes to get funding from the National Lottery.

Mr Barber added: “We want DEFRA and Flintshire Council to come up with a mechanism so the public can benefit from the site.”

Andrew Farrow, Flintshire Council’s head of planning, said the authority supported DEFRA’s intentions and will offer every assistance it can.