PLANS to extend an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) have sparked fears the move could divide a community.

The Countryside Council for Wales, alongside Wrexham and Denbighshire Councils, has tabled plans to extend the Clwydian Range AONB to include land in the Chirk Castle area but not the wider Ceiriog Valley.

The Chirk and Ceiriog Valley Partnership (CCVP) is now campaigning for the CCW to include the whole area.

Christine Ashford, the partnership’s publicity officer, believes drawing a line through the area would be unfair.

She said: “It would be a travesty of justice for the Ceiriog Valley to be excluded from the expansion.

“The inclusion of the valley would bring greater benefits to the whole area, not Chirk alone.”

Ian Roberts, councillor for Chirk North, agreed that to divide the area would have a negative impact on the community.

He said: “Chirk is proud of its setting, the valley is lovely and I would be pleased if it was recognised as such.

“It’s ridiculous not to include the valley as it would clearly benefit tourism and would see a large increase in visitors to the area.”

Anger at the proposal grew when a CCVP meeting revealed that until early this year the entire Ceiriog Valley, including Chirk Aqueduct, had been part of the proposed extension but had subsequently been removed, except the area around Chirk Castle.

The partnership believes not enough was done to alert the public to the consultation and claims it only found out after a chance visit by one of its members to a community meeting in Froncysyllte.

The CCW has now confirmed the consultation process will be extended to January 31 next year.

Cllr Roberts said he hoped the extension would give everyone a chance to fight for the cause.

“I called for an extension of the consultation period and I’m very pleased with the decision.

“I hope it will encourage people on both sides to really listen to each other.”
Mrs Ashford added: “The valley really deserves to be recognised in this way for its culture, its promotion of the Welsh language, and its beauty.

“We’re staying positive but we need to keep fighting to ensure we’re crowned as a true area of outstanding natural beauty.”