A PLOT of land near Wrexham town centre which was the haunt of drug addicts, drunks and rats has been transformed into a pleasant community garden thanks to the dedication of nearby residents.

And yesterday morning, the man who spearheaded the ambitious project at Crescent Road broke a bottle of bubbly over the entrance to mark the official opening.

Before he was elected as independent councillor for Smithfield in 2008, Keith Gregory was a member of the area’s residents’ association.

Like everyone else in the neighbourhood he was disgusted at the way the quarter-acre piece of land – formerly the site of a council depot – had been left to deteriorate into a major eyesore.

He said: “For a short time after the council depot closed the land was used as the offices for the construction firm building the new Tesco store nearby.

“When they left about 10 years ago it went downhill and was plagued by drug addicts, who used to drop their used needles there, people who used to go there to get drunk and vandals.

“It was also over-run with rats. It was causing a big problem for people in the area, so we decided something had to be done about it.

“It was one of my top priorities after I was elected and I started negotiations with the council about taking it over.

“We were able to take out a seven-year lease on the land at no charge, which is renewable if the community wants it.

“The work to transform it into a garden began about three years ago and everyone involved has worked very hard to make it a pleasant place to go.”

He added: “Everyone working on it have been volunteers, including the residents themselves, kids from the Venture project and the Community Payback scheme, who did a lot of the hard work such as putting in the block paving and raised growing beds, which are accessible to the disabled.”

The garden, specially designed by council staff, includes a circular walkway, a number of raised beds for growing flowers and vegetables and hanging baskets.
Pride of place goes to a picnic area with two wooden benches.

There are also a number of maturing trees and, eventually, murals will be painted on the gable end of a building in Manley Road which borders the garden.

The man who built and planted the raised growing beds is 65-year-old Joe Parry, of Manley Road, who has worked on the project from the start.

He said: “It was a real eyesore and desperately needed something doing to it.

“We are now growing a range of vegetables, including carrots, potatoes, courgettes and runner beans, which will be available free of charge to pensioners in the area.”

The council’s deputy leader, Cllr David Bithell who was at the opening ceremony, said: “I think what has been done here is absolutely fantastic and the community has worked tremendously hard to achieve what we see here today.

“The council has supported a number of community gardens across the borough and will continue to create more wherever we can.”