Wrexham and Flintshire speak out: 'Don't let our villages die'

Reporter:

Matt Sims and Kate Forrester

DON’T let our communities die. That is the stark warning issued today by people living in urban villages across Wrexham and Flintshire after one claimed his home now looked like a ‘war zone’.

In an impassioned letter to the Leader, John Nicholls, chairman of Rhos Community Council, said the shutting of the HSBC bank was the latest in a series of blows to hit the village in recent months.

Now community leaders across Flintshire and Wrexham have come forward to express concerns that their own villages have been damaged by the closure of shops, post offices and other amenities.

Cllr Nicholls said one of the worst affected areas in his village was the Ponciau area with the closure of the local post office, primary school and chip shop in recent times.

He said: “If this trend continues we will end up with a village of shuttered businesses which will result in it looking like a war zone.

“Over several years all our amenities are being slowly eroded, like the roads that we drive on.

“In the area which Ponciau covers we have not even got a convenience store or newsagent now.

"Even our refuse collection has been diminished to once a fortnight, causing many problems for the community with many people having to take their refuse to local recycling centres themselves.

“Our roads are an absolute disgrace. Not only have we got, I would imagine, the most road traffic humps in the area which are certainly damaging suspension on vehicles which in itself is costing taxpayers extra money on top of increased taxation but now have the most potholes in the area and I submit it is all down to no investment in roads over the years.”

Wrexham council leader Aled Roberts, who himself represents the Ponciau ward, said: “I think these are the same issues with a lot of urban villages.

"These are commercial decisions in the main.

“While as a council we can raise objections, the reality of the situation is it is not possible to stop banks, post offices and other faculties closing.

“We’ve tried to address this through different regeneration programmes. The reality is that changes to every day lifestyle mean it is very, very difficult for commercial enterprises to exist in the villages.

“It’s a national issue. We will do everything we can, but we have to be realistic.”

Cllr Roberts added that investment in schools had increased in recent years, as had the amount of money put into roads.

Cllr Paul Pemberton also of Ponciau, said: “I do sympathise with some of the views expressed, but not everything is actually down to the local authority.

“On issues such as the bank shutting down, these are decisions which are made by the private sector and beyond the control of the council.”

In Flintshire Cllr Mike Reece, who represents Bagillt, said his village – one of Wales’ largest – is moving backwards, not forwards.

One of the biggest problems facing residents at the moment is finding a new home for the village post office, which was forced to close temporarily in September.

Cllr Reece added: “Over the years, Bagillt has really gone down on shops. The facilities are not very good at all, especially now we can’t find a new place for the post office.

“We are really struggling and the whole village needs revamping. We have all these new houses, but no facilities to go with them.

“When I was young, I remember the village having 28-plus shops. Now, they are virtually non-existent.”

Cllr Warren Coleman represents a Wrexham community, Cefn, which has seen huge job losses in recent months with the closure of the Flexsys and Air Products factories.

He believes the biggest problem lies with the fact that new businesses in Wrexham have been encouraged to open in the town centre, depriving urban villages of new developments.

Cllr Coleman claimed a new Tesco supermarket development on the Plas Kynaston site would reverse the decline.

He said: “There’s a big reason for the change. The county council’s successful development of the town centre has sucked all the life out of our urban villages.

“In fairness to the council they have been successful but it is depriving the urban villages.

“I hope the supermarket development will be the springboard. It brings success to the village and we are very, very lucky we have this development.

“There was a time in village life where you could get anything, from chiropodists to cakemakers.”

But Cllr Paul Rogers of Brymbo said replacing lost jobs was a difficult task.

Brymbo Steelworks closed in 1990 and Cllr Rogers said his village was still feeling the effects two decades on.

He said: “In the last 20 years a lot of businesses are closing as a result of the steelworks closing. I think it is fair to say since it shut very few jobs have been created and they won’t be unless there is significant investment.”

Broughton councillor David McFarlane said a review of electoral arrangements by the Boundary Commission, which could see towns and villages forced together, has exacerbated problems.

He added: “Each and every village in Wales is losing its identity. They just seem to be steamrollered without any regard for the residents who live in them.

“Their identities are becoming diluted and I think it is an issue at the forefront of people’s minds.

“I’m going to be contacting residents over the next few weeks to ask them what they think but in my opinion there is a huge sense of apathy across Wales.”

Cllr Stella Jones of Caergwrle said keeping a close eye on building works on the outskirts of the region’s villages is the key to preserving them.

She added: “Our villages are in danger of losing their identity and we have to be very careful with any building that is allowed on the fringe of rural villages, as this will erode it even further.

“When the new medical centre is built in Hope, it is the intention that Caergwrle’s clinic and pharmacy will be taken inside its operations.

“But I have suggested that the use of them be monitored in Caergwrle for three years before they are taken away.

“If most patients transfer to Hope, then that’s fine, but if the facilities in our village are still being used, taking them away would be a big blow for the community.

“The Welsh Assembly and local councils should be working together to encourage and help rural businesses. It is important that people remember to use their local services or they will inevitably lose them.”


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