WREXHAM’S “jewel in the crown” is set to become a tourism hotspot.
An ambitious plan has been launched to maximise the tourism potential of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct World Heritage Site and the 11-mile surrounding area.
The aqueduct, built by Thomas Telford and William Jessop, was given the world heritage accolade by Unesco in June 2009, but now council chiefs want to use its status to boost visitor numbers and create jobs.
The draft tourism development plan was presented to Wrexham Council’s environment and regeneration scrutiny committee yesterday.
Karen Whitney-Lang, vice-chairman of the project steering group, said: “It’s well known that the aqueduct is the jewel in the crown, but what’s not known is that it covers 11 miles, up to the English border in Shropshire, through Wrexham and to the Denbighshire border in Llangollen. The overall aim of the plan is to generate wealth. We need to invest significantly in signage, coach and car parking and accommodation, but we want to raise the quality of the accommodation and there is a need for four and five-star hotels.
“We know that 60 per cent of our visitors are day visitors and the aim is to increase the number of staying visitors.” The 11-mile corridor has been split into ‘tourism hubs’, which will be the focus of significant investment. These include Chirk, Froncysyllte, Trevor, Cefn Mawr, Llantysilio and Llangollen.
Committee members raised the need to invest in more caravan and camping sites in the area.
Cllr Paul Pemberton called for council planners to be more willing to pass such applications. “Caravan and touring sites bring in a lot of money,” he said. “I have been on the planning committee for a number of years and every time there is an application like this it seems to hit a brick wall.”
Concerns were also raised about where the investment would come from.
Cllr Ron Davies said: “There are going to be problems with the finance. How much will this cost and where will the money come from?
“We have to do this because we can’t afford not to, but my concern is how we will do it in these difficult financial times.”
Ms Whitney-Lang admitted progress would be “reliant on the private sector”.
“We have been advised to prepare applications for projects as much as we can so when funding does come open we have good solid business cases that the projects are viable,” she said.
A feasibility study is being carried out to determine the costs involved and the economic viability of various projects. Results are expected this summer.
Wrexham is working alongside Denbighshire and Shropshire councils to finalise the plan and it is hoped to start implementing the projects by July.