"Don't let him destroy our heritage"

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

BUSINESSMAN Neville Dickens has been urged not to destroy Wrexham’s historic mines rescue centre.

His application to bulldoze the building on Maesgwyn Road goes before planners on Monday but Wrexham councillor Phil Wynn said it was crucial the building was retained.

Former Wrexham FC co-owner and car dealership boss Neville Dickens, 70, of Gresford, was ordered by Wrexham magistrates to pay almost £4,000 in fines and costs in May after he admitted three charges of failing to notify Wrexham Council of intended demolition work on the Grade II listed former Mines Rescue Centre, in
Maesgwyn Road, the previous August.

An application to demolish the former fire brigade headquarters, which comprises the old rescue centre, will go before Wrexham planners on Monday.

But planning chief Lawrence Isted is recommending members turn it down and it has received a host of objections.

Brynyffynnon councillor Phil Wynn, who has fought to safeguard the building, said it is crucial the building is retained for future generations.

He said: “Wrexham is built on coal and this is the one last remaining building that has a connection with our heritage from the 19th and 20th century and it’s a great
shame what has happened to it.”

Cllr Wynn said Dickens should have withdrawn the application.

“Thankfully it’s recommended for refusal, but I would much prefer him to have withdrawn it as a gesture of good will.

“I would just hope he recognises the importance of the building to North East Wales and to Wrexham in particular and he makes good the damage he’s done.

“I’d like him to find a commercial use for the building and at the same time give access to any heritage groups who want to use the building.”

The building, which dates from 1913, was used to train miners in how to rescue colleagues during major incidents and has training galleries made to resemble
mine shafts.

In May, Wrexham Magistrates Court heard that after Mr Dickens acquired the site, Welsh ancient monuments body CADW contacted him on August 6, 2010, to advise him of its plans for the building to be listed.

But on August 18 Wrexham Council was made aware of work being performed by contractors.

The building became officially listed on the same day and discussions were held between council officials and contractors that indicated the work could not proceed.
But two days later further demolition work was seen being performed.

It was argued in court that Mr Dickens believed he had lawful permission for demolition as the council had granted several previous outline plans to demolish the building and replace it with apartments. It was also claimed in court that safety issues were a factor in why work resumed on August 20 as parts of the building were now unsupported and needed to be pulled down.

In a report to go Monday’s planning committee, Mr Isted recommends councillors refuse the new application on the grounds that insufficent evidence has been submitted to justify why all the remaining buildings on site should be demolished and that to allow it would be contrary to Welsh Assembly Government policy.

A number of conservation bodies consulted about the application have also raised objections.

The Council for British Archeology says the building should be repaired and re-used.

Clwyd Powys Archeological Trust says the damage to the rear of the building caused by last year’s demolition attempt is not so bad that reconstruction of lost features could not be achieved.

Neighbours consulted also object to the plan.

Mr Dickens was unavailable for comment.

See full story in the Leader

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