CHIRK’S Dragon Tower scheme is set to take flight with the help of a £500,000 cash boost from the Welsh Government.
The man behind the ambitious £9 million project, Erbistock art dealer Simon Wingett, has been battling for months to secure his first pledge of financial backing.
Now he says he has been told by Visit Wales – the tourism arm of the Welsh Government – the scheme is eligible for a loan of up of to half a million pounds to get the dragon off the ground.
And he reckons this provides the vital incentive for other backers and investors to get on board.
Mr Wingett’s dream is to build the 200ft tall structure with a cultural centre and landscaped gardens, on land off the A5 at Chirk.
He says it will create nearly 200 jobs and attract an extra £3.5 million a year into Wrexham.
He has spent years putting together the £9m project – known as Waking the Dragon – in memory of his father, estate agent Frank Wingett, who died from cancer.
Mr Wingett, who has launched a public appeal to raise the building costs, claims it will bring in £1 million a year for research into the disease.
Wrexham Council has already agreed to sell him the land and last February approved a planning application for the project.
Mr Wingett said yesterday: “I have just heard from Jonathan Jones, the chief executive officer, that the scheme is eligible for a loan of up to £500,000 from Visit Wales.
“This is immensely encouraging because it is the first piece in the jigsaw puzzle of funding to fall into place.
“Now Visit Wales is supporting the project others who have been sitting on the fence will start to get involved.
“I now have a number of meetings with potential financial backers lined up.
“There is also the possibility we would be eligible for financial assistance from the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales, the body created by the Welsh Government specifically to encourage and promote sustainable development across Wales.”
He added: “The next big date is September 13 when I have a meeting with Visit Wales in Cardiff to brief them on the latest developments. The sooner we can get this project finished, the sooner we can start to create jobs and safeguard existing ones in the area.”
A Welsh Government spokesmann said: “Welsh Government officers responsible for administering the Tourism Investment Support Scheme (TISS) have met with Mr Wingett to discuss his proposals and have recently confirmed that the project may be eligible for up to a £500,000 loan.
“This would be dependent on a business plan and appraisal via the TISS due diligence process and a viable funding package. Mr Wingett has been invited to submit an application for the project under the Tourism Investment Support Scheme.”