Wrexham seen better days but plenty to be proud of


Rhian Waller

WHETHER people are concerned about grass cutting or shop closures, there is no shortage of things to grumble about in Wrexham.

Much of this is justifiable – amid a flurry of central and local government cuts, residents are seeing services like sports centres, libraries and public amenities placed under threat or closed entirely.

Things have come to a head when residents claim to be “embarrassed” to live in their home town.

The sentiment comes from a letter in the Leader which sparked sympathy from other residents who, when asked online, admitted they struggled to think about what ‘Wrexham has going for it’ and called the selection of shops “diabolical”.

But there are still plenty of people proud to be associated with the town, which retains a strong identity in the face of changing times.

We asked local councillors what they thought.

Cllr William Baldwin of the Little Acton ward said: “I do think the town has fallen into a little bit of decline. I run a barber’s shop in Wrexham and have done for 30 years, so I can see what’s going wrong.

“But there are massive efforts to get things going. There are plans afoot to make things better.”

The Leader learned last week that a massive £10.5m regeneration project in Wrexham is set to go ahead, as part of the Welsh Government’s Vibrant and Viable Places programme.

AM for Wrexham Lesley Griffiths has hailed the news, as Wrexham has scooped almost a third of the £36m allotted to projects in North Wales.

Aside from that, Cllr Baldwin feels there are things to be proud of in Wrexham.

“There is a lot to root for. We’re doing a feasibility study for an art centre. We have a sense of history, we have the football club, we have St Giles’ church and we have the university.

“A lot has been done to improve the markets and the people in charge there have done a brilliant job. Now it’s just a case of getting people in.”

The UK as a whole has suffered years of economic doom and gloom following the 2008 recession, and Cllr Baldwin pointed out that looking at the town in isolation was not helpful.

He said: “We aren’t the only town with problems. I think residents here will be inclined to see the bad before anyone who doesn’t know the area as well.”

Cllr Rodney Skelland for the Bronington ward agreed.

He said: “Retail is changing all over the UK with the rise of internet shopping. We have to move with the times and find ways around these challenges.”

He said private investment in the town centre was key to turning things around.

He said: “We’ve got everything a decent sized town should have and probably more.

The market has picked up now and personally I think it’s a really nice place to live.

“It has one of the most vibrant night time economies in the area.

“I know that people from Chester and Shrewsbury come to Wrexham for a night out, which is a good thing.”

Cllr Skelland said that he was “disappointed” to find that people were “sitting at keyboards” and criticising the town without making any proposals to improve it.

He said: “I’d welcome suggestions from the public.

“As for what we have to be proud of, we have an art gallery, a museum and one of the biggest libraries in the area.”

Cllr Geoff Lowe of the Acton ward said that, to some degree, the town was at a “low point” of its history.

He said: “The town centre does need revitalising. There’s no question of that.

Traders go where there’s a profit, and salaries in Wrexham are not as good as they could be.

“The key is bringing in sustainable jobs with good salaries. The new prison may help with that.”

Cllr Lowe said he took pride in the town’s heritage and also in the efforts made by local people to improve where they lived.

He said: “If we forget our history, we don’t have much of a future. The D-Day celebrations last week reminded us that people from Wrexham fought for Wrexham.

We grew as a mining town, as a garrison town, and a leather-working town. It was a hive of industry.

“We have two National Trust properties on our doorstep.

“What heartens me is that there are people like those who tend Acton Park, those members of the Angling Association and young volunteers at the museum who really care about Wrexham.

“We also have a sense of community. I’ve been out today cutting verges and my neighbours have been at it as well.”

Cllr James Kelly of Borras Park did not have much time for critics.

He said: “I have lived in the town for 50 years. I’m quite happy to live here.

“There’s a lot to recommend it if people just look for it. I’ve brought both of my daughters up here and it’s a tremendous place with a lot on offer.”

See full story in the Leader

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