Legal bid to save Groves school building in Wrexham

Reporter:

Jonathan Grieve

CAMPAIGNERS fighting tooth and nail to save a former school from demolition are considering a legal challenge.

The people behind the Save Our Heritage group are hoping they can stop the bulldozers moving on to the site of the old Groves school building on Powell Road, Wrexham.

Campaigners are now looking for a legal representative willing to do ‘pro bono’ work in a bid to challenge the decision of Wrexham Council’s executive board.

Elaine Guntrip-Thomas, chairman of the campaign group, said: “The intention is to keep up the fight. We are looking at a legal challenge to what we consider to be the unseemly haste with which the council is moving forward.

“It is trying to stifle debate and is not willing to discuss anything. There has not been any explanation of the council’s rationale for knocking the building down.

“It would be one thing if the council were outlining a great vision for the site – and it may well have a plan – but it is not being open about it. Why the secrecy and why the speed? The council has said itself it would not be able to build on the site until 2019.”

Mrs Guntrip-Thomas, a former pupil at the girls’ school, said the group planned to lobby councillors at a full council meeting due to be held from 4pm at the Guildhall tomorrow.

The site is the subject of a covenant earmarking it for educational use and the local authority plans to build a new school on the site.

The decision to demolish the Groves building was taken late last month at an executive board meeting. Just a few days’ notice was given of the proposal and no public consultation was undertaken ahead of the executive board vote.

A motion to ‘call in’ the executive board decision to demolish the school was narrowly defeated – by six votes to five – by the council’s customer and performance scrutiny committee.

Other options had been discussed, such as demolishing part of the building but retaining the facade at a cost of £418,000, as well as an extra £155,000 per year to protect it while waiting for any development to go ahead, and retaining and mothballing the site at a cost of £375,000.

Once demolished, the council plans to build a new school on the site to meet increasing demand as Wrexham’s population is expected to grow by about 20,000 by 2028, with between 10,000 and 15,000 new homes to be built across the area during that time.

Members of Wrexham’s administration have confirmed that the former Groves site is to be redeveloped for education purposes only, as per the covenants that exist on the land, and not for commercial, retail or housing purposes.

Anyone able to assist the campaign group with a legal challenge can get in touch through its website www.soh.wales/

Council leader Mark Pritchard said last night: “I have made it quite clear on numerous occasions that all of this site will be used for education provision, a new school or schools.

“At this point in time what type of school that will be is still under discussion but I hope I am able to announce good news for this site in the very near future.

“We have not acted in secrecy. Every meeting about this site was discussed in public.

“The school has been empty for 13 years and the cost to the taxpayer has been almost £1 million to mothball the building.

“The majority of members of the public I have spoken to on this matter agree with the decision to demolish the building and stop wasting taxpayers’ money.”

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