Hopes grow for future of former school building in Wrexham

Reporter:

Jonathan Grieve

A BID to save a former town centre school from demolition has received a huge boost.

Campaigners have been up in arms about a decision taken by Wrexham Council’s executive board in January to knock down the old Groves school on Powell Road.

But now deputy minister for culture, sport and tourism, Ken Skates, says he is minded to list the building, potentially saving it.

In a letter to Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths seen by the Leader, Mr Skates said an independent peer review of the listing assessment would be carried out and a final decision taken on whether to grant listed status after the assessment is completed in mid-April.

Mr Skates said: “Following Wrexham Council’s recent decision to demolish the building, my officials in Historic Environment Service (Cadw) received a request to reconsider Grove Park School for listing at the end of February.

“I am minded to list Grove Park School. However, I am sure you will appreciate the listing of 20th century buildings, where there are greater levels of survival, is not straightforward.

“Although the Historic Environment Bill has just received its Royal Assent, the provision relating to interim protection following a decision by Welsh ministers that they are minded to list a building will not come into force until further secondary legislation has been prepared.

“However, I hope Wrexham Council will await the final listing decision before making any decision to demolish the school.”

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

The decision to demolish the Groves building was taken in January 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 for £375,000.

Cllr Mark Pritchard, leader of Wrexham Council, said: “I would like to thank Cadw and council officers for all their hard work and effort to date. 

“Looking forward I will be inviting the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates, AM, to enter into talks with us as to how Welsh Government can assist us financially to ensure this building will be secured and safeguarded into the future, should English Heritage agree with his views as to listing this building.”

Welcoming the developments, Lesley Griffiths AM said: “I would like to thank the minister for listening to my constituents concerns and for pursuing this matter. Many constituents have contacted me about this decision and Wrexham Council’s controversial handling of this process has been widely criticised.

“From the very beginning I have called for greater clarity and consultation regarding the hurried nature of Wrexham Council’s actions. The minister’s latest letter clearly outlines support for my call for an independent peer review to take place on the building, and Wrexham Council should await the final listing decision before demolishing the school.

“I believe it is perfectly reasonable to be open and transparent about the procedures. I am hopeful the council will now listen to the many concerns that have been raised and a thorough consultation can take place in order to achieve the best possible outcome for the town.”

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