Future of former Groves site saved as bid to be listed gets green light


Jonathan Grieve

A BID to protect the old Groves school from demolition by securing listed status has been successful.

The school, on Powell Road, Wrexham, has been awarded listed status for its special architectural interest on the grounds of its quality and character, economy and infrastructure secretary Ken Skates announced.

The decision to list the site was taken by Mr Skates after fresh and careful consideration of all representations following a spot listing request made to Cadw earlier this year.

There was a consultation with the owner, local planning authority and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

By law, under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, a listed building must be of special architectural or historic interest.

Mr Skates considered the range of information submitted to Cadw by both supporters and challengers of the listing request. 

This included written and visual evidence and specialist advice, as well as the peer review and the advice that Wrexham Council commissioned.

In making his decision, the cabinet secretary acknowledged arguments on both sides, but overall considered there are sufficient grounds to approve the spot listing request for the former Grove Park School.

Mr Skates said: “On the balance of the evidence presented to me, considering the merits of listing the building against the published criteria and in light of all the representations and all of the advice that has been submitted, I have agreed to the listing for the building’s special architectural interest as a building of definite quality and character as a key example of an interwar girl’s grammar school in the neo-classical tradition (in a 1930s interpretation) surviving largely intact.”

He added: “I believe the building is a key example of its type, with a number of features exhibiting stylistic flair. These include its handsome red brick exterior, the decoration between ground floor and first floor windows with herringbone brickwork and internal quality features such as an impressive elegant double sweep staircase being flooded with natural daylight by roof lanterns.

“There is also its parquet and terrazzo flooring, the sleek timber mouldings and the main hall being well proportioned and well lit.”

The decision to list the building has immediate effect and introduces a requirement for listed building consent to demolish the building or alter, or extend it in a way which affects its character as one of special architectural or historic interest.

Wrexham Council had decided to demolish the Groves building in an executive board meeting in January.

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 – 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 had planned 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.

The Groves site was to be developed for education purposes only, as per the covenants that exist on the land.

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