Campaigners 'cautiously optimistic' after Groves legal challenge is ruled out

Reporter:

Jonathan Grieve

Campaigners who fought to save the old Groves school are “cautiously optimistic" for its future.

Wrexham Council leader Cllr Mark Pritchard said this week that authority would not be pursuing a second legal challenge to the Powell Road school’s grade-II listed status.

Members of the Save Our Heritage group have again called for the building to be refurbished so it now be put to good use.

The building was listed by Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government Mark Drakeford in November last year.

At a meeting in December, Wrexham Council’s executive board voted to give authority to Cllr Pritchard, along with council officers, to evaluate whether they had any grounds to challenge this latest listing decision.

Yesterday, Cllr Pritchard admitted he and fellow executive board members were “bitterly disappointed” at the outcome.

He said it was a hammer blow to their plans for the future of education in Wrexham town centre.

The authority had planned to build two new schools on the site after knocking the old building down.

Cllr Pritchard said the council has spent more than £1m maintaining the building but campaigners dispute the figure and believe it is closer to £250,000.

They also say their research has found similar buildings throughout the country that have been refurbished to meet current standards, and are used to provide education.

Save Our Heritage group member Sarah Roberts said: “We’re pleased the council have finally agreed to undertake a feasability study.

“At a meeting of the full council on March 8, we asked for just such a study to be carried out but our request was met with silence.

“If the council had listened to our request, they could have saved themselves a great deal of time and money.”

Group chairman Elaine Guntrip-Thomas added: “Nothing has changed for us. Our vision for the building has always been to see it used for education once again.

“We firmly believe that with proper refurbishment, the school can be made fit for purpose.

“Whether this is for one or two primary schools, or any other form of education is immaterial.

“What’s important is that an iconic piece of Wrexham’s built environment is retained, and brought back to life.”

l The decision not to pursue a further legal challenge over the Groves School has been welcomed.

Town MP Ian Lucas and AM Lesley Griffiths said they were glad the saga was now at an end and called for the future of the site to be clarified as soon as possible. 

Ms Griffiths said: “I’m pleased Wrexham Council have decided not to pursue costly legal challenges at the taxpayers’ expense. 

“The location of the former Groves School is a prominent site in the centre of Wrexham and everybody wants to see the area developed to its full potential.

“On numerous occasions over the past year, I’ve called for Wrexham Council to be more transparent, to clarify their plans for the site and to consult with the public. 

“Surely the time is right for the local authority to work with relevant bodies and stakeholders to achieve the best possible outcome for the town and its people.”

Mr Lucas added: “I’m pleased the council has seen sense and will not continue spending taxpayers’ money in prolonging this saga.

“I have been asking the Tory/ Independent coalition who run the council to set out their proposals for some time.

“They need to be clear with the Wrexham public about their intentions for the site.

“It is vitally important that they now tell us all what their proposals for the site are and consult the people of Wrexham about them.”

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