ART dealer Simon Wingett has long held a dream to create a lasting tribute to his father.
Now he has unveiled plans for the Waking The Dragon tower, a landmark he says would rank alongside New York’s Statue of Liberty.
The project also features an art gallery, a 100-seat cafe/bar, a 125-seat restaurant and space for language study - plus, of course, lofty viewing areas from where visitors would enjoy panoramic views around Wrexham and the borderlands.
Mr Wingett has already started the planning application process for the development on land just off the A5 at Halton roundabout, near Chirk, which he believes could create up to 50 jobs.
The site, owned by Wrexham Council, is also one of the three currently under consideration as the borough’s new traveller and gipsy park.
Mr Wingett, 54, who has his home and a gallery at Erbistock, said producing the blueprint for the Waking the Dragon Tower marked the culmination of a five-year ambition.
His aim is to commemorate his father, well-known local businessman Frank Wingett, who died from throat cancer in 1988.
He envisages the entire £6 million cost of building the tower will be raised from commercial sponsorship and charging people £2,000 for a personal dedication on each of the 416 steps inside the structure.
Mr Wingett believes the tower could raise £1 million a year, with all visitor entrance fees going to the Frank Wingett Cancer Appeal, which this year celebrates its 30th year of raising awareness of the disease and championing the need for early diagnosis.
The planned tower would dominate the landscape at just under 200ft tall.
It would be topped by a 75ft high dragon – a mixture of bronze and steel – with a wingspan of 160ft.
The development would sit within a landscape of formal and informal pathways planted with oak trees.
The area immediately around the building would depict the four branches of ancient Welsh folklore tale, the Mabinogion.
Visitors would enter at the base of the tower where there would be interactive displays and an opportunity to learn about Welsh culture before climbing a helical staircase, with glass lifts for those needing them.
Next to the tower would be a cultural centre along with a cafe/bar and restaurant and possibly a museum.
Mr Wingett said: “One could draw parallels with the tower and the Statue of Liberty.
“The whole place will be mythology brought to life and the theme is awakening the dragon in the fight against cancer.
“We want people seeing the dragon, which will be visible for miles around, to get the impression that it has either just landed or is about to take off.”
He added: “We have already started the planning process and, if we are successful, the intention is to begin building in August to mark the 150th anniversary of the National Eisteddfod coming to Wrexham.
“There is a 12-month building period, so the tower could be open by August or September of the following year.
“Wrexham Council currently owns the site and we are sorting out an option on it.
“I hope there is massive public support for this project.”
Aled Roberts, leader of Wrexham Council, said ”There is no doubt this project will strengthen and further develop the tourism and heritage available to visitors in this part of North East Wales.
“It will not only celebrate our unique heritage and culture, it will also boost the local economy with the creation of local jobs and draw in a huge number of tourists who will spend their money locally.
“The dragon’s location will provide unrivalled views across Wrexham and the surrounding borderlands and I have no doubt we will receive visitors not only from Wales but from the whole of the UK, who will want to see this amazing dragon for themselves.”
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