A CEFN Community Councillor has been left disappointed after Wrexham Council withdrew its offer to sell the former Ebenezer Chapel.

The Plas Kynaston Canal Group (PKC) have offered £200,000 to the council in order to secure the former Ebenezer Chapel, which was expected to be a beacon of regeneration in the village when it was refurbished back in 2007.

Although attempts were made to generate business and community interest, the building closed in 2013 and has remained vacant for the last six years.

Plans for The Ebenezer Chapel had included turning it into an Arts and Crafts Centre, as well as Tourist Information centre that will be, “key to the regeneration of the village” according to Cllr Dave Metcalfe.

Despite this, in a letter sent to Cllr Metcalfe by Wrexham Council, they have outlined why they have withdrawn their offer of sale.

The letter states that there were a number of terms to the offer from Wrexham Council, which included a £20,000 non-refundable deposit from the PKC, as well as a submission of a full business plan demonstrating the viability and long-term sustainability of the proposed use of the building.

It goes on to say that “since you did not satisfy the conditions of the offer to sell you the building by the deadline, the council has to assume that you do not wish to complete the purchase on its terms.

“I wish to inform you therefore that the Council’s formal offer to sell you the building has been withdrawn.

“The council is aware that the building still has potential to be used to support the wider economic and community regeneration of Cefn Mawr and it is keen to explore the options further by approaching Cefn Community Council in order to ascertain whether it believes the building is essential to the regeneration of Cefn Mawr.”

Wrexham Council initially put the former chapel up for auction, looking to sell it to the highest bidder.

However, after many in the local community voiced concerns that the building could be sold and then put to use in a way which would not help the future regeneration of the village, it was decided that proposals for the building’s usage would decide who would claim ownership instead.

In a subsequent email, Cllr Metcalfe branded the terms of the offer as “unacceptable to ourselves” and has outlined why he believes this.

“The PKC Group is a small voluntary group in our community that actively seeks a better deal for all in our community. We do not have the excessive funds that we can write off and we have to be very careful with money.

“Therefore, the prospect of providing WCBC with a £20,000 non-refundable deposit is not acceptable.

“We have supplied WCBC with a provisional outline for the project that will enable us to not only pay the offer price of the Ebenezer but also operate it as an Arts & Visitor Centre for Cefn & Cefn Mawr at the centre of the Pontcysyllte World Heritage Site at no charge to the council.

“This is surely the best deal they will ever get.

“The Ebenezer is a costly building to run and visitor centres are known to be a drain on public funds. However, in our case, the costs of operating the Ebenezer will be covered by the turnover of the Cefn Mawr Cable Car and Zip Wires, which we expect will be in excess of £500,000.

“We do not see any mention by WCBC of working together in the letter and by not doing this has caused financial embarrassment to ourselves, our community, and the current situation.”

Cllr Metcalfe concluded by stating the offer still stands, while pleading with the council to work with them.

“Our offer for the Ebenezer remains valid despite our rejection of the terms attached to the offer of sale by WCBC and their withdrawal of sale.

“If WCBC would like to realise the best offer they have had for the building and bring about Economic Regeneration for the largest community in the Potcysyllte World Heritage Site Corridor through Sustainable Tourism development, all they have to do is start working with us for a very successful partnership which they will do well from.”

Leader of the Council, Cllr Mark Pritchard, said: “The former Ebenezer Chapel building is no longer needed by the Council and so it decided to sell the property at public auction in February 2019, in order to find a new owner willing to bring the building back into use in the heart of the village and to in order to generate a capital receipt which the Council could reinvest in other services.

"However, initial enquiries with the auctioneer suggested that whilst there was strong interest in the building, it was clear that the Council would have little say in the use of the building after it was sold and therefore little control over the impact that this would have on the village.

"As a result of this, the Council decided to withdraw the property from auction and instead asked interested parties to submit best and final offers for the building and to provide the Council with details of the proposed use for the building.

"Two offers were received. One lower offer and a conditional offer of £200,000 from Mr Metcalfe. In consultation with the Heritage Lottery Fund (which had provided some financial support for the original refurbishment of the property) the Council decided to consider the offer of £200,000 from Mr Metcalfe and wrote to him setting out the terms for the sale, which emphasised the need for the Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund to be satisfied that the proposed use for the building was sustainable in the long-term.

"Whilst no detailed business plan was required at this stage, Mr Metcalfe has reminded the Council on a number of occasions that the £200,000 funding for the purchase of the building and the on-going running costs would have to be met from earnings from other ventures which have yet to be established.

"The main concern that the Council has with that position is that if it did not support any of the other ventures (in its role as local planning authority for example) then the sustainability of the business plan to fund the Ebenezer building would be at risk – making it difficult to demonstrate long-term sustainability.

"The conditions of the sale also required Mr Metcalfe to pay the Council a deposit of 10% and whilst it was described as “non-refundable”, the offer letter also explained to Mr Metcalfe that the deposit would be returned if the business plan (to be submitted at a later date) was deemed unacceptable.

"Unfortunately, Mr Metcalfe did not meet the terms of the sale and the Council decided to withdraw its offer to sell the building.

"As an alternative solution, the Council has approached Cefn Community Council to see whether it also believes that the building is essential to the regeneration of Cefn Mawr and whether it is prepared to take over the building from the County Borough Council - and discussions are on-going”.   

On a personal note Cllr Pritchard further stated that: “I am extremely disappointed that an offer was made to the council  which was accepted in good faith but ultimately did not come to fruition.”