Former Gardeners’ World presenter among almost 360 objecting to new school on Wrexham field
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
Plans to build a new primary school on a field in Wrexham could be approved despite almost 360 objections being raised, including from a former Gardeners’ World presenter.
Councillors are due to meet in the new year to consider proposals to create a school for 315 pupils on the Nine Acre field on Chester Road, along with 45 nursery children.
The development would result in St Mary’s Catholic Primary School relocating to the site from its current base in the town centre.
There has been stern opposition to the application by Wrexham Council from people living in the Maesydre area over a claimed shortage of green space.
Former Gardeners’ World presenter Stephen Lacey is among those who have shown support for a campaign to preserve the field and open it to the public, as well as Sport Wales.
Lacey, who lives locally and was a regular presenter on the BBC show for around a decade, said in a letter to councillors: “Wrexham has already lost so many of its green and open spaces and has hardly any close to its town centre.
“Those that remain simply cannot be viewed as building opportunities.
“Nine Acre Field enhances one of the main arterial routes into Wrexham and lies within a heavily populated area already deficient in green space.
“There is hardly anywhere for residents to stroll or run, meet up, take children, walk dogs or play sport.
“That the council is even seeking planning permission for a school on this site is shocking.”
Members of the public have been restricted from accessing the site since 2005 when it was fenced off following a failed attempt by the council to sell part of it for housing.
The land has most recently been used as a training ground by Wrexham AFC under a lease agreement.
The National League club is looking to find a long term base elsewhere after it was taken over by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
Community leaders are concerned plans for a school to be built there will also lead to major parking problems in the area.
In comments raised during a consultation on the proposals, members of Acton Community Council said: “The impact of developing a further school within the community boundaries that admits pupils from a Wrexham county borough wide catchment area will result in a higher level of daily car journeys and gridlock.
“The residential streets adjoining the application site are already congested throughout the working day due to overspillage of town centre parking.”
A poll held last year by the Nine Acre Campaign Group, which was set up against the proposals, saw more than three quarters of the 126 respondents back preserving the field as either a park or sports pitches.
However, consultants representing the council said the two-storey school was required to address rising pupil numbers, and would allow part of the site to be re-opened for public use.
A total of 40 staff parking spaces would be created as part of the plans, as well as 78 spaces for parents to drop off and collect their children.
The local authority’s highways department has said it is satisfied with the arrangements and around 50 letters have been received supporting the application.
The scheme has now been backed for approval by the council’s chief planning officer.
In a report, Lawrence Isted said: “The proposed development will secure a significant improvement primary education facilities compared to those offered by the existing St Mary’s school site.
“The opportunity to secure 1.1ha of land as public open space will make a significant contribution to meeting an identified deficit of such provision.
“On balance the proposals are considered to be in broad accordance with the objectives of policies and guidance in respect of development on open space.
“The proposals are also acceptable in respect of impacts upon residential amenity, layout, ecological impacts and highway safety.”
The proposals will be considered by members of the council’s planning committee at a meeting on Monday, January 10.
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