Plan to attract more visitors to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct amid influx of tourists to Wales
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
A rise in people choosing to holiday closer to home during the Covid-19 pandemic could be used to attract more visitors to a World Heritage Site.
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct near Wrexham is already a popular destination, with more than 300,000 sightseers visiting it each year.
Last year, a £41m plan to revamp the area was unveiled, including more parking, a new visitor centre, a treetops walk and the creation of a campsite.
A senior politician has now said the recent increase in staycations in the UK could also bring more people to see the structure, which was built by canal engineers Thomas Telford and William Jessop between 1796 and 1805.
Cllr Terry Evans, Wrexham Council’s lead member for economy, said it would also provide an economic boost to the area in the wake of the pandemic.
In a report, he said: “As Wales emerges from the pandemic, there has been a natural boom in staycation visits and stays in North Wales, which will likely have had a positive impact upon footfall across the World Heritage Site.
“Consumer research from the Great Britain Tourism Survey indicated in spring 2021 that nearly 90 per cent of residents within Wales did not plan to travel abroad this summer for leisure breaks and across the UK, figures will have been similar.
“With the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site being a non-paying site and following on from the pre-covid growth and awareness – the site has proven popular over the course of summer 2021 for visitors.”
Cllr Terry Evans added: “The county borough faces ever increasing competition from hospitality investment from Cheshire and the rest of North Wales.
“But in turn, there is the opportunity to build on the level of staying visitor numbers by encouraging and facilitating high quality accommodation investment to match the developing day trip offer here in the county borough.”
The aqueduct was first recognised by UNESCO in 2009 which granted it the same status as Stonehenge and the Pyramids.
Since then, visitor numbers have increased significantly, with tourism worth approximately £140m a year to the county borough before the pandemic.
The sum is largely said to have been driven by awareness of the aqueduct site and a combined bid of £15m was recently made to the UK Government’s Levelling Up fund to deliver part of the plans to improve it further.
However, Cllr Evans said there was a need to ensure appropriate infrastructure is put in place to mitigate the impact of larger visitor numbers on local communities.
He said: “This marked increase in visitors has placed added pressures on the site and its surroundings areas at the main attractions both in Denbighshire and Wrexham.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting staycations have added to these pressures.
“The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site has an important role to play in the economic recovery of the tourism sector both locally and as part of the regional offer.
“But its role as a local amenity must be at the forefront of developments, ensuring that the infrastructure and capacity of the site develops in a way that works cohesively with the existing local communities.”
The report will be considered by members of the council’s employment, business and investment scrutiny committee.
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