Wrexham city status opportunities missed after football festival ‘went under radar,’ claim
Rory Sheehan, Local Democracy Reporter
Opportunities are being missed to harness the benefits of Wrexham becoming a city after an international football festival appeared to go under the council’s radar, it has been claimed.
Wrexham Council’s Business, Employment and Regeneration Scrutiny committee met to discuss the progress of a ‘Placemaking’ strategy being produced with a view to developing and improving the city’s public spaces.
A report was introduced by the lead member for economy and regeneration, Gwenfro Cllr Nigel Williams (Ind) along with officers involved in the project.
The report stated: “This is now a key time for Wrexham to seize the opportunities and continue the momentum that has been built to further the Placemaking work and achieve the vision for Wrexham as a national and regional place of significance in Wales and the UK to live, work, visit; and invest.”
Cllr Williams mentioned the Tour Series coming to the city next year and said he wants to secure events that Wrexham can become “synonymous” with.
But Rhosnesni Cllr Andy Gallanders (Plaid) said that while he welcomed the presentation, he felt current opportunities were being missed.
He cited an international football festival which took place in Wrexham at the weekend which appeared to go under the council’s radar.
“It doesn’t seem we’re seizing opportunities available to us right here and right now”, Cllr Gallanders said.
“I was very disappointed this weekend that we had an international football festival happening, Wal Goch, yet the museum was shut when we’ve got a (football) shirt exhibition on.
“That to me is not seizing every opportunity. I think we’ve got to start acting like a city and be more flexible with how we operate our facilities in the town centre.
“The Wal Goch was fantastic, it seems to have gone down really well but there were two occasions when the museum came back to the organisers on Twitter telling them information was wrong.
“It does not look good and if we’re having a Welsh football museum, we should be using every opportunity to boast that we’ve got these amazing exhibitions on.”
Ruabon Cllr Dana Davies (Lab) queried the lack of promotion and information about city-centre fan zones during the football World Cup, which is less than a week away.
Cllr Williams conceded the authority could be better at publicising events, with flyers and social media highlighted as ways of doing so.
The council’s Regeneration Manager Rebecca Lowry confirmed that there will be a fan zone for the Wales games in the city centre.
She said: “The fan zone has been approved. Whether it’s for all seven games we don’t know but we have budgeted for all seven games because we’re very optimistic.”
A public consultation on Placemaking in Wrexham is earmarked to take place the new year.
Three key city centre areas were identified in a presentation on the project – the Regent Street corridor (including Mold Road), the heart of the old town centre (including the markets, the High Street, and St Giles) and the Civic Quarter (including council buildings, parking facilities) that could be in line for improvement.
It was acknowledged that separate projects are happening around the city centre, including development of a football museum, and football club and university campus redevelopments.
The council is also looking to protect city centre buildings of unique heritage through its Townscape Heritage Project.
It was revealed that in the last 18 months buildings owned by landlords based in Holland, London and Manchester have returned to the market and back into local ownership with more opportunities to create residential accommodation in the city centre.
Pedestrian and cycling routes around the city have been raised as poor and poor and obstructive with plans in the pipeline to improve them.
Another major issue raised at the meeting was parking.
Overton Cllr John McCusker (Ind) said: “I’ve been many a place over the years, a town like Shrewsbury, you’ve driven round a bit, can’t find a place to park and just go home without even stopping the car.
“Unless you’ve got somewhere to out these people when they get here, out of town parking facilities, people aren’t going to come in the masses you think.
“I think that will be detrimental unless we sort that out to start with. There’s no point having a venue you want people to come to if they can’t get in.”
Councillors welcomed the presentation and agreed to a workshop on the Placemaking before it goes to public consultation next year.
They are also pushing for an improvement in internal and external communications when it comes to publicising events in the city.
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