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The Wrexham Gateway Project

You cannot have failed to notice the headline news in the Wrexham area today regarding The Wrexham Gateway project and the, hopefully soon, arrival of £25m funding from the Welsh Government. Although this project has been developing amongst key stakeholders (The Welsh Government, Glyndwr University, Wrexham County Borough Council (bizarrely referred to as the ‘Mersey Dee Alliance’ in some reports, which means absolutely nothing to the Council Tax payer-in-the-street) and Wrexham Association Football Club for at least three years, you could be a little cynical to think that with the local elections are around 6 weeks away, and given the current appetite for change seen with local Plaid Cymru candidates being voted in for council posts in Wrexham and Corwen, the latter by a landslide, that the release of ‘good news’ was timed to try and drag back votes.

Having been part of the initial discussions, surrounding both this project and the Welsh Football Museum, as a former long-time Director of Wrexham AFC, my cynicism is tempered with the reality that there has been a real will across all parties to get the Wrexham Gateway project off the ‘ambition’ board in to a real-world development. The timing of the latest release of information seems if any thing just simply ill-timed, but, given the scale of the project, and the long timescales involved, it would be inevitable that such news would appear at a time where reasons would be questioned, such is the suspicious nature of the majority of the world these days.


However, I must say, that if this all does indeed come off, it really would add to the infrastructure of a town that is in the middle of a crisis of confidence, with the shopping centre of the town decimated by both Covid-19 and the modern curse of the ‘doughnut effect’, where the lifeblood of footfall for shops in a town has been sucked away by a surrounding of out-of-town vampiric supermarkets and superstores. People complain, yet still go for that convenience rather than support the smaller shops. It’s a world-wide phenomenon imported from the USA, and there isn’t, at present, a cure for it.


Which is why I see the possibility of a redesigned transport ‘hub’ (I really do hate that word; it inevitably ends up meaning the loss of a diversified service and usually jobs), and a redeveloped Kop end of the Racecourse as a necessity for the town in order to at least give people a route in to the town that doesn’t involve fighting for parking spaces and fighting against ‘fines’ given out by over zealous modern day Dick Turpin’s for daring to overstay your welcome whilst out and about in the town. The Racecourse development was mooted to include a new hotel, and, more importantly, a conference centre built in to the back of the new Kop stand. Wrexham currently has no space that holds the numbers usually associated with large conferences, apart from the dated William Aston Hall. As a simple example, the town lost Comicon, a major attraction, to Telford because of the lack of undercover facilities.


Bringing together a stadium that can, and has, hosted major concerts, a conference centre with a high capacity, additional car parking, coach parking and train transport, and accommodation to suit all pockets, there is no reason why this project could not only be a success in itself, but also a magnet to the town, with the addition of business centre type buildings in that area. It is not beyond the possibility of a business village structure, sitting next to the railway station, coach terminus, and the A483 a few hundred yards away. The impact on town shopping is somewhat unpredictable, but at least there will be a potential market to trade to, and if the worst came to the worst, the current town centre could be repurposed for accommodation. This is already happening to a degree with many planning applications for the town centre now focussing on converting redundant shops and rooms above in to accommodation.


All of this isn’t going to happen overnight, nor, probably, under the auspices of current regimes, but there is finally a glimmer of hope that Wrexham is no longer going to be ignored by the perceived South Wales centric government and we are actually going to start feeling a lot less like the unspoken of cousins of the rich folk in Cardiff. We, as a town and people, have never, nor will ever, give up, but, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. The failure to deliver this project now would inevitably prove fatal to the strained relationship between North and South Wales and the politicians would feel the wrath of the people. Personally, I’ll believe it when I’m taking my safe standing place on a redeveloped Kop, watching the Town winning yet another match on their voyage to the Championship!


iestyn - 9:22 AM

Excellent opinion piece, John. It saddens me to see what’s become of the town. Indeed, most of our towns in the north are in crisis. I for one would love to see a rejuvenated Wrexham. I live out of the area now, but I have good friends there and my brother, so (until) COVID restrictions I am a frequent visitor. Dal ati!

Cofion, Iestyn

John Mills - 12:20 PM

Hi Iestyn, as you say, it’s not just a Wrexham phenomenon, you can see the same signs where ever you may be. I guess the worrying thing is, most younger people won’t realise what they have, and continue to lose, unless they can see what has been lost. It is encouraging though to see how many younger people are realising that ‘disposable culture’ is not necessarily good for themselves or their future.


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