The long term aim of this campaign is to raise awareness of the situation within Wrexham County Borough, where older buildings are demolished without any consideration for the residents of the town, and their views.
The latest case is with regard to the former Grove Park School, which fronts onto Chester Road, which is a gateway into the town from the north.
The school closed in 2003, but since then, due to inadequate security measures taken by the Council, the building became the subject of some vandalism, and water damage (due to a failure to turn off the water supply when the building was vacated). The more modern (and frankly - less interesting) buildings around the site were demolished in 2012.
Towards the end of 2014, Coleg Cambria expressed an interest in the remaining building, and drew up some plans to convert it for further education needs. The plans were welcomed by local residents as an appropriate and fitting use of the building. Outline planning permission was approved on the 2nd November 2015. For the record, a bat survey was conducted during 2015, and there was no evidence of any bats roosting within the building itself.
On the 10th November 2015, the Council decided to pull out of negotiations with Coleg Cambria, days after approving their plans, stating that the site would be best kept in their portfolio for future educational use. At a meeting on January 12th, 2016, the ten members of the Executive Committee of the Council voted to demolish the building, without any public consultation whatsoever.
The Council made several references to the presence of asbestos within the building. No formal asbestos report was presented at the Executive Committee meeting. We do know that a major asbestos removal excersise took place in the mid-1980's. The official report carried out by Lucion Environmental, does detail locations of asbestos within the building, but the quantities are very small, and easily dealt with. In fact, the Council itself reports that before demolition, any asbestos would need to be removed, therefore, as far as we are concerned - it's a not an issue. However, the Council saw fit to include this highly emotive word in its agenda to the Executive Committee.
Despite having no immediate plans, and against the wishes of several council members who spoke in favour of delaying any decision until the public had received a chance to comment on the matter, the Executive Committee decided that demolition was the only way forward.
On the 21st January 2016, the Council applied for planning permission to demolish the building, which has since been granted.
Our most urgent aim is to halt any planned demolition, and convince the Council that a full public consultation about the future of this much loved building is undertaken.
Our long term aim is to closely monitor the other heritage buildings within the county, and ensure that they are respected and retained for future generations.
Grove Park School Campaign History
The fight to save this local landmark has been going on since 2007. The building received lots of positive comments in the press during 2007 and 2008. Indeed one reader of the Wrexham Mail wrote in and suggested the building would make a great arts centre (Letters page, February 2008).
Nick Roe, from Wrexham Civic Society also wrote a letter in March 2008, which made reference to Wrexham County Borough Councils own Heritage Strategy Document 2005 - "Making Heritage Matter, Section 4.3, Priority 4, Recommendation 10", which states "To contine to implement the policy for ensuring that planning and development processes seek to achieve alternative and sustainable uses for unlisted buildings of historic interest, in preference to demolition"
After an Extraordinary Meeting of the Full Council in April 2008, Councillor Neil Rogers stated "The school, opened in the 1930's, will be a permanent symbol to the brave women who, in the early 20th century, fought the Government of the day to have equal rights under the constitution", and "that it will not allow the demolition of Grove Park County School for Girls".
In fact, as part of the agreement to sell the site to Coleg Cambria in 2014, was the condition that the building would be retained and sympathetically renovated.
Wrexham County Borough Council have reneged on this promise, and we will hold them fully responsible for failing to protect the building.