21st April 2016
Save Our Heritage Group demand dismissal of Wrexham Council Executive Board
Culture of secrecy raises questions about their motives.
(Note: This press release is "interactive" - there are links embedded which will take you to the correct point on the WCBC webcast where the statement was made by the Leader, Councillor Mark Pritchard, or to a copy of the relevant e-mail)
The Executive Board of Wrexham Council routinely withheld information from other councillors, and deliberately hid the truth when dealing with the public; over the shock decision to demolish the former Grove Park School, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed.
Lynne Williams, who carried out the research on behalf of the Save Our Heritage campaign group, said “I've found clear evidence that Councillor Mark Pritchard, who leads the Executive Board, has been lobbying to put distance between Wrexham Council and Coleg Cambria as far back as March 2015.”
“In addition, an e-mail from Steve Bayley (Head of Housing and Economy) actually states that the Council Leader gave him a brief to secure the site for a town centre primary school. The e-mail was also sent to Councillor Michael Williams and Councillor Carol O'Toole.”
This directly contradicts the statement by Councillor Pritchard at last weeks Executive Board meeting where he said that 'no steer was given by us' to the officers involved.” He went on to state that council officers had “offered the building to Coleg Cambria, but they didn't want it, and if the college would have progressed with Phase 1 of their plans”, then it would have been “wonderful, fantastic”.
Coleg Cambria had their plans to refurbish the building into a modern college approved in November 2015. A week later, Wrexham Council announced that they were going to retain the site for their own use. The decision to demolish the building was taken without any public consultation in January this year.
There are also e-mails which prove that certain members of the Executive Board knew, that in order to “....use the site for a primary school, will require some work on the covenants, which are in favour of a secondary school”.
This would involve additional legal costs which the council has not yet considered, and wouldn't necessarily guarantee that the site could be used for either a primary school, or a faith based school. However, at the Executive Board meeting of April 12th Councillor Pritchard stated that he has received advice from the Councils legal officers, and that they could indeed build a primary school on the site.
He also revealed that St Marys Catholic Primary School was the most likely occupant of the site, but he had been told by the Chair of Governors (Mr John Droog), in an e-mail, “that they didn't want the existing building”.
During the same meeting, Councillor Pritchard stated that the issue for him had always been about public safety, and the presence of asbestos in the building.
However, a recent asbestos risk assessment report for the building actually revealed no airborne asbestos particles. In fact the type of asbestos present, and the volumes concerned, is easily dealt with, stated Mr R George MRICS FCIOB, a surveyor from the campaign group who examined the original report, which was carried out by Lucion Environmental Ltd.
Carol Nicholas, from the Save Our Heritage Group, said “I'm amazed that there are so many occasions when the Executive Board manipulates information before it gets released to the public”.
The documents, which were obtained as the result of a Freedom of Information Request by Lesley Griffiths AM, and shared with the group, run to over 375 pages, and provide a detailed insight into the often subversive world of the Executive Board and council Officers.
The group state they no longer trust the Boards impartiality and honesty. With this in mind, they urge the full Council to bring a motion for the dismissal of the present Executive Board at the earliest opportunity, and for its replacement to be more democratic, and a true representation of the parties that make up the council.