The on-going saga to determine the future of the Groves building and site has been well documented on this blog since the debate began several years ago.
Originally the council owned site was due to be taken over by Coleg Cambria but this fell through in 2015 with Wrexham councils leadership deciding to withdraw from negotiations to sell it, a situation described at the time by Coleg Cambria’s Principle David Jones as ‘hugely disappointing and disillusioning’.
Since then Wrexham council have come under fire for trying to rush through a bid to demolish the building, ultimately leading to a campaign to save it and the Groves eventually being listed by Cadw in 2016.
Sitting within the portfolio of the Education department, it has since been declared surplus to requirements, then not surplus to requirement and most recently, surplus to requirements for Primary education but still with no clear direction outlined for it’s use.
Almost a year ago I requested that the issue be looked at by one of the council scrutiny committees in an attempt to get some clarity about the future of the building and site. That meeting eventually happened last week and came with a long overdue options appraisal to look at the potential re use of the building for a primary school and also the use of the adjacent land for a new build primary school to meet demand within the town centre for school places.
The meeting saw frustration vented from most councillors present at the seeming lack of ability of the council leadership to get to grips with the issue and find a solution, or at least outline a way forward after so much time. Kicking this issue into the long grass yet again was simply not going to be an acceptable option. Ultimately the committee decided to recommend the building was surplus to requirements for primary education but chose not to endorse the original request from the Education department to declare it surplus to requirements altogether. They also went a step further, establishing a new task and finish group to explore all the options to finally bring the building back in to use.
The situation is clear enough, we’ve arrived at this point through a series of misjudgements, missed opportunities and to be blunt political personality clashes, that have ultimately meant that nothing got done. It’s time now to draw a line under past mistakes and make sure this building does not sit empty for another decade and is brought back into use to benefit local people .That will require the council’s leadership to take on board views outside its own bubble which I very much hope its capable of, we’ll see.
There are as always solutions on the table, if the political will is there to make them a reality. This new group, not weighted down with the complications and war wounds of previous spats, may well hold the key to finally getting the right result.