Sunday, 21 February 2021

Call to make Wrexham underpass safe


The underpass linking the old Groves school site to the centre of Wrexham should be made safe with better lighting and security.

That's the view of Maesydre council candidate Becca Martin, who is contesting the county council by-election for the area on March 18th.

Becca, who is standing as Plaid Cymru's candidate, said: 
"The underpass was closed for some time due to safety concerns. It's now been opened again but it's a very unwelcoming route, especially for women on their own. As we emerge from the pandemic over the coming months, I think we need to see it better security to enable people to get across the road more safely.

"In normal times, Powell Road is a very busy four-lane road and difficult for anyone with mobility issues or pushing a buggy to cross safely. There have been accidents and my priority is to ensure everyone in the area is safe and feels secure.

"The underpass needs work before it's fully functioning again. My suggestion is for a community-led clean-up, improved security lighting and - crucially - CCTV to provide reassurance for people using the path. I'm hopeful that such a strategy would gain the support of local residents, the community council and county council to improve active travel and road safety in the area.

"Neighbouring community councils have installed mobile CCTV units in hotspots for a few thousand pounds and I've been informed that Lidl has committed to pay £3,500 towards improvements to the underpass. As it's Wrexham Council property I would expect them to make up any shortfall.

"I've spoken to residents who are keen to use the underpass but don't feel safe, so it's a matter of coordinating work with the council and wider community. Maesydre needs to be better connected with the town centre and this will be a help."

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Budget 2021: Survival of hospitality sector must be a priority – Plaid Cymru


Ben Lake MP urges Chancellor to extend support for hospitality to 2022

 

Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, has today urged the Chancellor to prioritise the survival of the hospitality sector in the 2021 Budget, by extending the furlough scheme and maintaining the lowered rate of VAT for the sector. A failure to do so would “not only deal a blow to the sector but also to the wider Welsh economy”, according to the Plaid Cymru MP.

 

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is to set out the UK Government’s budget on Wednesday 3 March, almost a year since the last Budget on 11 March 2020.

 

Of each UK country and English region, Wales has the highest proportion of total jobs in the hospitality sector (8.5%) relative to total employment, employing over 123,000 people.

 

To help the hospitality industry over coming months, the Ceredigion MP called on the Chancellor to extend the furlough scheme “for as long as Welsh Government restrictions require it”, reiterating his party’s view that financial support should be provided in accordance with devolved regulations rather than decided unilaterally by the Westminster government.

 

He also called on the Chancellor to extend the lowered rate of VAT at 5% for hospitality and tourism for a year to March 2022. Plaid Cymru had welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement in July 2020 to set a lowered rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism – a longstanding Plaid Cymru policy – and are now urging the Chancellor to continue this policy.

At a crucial stage of the pandemic, Mr Lake said that “we cannot afford to throw away successes by prematurely ending much-needed financial lifelines to small businesses across Wales.”

 

Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP said:

 

“Thousands of jobs in Welsh pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants are at risk this Spring, when several support programmes are due to come to an end. 123,000 people in Wales are employed in the hospitality sector – that’s around 8.5% of total employment. A failure to support hospitality on 3 March will not only deal a blow to the sector but also to the wider Welsh economy.

 

“We in Plaid Cymru are therefore calling for an extension of the furlough scheme for as long as Welsh Government restrictions require it. We are also calling on the Chancellor to extend the lowered rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism for a year to March 2022. Firms must be given the chance to get back on their feet, and should therefore benefit from at least one summer earnings season and return to profitability.

 

“The economic impact is likely to be felt for years to come, with businesses facing mounting debt and taxes. I therefore urge the Chancellor to set out a sustainable repayment programme for hospitality businesses, to allow staggered payments over a period of time, rather than as lump payments.

 

“The pandemic has been a nightmare for most businesses – but the end is in sight. We cannot afford to throw away successes by prematurely ending much-needed financial lifelines to small businesses across Wales.”

  

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

'Freeze Council Tax with unspent funds' – Plaid Cymru sets out plans for reform


Average Wrexham Band D would save almost £100

Council Tax would be frozen under plans unveiled today by Plaid Cymru. For taxpayers in Wrexham, where Council Tax is set to rise by 6.95% this coming year, that could mean savings of almost £100 a year for a Band D property.

Plaid Cymru's North Wales MS Llyr Gruffydd said it was time people in areas such as Wrexham had a break after a series of above-inflation rises in their Council Tax:
"This plan would give hard-pressed citizens a break after such a tough time economically - many have had to contend with losing a fifth of their wages while on furlough and, in some cases for the self-employed or for small businesses, things have been far worse.

"A freeze on Council Tax rises next year will help residents across north Wales."
Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS set out his party’s commitment to reform council tax should it win May’s election, urging the current Welsh Government to use its unspent funds to immediately freeze the tax in the meantime.

Referring to the £800 million of unspent funding in this year’s Welsh Government budget, Adam Price MS used today’s First Minister’s Questions in the Senedd to point out that it would cost £100 million to allow Welsh councils to freeze council tax and offset last year’s average 4.8% rise.

Citing the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ description of Wales’s council tax system as “out of date, regressive and distortionary”, Mr Price set out Plaid Cymru’s commitment to making council tax fairer and more progressive, adding that under such proposals 20% of households on the lowest incomes would see savings of at least £200.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said:
“Any talk of the pandemic as the great leveller has been completely debunked by the harsh reality facing thousands of families in Wales.

“Citizens Advice Cymru have found that Welsh families have been hit by a total of £73 million of arrears due to struggling with rent, energy bills or council tax over the last year. £13 million relates specifically to Council Tax arrears.

“That is why I have urged the Labour Welsh Government to use £100 million of its £800 million unspent funds to freeze council tax right away, making up for last year’s average rise of 4.8%.

“A Plaid Cymru government would go further and reform council tax to make it fairer and more progressive. We will undertake a revaluation, increase the number of bands at the higher end of household evaluations, and ensure that council tax is more proportional to the value of properties.

“We expect that under our proposals 20% of households in the bottom fifth of income distribution will see their council tax fall by more than £200.

"As stated by the Institute of Fiscal Studies which describes Wales’s current council tax model as “out of date, regressive and distortionary”, making council tax proportional to up-to-date values would lead to average bills falling by more than £160 in Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot and Blaenau Gwent.

“This would be a fairer system by far than what Labour has left in place for too long.”

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Town centre businesses launch fundraiser to thank Maelor staff

Businesses in Wrexham town centre have come together to try to raise £2000 to purchase treats for NHS staff at Wrexham Maelor hospital. The initiative is the brainchild of staff from Martin Rees Jewellers on Chester Street but other local businesses have quickly come on board in order to thank the 2,500 staff at the hospital for all their hard work during the pandemic.

Becca Martin who is helping to organise the Hugs for Heroes effort

The initiative is called ‘Hugs for Heroes’ and gem expert Becca Martin, who works at the Jewellers, explained how it will work:

She said: 
“This idea initially came from Ruth Rees at a staff meeting. We wanted to arrange treats for key workers and decided to start with our wonderful staff at the Maelor. Each gift box is going to contain some special treats and a thank-you card designed just for them by local artist Emma Parish.

"Our NHS staff are simply amazing and are under more pressure than ever given the current situation with Covid in Wrexham. We know they’re exhausted and stressed but are still doing everything they can for our communities. We believe every single member of staff, from cleaners to consultants, deserve our thanks and appreciation. This is a small gesture in comparison to what they’re doing for all of us but we hope it helps to lift their spirits.

“ Of course we need your help to make this happen, so I’d appeal to people locally to chip in whatever they can to support our wonderful NHS heroes.”

People can donate online at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/yxscws-hugs-for-heroes

The initiative also has a Facebook page called Hugs for Heroes Wrexham.

Becca added: 
“A special thanks also has to go to other local businesses and volunteers who have come on board to help make this happen. I’d like to express a massive thanks to:
Josh Green: JDG Creative
Jacqui Blore: Piccolos Music and The Story Teller and Piccolos Crafts
Julia Chaplin: Ellis Chaplin Limited
What A Sweet Shop – Treat Delivery (want people’s names to remain anonymous)
Ruth and Martin Rees, Becca Martin and Lisa McGarett: Martin Rees Jeweller Pawnbroker
Emma Jones: Emma’s Miniature Gifts
Bobbi Cockcroft"



Hidden poverty and the importance of the £20 uplift


by Cllr Carrie Harper

The hidden poverty crisis growing in Welsh communities and why it was vital the keep the £20 benefits uplift

Covid is pushing more and more Welsh families into poverty, many are experiencing extreme hardship for the first time and charities fear they will not be able to cope with additional demand if existing support is reduced.

Claims for Universal Credit have surged across the UK from 3 million in March 2020 to 5.8 million by November of last year. Many families have had no other option but to apply for the benefit, particularly if they’ve been self-employed for less than three years and don’t qualify for other support schemes.

Universal Credit recipients have been receiving an additional £20 ‘uplift’ per week because of the pandemic which is due to end in April next year. A vote in the Commons tonight saw the Tories pressed to extend the scheme described by many as a lifeline. They abstained on the vote, no doubt having been burned by the backlash to their stance on free school meals in England but the issue will inevitably be back on the table soon.

Research by Wales Fiscal Analysis found that ending the temporary uplift could leave over a third of Welsh households, excluding pensioners, more than £1,000 worse off annually.

As a County Councillor I’ve worked with local food charities in Wrexham since the introduction of Universal Credit locally in 2017. I’ve been speaking to them about the impact Covid has had on their work and why they believe taking away the £20 uplift would be disastrous.

A spokesperson from the Given to Shine charity, who I’ve worked particularly closely with, told me what it’s been like on the front line of the pandemic and explained that they are now working with many new people and are currently feeding about 1500 families a week across Wrexham and Flintshire.

The spokesperson said: 
“Demand for our support has soared since the Coronavirus pandemic, however, we’ve noticed a dramatic drop in requests from people on Universal Credit due to the £20 rise. Since April around 95% of requests have been new, from working households; citing, in particular, self employed financial delays, furlough leading to a 20% income reduction, yet increased food and utility bills, and people now on reduced hours to meet workplace Covid regs as the cause of their financial insecurity.

"Previously, requests predominantly due to UC delays were a common theme, transitions and recalculations in both working and non working also cropped up frequently. The £20 extra per week has seemingly provided recipients with the means required to both eat and heat their households.

"Many of the new people contacting us have lived relatively comfortably for years and as a result, have high outgoings - finance products, credit cards, phone contracts, cars on finance (with huge fines if you break the contract!) so are juggling which bills can be delayed and which are essential, with many having little to nothing left for food. Even the lucky ones who had savings 10 months ago are increasingly finding that their savings have long gone, or are drying up.

"Furlough is equally as difficult for many, with people just staying afloat on minimum wage jobs now receiving 20% less, and this time of year they don’t have the ability to turn the heat off all day whilst they work and the kids are in school. The kids are bored so want to snack more and there’s the increased cost of more meals at home. Both of these groups of people are left with only one pot of money to cut back on and sadly that’s the grocery fund because they cannot risk eviction by withholding rent or their mortgage, court by withholding council tax, having their gas and electricity cut off by skipping those bills, or huge fines by breaking contracts for credit products.

"It’s a shocking situation and takes hidden poverty to a completely new level, we’re helping people who have really nice houses, nice cars, but no food and all the lights off to save on the electricity. If the £20 uplift were to stop, I don’t think we’d be able to cope with the demand that would create.”

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Arriva bus services suspended




Call for temporary services to industrial estate and hospital 

In the wake of Arriva's cancellation of bus services in the Wrexham area due to a Covid-19 outbreak among drivers in its Wrexham depot, Plaid Cymru's Councillor Carrie Harper has made a plea for essential services to the industrial estate and hospital to be maintained. She said:
"Councillors were informed at 7pm tonight (Tuesday) that Arriva services were suspended on all but a few routes. That leaves key workers, including hospital staff, as well as those who have to attend hospital with very little alternative. 
"As this firebreak at Wrexham depot is likely to last at least 10 days, I'm calling on the Welsh Government and Wrexham Council to work together to provide an alternative temporary service with another bus company. 
"A shuttle service to the industrial estate and to the hospital from King Street is a bare minimum to ensure that workers and hospital staff can get to work safely. The timing of this announcement is very unfortunate, to say the least, but hopefully some services to these key destinations can be reinstated quickly."
HERE IS A FULL LIST OF ALL SERVICES AFFECTED:

Service 1 villages along the Chester Road corridor will have an hourly service 

Service 2/2A/2C Cefn Mawr & Oswestry buses will continue to operate, so this will serve Cefn Mawr, Plas Madoc, Ruabon, and B5605 via Johnstown, Rhostyllen. 

Service 3 & 4 Rhos, Ponciau & Penycae – No services 

Service 5 Llangollen, Villages on B5605 Rhostyllen, Johnstown main road, Ruabon, Acrefair & Trevor will have hourly service. Also T3 Traws Cymru continues to operate along this route. 

Service 7 & 8 Caia Park – No Service 

Service 11 Minera village – No Service in Minera. Service X51 will continue to operate along main A525 Bwlchgwyn, Coedpoeth, Southsea. 

Service 12/A & 14 Brymbo, Tanyfron, Brynteg. Lodge – No Service. Southsea & New Broughton can use Service X51 

Service 21 Summerhill no service. 

Service 27 Mold No Service - Alternative is M&H Coaches service 29 

Service 33 Llay, Bradley – No Service 

Service 35 Plas Golbourne – No Service 

Service 41A Industrial Estate & Queensway area – No Service 

Service X51 via Southsea, Coedpoeth, Bwlchgwyn will continue to operate 

Other communities who are served by buses from other operators (Lloyds Coaches, Tanat Valley, Pats Coaches, Wrexham Taxis, Valentine Travel, Stagecoach, M&H Coaches, Llew Jones) remain unaffected.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

'Wales can lead the way on greener, cleaner products'

Wales can lead in terms of recycling and innovative green products. That's the view of a new company that's developed and produces a recyclable paper cup at its Wrexham factory. Frugalpac, based on Wrexham Industrial Estate, was created three years ago and has pioneered a paper cup that can be recycled fully rather than face being landfilled. The company's managing director Malcolm Waugh met Plaid Cymru's North Wales MS Llyr Gruffydd and local Plaid Cymru councillor Carrie Harper to show them the products they are making. Mr Waugh said:
"Our innovative cups are low carbon, easily recycled and therefore avoid going to landfill like more conventional paper cups. We have also developed a 'paper' wine bottle that has 1/6th of the energy needed to create a conventional wine bottle and can also be recycled. "We’re motivated by a passion to protect our environment. Our already recycled, recyclable products will help to eliminate the insane levels of waste that exist in society today."
Frugalpac's wine bottles use 94% recycled paper and Mr Waugh commented that "Wales is good at recycling paper." Regarding the company's wine bottles, he added:
“It’s much lighter than glass, easier to transport and friendlier to the planet. Just as important, the wine still tastes as wonderful in a paper bottle as it does in glass."
The company wants to expand into making yoghurt and noodle pots as part of its growth plans. Mr Gruffydd said:
"Wales is doing well in terms of recycling and reducing our landfill but, as always, we can and must do better. "That's why it's heartening to hear positive comments from new and innovative companies such as Frugalpac, which we must nurture and support if we're serious about a zero-waste future. "As well as the environmental benefits this can also help us rebuild a different kind of post-Covid economic model. We should be aiming to build on this and create new industries and jobs that help create a greener, cleaner Wales. "Reducing landfill is something I'm particularly interested in as we have all seen the consequences of that with the Hafod landfill fire earlier this year."
Cllr Carrie Harper added:
"It's great to see innovation happening on our doorstep here in Wrexham. With the right political will, we have seen what can be done in terms of reducing landfill and Wrexham Council is showing the way in that respect. "Much more needs to be done and being able to recycle more products that we currently throw away after a single use has to be a good thing."

Monday, 21 December 2020

Rival candidate: "I'm backing Becca" for Maesydre

 

Becca Martin, Plaid Cymru

Aimi Waters



















A former Liberal Democrat candidate has backed Plaid Cymru’s Becca Martin in the forthcoming Maesydre by-election.

Aimi Waters stood for the Liberal Democrats in Maesydre in 2017 but has now declared her support for Becca in next year's by-election in the ward. The seat is vacant after the resignation of the previous councillor.

Aimi said: 
“Wrexham needs change. Wrexham needs people who have its best interests at heart and people who are not afraid to break down barriers and go against what’s always been considered the norm.  
“That’s why in this election, I’m showing my support for Becca Martin.
“Becca will be a strong voice for Maesydre; someone who I believe will stand up for the issues that matter in the area and will make sure she is heard.
“I urge you to lend Becca your vote and make change happen; Make Maesydre matter.”
In response Becca Martin said: 
“I’m very grateful for the support I’m getting from voters and Aimi’s backing is really appreciated. She was a strong candidate in 2017 and I will do my best to repay that support by being a strong voice for Maesydre.

“The sudden lockdown has prevented us from going out and leafleting as planned over the weekend, but anyone who wants a chat or to raise any issues can get in touch with me on 07845811929 or by clicking here to e-mail.”

Monday, 14 December 2020

Timing couldn't be better for a new football museum for Wrexham


Plans for a National Football Museum for Wales in Wrexham are a step closer after the Welsh Government agreed to fund the scheme in the town's museum.

The move has been welcomed by Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru's North Wales MS, who launched the campaign for a Wrexham-based national museum five years ago.

Mr Gruffydd, who will contest Clwyd South for Plaid Cymru in next year's election, said: 
"This has been something we in Plaid Cymru have pushed for a long time and it's good to see it come to fruition as a result of our pressure on the Welsh Government. Our original call for a national football museum in Wrexham was met with some initial scepticism but the campaign won the doubters over.

"We're grateful for the initial support from Wrexham Supporters' Trust and its then chair Pete Jones, who was there at the launch in December 2015. Back then we had to convince people that we needed a football museum, that it should be in Wrexham and that it should be at a revamped Racecourse ground. Eventually, as part of a budget agreement with the Welsh Government, Plaid Cymru was able to get the funding needed for this project to go ahead.

"We won the arguments with the first two elements but the new museum will be housed in Wrexham's county museum - perhaps in years to come it can be relocated to the Racecourse as the Kop End gets redeveloped. We'll see what happens when the new owners take over - perhaps it will be part of their plans."
Councillor Carrie Harper, who also attended the Racecourse launch five years ago, added:
"Wrexham is the spiritual home of Welsh football - this is where the Football Association of Wales was created and early internationals played. We've got a tremendous history to tell through the generations right up to the present day - everyone's looking forward to next year's Euros as Wales goes from strength to strength and more locally the town buzzing with news of new owners.

"Wrexham council owns one of the largest collections of Welsh football memorabilia and this is a great opportunity to showcase that. I can't think of a better time to open the new museum."

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Two thousand watch virtual public meeting on Wrexham's controversial housing plan

Two thousand people have viewed a public meeting held virtually to discuss Wrexham's Local Development Plan.

Plaid Cymru in Wrexham organised the virtual public meeting last night as a result of public concerns and interest in the LDP, which is currently being examined by the Welsh Government's Planning Inspectorate.

Councillor Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru's candidate in the coming Senedd elections, said: 
"This was something of an experiment because the pandemic means that we cannot hold actual town hall meetings. So we tried a Facebook Live event where we explained the situation and tried to answer questions from the public.

"Although it was a leap in the dark, we were delighted that 2,000 have watched the event in the first 20 hours - many hundreds saw it live last night and a total of 2,000 have now viewed it. It's the equivalent of almost filling the William Aston Hall twice over, so I'd consider that a success. The 30-minute debate is still available to view on Facebook if you missed it - you can click here."

Plaid Cymru has opposed Wrexham's LDP because it is based on flawed population projections of a 10% increase that would mean allocating land for almost 8,000 new homes - most of which would be on greenfield sites surrounding the town and nearby villages. More recent projections show that the borough's population is, in fact, likely to fall by 1.5%.

Cllr Harper added: 
"The draft LDP as it stands would allocate land for two new huge housing estates on either side of the town - one on Holt Rd/Cefn Rd and the other on Ruthin Rd. They are effectively new villages and would put huge strains on already over-stretched services such as GPs, schools and roads. We want to see the borough's empty properties brought back into use - there are hundreds of empty homes that need sorting - plus an emphasis on redeveloping brownfield sites rather than destroying valuable agricultural land for commuter estates that we don't need."

The party locally has launched a petition opposing this proposed urban sprawl

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

PLAID CHOOSE A REAL GEM FOR COUNCIL BY-ELECTION 



Plaid Cymru in Wrexham has chosen gemstone expert Becca Martin as their candidate for the forthcoming Maes-y-dre county council by-election.

Becca, 33, has lived in the area all her life and attended St David's School.

The by-election is expected to take place in 2021 after the resignation of Councillor Paul Jones.

Becca works as a gemstone specialist in a well-known town centre jewellery shop, where she's worked since leaving school, and is the devoted mother to three-year-old Charlie.



She said: 
"I'm delighted to have been selected to stand in this by-election. It's important that the people of Maes-y-dre have a voice on the council going forward, especially as there are some contentious issues to be discussed locally. I think that being a mother with a young child brings a different perspective to the council and I'll aim to do my best to represent everyone in the ward."

Before the pandemic, Becca had been involved in a new venture called Parents Helping Parents, which was focussed on helping families with new children. She said: "It's had to be put on hold due to the pandemic and lockdown, but I'm hoping it can develop in the coming year. Providing support for parents to raise their children successfully is very dear to my heart and it's important for so many people."

Councillor Marc Jones, who leads the Plaid Cymru group on Wrexham council and represents the neighbouring Grosvenor ward, said: "On a personal level, I worked well with Paul Jones on local issues as part of a wider cross-party group of town-centre councillors.

"But I'm delighted that we've been able to persuade Becca to stand for Plaid Cymru in the coming by-election. If she's elected, I will look forward to working with her in the interests of our residents on issues such as the plans for the Nine-Acre Field. She'll make an excellent councillor and has a real commitment to the area and reviving the town centre. She also brings a different perspective as a young mum and that's something the council as a whole should welcome.

"Plaid Cymru succeeded in winning the last council by-election in Gwersyllt North and electing Cllr Phil Rees earlier this year and I'm sure our team will be raring to go in Maes-y-dre. Wrexham needs change for the better and this is a very clear opportunity for the people of Maes-y-dre to have their say."



Friday, 4 December 2020

Plaid holds virtual public meeting on controversial Wrexham housing plan

Plaid Cymru councillors have revealed plans for a virtual public meeting on a controversial housing plan for Wrexham.

The Facebook Live meeting from 7pm on Tuesday, December 8th, will allow local residents to discuss and ask questions about the Local Development Plan.

The latest version of the LDP allocates land for housing, leisure and industry, and has caused huge controversy by having land for nearly 8,000 homes - many of which are on greenfield sites surrounding the town.

Councillor Carrie Harper said:
"We're holding this virtual public meeting because we want people to have their say about the LDP and also to help make sense of it. If it goes ahead - and we sincerely hope it doesn't - then it will mean huge new estates being built on either side of Wrexham along with growing urban sprawl on good agricultural land.

"The pressure to build all these new houses isn't based on any attempt to meet local demand - the vast majority of the houses being built won't be affordable for many Wrexham people. We believe a local development plan should put communities first rather than favouring developers.

"The virtual meeting is open to everyone who wants to attend and we're encouraging people to submit questions in advance. It's a new departure for us and we're having to adapt to the realities of the pandemic so we hope to involve as many people as possible. We'll also be out over the weekend delivering leaflets in the areas most affected by large sprawling housing developments.

"If we don't get a grip of planning, we're going to see Wrexham town and surrounding villages increasingly merge and lose very precious green spaces. This plan as it currently stands is not in the best interests of Wrexham and its people."
Anyone wishing to submit a question to the Facebook Live meeting, which will be on https://www.facebook.com/CarrieWrecsam, can email plaidwrecsam@gmail.com or text 07747 792441.

Councillors gagged over controversial housing plan

Councillors have been prevented from debating a crucial plan by Wrexham Council's chief legal officer.

Councillor Carrie Harper explains the background:

Wrexham Council's Local Development Plan has had a long and chequered history. The plan is meant to run from 2013-28 but has still not been accepted by Planning Inspectors. The first one was rejected back in 2012 and the council made to start again on LDP2. This went forward to examination in 2018 and is still with the Planning Inspectors, who have serious concerns about the process.

Plaid Cymru has opposed the LDP in its current form because it is allocating land for development based on flawed population projections. Because the Welsh Government insisted that Wrexham's population was going to increase by 20% - around 25,000 people - in the next 20 years, they also insisted that land for 13,000 houses were allocated initially.

This soon adjusted down as it became evident that the reality was very different. The LDP2 went forward with a housing allocation of 7,700 - including huge housing estates of 1600 homes planned for both the Holt Road and Ruthin Road. The council was split 30-17 in backing that plan but it went forward for inspection.

In the meantime, three issues emerged.

Firstly, Wrexham's population was not growing - it was static and in recent years has started to fall. The boom years of the 2000s have not been replicated, as Plaid Cymru predicted. The truth is that we do not need to trash our countryside to built commuter estates on this scale. A far more modest number of houses is needed

Secondly, the LDP2 planned for 1300 affordable homes in its allocations. This was slashed in half AFTER the vote in 2018 after developers said they couldn't build that many affordable homes. This was agreed by a small group of senior councillors and officers so that we now have only 600 affordable homes likely to emerge from the plan.

The ongoing problems with selecting a suitable location for a gipsy and traveller site has also caused problems with the Planning Inspectors, who have challenged the way the selection was made.

Because of this, Plaid Cymru's group on the Council decided to submit a motion for councillors to debate on December 16th. The full text is below but in essence it's calling for a withdrawal of political support for the LDP before it's too late.

This had been accepted by the council's senior legal officer, Sioned Wyn Davies, back in September but last night she informed Plaid Cymru that she was withdrawing the motion on the back of legal advice. We were not given sight of that advice and were given no notice that she had a problem with our motion.

The withdrawal was also done with just 8 days' notice - meaning it's too late to submit a new motion.

We await sight of the legal advice before we take further action.

For clarity, here is the exchange between the Chief Legal Officer and Plaid Cymru's group.


Dear Sioned


This is unprecedented. On September 25th you accepted our motion to council without reservation.

You have given no indication that there is a problem with the motion pre-determining any further decision nor raised concerns with us regarding the legality of the motion.

You have not shared the independent legal advice you have received. Please do that so that we can consider our next move. I would also be grateful for the paper trail regarding that decision to ask for independent legal advice.

We submitted a motion, as is our democratic right, on a matter that is of great concern to many people in the borough. That includes the council's own leader and his group of independents. He has recently indicated - you might say pre-determined - his position in advance by stating that he would not support the LDP in its present form.

What conversations have you had with the Leader regarding the LDP and this particular motion?

The Plaid Cymru group along with the rest of the council is being prevented from discussing a matter of the utmost importance to our borough's future. This smacks of censorship and you have failed to provide the basis for your decision.

We reserve the right to challenge your decision once we have had sight of the legal opinion.


From: Sioned Wyn Davies <Sioned.WynDavies@wrexham.gov.uk>
Date: Thursday, 03 Dec 2020, 4:05 pm
To: All Cllrs <AllCllrs@wrexham.gov.uk>
Subject: Postponement of Motion to Council

Dear Councillor,

 

I write to inform you that I am in receipt a motion to Council as follows:

 

“In recent weeks significant new evidence and information has emerged that undermines the basis of Wrexham's Local Development Plan relating to:

- population projections that formed the basis of housing allocations

- drastic reductions in affordable housing

- the process of assessing highways impacts

- the process of allocating gypsy and traveller sites

 As a result, this Council resolves to:

- Withdraw its support for the deposit Local Development Plan (as passed on 22 November 2018 by Wrexham CBC) as it no longer meet the needs of Wrexham's communities in light of recent available data for the County Borough.

- Call on the appropriate Welsh Government minister to recognise that the Plan process and its content are fundamentally flawed and unsound and halt the examination by the local Plan inspector

- Call on the Welsh Government to ensure protection for greenfield sites by strengthening Technical Advice Note 1 to prevent speculative development.”

 

I have informed the members putting forward and supporting the motion that it cannot be included in the agenda for the Council meeting on 16 December. The proper time for consideration of the motion is when the independent examination of the LDP by Welsh Government inspectors is complete and the inspectors’ report and associated recommendations are reported to Council.

 

The reason for this is that if the motion were to be supported this could have the effect of committing the Council to acting unlawfully in the future by breaching its obligation to adopt the local development plan once the inspectors carrying out the examination have issued their recommendations and reasons. If the Council were to resolve now that it does not support the local development plan, there would be a risk that the Council might be regarded as having predetermined a future decision about adopting the plan.

 

As Monitoring Officer I have a responsibility to ensure that the Council acts lawfully and it would not be appropriate for me to allow the Council to take a decision on the motion at this time.

 

Whilst I previously indicated that the motion would be able to be included in the agenda at the December Council meeting, at that time there was a reasonable expectation that the inspectors’ report may be available in December. That is not now the position and in the circumstances it has been necessary to consider the motion put forward in the current context.

 

Please note that independent legal advice has been obtained on this matter.

 

Sioned

 

Sioned Wyn Davies

Prif Swyddog Llywodraethu a Chwsmeriaid / Chief Officer Governance & Customer

 

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Debenhams closure 'devastating' for town and workforce

The news that Debenhams are set to close all their 124 UK stores including the store on Eagles Meadow has been described as "devastating news for Wrexham" by Plaid Cymru.

Cllr Carrie Harper, of Plaid Cymru, said the store was the anchor store for the shopping complex, which has already seen many retail outlets close over the past couple of years.

She said: 
"This news is a terrible blow for workers at the store so close to Christmas. It also highlights the dangers facing our high streets, as many businesses struggle to survive through the Covid-19 crisis and the public health measures which limit capacity and demand.

"The prospect of losing an anchor store like Debenhams is a major blow to any town and particularly devastating for the staff, who must be supported by Debenhams at a time when our local economy can ill-afford further economic uncertainty.

"The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the closure of retail stores for prolonged periods has undoubtedly contributed to this announcement. Now more than ever, our towns need urgent and targeted government support to help them recover post-Covid.

"Plaid Cymru has proposed a series of measures to address the difficulties faced by our high streets and help rejuvenate town centres.

"These include a radical overhaul of business rates, providing high street firms with a more level playing than they currently face.

"Without practical solutions and an acknowledgment from government of the severity of the situation, then the outlook for our high streets will remain very bleak."






Friday, 20 November 2020

Council leader should apologise for Local Development Plan mess


Plaid councillors welcome surprise u-turn

Plaid Cymru has called for an apology from Wrexham's council leader after a surprise u-turn by his Independent group of councillors in Wrexham over the Local Development Plan.

The Local Development Plan allocates land for various uses, including employment and housing, over a 15-year period and it's the latter that has proved to be most contentious with the original LDP being thrown out. Welsh Government subsequently insisted on more land being allocated for a greater number of houses over the plan period of 2013-28 and that became the basis for this second LDP.

Plaid Cymru has consistently opposed the premise of the plan for over a decade due to the housing numbers being largely driven by demand from the north-west of England rather than from Wrexham itself. 

Now, in an unexpected twist, the council's Leader Mark Pritchard has told the media that his group is withdrawing its support from the LDP. It's a move that's been welcomed by the Plaid Cymru group on the council. Councillors Carrie Harper, Marc Jones, Gwenfair Jones and Phil Rees had submitted a motion to December's full council meeting calling for the withdrawal of Wrexham Council's support for the LDP due to a number of issues.

Cllr Harper said: 
"Our motion called for the withdrawal of support for what we consider to be a flawed Local Development Plan that's been forced on local communities. We don't believe it meets the needs of Wrexham people. It's based on flawed population projections that don't reflect the reality and it's also halved the number of affordable housing. The LDP allocated huge swathes of greenfield sites for development of large commuter estates and we thought that was unacceptable for so many reasons.

"From the outset we as a group have argued that we should be building and planning for people's needs rather than what developers want. We have been consistent in opposing it. The same can't be said for the ruling coalition, which two years ago put a lot of pressure on councillors to allow this plan to go forward for inspection. Back in October 2018 we argued that councillors giving the plan the thumbs up was a mistake. 

"Where were these councillors two years ago when it was clearly the case that Wrexham's population wasn't growing to the same extent as envisaged? Where were they in opposing the destruction of our environment and concerned about the additional pressures on over-stretched services? Where were they fighting for more - not less - affordable homes?"
She said Wrexham now faced the prospect of planning being taken out of its hands completely by the Planning Inspectorate: 
"It's embarrassing, frankly, that Wrexham is the only council in Wales to have its LDP refused once and now faces having it refused again. The buck has to stop with someone and that should be the council leader, who has been a strong advocate of this plan from the outset.

"He should now apologise to the people of Wrexham for allowing this LDP to go as far as it has done. Wrexham deserves better than this - we need a change of council leadership and the sooner that happens, the better."
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Motion submitted to full council on 25 September to be debated on 16 December 2020.

Dear Councillor

Please note that the following Motion, submitted by the undersigned, will be considered at the next Ordinary Meeting of Council, to be held on 16 December 2020.

“This Council resolves to: 

- Withdraw its support for the deposit Local Development Plan (as passed on 22 November 2018 by Wrexham CBC) as it no longer meet the needs of Wrexham's communities in light of recent available data for the County Borough.

- Call on the appropriate Welsh Government minister to recognise that the Plan process and its content are fundamentally flawed and unsound and halt the examination by the local Plan inspector

- Call on the Welsh Government to ensure protection for greenfield sites by strengthening Technical Advice Note 1 to prevent speculative development”

Mover - Cllr Carrie Harper

Seconded - Cllr Marc Jones

Supported by

Cllr Gwenfair Jones

Cllr Phil Rees