We won! Nine Acre Field remains an open green space
We are delighted that common sense has prevailed and that the Council’s short-sighted and insensitive plan to build on Nine Acre Field, one of Wrexham’s few remaining open green spaces, has been rejected. At a packed Planning Committee meeting, held earlier today (Monday 25th July) Councillors from all areas of Wrexham put forward their opinions on the merits and detriments of the plan to build on the field.
We were especially pleased that local Councillors Becca Martin (Maes-y-dre) and Corin Javis (Acton) spoke so passionately in defence of this iconic piece of land located in what is otherwise a highly built-up area. Deputy Chair Marc Jones (Grosvenor) detailed the many oversights and contradictions in the Councils plan.
It seemed that despite many months spent highlighting that any open green space is of value (regardless of whether it's physically accessible, publicly or privately owned), the Case Officer Matthew Philips, struggled to grasp that simple fact. Repeatedly stating that the field had never been open green space, and that refusing permission to build the school wouldn't make it an open space. Planning Policy Wales clearly states that all open green space, regardless of ownership or accessibility is of value, and should be protected as such, and yet here is a planning officer who doesn't understand this very simple concept. The field was always an OPEN GREEN SPACE and will remain an OPEN GREEN SPACE. Planning Officers are meant to uphold planning policy, and in this case, the policies set by PPW are crystal clear.
Councillor Dana Davies (Ruabon) put forward the motion to refuse, citing several important planning policy violations. The final result was 10 to refuse, 5 to grant and 1 abstention.
We would say to Wrexham Council that you can't have it both ways. You can't create policies that protect open spaces, quality of life, and play provision, then complain when the Councillors (voted for by the electorate) enforce those policies. That's not how democracy works.
You can watch the meeting for yourself on the Wrexham Council webcast archive: https://wrexham.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/689711
In theory, this decision could lead the way for the Council to finally open up Nine Acre Field for public use, something it stated it would do back in July 2004, but has as yet, failed to deliver. The campaign group feel that children should not have to scale a 6ft high steel fence simply to play a game of football. If we are successful in getting the field open to the public, our next step would be to develop our vision.
Since 2019, the Nine Acre Campaign Group has fought a long, hard battle against this application, raising thousands of pounds for consultants fees, engaging local communities, and drawing up plans for a community park. Without the enduring loyalty and determination of our many hundreds of supporters, today’s decision would not have been possible. We thank them for sticking with us and not giving up on a greener future for Wrexham.
Ultimately, we hope this sends some important messages to the officers at Wrexham Council. Start listening to the people of the city. Start finding creative, sustainable solutions to difficult problems, and stop assuming that every green space is a development opportunity.
Fate of Nine Acre Field to be decided in July
We are aware that the Outline Planning Permission application will now be decided by the Planning Committee at one of their meetings in July. This could be either the Monday 4th July, Friday15th July or Monday 25th July.
We will soon be asking our supporters to contact the Councillors responsible for this decision, asking them to think for themselves and not follow the recommendations from the Officers (whom will no doubt recommend the application is passed).
Welsh Government will not make the final decision on the fate of Nine Acre Field, leaving it instead, to the local Planning Committee members
Welsh Government decided not to ‘call in’ the WCBC proposal to build a school on Nine Acre Field but the convincing case for rejecting it has not gone away. Our detailed technical objections have been well-circulated and will be presented again when the proposal is back on the Planning Committee’s agenda.
Loss of green space: We don’t have to tell you that Wrexham is becoming an urban sprawl. The Nine Acre Field was closed to public use years ago but it still has enormous value as an environmental ‘fire break’ and a visual amenity. There is plenty of research to prove the health and well-being benefits of green space in urban areas, and the best option for the future use of Nine Acre field is a public park. If the pandemic taught us anything, it was the importance of being able to exercise, walk the dog, play, commune with nature locally. This is why Sophie Howe, The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, is pushing for the 2015 Future Generations Act to be amended to include local access to Green Space within 300m of every home in Wales.
Damage to the Environment: WCBC is claiming that by setting aside a third of Nine Acre Field for public use, it is increasing the amount of green space available. This is smoke and mirrors. The field is already a green space, regardless of whether it is open to the public or not. Retaining a third of it for public use means two thirds is lost. Google Maps shows that Nine Acre Field is one of the few remaining open green spaces in Wrexham. In a time of climate emergency, as we recover from the pandemic, building on it would be an act of environmental vandalism, full of unintended consequences.
Increased Road Safety Risks: There are several schools within a mile of Nine Acre Field. Families and children make their way past it on foot and by cycle on the way to and from these schools, crossing already busy roads. The surrounding roads, not just the main ones, are clogged and parking is a big problem at peak time. Putting a school on Nine Acre Field will make these problems much worse, increase road safety risks, increase vehicle emissions and noise. The Council is understating these risks, its analysis is flawed and dangerous. As we all know, when you're paying a consultant to work on your behalf, you always have the final say in the outcome of any report produced. Wrexham Council has spent an inordinate amount of tax payers money in this vanity project to date.
Our campaign to preserve Nine Acre Field and open it up for public use has struck a real chord. Hundreds of objections have been received by WCBC Chief Planning Officer (and Planning Committee members) from residents all over the town, 80% of them living in Maesydre, Acton and Grosvenor. Many of these objections are asking the same question. Why isn't the former Groves site being considered?
Planning Application on hold after Welsh Government intervene
We welcome and are relieved by the decision of the Welsh Government on 7th January to call-in Wrexham Councils' planning application to build a school on Nine Acre Field. The Planning Committee subsequently deferred its consideration of the application when it met on the 10th January.
Full statement on Leader Live website
Outline Planning Permission to be decided on Monday 10th January 2022
The outline planning application will be presented to the Planning Committee on Monday 10th January 2022 at 4pm.
The Council have made some additional documents available on the planning website, which attempt to deal with the highways issues raised by our consultant last year. However, these fall short of being definitive solutions. We urge all supporters to contact the Planning Committee members and voice your concerns about allowing the field to be lost to development. This could be your last chance to make a difference.
The document that the Councillors will be considering is here. However, we have added our own thoughts and comments to this version, so please read those as well.
You can e-mail all the Councillors on the committee by using the mailing tool on this page.
Nine Acre Campaign Group objection to Outline Planning application
We have commissioned a full technical evaluation of the Councils outline planning application, and their transport statement that forms part of the application. Our consultants have produced reports that highlight the many reasons why the field isn't a suitable location for a new primary school. You can find copies of these reports on our Community funded reports page.
Wrexham Council submits Outline Planning Permission application
As expected, the Council has submitted an application for Outline Planning Permission to build a school on Nine Acre Field. The design has changed considerably since the Pre-Planning Consultation, but still involves a massive loss of open green space, and some major traffic interventions.
Objections to the plans can be submitted using reference number P/2021/0680 before Monday 9th August 2021.
We have placed copies of the plans, and reasons why you should object on THIS page.
Our revised vision for Nine Acre Field is released
After collating the feedback we received from the survey last year, we took our initial plan for the field back to the drawing board. We've now designed what we believe to be an inclusive public park, taking into consideration as many of the ideas suggested where practical. The revised park plan is on this page, and you can also read more about the design concept here. Note that this is still a work in progress, and changes to the design can still be made. We needed more detailed plans in order to approach potential funding organisations to see whether we would be able to apply for a grant etc.
Protect it for the health and well-being of current and future Wrexham residents
An open letter to all Councillors
Whilst we await the next move from Wrexham Council, which will undoubtedly be a full planning application, we have e-mailed an open letter to all Councillors, asking for their support in our fight to protect what little green space we have left. A copy of the letter can be found here .
The Pre-Planning Consultation is now closed
Wrexham Council ran a pre-planning consultation on its plan to build a non-state school on the Nine Acre Field. The consultation closed on 16 August 2020. We know there was a strong level of objection expressed not just by communities in the immediate vicinity of the field, but from all over Wrexham County and further afield, despite the fact that the consultation was carried out in the midst of a national pandemic. Wrexham Council failed to notify one of the statutory consultees (Fields in Trust, who represent Sports Wales). Fortunately, after we alerted Fields In Trust, they managed to obtain an extension to the consultation, and submitted their own objection.
The Nine Acre Field Campaign Group retained PWA Planning to evaluate the consultation documents. Their report was submitted as the Nine Acre Campaign Groups formal objection to the proposed school. The report shows that the Councils plan goes against local and national planning policy. A copy of the report is available here.
Our expectation is that the Council will now submit an outline planning application in due course. This could be within weeks or it may take longer. Either way we will be ready for the next phase of the campaign to save the Nine Acre Field from the Councils short-sighted plan. We will be fine tuning our alternative vision for the future of the field, whilst our planning consultants will be ready to challenge the application on a technical level.
Wrexham Councils plan for the Nine Acre Field
The details of Wrexham Councils short-sighted plan for the Nine Acre Field are available HERE. The main points are:
- By proposing that St Marys School re-locates to the Nine Acre Field, the Council is going back on its previous declaration in 2004 to preserve the field as a public amenity and that it would explore ways to open up the field for greater public access. It also stated in 2017 that the field was unsuitable for development.
- Wrexham Council and the Catholic Diocese (which operates St Marys School) might think this is a 'done deal', but we reject the idea that the Nine Acre Field should become private property, with no future opportunity for public use. This is a bad deal for Wrexham, bad for the environment and sets a bad precedent for our other open green spaces.
- The Council will argue that replacing a precious green space with a primary school to which 420 pupils and staff are driven to and from each day won't affect road safety, commute times, congestion, parking, noise and light pollution, and emission levels. We know different. We know exactly what will happen, and it won't be good for the communities that surround the field or for the attractiveness and reputation of Wrexham as a place to live and work.
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