A High Court decision to strip a former school of its Grade-II listed status so it could be demolished has been reversed by the Welsh Government.
The Groves school has been re-listed today. This is a week after Wrexham Council won a decision to get the building delisted in the High Court.
The building is, of immediate effect, relisted as Grade 2.
… It has been confirmed the listing was signed on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, who is Mark Drakeford AM. The full written decision is at the footer of this page.
Wrexham Council have confirmed to Wrexham.com the listing decision.
Cllr Mark Pritchard, Leader of Wrexham Council, said ‘We are very disappointed with this decision and will take legal advice on the way forward. I can assure everyone that the council remains committed to providing 21st Century education in Wrexham on this site and this decision will not detract from our commitment.’
The former all girls school received a Grade II listing due to its ‘architectural interest’ – with Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, Ken Skates confirming the listing in August 2016 himself. This decision was then challenged by Wrexham Council. Last weeks High Court judgement document reversed the listing, and said that ‘Welsh Ministers’ ‘do reconsider and re-determine the application to list the former Grove Park School’, with the deadline stated as tomorrow.
Local AM Lesley Griffiths has told us this afternoon: ‘From secretive discussions to pre-prepared press releases and costly legal challenges, Wrexham Council must surely recognise their handling of this whole affair has been a complete shambles.’
‘The former Groves School is a prominent site in the centre of town and council leaders have kept their plans secret for long enough.’
‘There needs to be clarification and greater transparency. It is high time council leaders explained their proposals and consulted with the people and relevant stakeholders on the matter.’…
Elaine Guntrip-Thomas, chairperson of the Save Our Heritage group who have campaigned to preserve the building said this afternoon: ‘We knew the worth of this building all along. The reasons given to list the building are now documented for the public to see. We believe that we have been vindicated in our decision to campaign to save this important building. The next step will be to ensure the building is used to educate future generations.’
Local Government Lawyer writes:
Wrexham County Borough Council has found itself unable to redevelop a school after one Welsh minister listed the building only days after another agreed to a High Court order quashing an earlier listing.
The dispute affects the Groves school, which was listed in August as Grade II after a campaign by pressure group Save Our Heritage.
Wrexham though wanted to demolish it to build primary schools on the site, arguing that this was essential for demographic reasons.
It then won a High Court case to rescind the listing, which economy minister Ken Skates agreed to on 21 November.
On 29 November however Mark Drakeford, cabinet secretary for finance and local government, re-imposed the listing.
A Welsh Government statement said: ‘His decision is to list the building, with its historical dimension, on the ground of its special architectural interest due to its aesthetic visual quality, craftsmanship and decorative detail.’
The council has argued that the Groves should be demolished to make way for one or two primary schools.
It cited the cost of maintaining the building, which it put at a minimum of £14,500 a year, and said the empty school attracted anti-social behaviour. Officers were called out on ‘at least five visits a day to the site and significant quantities of rubbish and drug paraphernalia have to be removed from the site’, it claimed.
The Groves could not easily be converted to modern standards as a functioning school, the council added.
The BBC writes:
Wrexham’s Grove Park School was listed in August after an appeal by campaigners who wanted it preserved.
But Wrexham council, which wants to clear the site for a new school, won a High Court challenge.
Now, the building has been relisted on the grounds of ‘special architectural interest’.
The council, which wants to build a new school, said it was ‘very disappointed’.
The school closed in 2003 following a shake-up of secondary school education and Wrexham councillors agreed the building should be demolished.
On November 21, Economy Secretary Ken Skates agreed to a High Court order to quash the listing on the basis he failed to provide adequate reasons.
The Welsh Government was then asked to reconsider a fresh listing application by 30 November.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: ‘The cabinet secretary for finance and local government has been asked to decide whether or not to list the former Grove Park School, Wrexham as a building of special architectural or historic interest.
‘His decision is to list the building, with its historical dimension, on the ground of its special architectural interest due to its aesthetic visual quality, craftsmanship and decorative detail.’
Elaine Guntrip-Thomas, chairwoman of Wrexham’s Save Our Heritage group, said the group ‘knew the worth of the building all along’.
She added: ‘We believe that we have been vindicated in our decision to campaign to save this important building.
‘The next step will be to ensure the building is used to educate future generations.’
Wrexham council leader Mark Pritchard said: ‘We are very disappointed with this decision and will take legal advice on the way forward.
‘I can assure everyone that the council remains committed to providing 21st-Century education in Wrexham on this site and this decision will not detract from our commitment.’
For NewsBlog background on the squashing see the IHBC NewsBlog