Assurances given over the future of 'jewel in the crown' Pontcysyllte Aqueduct despite potential cuts in funding

Reporter:

Jonathan Grieve

PLANS to cut funding for Wrexham’s World Heritage Site must not see the county lose its “jewel in the crown”, a meeting heard.

Members of Wrexham Council's employment, business and investment scrutiny committee were examining budget proposals at the Guildhall, including a suggestion to save £40,000 by allowing the Canal and River Trust to take more of a lead at the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct site.

And fears were raised about the future of the World Heritage Site status if the council pulled funding.

But Cllr Hugh Jones, who also sits as chairman of the World Heritage Site board, assured them this would not be the case.

Members agreed it could be disastrous for the county if the site were to lose its WHS status.

Also among the proposals were plans to charge for public toilet use at Trevor, Chirk and Froncysyllte, which are currently funded by the council to the tune of £27,000 per year because they fall inside the World Heritage Site.

Cllr Hugh Jones said: “It is the biggest jewel in Wrexham’s crown and that’s why we fund [the toilets] to the standard expected of a World Heritage Site.

Cllr Marc Jones queried why if the World Heritage Site was the jewel in Wrexham’s crown was a cut to its council funding being proposed.

He said: “It was interesting to hear Cllr Jones refer to the ‘jewel in the crown’. That makes it all the more worrying we are looking to cut this funding.

”Are we clear we have got a replacement for this funding and if not, is there a risk to the World Heritage Site? With all the good work done promoting it, I don’t want to see that undone.”

Cllr Hugh Jones said initially he had been concerned about the prospect of cutting funding but he had been reassured by an agreement in principle with partners regarding the ongoing management of the site.

He said: “None of us are comfortable with the idea of wider cuts. What we have to do is to work more closely in partnership and get our partners to take on more of the burden financially.

”We are very close to an agreement with the other partners that in terms of the management of the site, they will share the burden.”

Cllr Alun Jenkins said none of the options on the table sat easily
with him.

”I remember when we achieved World Heritage Site status a huge amount of effort went into it and there was tremendous excitement when we were successful.

”We have got to make sure that status is not put in jeopardy. Jewel in the crown understates it really.

”I hate this process – it is like going to the doctor and being told you are going to have to lose an arm, but the question is which one? Everything is unacceptable.”

Cllr Sonia Benbow-Jones called for more to be done to improve the Chirk Bank side of the site, which would help ease the burden on Trevor Basin.

Cllr Hugh Jones assured members the funding cut would not affect the World Heritage Site status and added it was likely the agreement with partners would be struck in the first half of next year.

Email:

jonathan.grieve@nwn.co.uk

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