A ‘groundbreaking’ partnership between Shropshire Council and three other authorities on the England/Wales border could be expanded to take in Wrexham.

Shropshire Council’s Cabinet has encouraged its north-west neighbour to get on board with the new Marches Forward Partnership, which is aimed at strengthening ties across the region and attracting government funding for joint projects.

Cabinet members said they were excited at the opportunities the agreement with Powys, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire would bring to the area, as they became the first of the four administrations to formally vote to enter into the partnership.

Council leader Lezley Picton said that while the deal would not solve every problem facing the region, it would bring forward opportunities to for any of the councils involved to work together to put forward joint funding bids for cross-border projects.

Councillor Picton said: “This formal partnership covers 80 per cent of the Wales/England border, and it also covers nearly 800,000 people.

“But we all have exactly the same issues. The transport issues in Shropshire for example are no different to Herefordshire, Monmouthshire and Powys.


“The other point is residents and businesses and visitors don’t see a red line between Wales and England, and they certainly don’t see county borders.

“I’m not saying this partnership is a panacea for all the woes and all the challenges that we have got, but surely it has to be an improvement.”

Councillor Picton said road and rail transport, skills, economic growth and the visitor economy were the areas that had “immediately come to mind” in early discussions, but that other challenges such as health would also present opportunities for collaborative working.

She also revealed there are “conversations being had with Wrexham”, which would bring almost the entire Wales/England border under the partnership.

Councillor Picton added that the response to the proposed partnership from Westminster and the Welsh Government had been “really positive”.

“Part of the reason for this formal agreement is to show both governments we mean business,” she said.

Councillor Picton also revealed the idea was born from a “chance conversation” she had with Montgomeryshire MP Craig Williams, over Powys County Council’s successful £14m Levelling Up Fund (LUF) bid to restore the disused stretch of the Montgomery Canal between Arddleen and the English border at Llanymynech.

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She said: “They got all this money to do their part of the canal, but they weren’t allowed to include the two miles the other side of the border.

“So in effect we have got this canal that is all going to be restored, but the economic benefits are not going to be there because of this two miles. That is daft.”

Cabinet member Rob Macey, who represents Gobowen, Selattyn and Weston Rhyn, said widening the partnership to take in Wrexham would strengthen the cross-border links even further.

He said: “From a division that borders Wrexham, I would certainly encourage them to get on board with it, because as you say [the border] is just a porous thing that people cross through.”

Opposition leaders also welcomed the launch of the partnership.

Lib Dem leader Councillor Roger Evans said: “We do need to work together for the benefit of our residents, on both sides.

“We do work together already in certain areas so let’s improve on it and build on it.

Subject to votes by the other three councils, a memorandum of understanding is expected to be signed in October.