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Solar panels to be installed at Chirk community hub after council approval

A COMMUNITY hub and café near a World Heritage Site has been granted permission to install solar panels to help keep energy costs down and retain jobs.

Wrexham Council’s planning department has given the green light for the installation of roof-mounted solar panels at Caffi Wylfa, a social enterprise and development trust based on Castle Road in Chirk.

Caffi Wylfa operates as a café, community hub and tourist information centre, open seven days a week and the trust board hopes that by installing solar panels it will help the environment and keep costs down as energy bills spiral.

According to planning documents that were submitted with the application, the Glyn Wylfa house premises also accommodates 11 modern offices which are rented to local businesses and a police station is also housed there within a converted outbuilding.

But the location is within the Chirk Conservation Area and within the buffer zone of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site (WHS).

A Heritage Impact Assessment has been undertaken and was submitted with the application, with the board making the case that the café would be less reliant on electricity from the national grid.

The assessment, undertaken by consultants Wardell Amstrong states: “Generating their own energy will enable Glyn Wylfa Ltd to spend less of the income generated by both Caffi Wylfa and the renting of office spaces within Glyn Wylfa house on electricity from the grid.

“This has become particularly pertinent recently with the significant increase in the cost of electricity.

“Without generating energy, there is a concern that the cost of running the facilities will significantly reduce the financial ability for the Board to reinvest in the necessary maintenance of the buildings and the Site and ensure its long-term viability.

“Caffi Wylfa currently employs 16 people directly and supports getting local people into work. In addition, Glyn Wylfa Ltd lease Glyn Wylfa house to a variety of local businesses with 11 current tenants employing 30 people.

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“Investment within energy generation will ensure funds remain available to operate the café business sustaining local people within employment and sustaining the current contribution made by the site to the vibrancy of the conservation area through the café and office use.

“Caffi Wylfa is reliant upon electricity to operate the commercial kitchen as well internal and external lighting, security systems and Wi-Fi across both Caffi Wylfa and Glyn Wylfa House and the detached outbuildings.”

The statement adds: “In view of the significant increase in the cost for electricity, particularly for businesses, Glyn Wylfa Ltd have introduced energy saving measures to their current operations. Whilst these measures have allowed for a c.20kw reduction in usage per annum, the measures alone do not offer the necessary cost savings to enable the continued investment within the site.

“As such, the board are seeking alternative means to reduce electricity use from the grid with the installation of solar panels at the property offering an effective, long-term and viable solution.”

Planning permission was granted in a delegated decision made by David Fitzsimon, Wrexham Council’s chief officer for planning. A single-storey rear extension to the kitchen at the site has also been granted.