WREXHAM AFC’s bid to open the new Kop stand to full capacity when built has been refused by the council.
A decision notice has been issued by Wrexham Council on the club’s application to vary planning conditions which currently limit the planned 5,500 seat stand to a capacity of 4,900.
Having gained planning permission for the demolition of the old terrace and construction of the new Kop a year ago, last month the club owned by Hollywood due Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney sought permission to remove a condition imposed when that was granted.
The condition restricting use of the stand to 4,900 was put in place until the impact of potential river pollution had been accurately quantified.
When permission for the stand was granted the council’s chief planning officer was given delegated powers to deal with the conditions imposed on the Kop development, including continued talks with Natural Resources Wales on the issue of phosphates.
That arose from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) targets published a few years ago to reduce river phosphate levels in special areas of conservation (SAC) across Wales.
This followed concerns about an increase in phosphate concentrations – which can cause water pollution – in the country’s rivers.
A few months ago the Five Fords Waste Water Treatment Works in Wrexham was issued with a permit by NRW enabling it to deal with phosphates, and this formed the basis of the club’s application to remove the capacity-restricting condition.
A covering letter sent with the application by Portia Banwell of Savills on behalf of the club said: “It is clear that use of the Kop Stand at its full capacity is supported, subject to addressing the matters raised by Welsh Water.
“It is timely to remove this condition because the Five Fords Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF) has been granted a permit by NRW.
This means there is existing capacity with the WWTF.
“This means that the Racecourse Ground’s redeveloped Kop Stand will be able to hold the 5,500 spectators that it has been designed and approved for.”
The letter added: “It is acknowledged that the previous capacity of the Kop Stand was evidenced at 4,900, so the restrictions only related to the net increase of 600. This would only apply to event days, and clearly would only relate to part of those days (i.e. short time before, then during and then shortly after an event).
“The Kop stand is also identified for ‘home’ supporters, a large proportion of whom are from the local area (and thus already in the catchment).
“In these circumstances it is clear that the actual impact is extremely low, and the restriction was imposed largely as a general embargo approach as opposed to identified concerns with the Kop Stand per se.
“Nevertheless, given the changes to the permitting then securing the removal of the restrictive condition to allow full capacity occupation is timely.”
But a decision notice issued on the planning section of the council’s website shows the application to vary the condition has been refused in a delegated decision signed off by chief planning officer David Fitzsimon.
While the club has suggested the amendment is non-material, the council considers it to be material – suggesting the authority is seeking more detailed evidence in favour of removing the condition, or a further application reflecting a revised scheme.
The decision notice gives the following reason for the refusal, stating “the council hereby confirms that it considers the amendments, as described in the application, to be material”.
It adds: “Your application for a non-material amendment to the above mentioned planning permission is refused.
“The applicant is advised that there is no right of appeal against the council’s refusal to grant this non-material amendment.
“The applicant is advised to contact the council to discuss other options and procedures for making the desired changes to the existing planning permission. The applicant is advised to contact the council’s head of community wellbeing and development prior to the preparation of detailed plans.”
The council has since issued a statement explaining the reasoning for the refusal.
A spokesperson said: “The club is seeking to remove a condition imposed on the original planning permission for the stand which currently restricts capacity to 4,900 rather than the full 5,500 capacity due to limitations caused by an issue relating to foul drainage and phosphate levels at the time.
“Unfortunately, the type of application that was submitted was not suitable for removing this planning condition and the Football Club’s Planning Consultant has been advised how to resolve this.
“Subject to the views of Welsh Water and Natural Resources Wales, the council looks forward to resolving this matter in a timely manner when an amended application is submitted.”
It is anticipated the club’s new Kop stand will be ready in time for the 2024-25 season.