North East Wales

Wrexham FC: Council 'bungled' flats scheme

Wrexham FC Racecourse stadium
Image caption The club narrowly missed out on promotion back to the Football League this season

A planning expert has accused Wrexham Council of bungling an application that could have safeguarded the financial future of the town's football club.

Alan Thornley said the council made mistakes in approving a scheme to develop flats on land behind a stand at the club's Racecourse Ground.

Mr Thornley told BBC Wales an agreement to ensure the club benefited from the scheme was worthless.

Wrexham council said it had followed the legal advice it was given.

After putting the club up for sale at the end of last year outgoing owners Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts confirmed on Monday that the cash-strapped Blue Square Bet Premier club had been sold.

The new owner was revealed to be Jon Harris, the club's former commercial director, who is backed financially by businessman Colin Poole.

In 2009 the club, under Mr Moss and Mr Roberts, sought permission for the £40m investment behind the old Kop stand.

It was thought that all profits from the 800 student flats proposed for Glyndwr University would go to the club, safeguarding its long term security.

Mr Thornley was employed by Wrexham Supporter's Trust to examine the planning agreement to check that that would happen.

He told the BBC Wales Week In Week Out programme that after doing so he had "serious reservations" about the agreement.

He said: "There are phrases in there that talk about net profits being invested and there are other phrases where it says they will make 'every endeavour' to achieve things. So it could mean anything.

"It makes it worthless if you try to apply it realistically."

He added: "As a long-established planner I would have had serious reservations. It's not something I would have allowed to go through on my watch."

However, Aled Roberts, Wrexham council leader at the time, defended the council's actions.

He said: "There was different legal advice, that's the difficulty. If you're on two sides of any legal dispute, you can always get two or even three different opinions.

"The council's position had to be based on the legal advice given to the council, and the advice at the time was the undertaking was the best way forward."

Wrexham FC no longer owns the land, which has been sold off to Mr Moss and Mr Roberts.

They defended their decision, saying they had paid £6m to the club for the land, which had paid off most of the club's debts at the time.

Mr Moss said: "The words of asset strippers is totally disgusting because you can't asset strip something that you've actually paid over the odds for.

"We don't know if the university will take all the space. We have planning permission for 800 units but are they going to take it? That's part of the profitablilty aspect that will go on."

Week In Week Out is broadcast at 2245 BST on Wednesday 18 May on BBC One Wales.

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites