LONG-awaited plans to transform a derelict building into a heritage centre have taken a huge step forward.
Members of restoration group Glyn Wylfa Development Trust (GWDT) say the £600,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund and Welsh Government will transform the former council office on Castle Road, Chirk, into a major tourist attraction.
The vision is to make it part of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site with a cafe, toilet facilities, visitor information, a craft area to display local metalwork, pottery and handmade jewellery as well as rentable office space.
It is hoped the heritage centre could be up and running as early as Easter 2013.
Overjoyed GWDT chairman Mick Ramsey said: “I was chuffed to pieces when I heard we had the funding.
“The house is just standing there and it doesn’t look in the best condition but we imagine that the refurbishment will bring it back to life.
“We are very excited and cannot wait to see this rundown site put to good use.”
The ornate three-storey Victorian building has been derelict since it closed in January 2005.
Wrexham Council intended to sell off the building but GWDT proposed a scheme to turn it into a community facility in the heart of Chirk.
Campaigners secured a £32,750 development grant in the first stage of the Community Asset Transfer (CAT) programme – a scheme run in partnership between the Big Lottery Fund and the Welsh Government to assist with community owned projects.
Plans for the second stage were approved by the county council's executive board in October last year, and the good news of the second grant of £613,144 has now been announced.
Chirk North councillor Ian Roberts said: “Those involved have put in a tremendous amount of their time and effort, and it is fantastic to see that rewarded.
“It is a massive amount of investment for Chirk. It is going to be something very special.”
Local government minister Carl Sargeant said: “The CAT programme breathes new life into community facilities across Wales.
“I’m sure it will bring social and economic benefits and also empower local communities to use buildings and land to suit their needs.”
Chirk South councillor Terry Evans added: “It is fantastic news and a tribute to the hard work and dedication of all those involved with the Glyn Wylfa project.”
Mike Theodoulou, Big Lottery Fund Wales committee member and Chairman of the CAT committee, said: “This programme is helping Welsh communities to become stronger and more sustainable by assisting them to actively develop where they live.
“We are ultimately helping more people to benefit from their local community assets and also generating local income and employment.”