DREAMS of building a £6m theatre in Wrexham are in tatters after councillors finally decided to ditch the scheme this week.
In a heated two-hour debate during a meeting of the full council on Monday, members agreed to drop the controversial plans to build the 400-seater venue in the face of spiralling costs and mounting local opposition.
Before Monday's meeting, Wrexham mayor Cllr Aled Roberts had received a notice of requisition by 16 councillors calling for the authority to abandon the project, leading to the extraordinary meeting.
The councillors' decision will be formally ratified by the executive board later this month.
The motion, which was carried by 24 votes to 18, was passed 'in view of the real concerns expressed by the public.' The initial £4.6m grant from the Arts Council towards the project will now be lost.
Speaking after the extraordinary meeting, Shan Wilkinson, leader of Wrexham Council, said she was extremely disappointed the plans had been dropped.
'I had a personal commitment to this scheme in addition to supporting it as a councillor,' she said. 'I've been a trustee of the board for some time and I'm aware of what an excellent scheme it was, so I'm very sorry it has happened.'
Monday's vote was the final curtain for the scheme, which has been dogged by controversy from the start. The project was initially approved by councillors despite fears it could become a 'white elephant', and critics also claimed the new theatre would steal audiences from existing venues in Wrexham, such as William Aston Hall and The Stiwt in Rhos.
The project has also been plagued by financial problems. In July, the National Assembly gave Wrexham Council a financial lifeline with a one-off grant of £660,000, after an £800,00 shortfall in funding was revealed.
Council chiefs were also left red-faced last month when first-choice contractors GallifordTry Construction pulled out just weeks before work was due to start, blaming 'issues around the cost.' The latest setback came three weeks ago when the authority's second choice, building firm Ballast, went into administration.
Wrexham AM John Marek, a long-time opponent of the scheme, welcomed the councillors' decision.
He said: 'I'm very pleased that the council has come to its senses - against the wishes of the ruling group - and that they have thrown out a costly project that would have resulted in significant council tax rises.'
However, Dr Marek has urged Wrexham Council to consider North East Wales Institute (NEWI) principal Mike Scott's proposal to build a smaller theatre next to the William Aston Hall, and is calling on the authority, Clwyd Theatr Cymru and NEWI to hold a joint meeting to discuss the project.
'Wrexham does need to develop its cultural side,' he said. 'It's important to find a way forward. Although the grant has been lost, Wrexham Council can apply again for a different scheme.'