A CONSERVATIVE MP has responded following calls for the UK Government to deliver on a funding promise for a project that would include the redevelopment of Wrexham's Racecourse Ground.

Wrexham MP Sarah Atherton has responded after Labour Senedd Member Ken Skates called on the UK Government to "step up" and deliver  funding required for the Wrexham Gateway Project. 

Atherton, who in 2019 became the first Conservative to win the Wrexham constituency that had been Labour held for more than 80 years, stated everyone involved is working to "optimise the chances of success". 

The scheme would see the Mold Road area redeveloped including a 5,000-seat stand built at the Kop end of the Racecourse Ground, with a four-star hotel and multi-storey car park nearby.

A conferencing and hospitality facility has also been suggested as part of proposals to boost the area's economy.

An £18.3m bid to the UK Government's Levelling Up Fund to drive part of the Wrexham Gateway scheme forward was rejected last October.

However the Wrexham Gateway Partnership remains intact with Wrexham Council having prepared a renewed bid to the Westminster government.

Skates, who is the MS for Clwyd South and before stepping down from the cabinet after last year's election had been the economy minister, called on the UK Government to support the scheme.

He said Wrexham MS, Lesley Griffiths who is also the minister for north Wales, had told him the Football Association of Wales' chief executive, Noel Mooney, is keen for the Racecourse to host Wales international games again.

But Skates said UK Government cash to make the redevelopment of the Racecourse, the oldest international ground still in use, a reality is needed. The Kop end has been closed since Wrexham's relegation from the Football League in 2008.

"The ongoing Wrexham Gateway project and the buzz around the town created by the new ownership of the football club and its success on and off the pitch, coupled with the UK City of Culture 2025 bid, now is an ideal time to look at bringing international football back to Wrexham on a regular basis," said Skates.

“What we need now is to get the ground up to international standard. The Welsh Government has pumped millions of pounds into the Gateway project – we now need to the UK Government to step up too.”

READ MORE: 'Beating heart of this club' - Rob McElhenney on Wrexham's 10,000-strong crowd

Atherton responded by highlighting that she has also been raising the issue.

She said: “I am very pleased that Mr Skates watched last weeks PMQs with my question to the Prime Minister where I raised Wrexham’s Levelling Up Funding Bid – specifically focussing on levelling up sport in north Wales, to ensure my constituents don’t have to travel to Cardiff or Swansea to watch international football.

"Since sport is devolved, Welsh Government has had 22 years to make sport more accessible to those in north Wales.

"The levelling up bid is a competitive process, with the deadline being 6th July, and Wales has already had £121m from the UK Government fund, including a successful bid of £13m for Wrexham Council in the first round already.

"Everybody concerned is working in partnership to optimise our chances of success.”

The Welsh Government had said in 2017, when questions around funding for sports and entertainment venues were raised, that it would be for Wrexham AFC to put forward plans for any ground redevelopment. The club, at that time, was owned and run by fans.

The Welsh Government also provided, along with Conwy council and the European Union, funding towards the £6 million redevelopment, in 2011, of Parc Eirias, in Colwyn Bay, which has become established as the home of the Welsh under 20s rugby side and has also hosted concerts by stars such as Tom Jones.

The Racecourse last hosted a Wales football international in 2019 when a Ben Woodburn goal secured a friendly victory over Trinidad and Tobago.

The National Wales: Sarah Atherton pictured at the Racecourse.Sarah Atherton pictured at the Racecourse.

Atherton added: "Football is at the heart of Wrexham, and the community is the heart of the club.

"The redevelopment of the Kop stand is important for the progression of the club and town, not only because Wrexham has its name in lights at the moment and needs a stadium to match, but because it would increase spectator capacity to the level that would mean we the Racecourse Ground could host the international sport, not only football but rugby and more."

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When Wrexham's co-owners Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds delivered their mission statement to the supporters trust during their proposed takeover they said would: "Explore the renovation of the Racecourse Ground and improve the venue for the club, for International matches and perhaps, the occasional Tom Jones gig."

Since then, Wrexham AFC's strategic advisor Shaun Harvey has said redeveloping the Kop is his main priority and a fans survey on potential redevelopments has been completed. 

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