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£1 million visitor centre idea for Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Mid Wales | News | Published:

A £1 million plus visitor centre could be built at the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, part of a world heritage site that straddles the Shropshire border.

A new cafe and a visitor viewing platform over the Dee Valley border is part of a 10 year masterplan that has been unveiled by consultants, commissioned by the Canal and Rivers Trust and Wrexham Council.

Both have stressed that the scheme is purely an idea of what could be created at the side of the towering aqueduct rather than firm plans with much depending on how funding could be generated.

More than £1.5m could be spent to attract tourists to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct World Heritage Site in the Trevor Basin near Wrexham.

The bridge carrying the Llangollen canal across the Dee Valley was constructed under the instruction of Thomas Telford between 1796 and 1805.

The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

In 2009 an 11-mile stretch of the canal, between Chirk Bank in Shropshire and Llangollen was designated a world heritage site, taking in both the Pontcycyllte and the Chirk aqueducts and the Chirk tunnel.

A consultants' report says that, although the number of visitors have increased since designation, on average they stay at the Pontycyllte Aqueduct - seen as the 'jewel in the crown' of the World Heritage site for just an hour.

How the plans look - click to see the full-size image

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It says: "There are strong visitor numbers, but people aren't staying within the site and spending money. There is also inappropriate parking provision, poor orientation and signage in and around the site. "

"Discussions highlighted a lack of a sense of arrival and welcome across the entire World Heritage Site. Creating a sense of expectation when arriving on the site will be key to welcoming people."

Ideas include a heritage and learning centre, christened The Arch, which would also allow for the sale of products made within the World Heritage Site.

There would be a cafe and a decking and viewing platform to give visitors the best view of the aqueduct.

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Other ideas include a playground for younger visitors and a woodland area with walks, adventure equipment for older children and a trim trail. There would also be new lift bridges, pathways and a picnic area.

There are also proposals that would see the creation of an activities hub. This would allow local business and social enterprises to provide visitors to the site with information and equipment to participate in activities such as boat hire, biking and walking.

The report says that the centre could generate a net profit of more than £54,000 a year and provide the equivalent of six full-time jobs.

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