A new state-of-the-art training centre that will help protect the derelict site of a former psychiatric hospital from vandals has been given the go ahead.
Members of Denbighshire County Council’s planning committee unanimously approved the scheme which is the first phase of plans to regenerate crumbling ruins and grounds of the historic North Wales Hospital in Denbigh.
The development will include temporary site works offices, a construction training centre, a workshop and plant repair facilities.
It will be hub for up to 35 apprentices to be trained annually by Ruthin-based Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK.
The new centre will provide accredited training courses in construction and plant operating skills,
During the construction phase at the site, 20 permanent staff will be based at the offices.
According to the council, increased onsite security will help deter vandalism at the former psychiatric hospital which closed its doors in 1995.
Opening the centre will mark the beginning of an ambitious long-term project to transform the long-neglected 19th century building and its 20-acre grounds into a community of houses, shops and amenities.
Richard Owen, the Training and Workforce Manager at Jones Bros, said: “We are pretty unique as we are a civil engineering company and also a fully-accredited training provider with 93 per cent of our apprentices completing their courses successfully and 83 per cent of them staying with Jones Bros.
“Many of them come from the local community and we know they will have the right attitude to starting early and on time and working hard and in return they get the skills to make a successful career.
“They are the cornerstone of our business. Many of our senior staff have come through the training programme.
“They provide us with high quality people who are ready-made to start careers with Jones Bros.”
Two of the latest group of apprentices at Jones Bros have close family ties to the Hospital site. Gareth Hughes, from Denbigh, and Ben Jackson, from Trefnant, both had parents who worked there.
Gareth, 32, is now a qualified plant operative working on the wind turbine site at Llyn Brenig and he said: “I have actually been up to the site as part of the team making it safe and it was special as both my parents worked at the hospital.
“It has been such a mess and it will be good to be part of bringing it back to be a part of the community again.
“I applied to Jones Bros because I wanted a change and it’s been great. I’ve had the chance to learn how to operate all kinds of plants and now I’m qualified I’m on site full time.”
Ben, 20, has also just qualified and he said: “My dad was actually a nurse at the Hospital and played for the North Wales Hospital rugby team so it will be good to see the site being restored.
“I joined Jones Bros because I wanted to work in construction and drive plant machinery and it’s gone very well. The training here has been brilliant with a good mix between working on sites and at the training centres.”
Dan Hignett, 21, from Denbigh, only joined the company last month and he said: “I’m enjoying the training, especially the chance to learn how to drive the plant machinery.
“I am from Denbigh and so it’s good to be involved with saving the hospital site.”
Owen Roberts, 19, from Llannefydd, started his apprenticeship three months ago and he said: “I was working in a pub and it was a dead-end job. I wanted a career I could see a future in and it’s been brilliant here.
“It’s going well and I’m enjoying it, especially now I’m starting on the machines.”
Project manager Helen Morgan said: “We are very pleased to have been given the go-ahead on the first phase of a long-term project to regenerate this important site which will take several years to complete.
“The main purpose of this particular development is to protect the former North Wales Hospital from further vandalism and to enable its redevelopment.
“To protect the site properly it will be important to have a presence on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Outside working hours, the site will be patrolled by security.
“We will work closely with the local community to alleviate any concerns they may have in relation to road use and we noted the Highways Department are happy with the arrangements in this regard.
“We are currently in discussions with Denbighshire County Council about a planning application for the overall redevelopment scheme.
“The intention is to create a high-quality development that will do justice to the natural environment and the history of the site, bringing this area of the town back into the community, providing jobs, homes and prosperity to Denbigh and the wider area.
The Leader of Denbighshire County Council, Councillor Hugh Evans OBE, said: “We fully recognise the importance of the site to local people.
“We want to ensure that the development of the site provides the most important listed buildings with a sustainable future whilst benefiting both the economy and local community in terms of jobs and housing.
“This planning agreement is only one part of the jig-saw and we look forward to seeing the full development plans for the site in the very near future.
“This latest decision is a step closer to the regeneration of this very important and historic site”.