The spectacular £1.4 million transformation of a housing estate into a “green oasis” has been honoured with a coveted environmental award.
The Tre Cwm estate in Llandudno, managed by housing association Cartrefi Conwy, is only the second in Wales to be awarded a Keep Wales Tidy Green Flag Award.
It’s a unique double for Cartrefi Conwy because six years ago the first Welsh housing estate to win the accolade was Parc Peulwys in Llysfaen, above Old Colwyn, which is also theirs.
Parc Peulwys has now been awarded Green Flag status – the international mark of a quality park or green space – for the sixth year running.
As part of the scheme at the Tre Cwm estate, neglected areas of land have been turned into green spaces featuring a giant caterpillar made out of boulders.
According to Cartrefi Conwy, the aim was to reconnect youngsters living on the estate with the natural environment by creating communal areas which families can enjoy and where children can safely play.
The estate has also benefited from redesigned roads, setting out car parking spaces, footpaths and changing concrete areas into green spaces – all brightened up by a major programme of planting trees, shrubs and flowers.
The work came on top of the £2.75 million spent by the housing association to improve the estate’s houses, flats and maisonettes which were built in the 1970s.
The project has been masterminded by Cartrefi Conwy’s Environmental Development Officer, Matt Stowe, a qualified landscape designer and horticulturist.
He said: “To say I’m thrilled is an understatement. The whole Cartrefi Conwy team has worked incredibly hard to turn this estate into a pleasant and thriving community in which families can enjoy living.
“But, as hard as we have worked, it’s the community – the Tre Cwm residents themselves – who have worked hardest of all. It’s great that the community bought into what we were trying to achieve and took ownership of the project.
“We wanted the focus to be on play and provide play areas throughout the estate where play provision was paramount.
“There are safe areas for toddlers and young children and natural play areas to encourage older children to be adventurous and enjoy outdoor areas and connect with the natural world. An important part of the whole project was that we saw play permeate throughout the estate.”
He added: “What we didn’t want to do was come up with plans which would be imposed on residents, so at every stage we consulted and held events at which residents could express their views and come up with ideas.
“There has always been a strong sense of community on the Tre Cwm estate but that sense of community has been strengthened through this project. Children have been involved from the outset and we asked them what they wanted.
“And of course so many partner agencies have been involved and that’s really helped strengthen that community spirit and feeling of togetherness.”
Owen Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s Community Regeneration Manager added: “The whole idea of the Tre Cwm project was about opening up space, giving everyone access to all areas and planting new sustainable trees, bushes and flowers.
“There were challenges but with the help of the community these have all been overcome.
“We split the project into lots of different smaller schemes and I think that has helped tenants to see their environment and estate in a different way.
“For me the new play areas are really magical. Clearly we have to think about the safety of children but at the same time we wanted to add an element of risk into their play, they do need to learn too.
“To win a second Green Flag Award, the only two in Wales, is amazing. The Tre Cwm tenants should be immensely proud of what they have achieved. It’s they who put in most of the hard work.”
It was a proud moment for Gwynne Jones, Cartrefi Conwy’s Managing Director, Jones.
He said: “Our ethos is to build communities to be proud of and clearly that’s what we have achieved at Tre Cwm. This Green Flag Award belongs to our residents and the whole Tre Cwm community.
“The physical and construction work has been undertaken by Cartrefi Conwy staff and our partners, particularly Brenig Construction who, as ever, have been amazing.”
Cartrefi Conwy Chief Executive Andrew Bowden added: “We began in 2014 by consulting with tenants to see what it was they wanted and how they wanted to achieve the goal of making the estate more environmentally friendly and better for both adults and children.
“It might have taken a few years to complete but we wanted to make absolutely sure we got things right. There is no doubt that winning this Green Flag Award is real evidence that we and the whole community took the right approach.”
Lucy Prisk, Green Flag Coordinator at Keep Wales Tidy said: “The Green Flag Award programme continues to go from strength to strength in Wales, thanks to the commitment and enthusiasm of staff and volunteers across the country.
“We can’t underestimate how important high-quality parks and green spaces are to our communities, our health and wellbeing, nature and economy. We want to encourage everyone to explore their local area and make the most of the award-winning sites on their doorstep.”