A town mayor admitted she got it wrong when she opposed the transfer of the estate where she lives to a housing association after they transformed it with a £1.4 million makeover.
Cllr Angie O’Grady, the Mayor of Llandudno, was speaking at a special celebration to mark the presentation of a coveted Green Flag Award to the town’s Tre Cwm estate.
The flag raising ceremony marked a momentous double coup for Cartrefi Conwy housing association which manages the only two Welsh social housing estates ever to be crowned with Green Flag status.
Five years ago, the Peulwys estate in Llysfaen, above Old Colwyn, became the first to receive the internationally-recognised accolade after a massive improvement programme.
At the flag raising ceremony Llandudno mayor, Cllr O’Grady, praised the hard work put in by Cartrefi Conwy and its partner organisations.
Before officially raising the flag up a pole outside the estate’s Tŷ Llywelyn community centre, she recalled how in past years Tre Cwm suffered from a grim reputation before Cartrefi Conwy took over the management of the estate.
She said: “I moved here 27 years ago and I remember it was such a dismal canvas, an eyesore where many residents were unsurprisingly unhappy to have to live. The whole place was in need of radical transformation.
“Now thanks to the hard work put in by Cartrefi Conwy that transformation has been achieved and it’s changed so many lives for the better.”
She confessed to having originally been a fervent critic of the stock transfer 11 years ago.
But she said: “I’ve been proved wrong. Cartrefi Conwy has not only calmed my fears but won me round.
“It’s demonstrated a commitment to investing in improving our homes, our environment and our community. It cares about its residents. This Green Flag award is testimony to that. I’m super proud.”
The Green Flag scheme, run in Wales by Keep Wales Tidy, was set up in 1996 to recognise and reward green spaces judged by environmental experts to meet the highest standards. Winners provide a benchmark for others to aspire to.
Tre Cwm resident Lynn Cantwell, echoed the mayor’s words saying: “I’m very proud to live on this estate. It’s a fabulous place to be. I’ve been here from the beginning when the improvements first started to be talked about and then slowly began to happen. They’ve made a dramatic difference, transformed our whole neighbourhood.”
Cartrefi Conwy’s Managing Director, Gwynne Jones, said there has been a complete turnaround from an 80 per cent negative perception on the estate before the work was done, to 80 per cent positive now.
He said: “Some years ago we undertook major improvements to the houses, flats and maisonettes in which residents live, but we quickly realised that wasn’t enough. “We asked residents how they felt about living at Tre Cwm and, despite the structural improvements to their homes, most feedback was negative.
“We had an 80 per cent negative response rate to our questions. The reason was clear –because it’s not just the interior of a home that impacts on people’s lives, but their surroundings matter immensely too. People want to feel happy, safe, secure, and part of a community when they step outside their front door.
“We put together an action plan, talked to the community about what they want for their immediate surroundings and we worked hard to deliver their needs. Now when we ask how they feel about the look of the estate the responses are 80 per cent positive.
“It’s rewarding for everyone who has worked on this project to know how much their efforts are appreciated and that sense of appreciation is hugely enhanced by seeing the Green Flag now flying high at the very heart of the Tre Cwm community.”
The improvement works involved 47 different projects, months of planning and nearly two years of construction work in which more than 80 local people worked.
They included redesigning the road network at the estate entrance, improving existing children’s play facilities and providing innovative new play areas, creating more inclusive spaces, new pathways, better access to the community centre, planting of 3,000 shrubs, 6,000 bulbs and expanses of turf. The estate shop was given a facelift and new frontage, parking bays improved, new litter bins and other street furniture provided.
Owen Veldhuizen, Cartrefi Conwy’s Community Regeneration Manager said the work at Tre Cwm was ongoing. Among forthcoming goals is to transform a 140 metre long brick wall segregating the Tre Cwm community from the surrounding town. Artist in Residence Kristin Luke has been commissioned to help residents develop ideas for how to transform the wall into a more attractive and meaningful feature.
Owen said: “So much has been done already but it’s important to remember that this project has not stopped. We will continue to consult with Tre Cwm residents, to listen to what they say and do everything possible to keep on improving their environment and ensure they keep this Green Flag for years to come.”
Local residents joined representatives of organisations involved in the redevelopment works at the Tŷ Llywelyn community centre for the Green Flag handover presentation. It included tucking into a specially made celebration cake decorated in the shape of a green space with trees and shrubs made out of icing.