Three ex-pupils have played key roles in a £5.2 million scheme to redevelop a former school into specialist housing – creating a major boost for the local economy in the process.
The development by housing association Cartrefi Conwy is breathing new life into the site of Ysgol Maelgwn, in Llandudno Junction, which closed nearly four years ago when the pupils moved to a new super school, Ysgol Awel y Mynydd.
It is the most complicated project Cartrefi Conwy has worked on to date because the old school, which opened in 1907, is architecturally important and many of the original features had to be preserved.
Among the trio of former pupils is Claire Lister, the head of integrated adult and community services at Conwy County Borough Council, who worked closely with Cartrefi Conwy to come up with a plan for the site.
The work is being carried out by local firm Brenig Construction whose joint managing director, Howard Vaughan, also attended the school, along with Adrian Johnson, the managing director of commercial services at Cartrefi Conwy.
The scheme, which has been part-funded by a £2.4 million Social Housing Grant from the Welsh Government, is nearing completion and the first tenants are due to move in during the next few weeks.
According to Brenig, around 90 per cent of the 100 people who have worked on the project are from the county of Conwy.
New positions were created for a trainee engineer and a trainee quantity surveyor, while four apprentices were taken on via the Employment Academy set up by Cartrefi Conwy’s subsidiary, Creating Enterprise.
The project is part of the housing association’s £100 million strategy to build 1,000 energy efficient homes over the next 10 years.
Overall, there are 27 new homes which have been specifically designed to meet local housing needs.
The former school is a Grade II listed building and many of the original features, including the tiling, feature fireplaces, parquet flooring and the spectacular vaulted wooden ceiling, have been conserved.
The classrooms in the main building have been converted into 10 independent living apartments for people with learning and physical disabilities.
A separate classroom building, which also has Grade II listed status, has been transformed into a five-bedroom bungalow for a family, with a member who has a disability.
The rest of the properties are a mix of houses, bungalows and flats providing affordable housing, including accommodation for people with a variety of needs.
Howard Vaughan said: “I loved Ysgol Maelgwn and I have really happy memories of going there. Adrian was a couple of years older than me and Claire was a year or so younger.
“It brought a lot of memories flooding back when we first started working on the site – it took me back about 30 years.
“The first thing I did was have a look around the classrooms where I’d been taught, and I went to the head teacher’s office.
“I feel proud and privileged to be involved in the project which is breathing new life into this site.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Claire Lister who used to live opposite Ysgol Maelgwn which was also attended by her three children.
She said: “The school has played a really important part in the community and what’s great is that it will continue to do so in the future.
“There were no objections during the consultation process and I think people saw we’re trying to provide specialist housing for people with needs and it wasn’t for mainstream housing. It’s going to be put to a really good purpose.
“We worked very closely with Brenig Construction and Cartrefi Conwy. It’s been a true partnership and they’ve done a great job because it looks lovely.
“As somebody who went to the school and has been on the board of governors this is a dream come true to me. It’s lovely to see it happen.
Adrian Johnson was equally pleased with the way things had turned out.
He said: “It’s incredible to be part of a project like this to create a lasting legacy for this site in the heart of Llandudno Junction.
“The children have moved on to a new super school and we have been able to regenerate the site for social good, working in partnership with Conwy County Borough Council and Brenig Construction.
“We’re meeting local need because these homes are for local people with various needs, so it’s a very worthwhile thing to do.
“In the process we have created jobs and training opportunities while boosting the local economy.”
David Kelsall, the assistant director of development and growth at Cartrefi Conwy, added: “It was important as part of this scheme to preserve the area’s architectural and social heritage and history.
“At the same time, it was vital to have something that was sustainable for the future and that will stand the test of time.
“Preserving the old school building was trickier than a new build because it’s a Grade II listed building.
“The clever part was carrying out the work sympathetically whilst incorporating modern services and technology.
“What we’ve delivered is a mixed community in itself and that will become part of the wider community. It’s really satisfying to see it coming to fruition.”
Cartrefi Conwy chief executive Andrew Bowden added: “This is a flagship development within the county of Conwy and we have worked closely with social services and the local authority to identify the needs of their clients.
“We are creating a new community and the people living here will have the services they require to meet their needs.”
“The location is ideal because it’s also in close proximity to Canolfan Marl that the council owns. They provide support and assistance to individuals as well as accommodation.”