A housing association has started work on an ambitious £5.2 million housing scheme in Llandudno Junction that will help sustain 70 existing jobs and create six new ones.
The development is breathing new life into the former primary school, Ysgol Maelgwn which closed two 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 are being conserved.
The housing association is working in partnership with Conwy County Borough Council who say the project will provide a boost for the local economy.
It is being part-funded by a £2.5 million Social Housing Grant from the Welsh Government and it’s hoped the first tenants will be moving into their new homes in the autumn of 2020.
The work is being carried out by Mochdre-based contractors Brenig Construction who have committed to employing local people and using local suppliers.
According to Brenig, around 90 per cent of the people working on the project will be from the county of Conwy.
There will be new positions for a trainee engineer and a trainee quantity surveyor.
In addition there will be four apprenticeships up for grabs via the Employment Academy set up by Cartrefi Conwy’s subsidiary, Creating Enterprise.
The project is part of the housing association’s £50 million strategy to create 400 new homes over the next four years.
Overall, there will be 27 new homes and Cartrefi Conwy worked closely with Conwy County Borough Council to ensure the development meets 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, are being kept.
The classrooms in the main building will be converted into 10 apartments for people with disabilities.
A separate classroom building, which also has Grade II listed status, will be transformed into a five-bedroom bungalow for a family, with a member who has a disability.
Another 16 specialist properties, a mixture of flats and bungalows, will also be built on the site.
Site manager Barry Evans is a conservation specialist who has worked on major projects across the UK, including the restoration of the landmark eight-storey Lewis’s building in Liverpool.
He said: “At Ysgol Maelgwn we are going to be conserving a lot of the building’s heritage like the wooden ceiling, fireplaces and the flooring.
“What makes it tricky is that we obviously also have to comply with the modern safety and insulation standards that you absolutely need and we are working closely with the Conwy heritage conservation officer.
“New sash windows will be put in and they will be like-for-like modern versions of the originals so they will look the same but will be double glazed.
“The old school hall will become a communal area for the apartments in the converted classrooms.”
David Kelsall, Head of Development at Cartrefi Conwy, said: “We are very proud to be working with Conwy County Borough Council on this exciting project and we are grateful to the Welsh Government for helping to fund it.
“We are aligning our efforts with the strategic needs of Conwy County Borough Council to ensure that our partnership is as strong as it can be.
“Essentially, it is about working smarter to meet the social housing needs of local people and improving the quality of their lives.”
Cllr Liz Roberts, Conwy’s Cabinet Member for Housing said: “The Ysgol Maelgwn building is a fine example of Edwardian architecture.
“Conwy officers and planning committee members are keen to make sure that the architectural and historical features within the building are preserved.
“This is an innovative scheme repurposing the building to provide specialist and affordable homes to meet local need.”
Cllr Sue Shotter, a councillor for Llandudno Junction, said: “I think what’s happening here is fantastic.
“It’s something that the area needs and it keeps an iconic building, which is really important because there is lots of history for lots of our residents who remember going to school there. I’m very excited.”
According to Conwy County Borough Council Chief Executive, Iwan Davies, there would also be significant economic benefits. He said: “There will be lots of construction jobs created, which will mean that the Conwy pound gets spent in Conwy.”
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.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Cartrefi Conwy Managing Director Gwynne Jones who said: “We’re excited with this project and to work with Conwy County Borough Council, supported by Welsh Government, to create these new homes.
“In the process we are protecting the heritage of the area and giving this building a reboot for the 21st century.
“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.”