A Welsh centre of excellence has been handed an industry “Oscar” for its conservation work at an historic Conwy farm.
The seven-strong panel of judges in the prestigious RICS awards praised Bodnant Welsh Food Centre for breathing new life into the 250-year-old Furnace Farm complex at Tal y Cafn.
Calling the £6m project “an exemplar of sensitive conservation that is truly sustainable,” the judges said also commended Bodnant for creating viable jobs and apprenticeships plus promoting local food and drink.
The annual contest celebrates inspirational initiatives in the land, property and construction sectors.
The awards were handed out at a black tie event in Cardiff, hosted by ITV News presenter Andrea Byrne who proved a huge hit with the audience of over 220 property professionals.
Bodnant, which picked up the Welsh Building Conservation Award, now goes through to the national RICS Awards, where it will compete against other leading projects from across the UK later this year.
Based in a lovingly restored building dating from the 18th century, the food centre includes a farm shop, tea room, restaurant, wine cellar, cookery school and farmhouse accommodation.
It received a fanfare opening by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2012 and last year welcomed 243,000 visitors from around the globe.
The centre has its own dairy making cheese and ice cream, plus an on-site bakery and butchery, with award-winning pies. There’s also a wine store and tea rooms plus the Hayloft restaurant and farmhouse accommodation.
Chris Morton, managing director of Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, said: “This is a great award to receive and a real vote of confidence from such a well-regarded professional body.
“We are proud of the work that has been carried out here in preserving the old buildings and giving them new life. What is important is that the project was conceived to provide a completely new use for formerly redundant buildings. It would have been easy to replace them with a modern construction. However the choice was made to rehabilitate them to create a project of which the area can be proud.
“The new development has added excellent and original facilities to the area, for example, the farm shop and restaurant dedicated to local foods. The whole is an excellent centrepiece enabling very skilled staff to showcase their talents.”
The RICS judges remarked on the exceptionally strong field of entries.
They said in their citation: “The Bodnant Welsh Food Centre is an exemplar of sensitive conservation that is truly sustainable, as it will continue to provide the wherewithal to maintain buildings that form an important part of our culture.
“Providing welcome local employment (including new apprenticeships and skilled jobs), the centre promotes local food, links farmers with consumers and adds another attraction to the Conwy Valley. And all very much in keeping – albeit on a much grander scale – with the buildings’ original uses.”
The award follows hot on the heels of Bodnant being named Welsh Farm Shop of the Year, and as the best in the UK by the prestigious BBC Good Food magazine – bringing a congratulatory tweet from Prince Charles. Bodnant also picked up host of gold and silver awards in the Welsh Awards for Excellence in Meat Products for its pies, sausages and burgers.
Ben Collins Director of RICS Wales said: “The RICS Awards are a unique opportunity to celebrate the best in what Wales has to offer in land, property, construction and environmental projects. Competition is always stiff and this year was no exception. All of the shortlisted projects could have been worthy winners. Buildings have a unique ability to bring communities together, and the awards reflect that fact.
“The RICS Awards are intended to celebrate projects that are more than just bricks and mortar, but will make a real difference to the communities and locales they serve. They provide a boost to not just the local economy, but the local community as well.”
RICS is a global professional body that promotes and enforces the highest professional qualification and standards in the development and management of land, real estate, construction and infrastructure. It promises the consistent delivery of standards – bringing confidence to the markets it serves.