A PAIR of neighbouring landmark sites in Abergele are being redeveloped as part of plans to regenerate the town.

Housing association Cartrefi Conwy has teamed up with contractors Anwyl Partnerships to breathe new life into the 2.3 acre plot of land that’s been vacant for several years.

The location, just off Market Street, includes the closed Bee Hotel and the old Slaters Citroen and Nissan dealership.

The Bee Hotel shut for good in late 2017, while Slaters closed suddenly in March 2018 after 100 years of trading and then went into administration.

The shock collapse left 74 people out of work and ended the company’s century-long association with the market town.

Rhyl Journal: The site of the old Slaters Citroen and Nissan dealership, which closed in March 2018The site of the old Slaters Citroen and Nissan dealership, which closed in March 2018

Now, a plan has been unveiled for a mixed commercial development and affordable housing for people aged 55 and older, along with improved community space and access.

The planned scheme has been welcomed by Councillor Charlie McCoubrey, leader of Conwy County Borough Council (CCBC).

Cllr McCoubrey said: “I am really excited because this site has been derelict for four years. It’s been a real eyesore in such a key gateway site in the town as people enter from the west.

“I am especially pleased to see a mixed residential and commercial development being proposed.

“Shop occupancy in Abergele is high, so there are very few units available - bringing more retail into the town will be appreciated.

“Around 20 per cent of our households are single occupancy, so having more suitable housing for over-55s will free up more family homes.”

The acquisition of the land paves the way for the biggest single scheme in Cartrefi Conwy’s history.

It comes on the heels of news that the housing association has secured an extra £39 million in funding to build 1,000 new energy efficient homes.

According to Cartrefi Conwy chief executive Andrew Bowden, the new finance package was a ‘gamechanger’ that will enable the organisation to reach new heights and help kickstart the North Wales economy back into life after the slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roughly £22 million of the total is from Lloyds Bank, and Cartrefi Conwy is the first social housing landlord in Wales to tap into their sustainability-linked funding, which includes an interest rate reduction scheme to reward the provision of affordable, zero carbon homes and tackling homelessness.

Rhyl Journal: The site of the Bee Hotel, which shut in late 2017The site of the Bee Hotel, which shut in late 2017

Mr Bowden said: “We are delighted to be working alongside Anwyl Partnerships on this important site.

“We are grateful to Conwy County Borough Council for their interest in this project and for their strategic support in relation to breathing new life into this site.

“This will be one of the biggest regeneration and development schemes we have led on to date.

“Our development team will be working with a range of stakeholders over the coming months to develop plans for the site, and we will be asking local residents and businesses for their input on these plans in the near future.

“There will also be a full opportunity for local people to give their views during the public consultation that will take place as part of the pre-planning and planning process.

“The site has played an important part in the history of Abergele, and this exciting new development will ensure it will also have an important and positive role in the town’s future.”

Anwyl’s homes division are currently also working with Cartrefi Conwy to develop 50 homes at the Parc Aberkinsey development in Rhyl.

Sam Oliver, senior land manager at Anwyl, added: “It’s great to be working with Cartrefi Conwy again, and on such an important acquisition concerning a strategic site at the heart of the local community.

“We are currently in the process of carrying out health and safety checks following initial site and structural surveys of the former hotel to ensure the existing building is safe and poses no risk to the general public.

“Once these checks are completed, we are really looking forward to developing an exciting vision and concept with our partners Cartrefi Conwy by sensitively repurposing the site for a range of uses.’’

Materials to board up the site have been ordered and will be securing the site soon, replacing the temporary Heras fencing surrounding Slaters.

This should hopefully counteract the incidents of littering and vandalism which have become more prevalent around the back of the site.

A pre-application consultation stage will also take place, with residents able to share their thoughts on what they believe the space should be used for.

The news also follows recent confirmation that, in November and December, Abergele’s Gwrych Castle will host ITV’s reality show ‘I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!’ for the second successive year.

Cllr McCoubrey added: “We’re quite keen to look at getting those decorated for ‘I’m a Celebrity’ – I think it’ll look far better as a site under development than as a derelict ‘for sale’ site.

“It obviously won’t be finished (by the time 'I'm a Celebrity' returns), but there’ll be signs that something’s happening.

“We want it to be something exceptional, not just throw more houses.

“People will obviously always have different views about what should or shouldn’t go there, but there will be an opportunity to feed into the consultation when it comes forward.

“I’m looking forward to people feeding into the consultation with what they want to go there.”

Councillor Andrew Wood, who represents the Gele ward on CCBC, also offered his support of the plans, and emphasised the importance of consultation with residents on this development.

Cllr Wood said: “I totally endorse Charlie’s comments, and I welcome the fact that he’s worked hard on this.

“Consultation is really important to me. I don’t think people in Abergele have been ignored, but certain parts of Abergele haven’t been consulted as much.

“I think most people will welcome it, but if we can do that, and keep it really open, spacious and green, the town will change for the better.

“We’re short of one-bedroom and two-bedroom places, especially for older people. It will be a nice safe haven for people who reside in flats elsewhere. Maybe they can move up there and become part of the town.

“I would want them to be available to local over-55s. It’s a great idea for our elderly residents to be able to live within the town. You couldn’t ask for much more.”

An Abergele resident, who moved to the town with her family three years ago, said prior to the announcement: “All I want is for that corner to be smartened up. It’s been allowed to become completely dilapidated.

“Before the town centre, you’ve got the castle, the children’s farm, the golf course, and nice houses – it looks lovely, but that is the corner that you see first.

“I think everybody would love to see it become a community square – I could visualise it with tables and trees and everything.

“We love Abergele; we think it’s fantastic. There’s never been any criticism about Abergele other than that corner. It’s an absolutely great place.”