It is nestled in woodland, surrounded by nature, close to the sea, beautiful to look at at and cheap to live in… but only if you’re from the local community
The Brondanw estate community near Llanfrothen in the foothills of Snowdonia was established thanks to the radical ideas of Portmeirion architect, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis.
Rather than leave his properties for his descendants, in the 1970s the architect set up a charitable trust which would leave his estate of around 50 historical properties to help families in the area to find affordable houses to rent.
Today, the estate has a long waiting list of applications and prioritises those that fit into specific criteria.
read more: ‘It’s too late’ How the second homes crisis is affecting Welsh-language communities on Anglesey
Sir Clough Williams-Ellis great-granddaughter, Seran Dolma, said: “The idea was always to prioritize people who had a connection to the local area, they had family living here, or they were people that have grown up here and want to move back.
“But also to artists and craftsmen, and people that could maintain and preserve the estate. This only became a policy for the trust around 2003-2004.
“We also give consideration to Welsh speakers. We try and set the rent somewhere between the market rent and what would be charged by social housing association.”
As a result according to Seran, the estate has a “lively and strong community” where everyone knows and helps each other.
She said: “We have a really thriving community – lots of young people, lots of children and lots of people that are self-employed or running a business, which then helps the wider community by employing local people.
“This place attracts artists and musicians alike. It attracts all kinds of people.”
The areas of Llanfrothen and Croesor, like many places nearby, has seen an influx of properties being bought as second homes over the years. According to ward level data taken from the Valuation Office Agency by Dafydd Elfryn, the ward of Llanfrothen has around 33 second homes, neighboring ward of Trawsfynydd has around 68 second homes and Porthmadog – Tremadog ward has 89.
The Welsh Government’s second homes consultation is currently underway, which looks at the impact second homes has on different local areas of Wales and what could be done about it.
According to Seran, a housing scheme similar to that at the Brondanw Estate can help those who cannot afford to live in their local area due to increasing housing prices.
“The Brondanw Estate consists of old houses full of appealing characters in beautiful places,” she explained to WalesOnline.
“They are the exact kind of houses that tend to get bought as holiday homes. Therefore, I am pretty certain that the character of this area like Llanfrothen and Croesor would be very different if Brondanw Estate was not utilized in the way it is.
“Schemes like this shows that the continuity of a community depends on economical factors. If people cannot afford to live where they were born, they will leave. It’s sad because it means people lose that connection with their roots.
“I have family members myself who have moved away and their children do not speak Welsh because Welsh isn’t around them. It’s sad to see.
“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do if we weren’t a charity. Brondanw Estate shows that it is possible to use a housing scheme that the whole community can benefit from.”
Tenant, Steffan Smith, grew up on the estate. He returned to live on the estate in 2020 with his partner and young family.
Steffan believes that dependable housing of good standards is essential for a thriving community.
“I came back here because I simply wanted to live in the community that I was brought up in,” he explained.
“This places is such a beautiful place. I enjoy living in a historical house with character. I have such a strong connection to the community and it’s people – that was very important for me. You have a deep understanding of the country, its history and stories.
“I don’t have to worry about Section 21 [eviction notice] – I could rent here all my life if I needed to.
“Good, dependable housing allows the community to thrive. Llanfrothen and Croesor have proven this to be true when you compare it to other rural communities across Wales.
“There’s mixture of houses here, which you find at Brondanw estate, social housing of good quality, long term private renting with owners that have a deep connection the community and feel strongly about that, as well as long term owner occupiers.
“All of these create an anchor to the community and protect against the affects of second or holiday homes. Unfortunately, there is a large percentage of these in Croesor and Rhyd, and a handful in Llanfrothen as well – but the situation would be a lot worse if we didn’t have Brondanw Estate.
“Instead of a community that can’t look after itself and young people having tom move to other areas for suitable homes, this community is going through a purple patch and it’s not the first time.
“There’s something very good here – something that may have been lost elsewhere but is essential to a community.”
To get the latest email updates from WalesOnline click here.