On ‘for­got­ten’ es­tate

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rhys to have just 2% of the Rhondda’s pop­u­la­tion but 40% of the so­cial work­ers’ case load.

One of Pen­rhys’ res­i­dents around this time was the au­thor Rachel Trezise, who wrote her award-win­ning book In and Out of the Gold­fish Bowl about the ex­pe­ri­ence of grow­ing up in the Rhondda.

She said: “I lived there for a year be­tween the ages of 13 and 14 in the early 1990s, and I re­mem­ber be­ing re­ally scared of go­ing there.

“Ac­tu­ally I was prob­a­bly more scared of what peo­ple would think of me for liv­ing there and of its rep­u­ta­tion than I was of the phys­i­cal place.

“I was sur­prised to find it was noth­ing to be scared of. My par­ents had lived there for a while be­fore I was born.”

She said Pen­rhys’ lo­ca­tion “meant that pub­lic trans­port would al­ways be an is­sue, par­tic­u­larly when so many peo­ple who couldn’t af­ford cars lived there in the 1970s and ’80s.

“It could seem like you were liv­ing on an­other planet if you didn’t have the means to get to a ma­jor town.”

The de­mo­li­tion of many of the build­ings in the 1990s re­duced the 951 homes of the orig­i­nal es­tate to around 300 re­fur­bished and re-clad prop­er­ties, now all owned by RCT Homes (called Tri­val­lis). From an es­tate with space for 4,000, it had be­come a “core com­mu­nity” of peo­ple – around 800 – who were pas­sion­ate about the area and wanted to stay.

To­day they de­scribe them­selves as a tight-knit com­mu­nity whose sep­a­ra­tion from Ystrad by the hellishly steep and al­most un­walk­a­ble Pen­rhys Road only ap­pears to strengthen their iden­tity.

On the es­tate, Pen­rhys Part­ner­ship’s Kyle Carter, Daniel Pow­ell and Neil Thomas seem to know ev­ery sin­gle per­son they walk past, ex­chang­ing ban­ter and in­sider jokes with each of them.

They say the past 12 years has seen a “dra­matic, un­be­liev­able change” from the crime and dere­lic­tion seen on the es­tate in the 1990s to what is now a big group of friends liv­ing on a hill­top.

That com­mu­nity spirit was there for all to see last year when Neil’s 13-yearold son Jor­dan trag­i­cally died af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with a brain tu­mour.

Neil said: “They all ral­lied around and, with the help of Tri­val­lis, we in­stalled a me­mo­rial bench by the church, and a gar­den over­look­ing the Rhondda Fawr.

“They also lent me £200 to get my fa­ther over here for the funeral. It’s amaz­ing, re­ally.”

Sharon Rees is an ed­u­ca­tion worker with the church Llan­fair Pen­rhys, and moved to the es­tate in the early 1990s.

She praises the “fan­tas­tic” com­mu­nity spirit.

She said: “I think it’s some­thing to do with the fact we are iso­lated on top of a moun­tain. Peo­ple who don’t have cars find it dif­fi­cult to get about, so have to call in favours.

“There’s still a stigma and I re­cently heard a co­me­dian speak neg­a­tively about the area but that’s un­fair. We have some of the low­est crime fig­ures but have been for­got­ten by the coun­cil.

“It’s im­prov­ing and things are on the up, but it’s still a strug­gle.”

That cur­rent strug­gle would cer­tainly in­clude a re­cent prob­lem with rats on the hous­ing es­tate, which lasted for 18 months but was re­solved ear­lier this year.

South Wales Po­lice In­spec­tor for the area Dave Gor­don says it is now a safe place to live, with a pas­sion­ate com­mu­nity spirit.

Yet it is far from a fin­ished work. A spokesman for Rhondda Cynon Taf coun­cil said the lo­cal author­ity recog­nised the “unique chal­lenges” fac­ing Pen­rhys, and was “com­mit­ted to work­ing with Tri­val­lis Homes to tackle these is­sues”.

He added: “Whilst the coun­cil does not own any of the hous­ing stock sit­u­ated in Pen­rhys, we have pro­vided fund­ing to al­low for the im­prove­ment of pub­lic spa­ces – in­clud­ing a new play park for lo­cal chil­dren and up­grades to foot­ways, roads and bus shel­ters.”

Plaid’s Leanne Wood, AM for the Rhondda, said it had been “ne­glected by the pow­ers that be”.

She said: “It is a place with so many good peo­ple with good at­ti­tudes and ideas, but with lit­tle sup­port from statu­tory ser­vices.”

ROB BROWNE

Pen­rhys hous­ing es­tate, perched 1,170ft up in Rhondda Cynon Taf

Pen­rhys pic­tured on March 22, 1986

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