A landscape designer had the shock of his life when awarded a top honour following the success of a £4million project to transform a housing estate into a green oasis.
Matt Stowe, the environmental development officer with housing association Cartrefi Conwy was overcome with emotion on receiving the prestigious Wales Green Flag Employee of the Year title.
It came in recognition of his outstanding work on the award-winning Parc Peulwys residential estate in Llysfaen, above Old Colwyn, which is managed by Cartrefi Conwy.
In addition the Parc Peulwys community had another reason to celebrate as the estate was presented with a Green Flag environmental award for the third consecutive year, an achievement which Matt said filled him with as much pride as his own accolade.
Work colleagues made a special effort to keep the news of Matt’s success a secret until the last minute before the ‘big reveal’.
They sneaked delighted members of his family into the award ceremony at Parc Peulwys community centre, where his mum and brothers appeared holding up a congratulatory banner as the news of his Wales Green Flag Employee of the Year title was announced.
Matt had known a ceremony was due to take place to present Cartrefi Conwy and the community with its third Green Flag Award for Parc Peulwys, but he had no idea that he would also be personally in the spotlight.
Though initially speechless, he soon found the words to thank everyone, then with typical modesty he turned the attention away from himself and focused on congratulating local community members for their triumph in once more achieving a Green Flag.
He said: “This is a great honour and comes as a complete surprise to me. I had no idea I would be presented with this title today, but the main reason we are here is to accept the Green Flag Award of which all the residents in Parc Peulwys can be especially proud.
“It is through their determination that this housing estate has been so widely recognised. I feel that the accolade I have received here today is also as much a result as their work as it is mine.”
The Green Flag scheme recognises well managed green spaces and parks and sets an enviable benchmark standard which managers of recreational outdoor spaces around the world strive to attain.
Parc Peulwys became the first housing estate in Wales to receive a Green Flag in 2015. Residents were delighted when the estate retained the award last year and are thrilled to have achieved the hat trick this year.
Lucy Prisk, Keep Britain Tidy Green Flag co-ordinator for Wales presented Matt with his award and said: “I’d like to congratulate Cartrefi Conwy and thank everyone who works tirelessly to maintain the standards demanded by the Green Flag Award. I’d encourage everyone to get outdoors and explore the diverse range of fantastic facilities we have on our doorstep.”
Green Flag judge Pete Frost, who is also senior urban advisor for Natural Resources Wales, praised Matt’s remarkable vision when first given the task of redesigning the Parc Peulwys landscape several years ago.
He said: “When I visited the finished estate for the first time I knew we had struck gold here. Now three years on it is even better. The planting has matured and the community feeling one gets when walking around is truly heartening.
“I would go so far as to say it is one of the best examples of regeneration combining social, economic and physical aspects that I have ever seen, the other being in Sweden.
“The benefits are evident to all and much of that is down to Matt, his relentless enthusiasm and ability to push the design boundaries. He is the perfect example of an expert who is willing and totally committed to sharing the knowledge he has to enable the local community to continue to maintain and improve on the beautiful environment that he has helped create for them.”
With its acres of green spaces and breathtaking vistas Parc Peulwys was also last year acclaimed by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Cymru which gave it a Community Benefit award at its annual prize-giving ceremony.
Cartrefi Conwy managing director Gwynne Jones said: “Matt’s skills were clear to us from the moment we met him and we knew how valuable he would be to Cartrefi Conwy.
“That’s why we brought him in back in 2011 to give us the innovation and the insight to add an extra dimension to improvement schemes that are challenging to deliver and take a big investment in time, money and energy.
“Cartrefi Conwy’s aim is to provide excellent standards of housing. But to make a house a home it is essential to look at every aspect of life on an estate and that includes outdoors as well as indoors which are known to improve the quality of health and well-being. We made it a mission to make the outdoor environment here as functional, appealing and attractive for the residents as possible.
“Matt consulted with residents and encouraged them to become actively involved in the plans – and he has made himself accessible to them ever since. We are proud to have him as a key part of our team.”
Parc Peulwys residents Tracey Rosean and Louise Dunn said Matt thoroughly deserved the employee of the year title.
Tracey said: “We are so grateful to him for all he has done here. He has transformed the landscape of our estate into a wonderful place for children to play and grow up in safety, and the views from the properties are vastly improved. Throughout it all he has consulted residents about what they wanted and how they envisaged their lives here. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with him.”
Matt, 42, who lives in Carmel, near Holywell, Flintshire, has been studying for a master’s degree while working full time for Cartrefi Conwy. He gained his landscape and horticulture qualifications from Coleg Cambria, Northop, which specialises in horticulture and landscaping.
His mum, Mrs Susan Roberts, of Holywell, said she was extremely proud of Matt’s success and to witness how well thought of Matt was among his colleagues.
She said: “I am naturally going to be proud of him as I am his mum, but I have seen firsthand how much hard work he has put in and how many hours of studying he has done to be the best that he possibly can be at his job. He truly deserves this award and we were thrilled that Cartrefi Conwy asked us to be in on the surprise presentation. I normally find it difficult to keep a secret but somehow I managed not to say anything about this until today and it was a real thrill to see Matt’s face when the award was announced.”