The long-disused Forestry Commission Camp in Ceinws/ Esgairgeiliog will be put up for long-term lease this summer.

The historic camp was established as a Forestry Commission Camp in 1936 and used as a source of employment for men returning from World War II, with large residential quarters for families including a chapel, training classrooms, community hall, and playground created a tiny village within the Powys village.

The site has long been disused, with the last remaining long-term resident on the site passing away during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Locals have since leased individual buildings as offices, workshops, and studios and signed a contract for the use and maintenance of the playground.

The land now owned by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) will be put up for lease this summer, with NRW looking for proposals that will serve the local community as well as its “commercial strategy”.

Buildings have been used as offices and workshops in lieu of plans for the entire site
Buildings have been used as offices and workshops in lieu of plans for the entire site (Cambrian News)

Elsie Grace, NRW's Head of Sustainable Commercial Development, said: "Leasing the former forestry camp at Ceinws is an exciting opportunity to get the most out of an underused asset in the area. During the process, we will be guided by the values of the "Three Ps" as set out in our commercial strategy- People, Planet, and Prosperity.

"This means that we will not simply accept the proposal of the highest bidder. Any successful bidder will need to show how their proposal will benefit local people, the local environment, and the local economy.

"Although much of the site is unused, we know that parts of it are used by the community and are very important locally. We have made a commitment to local groups that we will include the continued use of the site for community use as a condition for any lease proposal, including the children's play area.

"Although we will not be carrying out a public consultation, we are in regular contact with neighbours of the site, Glantwymyn Community Council, Ceinws Hwb, Heulfryn Playground Association, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS, and Councillor Elwyn Vaughan.

"The first phase of this process was the Call for Ideas to gauge interest and to help us understand some of the potential uses for the site. We expect the next phase - the marketing phase - to begin by the early summer in which we will receive and assess bids to lease the site.”

Despite this, some residents whose houses directly back onto the site state they have received no such correspondence.

One resident who did not want to be named said: “I live beside the site and wasn’t told about the next stage being launched.

“NRW has been courting the Ceinws community for decades about the use of the site, squandering valuable voluntary time, funding opportunities, and enthusiasm (our time and money) with consultations that went nowhere. I am skeptical that they will start listening to the community in this process.”

Multiple proposals were developed by a series of different community groups when the idea for redevelopment was first broached by NRW (then the Forestry Commission) over 20 years ago.

According to one community group that had previously worked on proposals, combinations of workshops, affordable residences, community spaces, offices, and a tree nursery have all been put to NRW as viable uses of the site but were met with apparent silence by the government-sponsored body.

Another Ceinws resident said: “There is plenty of demand for affordable craft and workshop space around here. There used to be a village hall there too which could be reinstated.

“Personally, I think a little café and community centre would work there as there’s plenty of parking space for customers. NRW is looking for someone to take on the whole site though, which I think is a weird way of doing it.”

An email received by a Ceinws resident and signed by Claire Evans, Senior Advisor in NRW’s commercial development team, alerted them to the start of the ‘marketing phase’.

It read: “As a public body, we need to be fair and open. This Marketing Stage will therefore be advertised widely to attract further ideas for the suitable use of the site... whilst also delivering certain provisions for the local community.

“Please note that NRW is not offering the site for sale, but rather offering an opportunity for a long-term lease dependent on what firm proposals are received. We expect to advertise in early summer 2024 through Sell2Wales and other mediums including newspapers and social media.”