People living in a tiny waterside community blighted by a long-running series of misfortunes feel they are living in a “third world” village.
The Plas Panteidal residential and holiday estate in Gwynedd, North Wales, was once a “thriving” and “absolutely lovely” place on the banks of the Dyfi estuary.
But now the water supply is contaminated with E coli and unfit for drinking, trees are in danger of falling onto homes, the electricity grid is close to collapse, the access road is marred with potholes and unfit for vehicles, and raw sewage once flowed down a hillside.
On top of all of this, the 35 permanent residents who refuse to leave have to make a six-mile round trip for water or find it by other means – one even collects it from his roof gutter to drink, NorthWalesLive reports.
Despite being asked to pay £600-a-year in maintenance fees, everyone is forced to shower using spring water tainted by sheep and cattle muck from a muddy farm field.
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For the past decade they have been travelling three miles to nearby Aberdyfi and back to stock up on bottles of water.
The estate’s water supply originates from a mountain spring below an excrement-covered farm field.
The site’s faulty sewage treatment plant was fixed after human waste seeped down a hillside, across a road and into the Dyfi estuary, but even now its aeration pumps are not working.
Couriers refuse to deliver to the site due to potholes and rubble along the steep and windy access road.
Locals are so desperate for proper amenities they are willing to fork out more than £1 million of their own money to fix the problems.
Some have formed the Plas Panteidal Association (PPA) and offered to create a not-for-profit management company to take over the running of the estate after Trehaven Leisure Ltd went into voluntary liquidation last year.
The group submitted a bid for £1 to liquidators KJ Watkin & Co.
Brian Kelly, an Aberdyfi community councillor, said: “When I first moved here 20 years ago it was an absolutely lovely place to live with a growing and thriving community.
“It now looks run down, the utilities are falling into dereliction and people here are getting desperate.
“Our biggest worry is if Covid reaches us and we have to self isolate – it will make fetching water very difficult.
“We would have to rely on neighbours bringing it to us – or even having to mail order it to the estate.”
He said the water supply was confirmed to be contaminated with E coli and cryptosporidium, a parasite which can respiratory and gastrointestinal illness.
For much of the past decade public health officials at Gwynedd Council have decreed no one on the estate should use the water for drinking, for brushing teeth, preparing food or cleaning open wounds.
Instead the water is used only for showers and flushing toilets.
“The “not fit for consumption or food preparation” notice has now been in place for more than five years.”
Retired couple Larry and Jane Simpkin moved to the estate in 2015 in blissful ignorance, but they soon had neighbours banging on their door telling them not to drink the tap water.
Larry, a former advanced medical technician with the NHS, and Jane, a former NHS receptionist and health care worker, have had sleepless nights and bouts of anxiety.
They make the long trip to get water once a week, filling up seven five-litre bottles every time.
Describing the process as “degrading”, Larry, 65, said: “People walk past as we’re refilling the bottles.
“They give you a look as if to say, ‘what on earth are you doing?’ It’s a very strange feeling.
“Sometimes I feel as though we’re living in a third world country.
“It’s like those adverts you see on TV with charities asking for donations for drinking water projects in African villages: while I realise we’re much better off than them, we have been fetching water for years and we are supposed to be living in a civilised country.
“We are like a forgotten community – no one wants to put it right.”
John Starbuck has a collection of almost 40 two-litre bottles neatly stacked on shelves in his bedroom.
The 48-year-old, who is a lab technician at the local high school, said: “It takes me an hour or two to take them to my friend’s house, fill them up and re-stack them in the bedroom.
“I don’t ever regret buying a home here – it is a lovely place to live. I just wish the problems could be sorted. I don’t understand how things were allowed to get to this stage, how we as a community have been allowed to slip through the legislative cracks.”
He claims the local electricity grid is close to failure. Wooden junction boxes are rotting away, wires are running through branches and live cables have been exposed to the elements.
Plas Panteidal has 92 properties. Of those, about three quarters are privately owned.
Until September last year, the rest belonged to Trehaven Leisure, which has run the site for 30 years. It went into voluntary liquidation last summer.
About two thirds of the housing stock are holiday lets or kept as second homes, leaving 35 permanent residents living in about 30 homes.
For about 10 years private homeowners have battled to force Trehaven Leisure Ltd to upgrade the site’s amenities.
Despite being asked to pay £600-a-year in maintenance fees, they endured conditions that one holiday review site described as a “reminiscent of a building site” with an “overpowering smell of animals”.
Any new owner will have to take on six public health charges issued by Gwynedd Council for breaches in water supply regulations.
A further three charges have been levied by Natural Resources Wales for unauthorised discharges from the sewerage treatment plant.
There are more than £70,000 of unpaid electricity bills owed to Scottish Power and at least £43,000 in legal costs.
That’s before the £1.19 million remedial costs are factored in for new water and sewerage plants, new water storage tanks and an upgraded access road.
Cllr Kelly, who chairs the PPA, said: “That doesn’t make it look like an attractive proposition to any buyer. Except of course to the residents with their vested interest in living there safely.”
Much to the amazement of residents, other “interested parties” are said to be in the mix to acquire the site.
Specialists hired by the PPA to assess the work that needed doing refused to inspect the site’s metal water storage tanks as they were too rusty, liable to collapse and simply too dangerous.
Council officers, MPs and Senedd Members have all visited the site but the impasse remains.
Philip Muddiman, director of Trehaven Leisure until it was dissolved, blamed a small cabal of residents for spreading discord, accusing two-thirds of not paying site maintenance fees for at least five years.
Instead they have been redirecting fees to a holding fund held by their solicitors for future use, claiming services were being neglected.
Mr Muddiman said he felt “sorry” for those residents who carried on paying their fees.
He said: “They are up the creek without a paddle at the moment.
“There was a simple answer to all this – if everyone had paid the fees, the services would not have deteriorated.
“I feel sorry for those people who did pay but who were not getting proper water and sewage services.”
Mr Muddiman said that, by the time Trehaven was dissolved, the site sewage plant was in the best shape it had been since it was built.
He added: “Unfortunately this became a personal issue for some residents who signed their site agreements and then wanted to have their own way.
“They must be laughing now.
“If only they had paid their fees, the estate would be absolutely beautiful now.”
Gwynedd Council said it is aware of the situation at Plas Panteidal and has taken enforcement action in the past.
A spokesman added: “We are currently considering what additional steps could possibly be taken to resolve the matter.”
Liquidator KJ Watkin & Co was approached for comment.
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