Oct 222017
 

HOTEL CANCELS BOOKING

The Belle Vue Royal Hotel in Aberystwyth, where I had planned to hold the meeting on November 4th, has cancelled the booking. Here’s an account of what happened, or what might have happened, because I’m not entirely sure.

After an exchange of e-mails with the Belle Vue, confirming that the room was available, I telephoned on Sunday the 15th and paid for it. We agreed an all-in price of £300 for the room and refreshments. That was it, everything was arranged.

Then on Thursday I had a couple of strange e-mails from the hotel suggesting that the payment hadn’t been made, or hadn’t ‘gone through’, and asking for the last four digits of my credit card. This struck me as being rather odd so I checked my bank statement. There was the payment, clear as day.

At almost exactly the same time I began to get tweets from @thomasscarrot. I knew the name because we’d exchanged a few tweets earlier over the possibility of a tourist tax. But this time he was tweeting about the meeting, and making thinly-veiled threats to turn up with some ‘colleagues’. He gave the impression that he planned to disrupt the meeting.

In these tweets he also claimed to know the owner of the Belle Vue Royal Hotel. Inevitably, perhaps, I put two and two together. Read part of the exchange here. The use of a Union Jack emoji I took to be an indication of a certain political outlook.

I made it clear to him more than once that he was not invited and that he should stay away, and that if he did turn up he would be asked to leave.

I e-mailed the Belle Vue again, gave the requested digits from my credit card, and told them about the exchange I was having with Scarrott. The response I received on Thursday you can read for yourself.

I like the wording, “I am aware of Mr Scarrott”. Makes him sound disreputable. But anyway, he doesn’t know the owner of the hotel as he claimed. That’s his first lie.

Later on Thursday I received the e-mail below, together with my receipt.

Then on Friday afternoon came the bombshell. No reason given, no name appended. (I have removed the names from the e-mails above.)

I am in no doubt that the intervention of Thomas Scarrott, whether directly or indirectly, caused the booking to be cancelled. Though I can’t blame the Belle Vue Royal for taking precautions.

To assist in his undermining of our venture Scarrott used the lies peddled by Phil Parry on The Eye. Even finding an old tweet of Parry’s to pass on to a slavering public.

For anyone fortunate enough not to know Phil Parry, he regards himself as a hot-shot investigative journalist who “exposed” my support for the FWA . . . 50 years too late, and after I’d put up photos of Cayo Evans and others on this blog. It’s only a matter of time before he tells us who was on the grassy knoll.

(No, it wasn’t me.)

If you go back to Parry’s woeful piece about me you’ll see a few comments – rare on Parry’s blog unless he writes about me – two being from a Garry W Gibbs. I don’t know Gibbs but it seems I’ve blocked him from this blog, so we must have fallen out over something.

Even so, in his other comment he makes it clear that he regards me as honest. Which I am. In the comment I’ve used below he asks Parry a very important question. Parry claimed in his piece that “some of his (my) victims have been given around-the-clock police protection”. Victims! He can only mean people I’ve written about. Which I suppose would make me a ‘victim’ of his.

Of course he can’t prove it. When he’s not publishing outright lies they’re the fantasies of swivel-eyed bigots like Jacques Protic. If Protic tells Parry there’s a SWAT team stationed around his house 24/7 because of something I’ve written, Parry will write it up. He won’t believe it, but he’ll still write it up because he wants others to believe it.

But enough of that slanderous little scumbag Phil Parry, I’m sure you’re all wondering about Thomas Scarrott. Or to give him his full name, Thomas Harry Shady Scarrott. Apparently Shady really is his name, not an epithet.

THOMAS H S SCARROTT

It looks as if he is now running the family business of Vale Holiday Parks Ltd, having taken over from his father, also Thomas Scarrott. Based at Clarach Bay near Aberystwyth the firm owns a number of sites down as far as Tenby, one in the north at Llanarmon yn Iâl, with another in Cornwall.

I say the firm ‘owns’ a number of sites, but of course they’re all being bought with mortgages. In fact, there is a total of fourteen outstanding mortgages against Vale Holiday Parks Ltd.

Eight of the mortgages cover the caravan sites listed on the company’s website.

There are also mortgages against two sites said to be in or near Llandysul which I can’t find on the internet, Penlon Caravan Park and Glynteg Caravan Park at Cross Inn. (Is there a Cross Inn nearer to Llandysul, or is it the one on the A486 to Cei Newydd?) If they don’t appear on the company website then it’s reasonable to assume that they don’t rent out caravans, so are the ‘vans privately owned, or are these sites used for other purposes?

There’s a mortgage on Red Roses filling station near Whitland, plus another on land near the filling station. Then there’s freehold land to the north of Pendre, Cross Inn, where we can no doubt expect to see yet another blot on the landscape in the very near future, and finally, there’s an all-encompassing debenture.

The company has expanded rapidly since being Incorporated as The Vale Holiday Parks Ltd 19 February 2003.

PANTS ON FIRE!

As the Twitter exchange continued others got involved and it took a number of turns. For example, on first visiting the Companies House website, and checking the latest accounts, I noticed that the company’s auditors are in Coventry and the bankers in Wiltshire.

When I suggested to Scarrott that this was an example of money made in Wales leaving Wales he came up with the most remarkable story. It ran . . . ‘We used to bank in “North Wales” but our manager, from Caernarfon, moved to Wiltshire and so we followed him. The bank manager now is from Cardiff’.

So I went back to the earliest available accounts, those for 2004. And there I saw that the company’s registered office was in Birmingham, the accountants in the same city, and the bankers in Bath. So it would appear that the Scarrotts’ Cofi banker left Wales ere the company was even formed!

By now I was sure that Thomas Scarrott Junior has problems with the truth, or perhaps he just finds it easy to lie.

Soon afterwards our boy came over all shy and blocked everyone. When he re-emerged in the Twittersphere it was clear that he had deleted those tweets he must have realised laid him open to ridicule or worse.

‘DEVASTATING’

The Scarrotts are yet another family that has moved into Wales to make money from tourism. For them, our homeland is just a tourist destination to be exploited. If we complain we get the traditional colonialists’ response: ‘Look at all the good we’re doing for your country!’

The good they’re doing themselves must never be mentioned, nor must the money leaving Wales, or the soaring property prices as tourists decide to settle, with the resultant Anglicisation . . .

You will not be surprised to learn that Thomas H S Scarrott wants his company to contribute as little as possible to the communities in which it operates.

Last year he railed against the heinous decision of Cyngor Ceredigion to raise the council tax on holiday homes. “Ceredigon’s tourism industry could be dealt a devastating blow” he insisted in what Caravan Times described as “a fiery tirade”. Now another dragon appears in the form of a possible tourist tax, and guess what – it too will have “devastating effects”.

I think somebody should tell him that if you over-use a word like devastating you run the risk of giving a number of impressions: 1/ That you have a limited vocabulary, 2/ That you are prone to exaggeration, even lying, 3/ That you’re a selfish bugger who doesn’t care that such taxes – if properly spent – could be of great benefit to the areas worst affected by tourism.

Possibly all three.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

As things stand, we don’t have a room. And to find one big enough for an open meeting on November 4th is going to be difficult at such short notice. Unless of course, someone knows of such a room in Aberystwyth?

Though Scarrott’s intervention and the resultant cancellation could be a blessing in disguise. I always had reservations about an unstructured public meeting. One worry was that we’d have a free-for-all with people talking across each other and everybody trying to promote their pet idea.

Another worry was that with people being able to walk in off the street some nutter would jump up and shout, ‘I knows where we can get guns’ . . . and there’d just happen to be a reporter in the room, or a microphone, or someone who would take the idiot’s message to the world.

Having had experience of agents provacateurs and police spies I know of what I speak, and I know how the bastards operate.

On top of which there are plenty who’d like to see the new party fail to take off, including the leadership of the party that held a conference in Caernarfon over the weekend. Which is why we must tread carefully and give no one the opportunity to damage the project.

The alternative I’m suggesting is a smaller meeting, of invited people, who just lay the foundations, maybe choose a working name, then we recruit members and leave the policy details to the first AGM which can be held early next year.

Doing it this way we’ll know who’s who at the first meeting, after which we advertise the launch, invite applications for membership, vet applications and issue memberships; then motions will be submitted for debate at the AGM, with no one attending the AGM unless they’re a member.

In other words, how other political parties operate.

That’s my thinking. If anyone has other thoughts, then let me know. I would also like to hear from anyone who definitely wants to be at the inaugural meeting, which may not now be in Aberystwyth, nor on November 4th.

But rest assured, the new party will be launched before the year is out.

♦ end ♦

Sep 192017
 

TWENTY YEARS ON

We are currently celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the referendum that gave us devolution. Ron Davies described it at the time as “a process not an event”, but little if any progress has been made.

In yesterday’s Llais y Sais Ron Davies was allowed to explain why he thinks devolution has failed to deliver, why it has not improved the lives of Welsh people. This seems to have been a print version of what he said the day before on radio (06:00) and television (15:26).

Llais y Sais allowed Carwyn Jones to respond, and his response was pathetic; hiding behind the shade of Rhodri Morgan and talking of increased powers rather than addressing the point raised by Ron Davies, which was that Wales is worse off today – in terms of wealth, health, education and other indices – than she was 20 years ago ergo devolution has failed to deliver. Few outside the Bay Bubble would disagree with Ron Davies.

But lurking in the shadows I perceive another threat, an existential threat to the continuing existence of Wales. A threat made easier to carry out because devolution has failed and because so many people in certain parts of Wales feel that devolution has delivered nothing for their area.

FERRY ‘CROSS THE MERSEY . . . AND MOVING TO BANGOR

Unlike Ireland and Scotland Wales does not have geography or topography on her side, we have a long border with England  and all but one of England’s major population centres are within two hours travelling time of Wales.

This plan for a ‘North Wales Metro’ rather gives the game away (click to enlarge)

Which made it relatively easy for Roman, Norman and English invaders to detach the more fertile, lowland areas from our control, largely confining our ancestors to the uplands. That Welsh nationhood survived was largely due to the fact that Wales had little else invaders coveted.

This helped preserve Welsh identity until the arrival of industrialisation, which impacted on areas that were overwhelmingly Welsh in character, and while the new-found prosperity naturally attracted immigrants these were largely assimilated. But time, an English education system, the resultant decline of the Welsh language, colonisation, tourism, lack of national leadership and other factors have taken their toll, to the point where plans are now being drawn up to finally do away with Wales altogether by dismembering our country.

Of course, these plans will never be called by their true name, they will always be presented as being ‘beneficial to Wales’.

Let’s start in the north east. The decline started with the arrival of the railways, and with them mass tourism. The Rhyl station of the Chester & Holyhead Railway Co opened on 1 May 1848. In the more industrial areas closer to the border Anglicisation took a different form with the importation of English workers and the banning of the Welsh language. Perhaps the most notorious example were the events that provoked the Mold Riots of 1869.

Despite it all, the north east remained Welsh, but it was inevitable that the factors I’ve mentioned eventually took their toll. The Flintshire of Daniel Owen, David Lloyd and Emlyn Williams is gone, replaced by what can often be mistaken for semi-rural suburbs of Merseyside.

Rhyl, the once-bustling holiday resort, is now a dumping ground for English criminals, with the town’s streets haunted by drug-addicts and their dealers. (The only plus would appear to be that the gangsters are killing each other quite regularly.) The same fate has befallen smaller communities on the north coast. And as this chaos wreaks havoc on Welsh communities Welsh politicians have done nothing.

So we arrive at the point where someone asks, ‘Oh dear, what can we do to ‘revitalise’ this region? I know! we’ll have closer cross-border co-operation.’ This was certainly the recommendation of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s City Regions Task and Finish Group’s Final Report, the group chaired by Elizabeth Haywood.

Who is Elizabeth Haywood? You don’t remember voting for this woman who wants to dismember Wales? Of course you never voted for her, nobody did; she’s Mrs Peter Hain, or Lady Hain, I suppose, since the Orange Man was ennobled. (You really should get all silly ideas about democracy and accountability out of your head, they’ll only confuse you in one-party Wales.)

The Mersey Dee Alliance to which Lady Hain refers is a body that has been in existence for some time, though it seems to have a strange idea of Welsh geography, or to go by this map that appeared on the MDA website it doesn’t accept the existence of Wales at all.

The prospect of our north east (or the whole north) being swallowed up by north west England would be bad enough, but as I explained last month in Gwynedd LDP, and Wider Considerations, the threat is not restricted to the old unitary authority of Clwyd.

Nor is this encroachment, this gradual takeover, confined to the north. If anyone was in any doubt about that, then statements made over the past few days should have made the threat very clear.

ENGLAND’S LITTLE MOUTHPIECE

One of the great conundrums of Welsh politics concerns the role of Secretary of State for Wales, and boils down to the question: ‘Is the Secretary of State for Wales the voice of Wales in the cabinet or the voice of the cabinet in Wales?’

Different Secretaries of State have provided different answers, but the current incumbent of that post, Alun Cairns MP, is most definitely – and perhaps more emphatically than any predecessor – the voice of the cabinet in Wales. Little more than a mouthpiece, but because he is a mouthpiece, we can more easily tell the plans of those who put the words into his mouth.

The thinking in London towards Wales now seems to come in two parts – gradually undo devolution and then dismember Wales.

On the first element of that dual-thrust approach I call to the witness stand Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales. The heading gives a clue to the content in “Brexit: Carwyn Jones objects to ‘hijack of devolved powers'”,  or “Ministers in London are trying to get the power to rewrite laws made in Wales – Carwyn Jones”, and a host of similar articles to be found on the internet.

Just about everyone outside of the Conservative and Unionist Party believes that Brexit will provide the excuse for Westminster to a) withhold powers repatriated from the EU, and b) ‘retrieve’ powers already devolved. While those inside the party know it but won’t openly admit it.

Even so, the clues come thick and fast. Alun Cairns was given a lot of space in Llais y Sais – with David Williamson serving as his amanuensis – to promote the idea of Cardiff detaching itself from Wales and linking up with Bristol in a Severnside region. (For some reason I can’t find the piece on the WalesOnline site.)

To ram home the message Llais y Sais chipped in with an editorial, one that went beyond Bristol to “the string of cities along the M4” which of course take us to London.

click to enlarge

I was so vexed by what I read, and incensed by the lies spouted by Cairns, that I took the unusual step of putting out a short post on my Facebook page.

On Monday morning Cairns maintained his assault on honesty with the claim that too much power is centralised in Cardiff . . . and this, remember, is the voice of the Conservative and Unionist Party that wants to centralise even more power in London!

Some might be tempted to agree with him, until they remember there’s little real power in Cardiff because Wales lacks an effective form of devolution. Of course, most people would agree that Cardiff gets more than its fair share of investment and jobs, and it was this resentment that Cairns hoped to tap into.

But let’s take him at his word. He says he wants to devolve power to the regions, he even talks of elected mayors. So would Wil Pughe of Llanfair Caereinion, like his counterparts in London and Manchester, have power over policing? Would Wil – as he has long desired – have control over local PCSO Cerys Evans?

Having one day advocated a Severnside region Cairns pushes on with a back-of-a-fag-packet suggestion masking a deeper message – ‘Devolution isn’t working for most of Wales. In fact, devolution isn’t working at all – let’s get rid of it.’

“Give power to the regions” is something trotted our regularly by the Tories, but it displays no real concern for the regions at all, it’s just a method of doing away with devolution and undermining our sense of nationhood.

DIVIDED, DISMEMBERED, DESTROYED

What of the areas left outside the shining megalopolis of ManPool and the ‘string of cities’ from Cardiff to London?

The remainder of the northern coastal strip along the A55, or those areas not being used to house drug addicts and criminals from over the border, or serving as geriatric ghettoes, will become commuter communities, even over the bridge onto Ynys Môn, as I found out by accident.

For when trawling the internet I often turn up things I wasn’t looking for, such as the map below, produced by Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners. They know that there are three Strategic Development Areas (or Strategic Planning Areas) for Wales, the two city regions and the A55 Corridor. I found a number of other references to the A55 Corridor: here’s one, here’s another.

All the sources tell us that these three SDAs/SPAs will be brought into existence by the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, which received Royal Assent on July 6.

click to enlarge

So why, two years on, are the chattering classes only talking of the two city regions? Is the A55 Corridor a dirty secret being proceeded with by stealth? Interestingly, one feature demanded by a SDA/SPA is joint Local Development Plans, which might explain why Gwynedd and Ynys Môn were recently required to produce one.

The area between the A55 Corridor and the urban south is to become one vast recreation and retirement area for England, offering everything from granny farms and zip wires to Cheshire-sur-Mer (Abersoch), the Birmingham Riviera (Cardigan Bay), and Bear Grylls parting suckers from their money with his ‘get-muddy-and-pretend-you’re-in-the-SAS!’ bollocks.

With assorted ‘Care’ bodies, probation companies and housing associations taking in England’s decrepit, dysfunction, delinquent and downright criminal. For housing ex-cons pays well.

The Valleys are to endure yet more managed decline, the Swansea region will be offered scraps from Cardiff’s table, while Cardiff itself expands and grows fat through exploiting its capital status but simultaneously playing the English provincial city, increasingly linked to Bristol and “the string of cities along the M4”.

Cardiff being a player in Severnside will be welcomed by those Cardiff politicians, such as Russell Goodway, who have always wanted Cardiff to enjoy all the benefits of being capital of Wales while looking down their noses at everything Welsh.

Result: Wales enfeebled, fragmented and exploited as never before. There can only be one outcome.

WHO CAN WE TRUST?

It should go without saying that we cannot trust an individual, or a political party, that has allowed this situation to develop.

Wales is being assaulted from all sides, yet Carwyn Jones may be motivated by loss of prestige rather than the loss of nationhood, or maybe it’s the thought of his party losing its vast network of patronage that moves him to stand alongside Nicola Sturgeon.

The Tories of course are driving this project and they’ll be supported by Ukip. As for the Lib Dems, well, who cares? Which leaves only Plaid Cymru.

Seeing as the destruction of Wales has little to do with Donald Trump, refugees, or trans-gender toilets, and is only tangentially connected with another of Plaid’s current obsessions, Brexit, it would be unrealistic to expect any opposition from Plaid Cymru.

In addition, Plaid Cymru is unsuited for the coming fight because, being a civic nationalist party that welcomes everyone (especially those with ‘ishoos’) – and by so doing supports the colonialist system that sees Wales exporting talent and importing problems – it is psychologically incapable of standing up in a struggle in which it will have to be said, ‘No, you’re not dumping any more of your problems in our country!’

And yet, one doesn’t even need to be a nationalist, or a believer in independence, to become involved in the forthcoming struggle. All that’s needed is the belief that Wales is a nation, with a defined and accepted territory, and that both must be respected.

But our enemies are gathering, they’ve laid their plans, they’ve even told us their plans, so we must resist.

Are you up for the coming fight?

♦ end ♦

Sep 132017
 

To recap . . .

A plan has been unveiled to give Merthyr a ski slope and other goodies, including a much-need equestrian centre and yurt accommodation. Though I was unaware of any yurts in Merthyr needing accommodation; no doubt – as with social and other housing in Wales – these yurts will magically appear from beyond our borders.

This project at Rhydycar West is the brainchild – so Siôn Barry of WalesOnline told us – of Leigh Gerald Large, a Canadian representing a company by the name of Marvel Ltd, in cahoots with Robin Kellen of Snowsport Cymru/Wales. All this and more may be found in my earlier post Merthyr Ski Slope.

Courtesy of WalesOnline

We established that Mr Large is a man with a great interest in trees of all kinds, for he is involved with a number of companies that have trees in their names. Many of these ‘tree’ companies seek the conditions that only the British Virgin Islands can provide.

We further established that Large has enjoyed associations with some colourful characters, including a Cardiff solicitor suspended last year by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for allowing his one-man show to descend into a state of “financial chaos”.

But try as I might I was unable to find any information on Marvel Ltd. There is a company of that name registered with Companies House but it’s definitely not the company planning to house yurts in Merthyr. And as there cannot be two companies with the same name registered with Companies House it was reasonable to conclude that either Marvel Ltd didn’t exist, or else it existed in some other jurisdiction.

Now read on . . .

Thanks to information received I now know that Marvel Limited is registered in Guernsey. So I went to the Guernsey Registry for a few documents. First we have Marvel’s Memorandum of Incorporation dated 09.09.2013. There are two shares, one each held by CN Alpha Limited and CN Beta Limited, both of Guernsey. (And when searching you must type ‘Limited’, for ‘Ltd’ turns up nothing.)

click to enlarge

So I decided to dive in and get information on CN Alpha Limited. The first document I bought was a change of director dated 02.06.2014. The second was a change of director dated 30.09.2015. The third document was the Annual Validation dated 31.12.2016. This last document tells us that CN Alpha Limited has four directors with what look like genuine domestic addresses on the island.

Of course, we may be in the labyrinth of tax-haven registrations where locals can put their names to hundreds or even thousands of companies. Then again, these people might be genuine directors of the company that owns Marvel Limited. How do we know?

Blackwell and Hearse are also directors of a UK-registered property company. (As is Geoffrey Robert Le Page, a former CN Alpha director.) Though the shares in Thornhill Property Investments Ltd are owned by Thornhill Property Holdings Limited . . . of Guernsey. Round and round we go.

Turning back to Marvel Limited I learnt that CN Alpha Limited and CN Beta Limited had been joined as directors by Cavendish International Limited. Going to the Annual Validation for 2016 we see that CN Alpha Limited has now become CCD Alpha Limited, with a similar change for CN Beta Limited.

So who the hell are Cavendish International Limited? Well, that should read were, because the company was voluntarily struck-off on July 17.

Which obviously means that Cavendish International Limited can no longer be a director of Marvel Limited. But the last entry for Marvel on the Guernsey Register is dated January 17. Maybe they’re ducking and weaving so much that those behind Marvel can’t keep up with their own manoeuvrings.

And yet it could be that even if we could get to the bottom of what’s going on on Guernsey we’d find that the trail goes off to the British Virgin Islands. Marvel may have a presence on Guernsey for appearance’ sake only due to the Channel Islands being regarded as more acceptable than those tropical locations full of shifty foreigners.

One thing’s for sure, Leigh Gerald Large is not mentioned anywhere on the Guernsey documents. So perhaps he’s lurking behind the frangipani trees on the BVI. Which might suggest that he’s no more than a front man for somebody else.

Unless fresh information comes in I think I’ve gone as far as I can with this investigation. Which is why I’m passing it over to the ‘Welsh’ media and our politicians to get at the truth. (Don’t laugh!)

There must be journalists, politicians, Merthyr council and Welsh Assembly officials, who have contact details for Leigh Gerald Large. They should get in touch with him and demand that he tells them who owns Marvel Limited, and where it is ultimately registered.

Those behind this ski slope wonderland have gone to great lengths to hide their identity. Which is suspicious in itself. And worrying when we can predict with certainty that this scheme will demand large dollops of public funding.

We are entitled to know the truth.

♦ end ♦

 

Sep 112017
 

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

The latest mega-project to be promised to the Heads of the Valleys is the Merthyr Ski Slope. But the goodies don’t end with just a ski slope, no, sir! for according to WalesOnline and Siôn Barry:

“The proposals also include plans for:

  • The largest indoor water park in the UK alongside an indoor surf simulator
  • An indoor bike and skate park
  • An equestrian centre
  • A survivor adventure park, aimed at families and for corporate team bonding, as well as an air park and zipline
  • Log cabin and yurt accommodation
  • Two new hotels, with spa and conference facilities, as well as retail and restaurant units
  • An element of residential development”

Grizzled old men up on Dowlais Top have dreamed all their lives of just one of these coming to Merthyr, and now they all arrive together!

WHO’S BEHIND IT?

According to Siôn Barry, behind this realisation of so many dreams we find a company called Marvel Ltd, which has “signed an agreement with Snowsport Cymru Wales”. Marvel is represented by Leigh Large and Snowsport Cymru/Wales by Robin Kellen. So what do we know about these two?

Picture courtesy of WalesOnline. Does the body language tell us anything?

Let’s start with Kellen and Snowsport Cymru/Wales. Kellen lives in Cardiff and is the Secretary of this organisation that began life back in 1994 as The Ski Council of Wales. As far as I can see skiing has been his life, so it’s no surprise to see him involved.

Leigh Large of Marvel Ltd is less easy to figure, and although he’s Canadian I can’t find any evidence of him being involved in winter sports. Not only Canadian but a true son of the Commonwealth, for he has business interests in the British Virgin Islands, where I’m sure winter sports are less popular than back home.

According to Siôn Barry, “Utilising an existing mountain at the site, which Marvel acquired in 2013, it would be the longest indoor ski facility in the UK, eclipsing the 180-metre slope at Chill Factore in Manchester.”

After reading that I thought to myself, how did Marvel “acquire” the site in 2013, and from whom? Come to that, who or what is Marvel? All good questions, with answers in very short supply.

This is the only Marvel Ltd I could find on the Companies House website. But Large has no connection with this company. There are many dozens of companies with ‘Marvel’ appearing somewhere in the name but I didn’t have time to go through them all, so I took a different course.

LEIGH GERALD LARGE

Searching the Companies House website for Leigh Large I came up with Leigh Gerald Large. One company of which he’s a director is K10 Apprenticeships Ltd (formerly Reds 10 Trading Ltd). It was here I learnt he was Canadian, but I was surprised to read that he lived in Norway.

Maybe someone can wade through this Charge taken out with LGT Capital Invest (Ireland) Ltd and explain why a company with a net book value of £12,510 needed a global investment outfit like LGT?

The next company on the list is Spruce Fields Ltd. Large is the sole director and owner of the company. His country of residence is now given as Canada. The other two directors resigned 12 July 2017. One was Perry Johnson of Merthyr.

Next up is Crystalrock Ltd, involved in the buying and selling of real estate. Although the company’s address is in Essex, there are some Welsh connections. Among former directors are William Derek Snowdon of Llwyn y Brain Mawr Farm, Creigiau, Leighton Michael Davies of Aberdare, and Perry Johnson, again.

Large became a director on 27 August 2010, the day Snowdon and Davies resigned, with Johnson providing the continuity.

Snowdon, Davies and Johnson are also directors of Merthyr Tydfil Football Club Ltd, a company currently docked up Shit Creek.

Late development: Compulsory strike-off proceedings have begun against Crystalrock Ltd. Posted on Companies House website September 11, dated September 12.

The next company linked with Leigh Gerald Large is Pine Fields Private Ltd, also in real estate. Large was a director 24 August 2010 to 11 July 2017, and we also find Perry Johnson (24 August 2010 – 8 February 2013).

On the same day, July 5, that Large ceased to be “a person with significant control” the company was transferred to the ownership of Cherry Blossom Global Ltd . . . of the British Virgin Islands.

Pine Fields bought up two parcels of land which may now be part of the planned project. The first, in August 2011, was land at Heolgerrig for £450,000. Then, in October 2012, there was a purchase of land to the north of Upper Colliers Row (Land Registry title number CYM536607).

Though, confusingly, Crystalrock is said to have bought the same land at Heolgerrig in July 2010. Certainly the same title number is quoted, CYM457235. The figure given is £350,000.

I suspect it’s explained below. The land went from Merthyr Village Ltd (of which more below) to Crystalrock, and then on to Pine Fields.

The penultimate company we’ll look at is Impara Ltd, in the management consultancy business. Large and Johnson both joined the company 14 June 2011. Johnson left 23 April 2012 but Large stayed on until 11 July 2017. In April 2017 Impara also moved to the BVI.

From May 2012 Impara owes Cherry Blossom Global Ltd for land lying to the south of Miners Row, Aberdare, over the hill from the planned ski slope. Title numbers WA951436 and WA948019.

Finally – and something of a departure, this – we come to the Loughton Care Centre Ltd in Essex. Large was a director from 25 November 2011 to 8 September 2014. During his time there the company was owned by Pear Blossom Global Ltd, until it was transferred in December 2016 to Gibson Propco Ltd, a holding company.

You will have noticed that there are a lot of trees in these company names. I suppose spruce and pine might remind a Canadian of home, whereas cherry and pear might put him in mind of warmer climes, perhaps the British Virgin Islands?

But I could make no connection between Leigh Gerald Large and a company with ‘Marvel’ in the name.

LAND

Among the many companies with which William Derek Snowdon of Creigiau has been involved we find property company Merthyr Village Ltd which, despite the name, is now registered in Essex. Snowdon was a director from 10 August 2000 until 20 September 2012.

The company is now run by sole director Richard Frank Arnold of Essex . . . who at various times has also been a director of those other companies we’ve just looked at: Spruce Fields, Pine Fields, Impara and Crystalrock.

Others involved with Merthyr Village at various times were the Holloway clan, who were or still are also directors of Merthyr Tydfil Football Club.

Merthyr Village is in debt to the tune of almost two million pounds, and was briefly put in the hands of Receivers in September 2014. But while it might be cash poor it could be asset rich.

Some years ago, and only so as to make the land safe, you understand, Merthyr Village wanted to remove 1.2 million tonnes of coal. Ungrateful locals misinterpreted this as an open cast mining scheme by stealth.

So who owns Merthyr Village now? Here’s the latest list of shareholders available on the Companies House website, dated 24 June 2016. Let’s go through it and account for the 11,268 shares, but ignoring shareholders with 100 shares or less.

(Though one name that caught my eye among the smaller shareholders was Paul Sugrue.)

Here’s the breakdown: Victor Johnson 501 shares; Kaykem Fast Foods Ltd 309; Gary Charles Newell 1,047; Orange Blossom Global Ltd 3,245; Derek Saddler 252; William Derek Snowdon (T/A Commercial Legal Solutions) 4,944. With Snowdon owning a further 92 shares in his own name. So who are these shareholders?

Victor Johnson is Victor Herbert Johnson, with companies in Swansea and Llanelli. Kaykem Fast Foods is run by a Turkish family, and may at one time have owned part of the Rhydycar West land. Gary Charles Newell turned up nothing on Companies House, but this Canadian fits the bill. Orange Blossom Global Ltd is clearly another of the ‘tree’ companies based on the BVI, and is probably Leigh Gerald Large. Derek Saddler is unknown. William Derek Snowdon we’ve already met.

I’m still not absolutely clear which company now owns the land involved, certainly it’s not the company quoted by Siôn Barry, Marvel Ltd, unless this is a new entity or a name change yet to be registered with Companies House. But that may not matter so much, for we certainly know the principal players.

Let’s proceed on the assumption that the site is still owned by Merthyr Village Ltd. (Though ownership could have transferred to one of the BVI companies.)

HOW DOES IT FIT TOGETHER?

I believe the 538 acres of land at Rhydycar West was originally owned by Celtic Energy, but then passed to Merthyr Village Ltd, a reassuring name with strong connections to the area and the town’s football club.

So how and when did the Canadian Leigh Gerald Large get involved?

The earliest link I can find for Large with anyone based in Wales comes through Pine Fields Private Ltd, now of the British Virgin Islands. Incorporated 24 August 2010 with Large and Perry Johnson as founding directors. Johnson, as a director of Merthyr Tydfil Football Club Ltd, could have introduced Large to others who were both directors of the football club and Merthyr Village, which owned the Rhydycar West site.

On 30 October 2013 the last two football-connected directors of Merthyr Village left, and on the same day Richard Frank Arnold of Essex joined, and has been the sole director ever since.

A few days after Pine Fields was set up Large joined Crystalrock where Davies, Johnson and Snowdon had been directors since the early days back in 2004. Arnold became a director on the same day and left 28 March 2013. At various times Arnold has been a director of two other companies with which Large is or was involved; Impara and Spruce Fields.

Another name connected with a number of Large’s companies is William John Handley of East Sussex, an accountant and a director of 69 companies. One of those he owns is West Wales (Property Investment) Ltd, which seems to have been dormant since it was set up in 1987.

What might have started as a few well-connected locals dreaming of making big bucks from property deals seems now to have been taken over by outsiders with a partiality for the British Virgin Islands and other ways of doing business that are less than transparent.

The one person with a Welsh address who has any substantial holding – in fact, he’s the largest shareholder in Merthyr Village – is William Derek Snowdon of Llwyn y Brain Mawr farm, Creigiau, Cardiff. Snowdon, a solicitor, who was suspended by his professional body last year “for having no proper accounting system”.

This might explain why there was no public announcement of Snowdon’s involvement in the project. Then again, his company might simply be holding shares for someone else.

I suggest that because if we refer back to the list of Merthyr Village shareholders we see that Snowdon has 92 shares in his own name. These I believe are his. Whereas the much bigger holding of 4,944 shares are listed as “William Snowdon (T/A Commercial Legal Solutions)”. These could belong to someone else.

For example, if most of these Commercial Legal Solutions shares belong to Leigh Gerald Large then, together with his Orange Blossom Global Ltd holding of 3,245 shares, he is the majority shareholder.

Come to that, and given his travails with the Solicitors Regulation Authority, is Snowdon’s company Commercial Legal Solutions still in business and entitled to hold shares for anybody? If not, shouldn’t the information available on the Companies House website be updated?

Finally, I suspect that the other man in the picture above, Robin Kellen, of Snowsport Cymru/Wales, has been roped in because, well, if you want to promote a project built around a ski slope it helps to have somebody on board who knows something about skiing.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

The gushing piece by Siôn Barry told us that the company behind the Merthyr ski slope project is Marvel Ltd. But it’s not, so what company does Canadian Leigh Gerald Large represent?

The piece I’ve referred to made no mention of public funding for this project, but we can almost guarantee that public funding will be demanded – and lots of it! To avoid another Circuit of Wales I suggest that the ‘Welsh’ Government (and perhaps also Merthyr Borough Council) makes it clear from the outset that there will be no public funding for this project.

Circuit of Wales, a warning from the very recent past . . . and very close by

If the ‘Welsh’ Government has already promised funding then it needs to explain why it has got involved with so many iffy characters and tax-haven companies.

Someone might also like to do some digging into the roles played by Richard Frank Arnold and William John Handley.

JAC SAYS . . .

The Barry piece says of the project, “it would be the longest indoor ski facility in the UK, eclipsing the 180-metre slope at Chill Factore in Manchester”, without, apparently, understanding the difference.

In a conurbation like Greater Manchester there are a few hundred thousand people earning good money in a diversified economy. This gives these people and their families a considerable amount in disposable income, some of which they will spend on entertainment and leisure, such as that provided by the Chill Factore.

Leisure and entertainment in a city like Manchester is additional to, and dependent upon, a vibrant and diversified economy. But here in Wales the ‘Welsh’ Government wants to cut out the economy bit and go straight to the leisure part, using it as a substitute for an economy.

Or, to look at it in a wider context; the low wage – and often seasonal – jobs provided by leisure facilities will be in Wales while the jobs paying the good money, enabling people to enjoy those facilities, will be in England. This is using Wales as England’s playground.

This project suggested for Merthyr is simply the latest in a long line of major leisure developments hailed as the economic salvation of Wales. In the north we have Surf Snowdoniazip wires everywhere, even giant trampolines underground in Blaenau.

Planned for the south we have the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. (Which I’ve written about.) While someone else hopes to give us yet another outdoor pursuits centre, this one near Carmarthen.

And what do they all have in common? They’re all foreign owned, the top jobs always go to outsiders, leaving the shitty, low-paid jobs for the natives. Classic colonialism. Yet to the ‘Welsh’ Government this is an economy, this is the future.

To cap it all, the ‘Welsh’ Government is proposing to remove almost all restrictions on access to the countryside. In other words, ramblers, canoeists, anyone, can come to Wales and do what they damn well like. The proposal has been welcomed by a host of English organisations such as The Open Spaces Society and Cycling UK.

Once again the ‘Welsh’ Government is prepared to legislate not for Wales and the Welsh but for the benefit of the English who regard Wales as their playground. A Labour administration will do this because it cares nothing for the countryside and has no better ideas, while it will be supported by Plaid Cymru because Plaid always grovels to the English middle classes.

The consultation period runs until the end of September. Make your objection to Wales being destroyed in order that strangers can ‘enjoy’ our homeland. You might also tell those clowns down Cardiff docks to back off from the idiocy that’s proposed for Rhydycar, and those behind it.

This has been a very complicated piece to write, so if I’ve made a mistake, please let me know. And if anyone has further information, then just send it to editor@jacothenorth.net.

♦ end ♦

 

Jul 232017
 

THE WOLF OF WHARF STREET

Back in April I wrote English Tourism in the Colony of Wales, which focused on Gavin Lee Woodhouse and ‘Bear’ Grylls, and their plans for the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. I wondered in that post why the ‘Welsh’ Government – even given its record of doing business with numerous crooks – was involved with an obvious spiv like Woodhouse.

Why is the ‘Welsh’ Government prepared to hand over a valuable piece of land in the Afan Valley to a man with a net worth of minus six million pounds? A man who starts and dissolves companies more often than some people change their socks. Over a hundred to date. And yet he seems to have been a late starter; for he’s 39 now but according to Company Check he didn’t start his first company until he was 34. What else do we know about him?

From Company Check

A company closely associated with Woodhouse is Properties of the World, run by Jean Ann Liggett, this company helps “property buyers make informed decisions on select UK properties, ensuring their purchases tick all the boxes”, as Liggett’s Linkedin profile tells us.

Ms Liggett is an American, whose family was involved in property back in Ohio. She herself has sold property in North Africa, and has worked for some interesting companies; among them Sunsplash Homes, which lasted for less than three years but “sold properties all over the world”.

Though the Linkedin profile tells us that since January 1985 she has also worked as a media planner for Ogilvy and Mather, a major US advertising agency, founded by Englishman David Mackenzie Ogilvy, regarded as the Father of Advertising. I say ‘English’, but Ogilvy and Mackenzie are of course Highland names, and that’s where his father came from.

During WWII Ogilvy worked for British Intelligence, hardly surprising because there’s no real difference between propaganda and advertising, both want you to buy their ‘product’. Which explains why, in the Britishness offensive we’re currently enduring, so many businesses – perhaps advised by companies like Ogilvy – cover their products in union jacks and other BritNat symbols.

In addition to helping Woodhouse make “informed decisions on select UK properties”, such as Plas Glynllifon, Liggett went into business with him, briefly. The company was MBI London NW8 Ltd, another of Woodhouse’s short-lived enterprises, lasting barely a year and doing nothing, or so it would appear.

But it’s Liggett’s other companies I want to concentrate on, because these throw up an interesting name. Let’s look first at Sunsplash Homes, the company selling property all over the world. If we look at the founding directors we see three names, among them, Barbara Z Kahan. Turning to Properties of the World, the only director other than Liggett was Barbara Kahan.

Kahan also cropped up when I recently delved into Carmarthenshire Council CEO Mark Vincent James’ property empire in Cardiff Bay. James is a director of Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd and a co-director is Steven James Corner. Corner is also a director of Imaginative Property Group Ltd, and the other founding director was Barbara Kahan. So who is Barbara (Z) Kahan?

Kahan ‘lends’ her name to help form companies (and resigns the same day the company is Incorporated). Allegations have been made, in the Times and elsewhere, that she helps those who might have difficulty setting up a UK company – though God knows it’s easy enough! – form companies for nefarious purposes. In a nutshell, money laundering.

BEARING UP

My source suggests that the answer to why the ‘Welsh’ Government is involved with a chancer like Woodhouse at the Afan Valley Adventure Resort may lie with his partner, Grylls, who contributes the Bear Grylls Survival Academy to the package. He already has one such establishment on Llŷn.

click to enlarge

Grylls is a regular presence on the television screens of those who like to watch overpaid and well-connected self-publicists. Fortunately, I don’t watch any programmes on which he is likely to appear. But his background is interesting.

On his mother’s side, his roots are in Donaghadee in County Down, Northern Ireland, where he spent his early years. His maternal grandmother and maternal great-grandfather were both Ulster Unionist MPs. His father, Sir William Michael John Grylls MP, was caught up in the same cash-for-questions affair that netted our very own Neil Hamilton AM. (Christine Hamilton was Grylls’ secretary.)

Grylls Senior was very well connected, his father had been a brigadier in 15th/19th the King’s Royal Hussars, he himself served in the Royal Marines and belonged to the exclusive Royal Yacht Squadron. His son, Edward Michael ‘Bear’ Grylls, went to prep school and Eton, did a few years in the SAS, is now Chief Scout, a lieutenant commander in the Royal Naval Reserve, and holds the same honorary rank in the Royal Marines Reserve.

There can’t be many outside of the Sachsen-Coburg und Gothas who better represents the establishment and the Union. It can only be a matter of time before ‘Bear’ Grylls is knighted, ennobled, and finally made a saint. There’s no question that Grylls, with his ‘pull’, can get anything he wants out of the ‘Welsh’ Government.

AN INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY

It could be that Woodhouse has now served his purpose, or may have bitten off more than he can chew, for he appears to have been promoted sideways in favour of Peter Moore, former MD of Center Parcs. Moore coming on board suggests that Caerau Parc, the name that now seems to have been adopted for the venture, is a nod to his former employer rather than a show of respect for the Welsh language.

But whoever’s running the show, and whatever it’s called, this project will attract those looking to avoid taxes and other irritations by investing in UK property. These needn’t be tyrants from the -stans and their families, or Russian oligarchs, just well-to-do people, of the kind Liggett and Grylls have mixed with all their lives, seeking a little nest egg, as the Properties of the World website makes clear.

In addition, the Elite Investor Club website reminds potential investors that the lodges at Caerau Parc are free from stamp duty, and, “If you have a buy-to-let property that you are worried about after all the recent tax changes you may be able to part exchange it against a lodge at Afan Valley”. So it’s also seeking to attract the buy-to-let types?

click to enlarge

Though I’m not sure if those involved in this scam scheme realise that in April 2018 stamp duty will be replaced in Wales by the Land Transaction Tax, to be administered by the ‘Welsh’ Government. But then, they’ve probably had assurances from Cardiff Bay that nothing will change . . . it never does.

Because the term ‘holiday homes’ carries a lot of baggage in Wales this project had to be dressed up as something more than property investment, which is where ‘Bear’ Grylls comes into the picture.

We know that the London property market launders many billions of pounds, it’s only natural that those seeking a UK property investment, but who can’t afford London prices, will look elsewhere. With Ms Liggett’s contacts I’m sure we’ll see some interesting buyers turn up for the lodges at Caerau Parc.

In fact, the whole Caerau Parc project of 900 lodges could be a money-laundering operation in itself.

THE BIG LIE

Wales is under attack today as never before. Our country is slowly being dismembered and we Welsh replaced as its inhabitants. One of the principle engines of our destruction is tourism. Yet we are asked to welcome an ‘industry’ that ignores our identity, treats our homeland as a playground, and marginalises us by encouraging colonisation.

Caerau Parc is typical of ‘Welsh’ tourism. The land on which it stands is owned by the UK state and managed by its Cardiff branch office. Those seeking to make money from this venture – Woodhouse, Grylls, Moore – are all English, or in the case of Liggett, American. Those who’ll buy the lodge-investments will almost certainly come from outside of Wales. The top jobs, the permanent jobs, have already been allocated to English ex-military types and the well connected.

click to enlarge

So what will be left for us Welsh at Caerau Parc? Well, as usual, we’ll get the shitty jobs, the low paid jobs, the seasonal jobs; for this is how tourism in Wales operates. Wales in 2017 is treated little different to Africa or India a century ago. It seems that Wales exists for no other reason than to enrich our English masters.

Yet those apologists for colonialism in the so-called ‘Welsh Government’, jumped-up little shites like Ken Skates, tell us we should be ever so grateful for this! We should be thankful that rapacious bastards like Woodhouse and Grylls have come to gorge themselves on the carcass of Wales.

But then, we are lied to at every level, whether it’s the Westminster government, BBC Wales, Llais y Sais, or Carwyn Jones and his band of the hopeless. Welsh public life is thoroughly corrupt. The problems facing us are so entrenched, in both our national life and our collective psyche, that nothing will change by a different party running the Notional Assembly.

The current system is beyond tinkering with, it must be swept away entirely and a new Wales created in its place. Let’s start that revolution by rejecting Caerau Parc and all other forms of colonialist tourism. Let’s make it clear that we shall no longer accept it, nor shall we celebrate our subjection.

Woodhouse’s Northern Powerhouse website tells us, “Proposals will be available to view from 20th – 28th July at Cymmer Afan Community Library, Station Road, Cymmer, Port Talbot, NPT, SA13 3HR during normal opening hours”.

Why not pop along and tell them what you think of this project. There’s no need to be rude; ‘Fuck off, you exploitive, colonialist bastards!’ should suffice.

♦ end ♦

Jul 032017
 

RESPECT WANTED

Tourism is a subject I’ve written about more than once, and so I think my views are pretty well known. But in case anyone’s failed to get the message . . . tourism in Wales is exploitive, tasteless, disruptive, damaging to Welsh identity and culture, destructive of our physical environment, and far too little of the wealth it generates reaches Welsh people. Tourism in Wales is one of the more obvious manifestations of colonialism.

Which is why I was encouraged to read this morning about Eryri in future being treated with “respect”. Remarkably, this is the very word I have used in my previous criticisms of the damage being done to the area by crude and exploitive tourism.

The word was used by Helen Pye, the Snowdonia National Park’s former head warden for Snowdon who is now manager of the Snowdon Partnership, a group representing various interests that has produced a draft plan for the area which invites comments. It’s a fascinating document and I urge you all to read it, and to submit your comments before Friday’s deadline.

The document tells us, for example, that Snowdon is a “national asset” . . . without stating which nation is being referred to. But as it goes on to say, ” . . . the most visited mountain in the UK.” it’s reasonable to assume that we are here discussing the mythic UKish nation.

A remarkable, and worrying, statistic may be found on page 20, which tells us that between 2013 and 2015 the percentage of first-time hill walkers attempting Yr Wyddfa doubled from 10% to 20%. Which no doubt contributes to some of the more alarming statistics found elsewhere in the report.

Page 43 bears out my criticism of tourism providing low-wage and seasonal employment, and contributing little to the overall economy of an area, with: “Tourism to Yr Wyddfa is estimated to contribute £69m of economic benefit per annum. There are low rates of full-time employment and low median wages in the Park”.

Though my spirits were briefly raised when I read, on page 48,“Invasive species are being controlled”, under the “Where do we want to be by 2030?” heading . . . only to realise that the draft was not referring to tourists.

All in all, it’s a very disappointing and unambitious document, with ‘compromise’ written through it like ‘Tenby’ through a stick of rock. Hardly surprising when we look at some of the ‘partners’: Visit Betws-y-Coed, The Outdoor Partnership, The National Trust, Beddgelert Tourism Association, Snowdonia-Active, Visit Wales, Snowdon Mountain Railway.

All of which can be grouped under the ‘Playground Wales’ umbrella. Organisations which insist that attracting unsustainable numbers of tourists, and encouraging many to settle, has no damaging consequences for Welsh identity, social cohesion, and the natural environment.

Not a lot different to tobacco companies back in the ’60s and ’70s arguing that cigarettes were not harmful to health. If you have a vested interested in denying what it is becoming clear to everyone else then that’s what you do . . . and just hope you get away with it.

TREN BACH YR WYDDFA

After writing the name I got to wondering a bit more about the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which not only owns the train to the summit but also runs the cafe close by the summit.

Reading the website one of the first things that struck me about the early days of the railway was the almost total absence of Welsh involvement. This was all happening in spite of us, or over our heads. But then, that’s colonialism; a whole nation treated as if it has learning difficulties, unable to do anything for itself.

The section below is taken from the website’s History section.

From ‘History of the Snowdon Mountain Railway’

The initial excursion in 1896 of No 1 Ladas, owned by the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Ltd, was not a great success, for the train left the track. Fortunately there was just one fatality, Ellis Griffith Roberts of Llanberis.

This episode is so wonderfully emblematic of ‘Welsh’ tourism. Not only were those making the money English, even the driver of the derailed train, William Pickles, was brought in from Yorkshire (with his nephew to serve as fireman). And as is the case 120 years later, it’s the Welsh who suffer.

The company number quoted on the website is 00042476 which, when typed into the Companies House site, takes us here. We can see that this company is based in Liverpool, and has been dormant for many years. Not only that, but since 2001 the company has got by without auditors. (You’ll note that this decision was taken at a meeting in Ripon, North Yorkshire. Perhaps in deference to Will Pickles and his nephew.)

Which means that one of Wales’ major tourism enterprises is run by an unaudited, dormant company. So who owns this outfit? Well, the answer seems to be, according to this document, that the shares – all 1,803,690 (10p shares) – are owned by Heritage Great Britain PLC of the same Liverpool address.

Heritage Great Britain plc is a holding company and we are also told that, “The Group undertakes the operation of various landmark and other day visitor attractions situated in the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, North Wales, and holiday accommodation in Scotland through a joint venture”.

So who owns Heritage Great Britain plc? According to this document, as at 5 April 2016 all 5,213,371 £1 shares are held by Cherberry Ltd. Which is where the trail almost goes dead. Because if you type ‘Cherberry Ltd’ into the Companies House website you draw a blank . . . for Cherberry was registered in May 1996 in Jersey.

Naturally – you know me, nosey bastard! – I went to the website of the Jersey Financial Services Commission to see what I could learn about Cherberry Ltd . . . which was not a lot. Other than the fact that the trail goes on to Dukla Ltd of Gibraltar, as set out in this document. The Dukla Articles of Association are dated August 2015. Having paid out £4 for the Jersey documents I was in no mood to splash out more than thirty quid a time for the Gibraltar docs.

And even if I’d bought some Gibraltar documents then I might have found that they led on to the Caymans or the British Virgin Islands. Which raises a few questions.

Hafod Eryri. All the architectural charm of a public urinal from communist East Germany

First, the Snowdon Mountain Railway Ltd leases the cafe at the summit, Hafod Eryri, from the Snowdonia National Park. This ‘visitor centre’ opened 12 June 2009 and was built at considerable cost. Given who owns it it’s safe to assume that a great deal of public funding was involved. How do those funders – probably using your money and mine – feel about this publicly-funded asset now being leased to a company based God knows where?

Second, the Snowdonia Mountain Railway ferries a few hundred thousand people between Llanberis and the summit every year. In the event of an accident, how easy would it be to hold to account a company we’ve traced to Gibraltar, a company that through yet more changes of name and ownership may ultimately be located even further afield?

Are Cyngor Gwynedd and the ‘Welsh’ Government satisfied that adequate insurance is in place to cover all eventualities? Satisfied that culpability can be apportioned and justice satisfied when the guilty party or parties may be beyond UK jurisdiction?

~~~

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

The principal characters in the Snowdon Mountain Railway, in the forms of the three current directors are, Gary Johnson, Allan James Stuart Leech and Peter Miles Johnson-Treherne; the last of whom can be founded listed on other documents as Peter Treherne or Peter Johnson-Treherne.

The same three crop up running the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Ltd (where Gary Johnson now becomes Gary Andrew Johnson). You’ll remember that this is the name of the company for which the luckless William Pickles and his nephew worked back in 1896. (Though of course they were lucky compared to poor Ellis Griffith Roberts.) So what does this company do?

In a word, nothing, for it became dormant almost from the date of its Incorporation on 22 May 2013. And as we read in the Annual Report and Accounts dated 31 January 2014, “The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Heritage Great Britain plc which is registered in England and Wales. The ultimate parent company, Cherberry Ltd, is registered in Jersey . . . “. 

Something that puzzled me was, given the ages of the three I’ve named, and their relatively late entrances, who was running the show before they got involved? Part of the answer came from the former directors of the Snowdon Mountain Railway Ltd, for among them I found the information below.

Kevin Ronald Leech (born August 1943) is probably the father of current director Allan James Stuart Leech (born October 1972). Leech Senior’s Jersey address is the same address given for Cherberry Ltd.

UPDATE 04.07.2017: I am indebted to Simon Hillman for providing (in a comment below) more information on Kevin Leech. I suggest you read this Telegraph article from October 2002 and this Guardian piece from January 2014. This is the man who might still own the Snowdon Mountain Railway through a network of offshore companies, and the man to whom the Snowdonia National Park has leased Hafod Eryri. Cause for concern.

RESPECT HAS TO BE EARNED

The fundamental problem exposed here is one we find in other parts of Wales, and indeed, around the world. To wit: A beautiful area attracts tourists, the more tourists that come, the more degraded and less beautiful that area becomes. This combination of tourism and degradation is unavoidable.

Among those refusing to concede this universal truth we may find some denying that there is a limit to how many tourists an area can accommodate, especially when they don’t live in the area and run their businesses through offshore companies.

If Ms Pye and her Snowdon Partnership are serious about showing respect for Yr Wyddfa then the answer is simple: rather than searching for the alchemist’s stone of attracting a limitless number of tourists and expecting them to cause no harm, accept that the problem is too many tourists and start limiting the numbers.

By all means encourage responsible walkers to ascend the mountain, but for God’s sake don’t make it easy for every lazy bastard to get there on a bloody railway – and then encourage them to fill their fat faces in the cafe at the top!

So make a start by demolishing the pissoir at the peak, after all, this is owned by the Snowdonia National Park Authority and was paid for from the Welsh public purse. With the visitor centre gone there’ll be less incentive for the obese and the idle to get the train to the summit.

If money was found for the carbuncle now desecrating the skyline then money can be found to buy out the Snowdon Mountain Railway, by compulsory purchase if necessary. Once bought, the rolling stock can be flogged off and the tracks torn up to restore Yr Wyddfa to something approaching its natural state.

Anything less is simply tinkering with the problem; so if that’s what’s happening then don’t build people’s hopes up by using words like ‘respect’. Use the word that I fear already describes the Snowdon Partnership and its draft plan – fudge.

♦ end ♦

 

Apr 272017
 

Bear Grylls: ‘It’s not for me, you understand . . . ‘

I’ve written about Bear Grylls, the television personality, survival expert and tourism operator a couple of times recently. Now I find myself writing about him again.

My first mention of Grylls was an almost light-hearted look at his ‘survival camp’ on Llŷn, done only because I’d picked up a leaflet for this nonsense on a visit to Porthmadog. So demanding and dangerous is this camp that it caters for drunks on stag and hen parties. (Scroll down in this post.)

I next wrote about him was in more serious vein, after learning of his involvement with wide boy Gavin Lee Woodhouse – of ‘Wynnborn’ fame – and their joint attempt to take over another piece of Wales and re-name it the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. Read English Tourism in the Colony of Wales.

I have been in contact recently with a Gwynedd councillor who had more to tell me about Bear Grylls, and although this tale takes us back to July 2014 I think it deserves an airing, so I’m reproducing in full an e-mail exchange that took place between Bear Grylls and Councillor Craig ab Iago. (You can either click on the image on the right to enlarge it, or read it in pdf format by clicking here.)

At the time of this exchange Grylls was applying for planning permission to build a new stone jetty on St Tudwal’s Island (which he owns) off the coast of Llŷn. As a follow-up to the official planning application he wrote to all members of the planning committee.

I’m unsure about the propriety, or the legality, of seeking to influence elected representatives in this way. Maybe an Old Etonian who is now a ‘celeb’ regularly uses back channels in order to get what he wants. Of course, what works in London doesn’t always translate to Gwynedd.

First off, let’s remember that this is a planning application by a businessman to make one of his assets more profitable. That’s all there is to it, really, it’s about Bear Grylls seeking to make more money.

But he can’t say that, so he has to try a different tack; he starts off by mentioning his “young family”, which might influence an application to build an extra bedroom but is totally irrelevant in this context.

Then he presents himself as the benefactor to the local community “in and around Abersoch” (i.e. the Cheshire set), and the partner of Trinity House, which maintains St Tudwal’s Island lighthouse.

At which point you might, like me, be wondering: if Trinity House needs a new jetty why couldn’t they apply for it themselves? Come to that, does a body like Trinity House even need to apply for planning permission?

This appeal by Bear Grylls is nothing but simpering, self-serving bollocks; just a cut above, ‘think of all the drowning kiddies, sob! sob!’ I don’t want to dwell on this stomach-churning bullshit any longer.

Thankfully, Craig ab Iago was able to answer Grylls, and he did so with dignity and passion. It is a response worth reading for its honesty, and how it contrasts to Grylls’ artifice and dissimulation. I urge you to read Craig’s cri de coeur and ensure that it has the widest possible audience.

Tourism and the colonisation it encourages is the surest way of destroying our rural way of life. That’s why Wales is being offered little other than tourism. 

 ~ ♦ ~

Redrow Homes, Goetre Uchaf

One of Wales’ great success stories, so the media would have us believe, is Redrow Homes. A company formed by Steve Morgan, with headquarters in Ewloe, Flintshire, and quoted on the FTSE 250. The truth is that Redrow being in Wales is just an accident of geography, there is no commitment to Wales or things Welsh whatsoever.

Proven by the twee names Redrow gives to its developments and the names of its house types – The Ludlow, The Warwick, The Cambridge, The Windsor, The Shaftesbury, etc. But occasionally Redrow gives the appearance of recognising it’s in Wales by using a Welsh name for one of its developments. An example would be Goetre Uchaf in Bangor.

Unfortunately, the ‘commitment’ is just skin deep. Because of course, like so many companies operating in the building trade and property development – and especially in the north – Redrow targets English buyers. So it is with Goetre Uchaf, as this advertisement proves with, ‘Move to North Wales with Redrow Homes’.

If you want further proof, then listen to the start of this video and hear the mangling of Goetre Uchaf. And if these houses are not needed in Bangor – and seeking buyers over the border suggests they’re not – then why was planning permission granted?

~ ♦ ~

Pole Polling

I am indebted to another source for making me realise that, with two elections coming up, ‘Welsh’ Labour will again target the Polish vote in Llanelli (and perhaps elsewhere). For Labour has worked assiduously over the years to exploit forge links with the Polish community in the town.

The starting point would appear to be 2004 when, according to this WalesOnline article from May 2014, a desperate Pole went into the office of the SaveEasy Credit Union in downtown Llanelli, where manager Jeff Hopkins was eventually able to find a Polish speaker to help him.

From this encounter grew the Welsh Polish Mutual Association which opened in 2006 to help Polish migrants arriving in the town. The chairman of the Association is the aforementioned Jeff Hopkins. In an earlier incarnation he had been the agent for Denzil Davies, the town’s Labour MP from 1970 until 2005.

A SaveEasy Credit Union employee involved with the new Association was Halina Ashley, Polish herself. It should go without saying that Mrs Ashley is also a member of the Labour Party. I suppose it’s reasonable to assume that Mrs Ashley was the Polish speaker Jeff Hopkins was able to find on that Sunday morning back in 2004.

The official opening took place in September 2006, conducted by Edwina Hart. From its outset the Association was funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government, partly through the ill-starred Communities First programme, which was finally put out of its misery in February.

Though the Polish-Welsh Association was not registered as a company until 27 February 2013. On the Companies House website you’ll see that the only director other than Hopkins is Janice Williams, a Labour county councillor. Williams has also been a director of the local Citizens Advice Bureau, that body taken over by the Labour Party years ago.

To this day, I understand, the ‘Welsh’ Government funds the Welsh Polish Mutual Association centre in Llanelli, and pays for the ‘Welcome’ packs for arriving Poles, with the SaveEasy Credit Union paying the overheads for the building.

Though I must confess to being appalled to read my source suggesting, “It would not be a surprise to discover that the packs contain postal voting forms . . . I am led to believe that Llanelli Labour have form regarding this”.

I had just put away the smelling salts after reading that when I found myself scrabbling for them again on reading that Hopkins and Ashley have access to confidential data that could be of great use to the Labour Party in targeting the Polish vote.

As I said to myself, ‘But they would never do anything like that, because to do so would contravene the Data Protection Act 1998.’ That said, there is some evidence . . .

The leaflet below, for example, from last year’s Assembly election, is obviously for the benefit of Polish voters; and seeing Mrs Halina Ashley, a woman they know, in the company of the Labour candidate, clearly carries the message, ‘Vote Labour!’.

click to enlarge (no, it wasn’t me what ripped it.)

The Polish vote in Llanelli may not be as large as in some English towns, but it still makes up five or six per cent in the wards where Poles tend to congregate. The percentage is higher in the Tŷ Isha ward where not so long ago the Safer Community Action Group was set up to counter the allegedly anti-social behaviour of gangs of drunken young Polish males.

The group was supported by thirsty Labour councillor and recipient of someone else’s liver, Keri Thomas, on the grounds that the Polish influx “put a burden on services, on the GPs and the hospitals and the schools”. (You couldn’t make this up, could you?) Like most Labour politicians, Thomas is talking rubbish.

The Polish migrants are overwhelmingly healthy young men, consequently they are unlikely to be a burden on the health service. If Keri Thomas and others are so concerned about people moving to Wales and putting a strain on our services why do they say nothing about retirees, or the substance-abusing riff-raff and others with ‘issues’ who get priority treatment from housing associations and other agencies?

Knowing ‘Welsh’ Labour as we do, and with the evidence from last year’s election to guide us, it is entirely reasonable to assume that ‘inside information’, unavailable to other parties, is being used to target the Polish vote in Llanelli for both the council elections and the UK general election

Footnote: Councillor Janice Williams is standing down next month in the Lliedi ward, where one of the Tory candidates is a Stefan Ryszewski. Woe! Woe! Even the Fates mock Labour!

~ ♦ ~

Pond Life in Ebbw Vale 

A Gwent source tells me of an interesting sale taking place at 5pm today, in the Park Inn Hotel at Llanedeyrn in Cardiff. (If you hurry, you might still make it!) His interest was aroused by one particular lot of three former feeder ponds for the local steelworks and the land around them.

The catalogue makes interesting reading, for it contains all manner of properties but a majority seem to be small terraced houses of the kind that often make the news when a London ‘paper reports, ‘Englishman buys whole Welsh street for £37.50, ha! ha!’

Which says something about many things, such as the ‘Welsh’ Government’s neglect of the Valleys, and our relationship with England. Consider also that many of these humble dwellings being auctioned are repossessions, each one representing someone’s dashed hope of owning a home. But the Daily Mail don’t give a fuck about that.

In March 2009 the Newport-based South Wales Argus reported that the ‘Welsh’ Government had given £150,000 to transform the site in question, the Argus even saying that work had started. Yet to look at the site now it appears that little if anything was ever done.

click to enlarge

So the questions are:

  • What happened to the £150,000?
  • Why wasn’t the area improved as promised?
  • What’s been happening for the past 8 years?
  • Who owns this land today?
  • Why is it being sold?

Maybe the ‘Welsh’ Government is hoping that Bear Grylls and ‘Wynnborn’ Woodhouse come galloping over the Beacons, bugles blowing and flags fluttering, to unveil their plan for the Waun-y-Pound Aquatic Adventure Resort, replete with crocodiles and piranhas – let the good times roll!

~ ♦ end ♦ ~

Apr 182017
 

THIS PIECE BEGAN LIFE AS JUST ANOTHER ITEM IN ONE OF MY REGULAR NEWS ROUND-UPS, BUT AS IT GOT MORE INTERESTING I THOUGHT IT MERITED A POST TO ITSELF. SO HERE IT IS

About a week or so ago WalesOnline, one of Trinity Mirror’s Labour Party mouthpieces, told us of an exciting new development in Cwm Afan, behind Port Talbot. The article generated some interesting comments, here are a couple, but I urge you to read them all.

click to enlarge

As the comments tell us, this development is fronted by television ‘personality’ Edward Michael Bear Grylls, though it seems to be the brainchild of a Gavin Lee Woodhouse of Yorkshire, through his Northern Powerhouse Developments. There are a number of companies – all new – sharing that name.

You can have, in chronological order: Northern Powerhouse Developments LtdNorthern Powerhouse Developments Adventure Resorts LtdNorthern Powerhouse Developments Adventure Resorts Management LtdNorthern Powerhouse Developments (Holdings) Ltd and Northern Powerhouse Developments Hotels Ltd.

In addition to being new companies these five also share a single director – Woodhouse – have just a few quid in share capital and are yet to submit any accounts or returns.

Alternatively, another company that might fit the bill for Cwm Afan is Active Resorts UK Ltd, which, again, was set up last year. Or perhaps Afan Valley Ltd (formerly Caerau Parc Ltd). In fact, Gavin Lee Woodhouse has been involved in a surprising number of companies for a man of 39 years. As many as 78, many of which seem to change their name soon after starting up, often the address as well.

And yet, I cannot find him shown as a director of any company before the latter part of 2014, so what was he doing up until then, and why so many companies since? If we go back to his Linkedin profile it doesn’t really help. For it tells us that he founded the MBi Group of Companies in November 2011 with nothing before that except, under ‘Education’, “Norwich City, Law 1995 – 1997”. Which means what – did he do night classes while playing for Norwich City Football Club?

The Company Check website (below) confirms a sudden irruption into the world of business some three-and-a-half years ago but does nothing to explain what he was up to between 1997 and 2013. Also note that according to this source Woodhouse is a director of 58 extant companies, and has been involved with 45 dissolved companies. All in the space of less than four years!

What we can be sure of is that since he decided to take the business world by storm he’s become familiar with the exploitation of Wales. For among his other companies we find the Carmarthen Bay Hotel Ltd, which may refer to the Fourcroft Hotel in Tenby, which was probably bought last year. Another of his companies, the Wyncliffe House Hotel Ltd, may own the Fishguard Bay Hotel.

In the north, among Woodhouse’s companies, we find the Caer Rhun Hall Hotel Ltd which runs the establishment of that name in Conwy (and serves as the address for many of his other companies). There’s the MBI Newborough Hall LtdQueen’s Hotel (Llandudno) Ltd, Llandudno Bay Hotel & Spa Ltd and, also in Llandudno, there’s the Belmont Hotel Ltd.

Just one more company might be worth mentioning. Again, this is a company set up very recently, on 10 November 2016, and once again Gavin Lee Woodhouse is the sole director. Though what the purpose of Woodhouse Family Overseas Ltd is I do not know, but the name does make one think.

At this point you’re probably shouting, ‘No more bloody companies!’, so let’s continue in my coruscating – yet informative! – narrative style.

Looking at those companies in the north you might think – as I did – that Newborough Hall is somewhere near the village of that name on Ynys Môn, but no, Newborough Hall was a name used to market Plas Glynllifon, near Caernarfon. A short time later, in what became something of a minor cause célèbre, the former mansion of Lord Newborough was marketed as Wynnborn.

Plas Glynllifon

The Daily Post article I’ve linked to tells us that late in 2015 Plas Glynllifon was bought from receivers by “MBI Hotels, part of the MBI Consulting group”. MBI Hotels was a relatively new company Incorporated with Companies House on 13 May 2015. The two founding directors were Robin Scott Forster and Gavin Lee Woodhouse.

Following the furore over ‘Wynnborn’, Forster and Woodhouse resigned as directors on 11 November 2015 and were replaced by what a cynic might regard as stooges. To further cover their tracks the company name was changed on 1 February 2016 to Giant Hospitality Ltd, under which name you can find the information I’ve just given. Woodhouse re-instated himself as a director of Giant Hospitality Ltd on March 30 2017.

Despite all the ducking and weaving, it appears that MBI’s purchase of Plas Glynllifon fell through, for the Daily Post reported in April 2016 that the pile had now been bought by a “mystery buyer”. The mystery buyer turned out to be a couple named Paul and Rowena Williams who, despite the name, are not Welsh.

The couple have promised to keep the name Plas Glynllifon and that seems to have satisfied Plaid Cymru. For superficial displays of outrage while ignoring the underlying colonialism is Plaid Cymru’s trademark.

The couple have also ‘purchased’ the Seiont Manor in nearby Llanrug through their company Rural Retreats & Leisure UK Ltd aka Plas Glynllifon Ltd. Both companies were Incorporated on 1 August 2016. There are four Charges (loans or mortgages) against Plas Glynllifon Ltd. The lender is Together Commercial Finance Ltd of Cheshire, and the solicitor used was Lanyon Bowlder of Shrewsbury.

Putting it all together there seems to be no Welsh involvement at all . . . oh, wait, I’m forgetting, the Daily Post report told us that Paul and Rowena Williams are “in talks with the Welsh Government about grant support”. So Welsh involvement might be limited to paying for another piece of Wales to pass into English hands!

this is how you ‘buy’ something without any money

I suppose the Charges Companies House lists against Plas Glynllifon Ltd could be bridging loans until the ‘Welsh’ Government grants come through.

Let’s get back to Cwm Afan. I don’t know how well Grylls and Woodhouse know each other, where or when they met, but their relationship makes sense for the following reason.

Woodhouse is a property developer in the tourist accommodation sector, who also has stakes in student accommodation and care homes. Which fits, because, fundamentally, this new development is about 900 lodges in the £149,000 to £249,000 price range. Let’s split the difference: 900 x £200,000 = £180,000,000. There’s also a 5 star hotel, spa, and other facilities. We’re talking big bucks here.

To disguise the fact that this is just an upmarket caravan site (which is all that ‘lodges’ are) Bear Grylls is brought on board to give it that, je ne sais quoi, that, ‘outdoory’ appeal. Bingo! now we have the Afan Valley Adventure Resort, pulling in overweight suburbanites then getting them wet and dirty so they can fantasise about doing special forces training. Much as Grylls has done since inflicting himself on Llŷn. (Which I wrote about quite recently, scroll down in this post.)

click to enlarge

Wales’ past prosperity may have been built on agriculture, coal, steel and other heavy industry, but the ‘Welsh’ Government now believes that any prosperity we might enjoy in the years ahead depends almost solely on zip wires and the like; the more the merrier, zip wires everywhere. ‘Wales – the country with the zip wire economy!’

As one of the comments to WalesOnline (above) suggest, there is already quite a lot in the Cwm Afan area for the public to enjoy, almost all of it paid for by the public purse. I’ll let Brychan, a regular visitor to this blog, take over:

“There are leisure facilities already present in the valley, most notable a mountain bike centre which has had substantial council investment from the taxpayers of Neath Port Talbot, and of course a building up at Glyncorrwg which has a café, which was funded by Communities First.

The ‘ponds’ at Glyncorrwg are a series of reclaimed colliery reservoirs stocked with fish. The cycle paths, which taxpayers paid millions into, are the ones which run along the trackbed of the old Rhondda to Swansea railway line from Blaengwynfi (Rhondda tunnel) down to Port Talbot, and its spur up to Glyncorrwg.

The forest plantation came into the possession of Natural Resources Wales (Forestry Commission). The old coal tips were reclaimed at public expense, the land having been gifted to the council from the National Coal Board.”

So we see that a large amount of public money was spent healing the scars of previous exploitation . . . only for these public assets to be handed over to twenty-first century exploiters in the forms of Gavin Lee Woodhouse and Edward Michael Bear Grylls. Two men with nothing but contempt for what makes Wales Welsh.

For I’ve already told you about Gavin Woodhouse’ attempts to market Plas Glynllifon as Wynnborn. (What the hell is ‘Wynnborn’ supposed to mean, anyway?) Grylls’ record is no better, maybe worse. First there was his tasteless ‘slide’ on St Tudwal’s Island (which he owns), then his attempt to put beach huts at Llanbedrog. In the second of those ventures he was in partnership with the Llanbedrog Headland Company Ltd, of Cheshire.

Who are these bloody people that own so much of our country!

We are dealing here with people who see easy money to be made turning Wales into a recreation and retirement destination for England. They don’t even need money, for they can borrow it on the value of the asset being acquired, or get it from suckers investors, while also relying on the ‘Welsh’ Government chipping in with grants and gifts of public assets. It’s a no-lose situation, for them.

There’s nothing surprising about this, it’s how British business operates. The UK state itself is floating on an ocean of debt, disguised by accountancy practises that have got some people banged up. What should disappoint anyone reading this is that the ‘Welsh’ Government is so ready to be part of this. But then, when you’ve got no ideas of your own on how to generate wealth or create employment you’re going to welcome with open arms any shyster who comes along with a ‘project’.

And as I asked earlier, what do we know about Woodhouse’s background? Well, for a start, he seems to have been convicted for driving while disqualified in June 2009. (Ban extended.) I also learnt that, Prior to founding MBi in 2011 he (Woodhouse) was a director of several other companies”.

The same source tells us that Woodhouse has – according to his lawyer – also suffered the misfortune of holding “short-lived directorships of two businesses that left debts when they were wound up. He was appointed without his knowledge and/or not removed when he should have been”.

The same Bureau of Investigative Journalism report found that MBi’s chief commercial officer was a struck-off solicitor named Alan Cockburn, who “had acted for the buyer, seller and lender in the same transaction and caused the Yorkshire Bank to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

The report also informs us that “Companies House lists Woodhouse as director from late October 2012 until May 2013 of Harjen Limited, which held a sexual entertainment licence for the Leeds strip club, Wildcats, throughout that time. Woodhouse’s lawyer said his client had not been involved with the management of the strip club and that the dates of his directorship listed at Companies House were incorrect. The lawyer said Woodhouse had “immediately resigned” when he found out about the business.”

This is terrible! Some unscrupulous bastards keep making Gavin Lee Woodhouse a director of dodgy companies without his knowledge. Should the ‘Welsh’ Government be doing business with such an unlucky man? Come to that, how did the ‘Welsh’ Government get involved with him in the first place, didn’t they do background checks?

Still, this explains the gaps on his Linkedin profile. Now if I was Bear Grylls I’d use my SAS training to melt into the shadows and then put as much distance as possible between me and Gavin Lee Woodhouse, the Wolf of Wharf Street.

All joking aside, the examples of Plas Glynllifon and Cwm Afan are all too representative of ‘Welsh’ tourism – no Welsh involvement, no Welsh benefits yet, somehow, we end up paying for it! I often think that if Venice was in Wales then the gondoliers and everybody else making the money would be English. That’s because Wales is ruled by England, in the interests of England.

It’s called colonialism; it’s been around since the dawn of time, and although it’s fallen from favour elsewhere in recent decades, here in Wales our elected representatives still prefer supporting colonialism to standing up for Welsh interests.

Unless we start calling time on this variety of tourism we shall increasingly find ourselves strangers in our own country, for the trend is already established along the north coast and elsewhere – where tourism takes hold Welsh people lose out and Welsh identity becomes weakened, trivialised, and eventually destroyed.

♦ end ♦

Mar 282017
 

Brexit

In a recent post, Welsh Independence Referendum, I looked at the call for a second Scottish independence referendum and a referendum on Irish reunification, before considering an independence referendum in Wales and concluding that such a referendum could not be won.

In this post I’m going to give the possibility of a Welsh independence referendum a bit more of an airing, partly because I may not have made my views clear in that earlier post and partly because I think a few other things need to be clarified. For example . . .

A few days ago I tweeted about the mother of the man who killed people outside Westminster last Wednesday, linking to a BBC report that she lives in Carmarthenshire. I received a response from ‘Cymroewrop’ accusing me of making assumptions about the man’s cushion-making, good-lifer mother. Whoever Cymroewrop is he or she had missed the point.

The point I was making was about English colonisation. And yet, I can imagine the conditioning that resulted in that response – ‘the killer was a person of colour . . . known to be a convert to Islam . . . therefore this man making the comment must be a racist and an Islamophobe’.

Naturally, I wondered who Cymroewrop is, so I checked. In addition to being obviously pro EU this person’s hash tags – #indyrefcymru #indywales @yescymru – tell us that he or she supports Welsh independence. And if we check the profile further then the header photo suggests that Cymroewrop is one of those who believes that only stupid people voted for Brexit. The analogy would appear to be lemmings.

Maybe he or she is one of the ‘progressives’ I wrote about in the post in which I explained why I was voting for Brexit, people on the political left who regard themselves as morally and intellectually superior to those holding different views.

click to enlarge

Cymroewrop’s Twitter timeline is full of retweets of those still fighting the Brexit battle. Predictably, Cymroewrop is also opposed to President Trump. Which brings us to the fundamental problem, and explains my reluctance to get involved in the campaign for an independence referendum.

I suspect that this campaign is attracting too many who see Welsh independence as a route back into the EU. An approach that might – and I stress might – work in Scotland but is more likely to alienate potential support in a country where a majority voted for Brexit. Consequently, promoting EU membership could damage the chances of success in a Welsh independence referendum.

As for Cymroewrop, I don’t know who you are, but it seems obvious to me that while we seem to agree on the need for Welsh independence, we would almost certainly disagree on why we need it.

Getting Personal

The reason I feel so strongly about this link with Brexit is because after the EU referendum last year I received some rather unpleasant messages from people who had obviously voted Remain. Here’s a selection of those I’m prepared to make public, with identification obscured.

The point I was trying to make with the reference to Leanne Wood was that if Brexit is so disastrous for Wales then the day after it was announced I would have expected the leader of Plaid Cymru to be somewhere other than at a Brit feminist conference. This, for me, summed up all that’s wrong with Plaid Cymru.

click to enlarge

These tweets betray the usual precious intolerance of the right-on left. For whom I am an “incomer”, I have blighted the lives of children, I am an utter bastard for exercising my democratic right to disagree with these people who are – remember! – all nationalists in favour of independence.

Perhaps they think that as a child of the Sixties I should now be a mellow old dude; well, I’m not. Yes, I was there, long hair and flares, even the granny glasses; I loved the music, still play my Tom Paxton albums, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins . . . I just didn’t buy into the politics. Or rather, I saw the need for change, but not the change offered by the Soviet Union, or campus ‘radicals’ going through a phase before joining father in the oak-panelled offices of Shyster Shyster & Shyster. For fuck’s sake! I supported the US in Vietnam.* I am a reactionary beyond redemption! Get used to it.

Comments such as those contained in the tweets are water off a duck’s back to me, but they do make me pause, and wonder if I could ever co-operate with such people in an independence campaign. So you may begin to understand my concerns that a movement for independence could be subverted by those still grieving their referendum defeat last June.

*Though let me make clear that I no longer subscribe to the Domino Theory.

Independence

All my life I have wanted Wales to be independent. The earliest manifestation might have been when, as a ten-year-old in Brynhyfryd school, I submitted as my contribution to the St David’s Day eisteddfod a picture I’d drawn of Llywelyn rejecting the terms offered him by Edward I.

I’d copied it from the Odhams Press volume British History in Strip Pictures, a book I still I have. (Sentimental old bugger that I am!) What possessed a ten-year-old in Swansea, after five years of an essentially English education, hearing almost daily the horrors and heroism of WWII, to select that picture from a volume extolling the greatness of England?

For that’s the kind of book it was. The next page was devoted to ‘The Model Parliament’ and that was followed by two whole pages glorying in ‘The Hammering of the Scots’. The inside covers were given over to a parade of kings and queens of England beginning with William of Normandy.

click to enlarge

So you see, independence is not something I’ve come around to because of Brexit. It’s not even a position I’ve adopted because of the sheer fucking awfulness of the quisling Labour Party, or the smackinthegobability of Alun Cairns, Guto Bebb and the Fat Farmer. It’s a multiplicity of things: it’s the slimeball civil servants running Wales for their London masters; it’s the locusts of the Third Sector who have descended upon us to take what little we have; it’s the lying bastards at the BBC, the Wasting Mule and elsewhere; it’s the fact that someone as obnoxious as Mark James can be left to run one of our councils as if it was his private fiefdom; it’s the realisation that I now belong to the Welsh minority in the area I live.

These combine to tell me that Wales is a corrupt, inefficient, poor, fucked up Third World colony . . . yet it could be so much better.

But maybe things are getting better – look what I picked up in Porthmadog today! Bear Grylls has come to live among us . . . well, he’s come to live in Wales, anyway; I don’t suppose he’ll be mixing much with Welsh people seeing as he’s involved in tourism.

click to enlarge

‘Forage For Wild Foods’, it says! (Let Jac recommend those nice white mushrooms.) Or ‘Learn How To Protect Yourself in the Wild From Attack’. Yes, the grizzlies near Pwllheli are particularly aggressive. ‘Will You ESCAPE from Cabin Wood?’ With any luck, no; you’ll all die; Grylls will then be exposed as a self-promoting, money-grabbing bastard, and the world will be spared his puerile exhibitionism for a long, long time.

A Chorus not a Drone

Wales needs independence, to save us from all the above-mentioned ills and, more importantly, to ensure our survival as a nation.

There are those who agree with me on independence but believe socialism and the EU must be added to the mix. A country in the state Wales is in needs socialism like a dog needs more fleas, and I say that because socialism is a system for distributing wealth, not for creating it.

Which is why I could never join an organisation made up in the main of the sort of persons I introduced you to earlier. But if there were other voices, from other political standpoints, then the call for independence might garner more support, and as a result be more difficult to dismiss.

It could be that the more diverse and diffuse the call for independence the better, for different voices can make a choir, and that’s always preferable to the monotonous whine of the smug and the self-righteous.

Of course, too many different voices can also be discordant, so to avoid this let me suggest that those of us working towards the same objective of independence treat each other with a little more respect in future. We may not like each other, but let’s not give gifts to our enemies and waste time fighting amongst ourselves.

Finally, to put your minds at rest, I’m not planning to start any organisation, but I have no objection to this blog serving as a focus for those who want independence but might not feel comfortable with people who regard them as lemmings, and blighters of their children’s futures.

♦ end ♦

Oct 272016
 

Oh, the joy! the euphoria! Didn’t you feel the surge of national pride, the collective Cymric breast heaving, positively heaving, at the joyous news? – Lonely Planet declares ‘North’ Wales to be the bestest al fresco fun fair around.

Well, obviously, it didn’t use those words (© Jac o’ the North), but that’s what it amounted to. Though the front page of Wednesday’s Wasting Mule seemed a little confused as to where exactly it was talking about (nothing new), believing that the award had gone to the whole country. Thankfully, page three made it clear that ‘North’ Wales was the recipient.

wm-lonely-planet

~~~~~~~~~~ ♦ ~~~~~~~~~~

So what exactly has ‘North’ Wales won? Well, it seems that northern Wales came fourth in the Top Regions category of the best destinations to visit in 2017. (The other categories being countries and cities.)

Northern Wales came fourth in the section subtitled “offbeat destinations demanding our attention”. Mmm, anyone who’s visited Betws y Coed or Caernarfon, Llangollen or Beddgelert, will find the use of that word ‘offbeat’ rather bizarre (and I haven’t mentioned the coastal resorts!). But, anyway, read the Lonely Planet piece for yourself.

So what are the other “offbeat destinations” with which north Wales was competing? In first place came Chocquequirao, “hidden across the deep Apurimac Valley . . . the last Inca refuge from the conquistadors”. Which makes this Andean location sound fascinating, and a worthy winner.

Second was Taranaki in New Zealand, which is certainly off the beaten track, confirmed with Lonely Planet‘s description it being a “remote location”. I shall return to the matter of tourism in New Zealand in a minute.

Then, one place ahead of ‘North’ Wales, we find the Azores. Described by Lonely Planet as the “next Iceland” and as a result we are warned, ” . . .  the secret won’t last: the Azores have seen a 31% increase in tourism over the last 12 months, so visit in the 2017 sweet spot before things really take off.” 

~~~~~~~~~~ ♦ ~~~~~~~~~~

Now I don’t know much about the Lonely Planet publication other than that it gets a lot of publicity – certainly here in Wales, for every time we get a mention it seems to merit a big news splash – but who pays it any real attention? Maybe its target audience, which I’d guess is the English middle class and its gap year offspring. (I belong to neither category.)

And that’s because, I suspect, Lonely Planet sees its role in identifying ‘offbeat destinations’ before – as seems to be the fear with the Azores – these idyllic locales are discovered by hoi polloi demanding ‘El fish and chips, Pedro – and pronto!’. Without, I hope, sounding snobbish, this is perfectly understandable.

tourism-stats

Courtesy of Visit Britain

In September, Mrs J and I took one of our regular trips to Scotland, and no matter where we went, from the Robert Burns Museum to Sweetheart Abbey to Threave (origin, tref) Castle, we met tourists from all over the world, but nowhere we went was overwhelmed in the way that parts of Wales so often are.

Of course Edinburgh can feel a bit ‘crowded’, but it’s bustling and cosmopolitan, it’s energising . . . and a hell of an improvement on being surrounded by miserable Brummies on a wet Sunday in Barmouth. These people milling around Princes Street and the Royal Mile are also spending lots of money (helped by the fact they’re not slumming it in ‘a caravan down the beach’), and when they go home they’ll tell their friends how wonderful Scotland is.

Scotland gets a better class of tourist, and certainly more overseas tourists. These even spend more per head (heid?) than overseas tourists to Wales. The figures for 2015 bear this out, for we see that while Scotland saw 2.6 million visits from overseas Wales welcomed just 970,000. In Scotland, the average spend per head was £651, compared with £422 in Wales. Giving a total overseas spend in Scotland of £1,695m against our £410m, less than a quarter of Scotland’s income.

There is of course a historic explanation for this. When railways became capable of transporting large numbers of working class people in relative comfort, and for prices they could afford, this advance placed Wales, unlike Scotland, within reach of many of England’s cities and industrial regions. Though that does not explain why we should still be providing holidays on the cheap, going for quantity rather than quality, 150 years later.

There are other, perhaps equally prosaic, explanations for Scotland attracting more overseas tourists and fewer English day-trippers than Wales. Distance being a pretty obvious one. Also, Scotland is much larger than Wales, with a greater variety of scenery. Scotland has airports with regular long haul flights to destinations around the world. Finally, Scotland has a beautiful and historic capital city.

But none of these explain the lack of ambition in the ‘Welsh’ tourism industry. Nor should they be accepted as excuses.

~~~~~~~~~~ ♦ ~~~~~~~~~~

After my Caledonian digression let me return to what I hinted at earlier when mentioning Taranaki, second among the ‘Top Regions’. A friend of mine has visited New Zealand a few times; it’s not cheap, but then, he’s a wealthy bachelor. I remember him telling me about one particular trip to the Southern Alps. He had to book in advance, prove he was healthy and insured, and as they liked the cut of his jib he was taken on a trek through the mountains lasting a few days.

The Southern Alps are protected by various National Parks and other forms of legislation to the point where the chances of a coachload of drunks turning up and making nuisances of themselves is close to zero . . . unlike on Snowdon, for example.

snowdon-tourists-caption

Returning to the Lonely Planet review of ‘North’ Wales we see that what got us noticed was zip wires, wave machines and subterranean trampolines. It seems logical to conclude that if we have more of these, and maybe a water chute running from the top of Cader Idris down to Dolgellau, or Talyllyn, we might achieve the coveted third place next year. Dare we dream of second place!

Grouped with the last refuge of the Incas, the as yet unspoilt Azores, and the majesty of the Southern Alps, a few big boys’ toys scattered about the north seem laughably incongruous, and unworthy. Especially when you read under the ‘Responsible Travel’ heading, “At Lonely Planet sustainable and responsible have always been parts of our vocabulary.” ‘Sustainable’ and ‘responsible’ are words that have never tarnished the lexicon of ‘Welsh’ tourism.

Which I suppose exposes the central contradiction of tourism – ‘Come see this awe-inspiring place . . . and by so doing, help despoil it’. Which explains why I admire the New Zealand approach that realises beautiful and irreplaceable environments and landscapes such as we find in the Southern Alps need to be protected from tourism.

If the Southern Alps had been in Wales they would by now have been extensively and thoroughly ‘developed’, suffering regular visits by twat-like politicos spouting bollocks so vacuous and inane as to make Vacuity and Inanity rise up in indignation. But on the bright side, there would be local employment – collecting garbage.

~~~~~~~~~~ ♦ ~~~~~~~~~~

When you look around Wales at the ugliness tourism has inflicted, the anglicisation it has brought, the environmental degradation, the social disruption, you have to ask what sort of people are we to have allowed this.

The answer is that we remain what we’ve been for maybe 800 years – a people with no real control over our country. Tourism is a perfect example, not only does it serve England’s interests, but ‘Welsh’ tourism is largely run by, and therefore profits, English people. Why should they give a toss about wrecking our homeland?

What’s best for England will always prevail over the best interests of us Welsh, and devolution has entrenched this system of exploitation even more firmly. I recently coined a term for this phenomenon, devocolonialism. In a future post I shall expand on what I put out recently in a tweet.

devocolonialism-tweet

I feel this needs to be done because anyone believing that devolution has achieved anything positive for Wales needs a cold shower of facts.

~~~~~~~~~~ ♦ END ♦ ~~~~~~~~~~

Sep 262016
 

BY A GUEST WRITER

It’s a pleasure to follow the excellent guest posts on tourism and heritage that have generated a fair amount debate, shining a light on the dubious practices of the Welsh tourism industry and how these practices affect local communities as a result of flawed Welsh Government policy.

The focus of the posts so far has been on the neglect of heritage, history and tourism in rural Wales under non-Labour councils which – and though it’s not a view I share – could perhaps be expected. I say that because most people in rural Wales vote Plaid Cymru, Tory or Lib Dem, so wasting public money, trashing our heritage and screwing people over, has no consequences, electoral or otherwise, for the Labour Party.

But what about a Labour-controlled council in the Valleys, surely they’d take more care of local history and heritage when their own party’s history is intertwined with the area?

The Plan

If only that were true, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, the smallest local authority in Wales and back in Labour hands since 2012 as the result of an appalling smear campaign to oust the Independents who’d run the Council and started many of the successful projects that Labour councillors and the new MP and AM are now claiming credit for, published a few weeks back its Area Destination Plan for 2016 – 2018.

merthyr-plan

With its main focus on outdoor activities and leisure it could belong to any rural or semi-rural local authority, and don’t get me wrong, BikePark Wales, Dolygaer Outdoor Activity Centre and Cyfarthfa Castle Park and Museum are great attractions, but when Merthyr Tydfil has so much political, industrial, social and cultural history failing to acknowledge the majority of it makes a mockery of any tourism plan.

There is a nod to Merthyr’s epoch-defining industrial past in the plan with a commitment to looking to rebuild a life size replica of Richard Trevithick’s steam locomotive engine, the first in the UK, but that’s reliant on the local heritage society raising enough money to get it built. Perhaps Labour Councillors aren’t willing to celebrate innovation, engineering excellence and vision for fear of showing local people there’s more to life than mediocrity, dependency and poverty that hallmark ‘Welsh’ Labour at all levels of government.

The Plan also talks of Welsh language provision via the Welsh language centre Canolfan Soar but again if you look closer the centre is facing its own financial difficulties as a result of funding cuts with its Welsh shop closing earlier this year. And as this is the Valleys, hostility to the Welsh language spending is never far away, as demonstrated by Labour and the opposition Independents in the full Council meeting earlier this month.

Another area mentioned is the lack of indoor activities in a town where rain is more often the order of the day than sunshine. So a lack of museums, interactive galleries and the like does seem particularly stupid to me.

Although to be fair the Plan does have an excellent SWOT analysis, but the action plan doesn’t include solutions for central recommendations like the lack of a Tourist Information Office and large scale accommodation. Even if we suspend belief and buy into the tourism lite guff they’re peddling, how can you be a serious tourist destination without enough beds or a central tourist information office?

The irony of course is that loads of places would love to have even half the history Merthyr Tydfil has and it could be that if tourism was done properly then the Borough would have year-round tourism selling Merthyr to the world. It could be integrated into local education, provide better job and career opportunities and re-instill some pride back in the place for those who were born here or made the place their home.

Welsh History started with Labour

However, we shouldn’t be surprised, this is the Labour Party after all, which believes Welsh history started with the birth of their party or the election of James Kier Hardie in 1900 . . . even though he is hardly celebrated anywhere in the town.

As if to reinforce this, Neil Kinnock’s ‘Welsh history’ quote did the rounds on social media last week, the quote reads, ‘Between the mid sixteenth and mid eighteenth centuries Wales had practically no history at all, and even before that it was a history of rural brigands who have been ennobled and called princes.’

The local Labour Party does hold a Kier Hardie lecture that’s only open to party members, and speakers also have to be Labour members or Labour affiliated, and no press is allowed. Held now in secret because last year there was great embarrassment when the keynote speaker was First Minster Carwyn Jones, and the local party was reduced to giving tickets away and begging people to go.

What a difference it would make if the party opened it up to everyone, picked radical topics and speakers, had a question and answer session with a panel afterwards, possibly publish a paper on the topic and made it into a real community event. I doubt it would happen, but it’s one of many ideas to celebrate the town’s history and create an event for all.

merthyr-rising

Even the raising of the red flag and the Merthyr Rising festival that celebrates it is shunned by the local council, though UNISON stepped in to save the festival this year thanks to the new Labour AM Dawn Bowden who used to be a UNISON big wig and whom Jac has helpfully written about. Time will tell if the festival becomes a Labour sop which would be a shame as the festival organisers are about as far away from the ignorant, conservative Labour Council leadership values as it’s possible to be.

Labour leadership & Red flag

Speaking of the red flag and going slightly off course, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn came to Merthyr Tydfil on 5th August as part of his leadership campaign and unsurprisingly found no support from the local Labour leadership who were all supporting Owen Smith.

Council Leader Brendan Toomey, Gerald Jones MP and Dawn Bowden AM (who was on holidays), took to Twitter to vent their anger about the rally saying he didn’t represent the party or local people etc., but Jeremy Corbyn had the last laugh, not only did he draw a sizeable crowd, but his use of the red flag brought the history of the town to a UK wide audience and got the town and red flag trending on social media for positive reasons.

corbyn-merthyr

It’s easy to see how the Merthyr & Rhymney Labour leadership were so annoyed, Jeremy Corbyn’s two hours in Merthyr did more to promote the town’s radical history than Council leader Brendan Twomey and his Cabinet have managed in four years.

Speaking of our elected representatives, on Twitter, Dawn Bowden, Bristol City fan living in Llantrisant, posted a picture of the overgrown blast furnaces in Merthyr Tydfil saying ‘what an incredible history this wonderful town has’. It seems the new AM is fitting right in with the dinosaur tendency that believe Welsh history began with industrialisation.

Weight of History and Remembering

I’ve written a fair bit and barely scratched the surface of the borough’s history or introduced the one person who belongs solely to the town yet rarely gets mentioned, despite the place being named after her, St Tydfil/Tudful, the princess and daughter of King Brychan who was martyred in the fifth century by raiding Picts.

She’s remembered with a Church in Wales church named after her, as is the local shopping centre, while Merthyr Tydfil Football Club’s nickname is the Martyrs. Yet outside of the church there is no acknowledgement of her, indeed admitting that Tydfil lived and died and was renowned for good deeds and values such as compassion to all, would mean Welsh history didn’t start with the Industrial Revolution or the Labour Party after all. But I suspect it’s also because she’s a woman and a victim of Labour’s patriarchal and misogynist attitudes, especially in the Valleys.

the-martyrs

Of course Labour blames its wider lack of action on austerity, ‘We would love to do things’, they sigh, ‘but we’ve got no money’, when opposition councillors ask why aren’t things done. But what about things that don’t cost and could raise awareness of local history, like using the flag poles outside the Council office on St David’s Day or flying the Red Flag in May or Owain Glyndŵr’s banner in September? And I’m sure there are other little things that could be done, but I suspect it’s all a leap too far for closed, anti-Welsh minds.

I could write more on all that’s happened and why it should be celebrated; there’s Lucy Thomas, called the mother of Welsh steam coal trade, a widow who was the first person to export stream coal and give birth to coal exports. Away from industry, Merthyr was also the birthplace of designers Laura Ashley and Julian McDonald; and then there’s Charlotte Guest, wife of iron-master John Guest, who arranged for the Mabinogion to be translated into English. (Also, Dr Joseph Parry, who wrote the music for that all-time favourite, Myfanwy. Jac.)

To bring us up to date, a recent archaeological study found evidence of Roman activity in the borough, and Merthyr-born Samuel Griffiths, whose family emigrated to Australia, was responsible for writing Australia’s constitution, a fact recently in the news as the current Australian Chief Justice visited the town and called for closer cooperation – will Merthyr’s Labour leaders take him up on the offer?

Conclusion

Sometimes the sheer weight of remembering everyone and everything that’s happened can feel overwhelming, but it’s important because it tells us who we are and where we’ve come from.

I’ll end by pointing out that the lack of imagination coupled with an ingrained indifference or hostility towards Welsh history before the Labour Party, or industrialisation, means that even in Merthyr Tydfil, which gave birth to the modern Labour Party, we get the Area Destination Plan pushing Welsh history and heritage to the margins instead of using it front and centre. Most places in the world would kill for the history we have yet the Council focus is on weather dependent tourism in the rainy Valleys.

Of course, if there was a decent opposition here it could challenge the status quo. Which is why we should be grateful for the work of genuinely local history societies and historians, doing what they can to counter the hostility and apathy found all over Wales, attitudes that contribute to the slow death of our nation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ END ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jac says . . . I’ve always had a soft spot for Merthyr, going back to those happy hours spent at the Lamb Inn, in the days of its irreplaceable mine host, the late John Lewis. This magnificent pub, almost unchanged since the days when Dic Penderyn was said to have drunk there, was demolished in the early 1970s to ‘make way’ for something that was never built.

The truth was that the Labour council didn’t like the Lamb’s clientèle. As our guest writer informs us, nothing has changed when it comes to the Labour Party in Merthyr and its attitudes to expressions of Welshness.

green-desert-complete-red

One of the best LPs ever produced in Wales (click to enlarge)

Moving away from delicate concerns of identity and loyalties, our guest writer offered some hope for the area by mentioning BikePark Wales and Dolygaer Outdoor Activity Centre; and so, you know me, I just had to learn more. I’m afraid what I learnt is not encouraging.

BikePark Wales is the trading name for something called Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd. (Yes, honestly!) So while everyone knows it as BikePark Wales it’s official name is something else, perhaps done to make it difficult to get information on the company. (I’ve encountered the practice before.) To help you follow this, here’s the link to the Companies House website.

BikePark Wales looks like one of those outfits so common – perhaps unique – to Wales, a publicly-funded private company, for the website (designed by a company in Cornwall) carries the logos of Visit Wales, the ‘Welsh’ Government and the European Regional Development Fund. I suspect the directors are not local . . . certainly not the New Zealander.

In financial terms the company seems to be in good health, with net assets of £674,963 (y/e 31.03.2015). Though there are three outstanding charges registered with ‘The Welsh Ministers’, and a debenture held by Ian Campbell Officer (the New Zealander director).

A founding director of BikePark Wales is Martin Astley. But his Linkedin profile would suggest that his day job may be Marketing Manager for Saddleback Ltd, a Bristol company selling mountain bikes and associated ephemera. In fact, BikePark Wales serves as a useful retail outlet for Saddleback’s wares. Just think about that, here we have a venture funded with Welsh public money giving an English company an advantage over Welsh retailers. Now that’s colonialism for you!

martin-astley-bikepark-wales

The other directors are the aforementioned Kiwi, Astley’s wife Anna, and another husband and wife team, Rowan John Sorrell and Elizabeth Sorrell, also founding directors. In addition, the Sorrells have their own company over in Pontypool, Back-on-Track Mountain Bike Solutions Ltd which designs and builds mountain bike tracks. So I wonder who designed and built BikePark Wales’ tracks around Merthyr?

The other location mentioned by our guest writer was the Dolygaer Outdoor Activity Centre. All that needs to be said is that Dolygaer is owned by English company Parkwood.

If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise . . . not because you’ll meet a teddy bear but because there’s a good chance you’ll get knocked down by a mountain biker taking advantage of Playground Wales. Or maybe you’ll be stopped from going any further by a gang of hippies opposed to capitalism and private property . . . unless it’s theirs. And all because as a matter of ‘Welsh’ Government policy our woodlands are being surrendered to enviroshysters and ‘the leisure industry’.

Now I could put up with restricted access if our woods and forests were productive, providing the thousands of local jobs of which they’re capable. But no, Natural Resources Wales sees our woodlands as areas of recreation, and itself as an extension of the tourism industry. And through the Welsh public purse we pay for it all!

There is probably no country on earth where so much public money is spent with so few benefits for the indigenous population. But as I say, that’s how colonialism operates.

Sep 132016
 

BY A GUEST WRITER

Keeping tabs on the incestuous, grant-fuelled world of the Welsh heritage industry could be a full-time job in itself. It seems there is no end to the number of charitable trusts set up to take advantage of the funding available ostensibly to rescue this or that old ruin or building, with some familiar names cropping up here, there and everywhere, often with tenuous links to our country and its people.

A linguistic digression

Anyone who lives and works in more than one language and has given the matter some thought will tell you that, depending on which language they use, the world can sometimes look rather different. This is often true of conceptual words, for example.

Watching debates in county councils sometimes brings this into sharp focus. One side or the other will table a motion (cynnig = offer, proposal in Welsh). Opponents may then try to change or wreck it by tabling an amendment. In Welsh, that’s a gwelliant (=improvement).

By no means all amendments are a gwelliant.

In English the vast majority of conceptual words are derived from Latin or Greek. Heritage, perhaps appropriately in this context, comes down to us from Norman French and means something you have inherited.

You could inherit a property in Australia or downtown Manhattan without ever having set foot in either place, and your good fortune would be down to luck of the draw and the legal system.

In Welsh the word is treftadaeth, and if we break that word down, as children are encouraged to do at school, we get tref (place/homestead) + tad (father) + aeth, a suffix which very roughly means ‘something to do with’. In other words, places linked to your forebears, an idea not a million miles removed from hen wlad fy nhadau.

The difference between the legalistic connotations of the Norman French and the Welsh word, rooted in real people and places, goes to the heart of the debate which has been raging on the pages of this blog.

Ystrad Fflur

To its credit, the Ceredigion Herald picked up on the recent piece on this blog about plans to ‘enhance the visitor experience’ at Ystrad Fflur and help locals to ‘enhance senses of their own identity and wellbeing’, whatever that means, and it contacted Professor David Austin.

In response to questions, the professor huffed and puffed at some length about the wonderful nature of the site and was clearly reluctant to go into mundane details about what precisely was being planned and where the money was coming from.

When pressed, he gave answers which left a lot of wriggle room.

The Strata Florida Trust has acquired the farmhouse, he said, not mentioning the buildings which cluster around it (although the trust’s website says it has acquired those too).

strataflorida

The money had come from a private donation, and he was not prepared to say more on that subject.

The Acanthus Holden plan (the exclusive hotel with attached visitor centre) was to have been financed privately, but had now been ditched.

The only link to Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust (CHRT, the Llanelly House body) was CHRT’s chief executive Claire Deacon, he claimed.

What happened to the £200,000 donation CHRT received to buy the buildings at Mynachlog Fawr therefore remains a mystery.

Plans, also shrouded in mystery, to develop the old farm, would be financed by a variety of means, he explained:

“There is other funding available to us, which is not Heritage Lottery Fund money, and we are in the process of finalising the arrangements for the allocation of that money to the Strata Florida Trust.”

That does not quite rule out HLF funding, and raises more questions than it answers.

Who is funding this, and why the secrecy? Is cash-strapped Ceredigion County Council involved, for example?

One of the contributors to comments on the original article about Ystrad Fflur suggested that there might be some form of local consultation. In his interview with the Herald, Professor Austin makes no mention of a consultation, and his website is also silent on the subject.

What we are about to get, it seems, is a fully fledged project for the commercial exploitation of Ystrad Fflur with no public consultation and  zero transparency about the details of the development.

Adfer Ban a Chwm

Adfer Ban a Chwm (ABC), or to give it its more prosaic English name, “Revitalise Hill and Valley”, is  another trust, this time registered to an address in trendy Islington, London where Tony and Gordon made their infamous Granita Pact.

Its annual report for the year to 31 March 2015 says that the charity’s objectives “are to preserve for the benefit of the people of Carmarthenshire, Powys, Wales and the Nation” what it terms “constructional heritage”, and in particular the pretty bits.

Presumably “the Nation” is not the same as Wales.

The website expands on this a little, saying that the trust aims to “address the issues of vernacular buildings in rural Wales and the need for affordable housing in the area”.

Adfer Ban a Chwm’s leading light is an architect, Roger Mears, pictured here at what would appear to be the Henley Regatta, old boy:

roger-mears

ABC (it should really be ABCh) was set up eight years ago and appears to have spent most of the period since applying for and receiving grants from, among others, the Brecon Beacon National Park Authority, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Brecon Beacons Trust, the Community Foundation in Wales and the Quaker Housing Trust. More trusts and foundations than you can shake a stick at, in fact.

It is not at all clear what ABC has actually achieved in those eight years apart from a year of planning, researching and writing a report in 2014-15 and raking in grants.

More grant money came in in May 2016 enabling it to proceed with its Grass Roots Heritage Programme, “a one-year project (the first year of a three-year programme) which we hope will identify buildings that we can turn into affordable homes.”

So after all that time, all that report writing and all those (successful) grant applications, it would seem that not a single building has been restored and not a single affordable home created, although the trust hopes to be able to identify potential candidates by this time next year.

Over the next 12 months, therefore, they will carry out “mapping and community work” in and around Myddfai, Carmarthenshire:

“This information will be used to underpin the next stage of the ABC project, and be broadcast widely in a series of interactive community workshops, where the social history of the buildings will be elaborated by gathering local memories and stories, and where community and student volunteers will learn about how to record old buildings, what to look for and what these buildings have to tell us, how they might be repaired and conserved and turned into affordable homes.”

Helping ABC along the way by working with the trust’s executive director on partnerships has been our old friend, Claire Deacon, CEO of Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust, saviour of Llanelly House and the Merthyr YMCA, project director at Mynachlog Fawr, lecturer and consultant, and former conservation officer with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

All in all, then, one of the most successful “Welsh” buildings preservation trusts: loads of grants harvested and no sign of any actual buildings. Perhaps Griff Rhys Jones will turn it into a documentary series.

Golden Grant

Staying in Carmarthenshire for a moment, let’s take a trip to Gelli Aur (or Golden Grove as some would have it), the former home of the Cawdors near Llandeilo.

The huge late Regency pile has been knocked about a bit and badly neglected since the last of the Cawdors moved out in the 1930s. Carmarthenshire County Council, which had a lease on the place, can take credit for the worst of the damage.

At one time the council and the ever-enthusiastic Meryl Gravell hoped to turn the place into a kind of business incubator for media start-ups. Their chosen partner disappeared with a lot of public money which was never seen again. Ever more exotic investors came and went, until finally the house and 100 acres were sold to a London art dealer, Richard Christopher Salmon.

Salmon has renovated a part of the house and made the roof of the main building weatherproof, but one of his first acts after taking over was to set up a trust.

The Golden Grove Trust, which has no known sources of income, was gifted with a debt of £1.45 million by Mr Salmon, a sum which apparently represents the purchase price of the near derelict house and dilapidated grounds. If that was what he actually paid for this massive liability, someone saw him coming.

The debt is due to be repaid – somehow – to Mr Salmon in just over a year from now.

gelli-aur

Filing accounts is clearly not one of Mr Salmon’s favourite activities. The Charity Commission website shows that the 2012-13 accounts were received 583 days late, while the report for 2013-14 was 218 days late. The annual report for 2014-15 is currently 78 days late.

Despite this and the fact that the trust was close to being struck off by the Charity Commission, the charity was last year awarded a grant of just under £1 million by Edwina Hart, Meryl’s old buddy, for the restoration of the park which occupies around 60 of the 100 acres of land and includes, or included (it is difficult to know which tense to use) a public park with a playground, lake, café and arboretum.

The Carmarthenshire Herald reported a couple of weeks ago that there were a growing number of complaints from the public that the park was closing on more and more days, and that public access signs had been removed.

With some difficulty the newspaper managed to track down Mr Salmon who thought, but did not seem very sure, that the closure might have something to do with adverse weather conditions, and concerns of the insurers on health and safety grounds.

Readers in Carmarthenshire may struggle to recall unusually bad weather in recent months, but there you are.

Mr Salmon was clearly not best pleased with critical blog posts and press reports published in 2015, and told the Herald that he could have shut the whole place up and kept it private.

But then Edwina wouldn’t have given him £1 million, would she?

Another one to watch.

This is a local fund run by local people

keep-it-local

“I used to work for Neil Kinnock, you know”

As we have seen, grants are available from all sorts of different bodies, but what the Americans would call the 800 lb gorilla in this jungle is without doubt the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The fund’s website lists 2,785 projects which have received funding in Wales. Amounts vary from a couple of hundred pounds, to mammoths such as Cardigan Castle (£6.5 million) and Llanelly House (£3.6 million).

The HLF divides the UK into regions and nations, and each of these has its own committee and permanent head. The head of HLF Wales is someone called Richard Bellamy, whose previous roles include working on the Channel Tunnel, the National Trust, English Nature and Cornwall Council. If he has a connection with Wales, he is keeping quiet about it.

The committee, which decides on applications in Wales, currently has eight members, and according to HLF’s website:

“The committees are made up of local people recruited through open advertisement. Committees are supported by grant-assessment teams based in the relevant region or country.”

In theory, then, anyone can apply. Who selects the successful candidates is not clear, but it clearly helps if you have worked for English Heritage or the National Trust and, ideally, come from somewhere in or near Cardiff.

Chairing the committee is the august personage of Baroness Kay Andrews of Southover OBE. Andrews, who grew up at Ystrad Mynach, was parliamentary clerk in the House of Commons before becoming policy adviser to Neil Kinnock, from where she went on to found and run her own charity, Education Extra.

On elevation to the peerage, Andrews clearly felt so strongly about her Welsh roots that she chose Southover in Sussex for her title, and it is from Sussex that she claims travel expenses when going to the House of Lords.

The HLF’s rule on appointing ‘local people’ to the Welsh Committee does not seem to be taken that seriously, but no doubt there was nobody ‘locally’ up to the job, just as there were no suitable Welsh candidates for the post of Head of HLF Wales.

But we should all be grateful, shouldn’t we?

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ End ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jac says . . . In these recent posts – and, indeed, in the one I’m working on now – we encounter groups and individuals who have hit on a method of subsidising their move to Wales and/or maintaining themselves once they’re here. Human nature being what it is, this is understandable; what is less easy to understand is why these people are being funded.

To explain how this scam system operates . . . let’s say you want to buy and renovate a somewhat dilapidated old house. And let’s say you pay £100,000 for that property knowing that it will cost another £100,000 to restore. That house will therefore cost you £200,000. But that’s a mug’s way of doing things. What those we’re discussing do is buy a property and get someone else to pay for the renovation. Sticking with the same figures, this means that for an outlay of just £100,000 they get a property worth £200,000.

To which you respond, ‘Ah, but Jac, you’ve been on the Malbec again, and it’s making you forget that these are important buildings, of great historical or cultural significance’. I suppress my usual riposte of ‘bollocks!’ to offer the following argument.

If these buildings are indeed of great historic or cultural significance then they should be in public ownership – WELSH public ownership. If they are not of great historic or cultural significance then no public money should be expended, whether directly or in grants to self-appointed ‘heritage trusts’. The worst of all possible options is to have a building or site of genuine national importance privately owned but maintained by public funds.

This is nothing less than submitting to a form of blackmail – ‘This place I own is very important (take my word for it), but if you don’t give me lots of money I’ll let it decay/fall down/ be turned into a burger joint’.

As I and others have argued, Wales needs a new body, answerable to us, the Welsh people, that protects what is important to us and our past with sympathy and respect. A new body to replace the English National Trust, Cadw, and all the strangers in our midst with their grant-grabbing ‘trusts’.

It so happens that the ‘Welsh’ Government is currently inviting observations on ‘Proposals for secondary legislation to support the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and draft guidance’. The same shower also claims to want ‘your views on this technical advice note which provides detailed planning advice on the historic environment in Wales’.

So tell them what you think they should do, the deadline is October 3rd.