Apr 182017


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.

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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.)

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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 ♦

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45 Comments on "English Tourism in the Colony of Wales"

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Big Gee
A first class bit of investigative journalism Jac. An excellent exposure. Now the problem is what to do about it. Living in a colony that has had the door shut on any indigenous media or means of bringing this kind of grave affair to the surface, and then to the attention of the public at large is a huge problem – and even if we did have a national press,… Read more »
I agree, B.G., that you need a strong national movement/party, but it has to be based on solid, lasting support throughout Wales, and be resistant to the vilification and divide-and-rule tactics that will inevitably be thrown against it. The SNP might be a good model, but they have had decades to reach their present position, somehow Plaid failed to accomplish the same level of support, and now time is not… Read more »
One of the “courses” that Bear Grylls runs on Llŷn teaches “how to protect yourself in the wild from attack”. Personally I haven’t ventured further than Pwlleli, and I was wondering what these ‘wild attacks’ consist of? Is it safe? Bit different in the Afan valley there is the much-feared Croeserw Tiger and the dastardly Pontrhydyfen Hyena but so far none of these attacks have proved fatal. Perhaps ‘Visit Wales’… Read more »
Gruff Williams

Wants to get round Newport c. 10pm, Friday, between the Lamb and Wetherspoons. Ffycer wouldn’t last 10 seconds.

Any proposed privatisation of Afan Valley land should be very closely scrutinised. Decades of investment and hard work have gone into turning that valley into a pleasant environment for walking cycling or just sitting on the bank of the river being amazed at the transformation yet seeing odd scars here and there which reminds one of what went on not so long ago. Privatisation is likely to inhibit free movement,… Read more »
Alwyn ap Huw
“Decades of investment and hard work have gone into turning that valley into a pleasant environment for walking cycling or just sitting on the bank of the river being amazed at the transformation” But that was the start of the rot. Turning a post industrial community into a “beauty spot” – once that happens tourism is the ONLY industry allowed. It’s hard to believe, given the hype, but Snowdonia National… Read more »
Fair comment up to a point. However there is still some agriculture, forestry, timber product manufacture and minor pockets of “industrial” activity up the Afan Valley. They all co-exist with the areas that are dedicated to leisure so “….just sitting on the bank of the river being amazed at the transformation” is an option without anybody pissing anyone else off. A Bare Grill venture would be exclusive ( pay at… Read more »
Well, Jac, at least you had me Googling B.G., so now I know that it it isn’t an eccentric punk group with dyslexic tendencies, which at least might have been mildly entertaining, but an opinionated upper-class twit cum trained killer, so sad. I was inclined to comment, “He has to be making this up!” Then I remembered, this is Wales, the land where your fantasies can come true … with… Read more »
rejoice, rejoice… as Mad Maggie said once or more, we are told that the latest edition of Mad Maggie, Mrs May, is testing the political waters in early June. Now I don’t intend dwelling on her urge to expedite some version of Brexit, be it soft, ‘ard, or just plain Tory/UKIP blend, nor dwell on this being seen by her advisers as a chance to clear the air, sink the… Read more »
Hilary Paterson-Jones
Hilary Paterson-Jones
Excellent read. We have the same ‘goings on’ here on Ynys Môn. An English Company that will cock their leg and piss all over our Welsh Heritage and Welsh Land. Land and Lakes Cumbria/Anglesey Ltd. ( http://www.landandlakes.co.uk/developments/anglesey/introduction/) They have purchased over 600 acres here on Ynys Cybi/Holyhead, Land that is designated AONB next to an SSSI part green wedge and agricultural land. To build temporary housing for Contracted workers at… Read more »
The Earthshaker
Another excellent expose, this hard core colonialism is after all what welsh voters endorse at every election, but few of them seem to care about the damage it does anymore. I’ll be honest i’m losing patience with my fellow Cymro, perhaps Hard Brexit is what they deserve, because as things stand they’ll endorse Teresa May and her Brexit plans in a few weeks at the General Election. We can then… Read more »
Great and timely article, Jac about an area local to me where I’ve done a fair bit of mountain biking myself – few years ago now though. The idea that this development could take off without oodles of public money finding its way to the developers is as likely as me getting a date with Halle Berry. It’s another Circuit of Wales job that will simmer on a pot for… Read more »
Sitting in a hotel in Sorrento, having a rest from the hustle and bustle of a post brexit Pwllheli – read the news today for the first time in a week – what the fxxck! Grilis gone bonkers, country to the polls and Jack the only person with his eye on the ball! Italy is a country that is beutifull , shrouded in history, and totaly bent over to apreciate… Read more »
funny that just heard today that the NT are trying to grab back the land adjacent to Neuadd Goffa Pumpsaint to make it into a caravan park. The land was given with the hall to the local community , but somhow or other the NT have gotten their hands on it and are trying to take it from the community – and this from an institution set up to offer… Read more »
interesting to read that most parties have been rather taken by surprise by Mrs May’s decision to have an Election. Now a mad rush around constituencies, especially Tory seats where sitting member is packing in the job, and lots of ex M.P’s with little or no idea where some of these constituencies are located chasing nominations. This increases the probability that the House post early June will be blessed with… Read more »
Quite a few Tories packing in the job. At least 30 I hear. Lib Dems are likely the real threat to everyone else… they’ll target the Tory Remain seats (Probably Labour Remain seats too) – if they’re wise they’ll plop one of their cleverer folk on Maidenhead which in the late 90s and 00s had quite the LD following until people decided Labour had to go. Plaid… Wood is putting… Read more »
Plaid Cymru candidates in Penarth call for Nationsl Trust to take over former school building as a mark of respect for war hero: “Plaid Cymru’s St Augustine candidates Aled Thomas and Anne Greagsby say the building and its parkland side should be retained in respect of war hero Major J.A Gibbs. “They say “If Action for Children decides to sell the building, we would approach the National Trust to take… Read more »