Afan Valley Resort

Dec 122017
 

Tis the time of giving, and goodwill to all men – but not on this blog!

A few old favourites return and I take another look at scams with which we are familiar . . . all too familiar. It’s Deck the Halls indeed – with oodles of public funding. For this is Wales, and it’s always Christmas!

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NEIGHBOURS

Following the previous post I wrote to Wrecsam planning department over the weekend, and was answered very promptly on Monday morning. I think I’m now a little nearer to understanding what’s been going on at 33 Grosvenor Road.

To recap: there are adjoining, semi-detached properties at 31 and 33 Grosvenor Road in Wrecsam town centre. The first is owned by the ever-expanding homelessness charity and third sector outfit the Wallich; the second by Bawso, a similar body dedicated to helping women from ethnic minorities.

Both properties have been substantially extended to the rear, as shown in the title plan to 31a (which I assume is the address of the extension).

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When I consulted the Wrexham County Borough Council website I only went back as far as 2006. Which meant that I did not find the planning permission granted in July 2002 to then owner Castlemead Homes for an extension to the rear for a “two and half storey rear extension comprising covered car parking area and additional office accommodation”. A completion certificate was issued 16 November 2004.

Which would appear to put Bawso on the right side of planning regulations . . . or maybe not.

Because, if you recall, when we looked at planning permissions granted to the Wallich property at 31 we found that there was an authorised change of use in 2008 to a House of Multiple Occupation, and later that year there was further permission for a “Change of use of upper floors from office accommodation to a hostel for homeless people”.

I guarantee that the Bawso property at 33 is used for a very similar purpose to the Wallich property, but no permission for change of use has ever been granted.

I have therefore suggested to the Planning Enforcement team at Wrexham County Borough Council that they might wish to make enquiries in order to establish whether Bawso at 33 Grosvenor Road has planning permission for the uses to which the building is being put.

To be continued . . .

UPDATE 14.12.2015: The Planning Enforcement team at WCBC inspected 33 Grosvenor Road and the response I got said:

“I have been to visit 33 Grosvenor Road.  They are not running a homeless shelter there, the business merely provides advice and assistance to their customers; there is no overnight accommodation at the building.” After querying the size of the building I was sent a plan. Just look at it!

Over three floors we find fourteen separate offices plus a conference room and a former drawing office. Does Bawso really need such a building? It was probably bought in a job lot with 31 from the previous owner. For remember, Bawso ‘paid’ £457,000 for this building in 2009, a building that, if it’s not used for accommodation, is clearly too big for Bawso’s needs.

So who gave Bawso the money to buy a building it doesn’t need, was it the ‘Welsh’ Government or the Home Office?’

UPDATE 02.01.2018: As I suspected, it was indeed our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government that paid for this large building Bawso may not even need (for I’m told they’re certainly not using much of it). This capture is from the Accounts for year ending 31 March 2009.

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GARDEN PATHS

I may have mentioned that last month I submitted a FoI to the ‘Welsh’ Government asking how many homelessness organisations the WG funds and how much funding is involved. Here’s the response I received last Friday from a Carl Spiller of the Housing Policy Division.

To say I was disappointed with that response would be an understatement. Though I’m not surprised to read that there are 48 different organisations receiving funding to alleviate homelessness; no, what disappoints me is the funding quoted, which is an absurd underestimate.

Let us put this into perspective by referring back to the Wallich, an organisation based in Wales and dealing solely with homelessness. Here are the accounts for year ending 31 March 2017. Go to page 25 and you’ll see that the Wallich alone received almost seven million pounds from the ‘Welsh’ Government, yet the reply I got wants us to believe that funding for homelessness is never much more than eight million pounds a year – for 48 organisations!

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Clearly Mr Spiller has latched onto the Homelessness Prevention Grant Programme, perhaps because it helpfully uses the term ‘homelessness’ in its name. Yet there are many other funding streams for homelessness, not least the Supporting People Programme Grant from which the Wallich gained over six million pounds in the past year.

I don’t know whether Mr Spiller is confused, or whether he thinks my mother bred an idiot; but whichever it is I have written to him again asking for the right answer, which might indeed be 48 organisations, but I know damn well it involves more than one programme, with the amount of money running into hundreds of millions of pounds.

To be continued . . .

FARAWAY PLACES

Staying with the Wallich for a minute, something else that caught my eye in the 2017 Accounts was on page 31, in the section headed ’13 Investments’. Where we see this:

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Overseas Equities!!

Can anyone offer an explanation as to why an outfit like this, ministering to the homeless of Wales (and beyond), totally dependent on the public purse – plus the income derived from assets and investments paid for from the public purse – should have overseas equities?

What might these equities be? Dare we imagine this £938,478 (a mere £409,412 the year before) resting in some sun-blest tax haven?

When a third sector body reliant on public largesse has so much spare moolah then it’s reasonable to assume that it’s getting too much in the first place.

A LITTLE PLACE IN THE WEST

In this recent post there was a section headed ‘The “Bedsit Baron” of Pembroke Dock’ based on an article in the Pembrokeshire Herald about Cathal Eamonn McCosker. Well he’s made the news again.

There’s been a fire at one of his properties and someone has been badly burned.

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You’ll notice that there’s no mention of McCosker in the report, but there is a reference to E-Lettings being the owner of the property. This is the company set up by McCosker partly because local estate agents were loath to deal with him and partly because it maximised his profits.

Here’s another reference to E-Lettings from the same edition of the Pembrokeshire Herald, this time reporting a complaint made by E-Lettings against the councillor named in the account of the fire. The complainant is named as E-Lettings “proprietor, Miss Jill Evans”. I can only assume that Ms Evans works for McCosker, because there is no doubt about who owns E-Lettings.

McCosker is just another unscrupulous individual of the sort that has flocked to Wales since devolution turned on the tap of easy money.

It doesn’t really matter whether they speak Estuary English, attend conferences and lie to us about ‘helping people’, or whether they’re more honest about ripping off the public purse like McCosker . . . in many ways I’d prefer to deal with an unashamed rogue like McCosker than the hypocritical bastards I normally write about. You know where you are.

That said, McCosker’s reign of terror in Pembroke Dock must be brought to an end before someone dies, no matter how far up the political food chain the blame extends for corruptly funding his slum landlord empire.

To be continued . . .

THOMAS HARRY SHADY SCARROTT – SURELY NOT!

Someone else who has graced these pages in recent months is Tom Scarrott of Vale Holiday Parks Ltd. Read about him in The Caravanserai of Ceredigion. What a lad!

Our little contretemps started with a difference of opinion over the benefits of tourism. He of course wants us to believe that tourism provides lots of wonderful, full-time, well-paid jobs, it is – as the ‘Welsh’ Government would also have us believe – the economic salvation of rural Wales.

It soon became clear, even in a Twitter exchange, that Scarrott has a problem with the truth on all sorts of matters.

I was not surprised then to have a few people draw my attention to a wee piece that appeared in WalesOnline last week, headed The Welsh firms named and shamed for not paying the national minimum wage’. and to see Vale Holiday Parks appear.

So the man who claims his firm brings prosperity to Ceredigion can’t even pay the minimum wage. Like I say, he’s got a problem with the truth, that boy.

RESORTING WITH UNDESIRABLES

Staying with tourism we head from Ceredigion in a south-easterly direction towards the city of my dreams, before taking a slight detour to the Afan Valley. Of which I have writ before, first with English Tourism in the Colony of Wales, then with Colonial Investments.

This project was apparently dreamed up a Yorkshireman named Gavin Lee Woodhouse who pulled aboard that master of self-promotion, ‘Bear’ Grylls. For public consumption Woodhouse seems to have been replaced to some extent by Peter Moore, “the man who brought Center Parcs to the UK”, and Grylls is also less prominent now.

There was yet another piece extolling the benefits of this venture in yesterday’s Llais y Sais.

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Let me spell out what we’re dealing with here, why there is a valid comparison to be made with what Scarrott does at his Ocean Heights Leisure Park near Cei Newydd, and why they are so damaging to a country without independence and lacking politicians with the balls to impose certain conditions.

Both Ocean Heights and the planned ‘resort’ in the Afan valley are self-contained, by which I mean the intention is to get people to stay there and also make them spend as much of their money as possible on site, rather than have them wander abroad and spend some money in the Wales beyond their electric fences and guard dogs.

This inevitably means that most of the money earned will leave Wales. In Scarrott’s case we know that he banks in England, his auditors are in England – it’s almost as if he fears a coup! The company behind the Afan valley venture is of course an English company.

‘Oh, come on, Jac, you cynical old git, what about the jobs?’

Read the bit in the article where Moore says, “There will be in the region of 1,000, all-year-round, permanent, direct jobs, plus significant indirect employment, the majority of which will be relatively local”. Rarely does one encounter a single sentence containing so many weasel words. Treasure it!

We don’t have independence, but if we had politicians with balls they would insist that: 1/ All direct jobs go to locals. 2/ Indirect employment also goes to locals by using local contractors and suppliers. 3/ Profits will be re-invested in Wales.

But who have we had representing us – why! Ken Skates! The same Ken Skates who thought the Flint Ring was a wonderful idea. Now ably assisted by Dafydd Elis Thomas.

This is flim-flam all the way. In one quote Moore describes the Afan Valley as a rural area, but the truth is the resort will be 10 miles from Swansea city centre and less from Port Talbot steelworks. Rural, yes, but guests are not going to be kept awake by the howling of wolves.

But enough! feast your eyes on the artist’s impression here.

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Look at it! Bloody wonderful, innit . . . I mean, look at them, er, umbrellas, and that bridge – tidy bridge, that is. Makes ew proud to be Welsh, mun . . . not that there’ll be much about it that’s Welsh, apart from its location.

But then, that sums up tourism in Wales.

To be continued . . .

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