Ocean Heights Leisure Park

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 . . .

♦ end ♦

 

Oct 302017
 

THE DOGS BARK, BUT THE CARAVAN REMAINS STATIC!

The original meaning of caravan was of course a camel train, found in Asia, the Middle East or North Africa, carrying people and goods, often over deserts. The word comes from the Persian kārwān. Sometime in the 19th century it began to be applied in Britain to the horse-drawn homes of Romanies.

Today it means something towed along Welsh roads holding up traffic for mile after mile. The bigger ones, that never go anywhere except on the back of a low loader, are to be found now all over Wales, especially near our coasts, and it’s these I wish to deal with.

A caravanserai was a stopping place for a caravan. It might be an inn, possibly an oasis. I suppose I’m being a little whimsical in likening caravan sites in Wales to overnight stops on the Silk Road, but there you are.

‘Are we there yet?’

Those who’ve been following this blog will know that I had a Twitter exchange recently with a Tom Scarrott, we disagreed over whether or not there should be a tourism tax. It should have ended there, but Scarrott chose to pursue matters by inviting himself and a few ‘colleagues’ to the meeting planned for the Belle Vue Royal Hotel on November 4th to discuss the formation of a new political party. Read about it here.

Understandably, the hotel cancelled the booking. The meeting has now been rearranged for November 18th with an invited audience.

As often happens in these cases, the article prompted people to supply further information on the subject matter. Tom Scarrott is described as a man who likes to have his own way, something of a bully. Which anyone could have guessed from the tweets he sent me.

Though one source provided fascinating background information.

FAMILY

It seems that to fully understand the reach of the Scarrott family we need to appreciate its links with the Barkers.

According to my source, Thomas John Barker (DoB December 1931) ran the amusements at the Clarach Bay Holiday Park just north of Aberystwyth (when it may have been owned by Rank). I’m told he then bought the site in the early 1980s with Thomas Scarrott Snr as his right-hand man. By which time Scarrott may have married Barker’s daughter.

So it all started at Clarach Bay, and the Holiday Village, Clarach Bay, remains the correspondence address for the Scarrotts’ Vale Holiday Parks Ltd, and a number of other Scarrott companies; plus the Barkers’ Heatherdale Holidays (Clarach Bay) Ltd, and Barker’s Leisure Ltd.

The Barkers also own the Jolly Fryer Fish and Chip Shop Ltd, Sizzlers Restaurant Ltd, and a number of other companies based at Clarach Bay.

Between them the Barker-Scarrott clan own and run the following caravan sites in Ceredigion and beyond; 1 – 9 being Scarrott sites, 10 – 12 Barker sites:

  1. Cross Park, Kilgetty, Tenby, Pembrokeshire SA68 0RN
  2. Ocean Heights Leisure Park, Cross Inn, New Quay, Ceredigion SA45 9RL
  3. Woodland Vale, Ludchurch, nr Narberth, Pembrokeshire SA67 8JE
  4. Parc Farm, Graianrhyd Road, Llanarmon, Near Mold, CH7 4QW
  5. Grondre Holiday Park, Clunderwen, Pembrokeshire SA66 7HD
  6. The Village Holiday Park, Cross Inn, Ceredigion SA44 6LW [Formerly: Glynteg Caravan Park]
  7. The Old Vicarage Holiday Park, Red Roses, Whitland, Carmarthenshire SA34 0PE
  8. Liskey Hill Holiday Park, Perranporth, Cornwall TR6 0BB
  9. Penlon Caravan Park, Cross Inn, Ceredigion SA44 6JY
  10. Pilbach Holiday Park, Betws Ifan, Rhydlewis, Newcastle Emlyn, Ceredigion SA44 5RT.
  11. Wide Horizons Holiday Park, Cardigan Road, Aberaeron, Ceredigion SA46 0ET
  12. Aberdwylan Holiday Park, Abercych, Boncath, Pembrokeshire SA37 0LQ

You’ll see that I’ve typed three of them in red, so let me explain why. These three sites are all near Cross Inn on the A486, which runs down to New Quay from the main north-south A487. Important because I’m told the jewel in the crown for Tom Scarrott is the Ocean Heights Leisure Park.

AN UNACCEPTABLE MODEL

The Ocean Heights site is largely self-contained, in that it tries to offer those staying there as many as possible of the facilities they’ll need.

What’s more, those staying at the other two A486 sites are told, “guests are welcome to use the facilities on offer at this park including the Ocean Heights Country Club”.

Clearly, the Scarrott family hopes that those staying at their three Cross Inn sites will spend as much of their money as possible on the facilities provided at Ocean Heights. The flip side being that the Scarrotts want their ‘guests’ to spend as little money as possible in the wider community.

Bad enough, but let’s also remember that these are self-catering holidays. Which means that those staying in the caravans and chalets at Ocean Heights and elsewhere will bring as much as possible of what they need with them. They’ll even fill up with petrol or diesel before leaving home, and might return on the same tank.

The question then becomes – how does the wider community of Ceredigion benefit from tourism like this? And with this model being encouraged all over Wales by the ‘Welsh’ government and local authorities how does Wales benefit?

And as I pointed out in an earlier post, the Scarrotts like to take the money they’ve made out of Wales at the earliest opportunity, with their bankers being in Wiltshire and their accountants and auditors in Coventry. (And it’s the same arrangements for the Barker family.)

Then, when they’re asked to make a contribution to the community in which they operate, through council tax, Tom Scarrott protests that it will ‘devastate’ the local tourism industry. When a tourism tax is mooted, it too will cause ‘devastation’.

Let’s be clear about this. If tourism is an economic activity intended to bring money into a country, and to ensure that that money circulates within the host country bringing the widest possible benefits, then a business model such as that favoured by the Scarrotts should not be tolerated.

That it is tolerated, and worse, encouraged, goes a long way to explaining why tourism fails to deliver anything except clogged roads, tatty ‘attractions’, increased house prices and Anglicisation for our rural areas.

By all means encourage the Welsh family farm to diversify with a small caravan site, but Ocean Heights has more in common with a holiday camp, putting as little as possible into the local community. That’s why I believe large, self-contained caravan parks should be discouraged, and eventually phased out.

If this option is rejected then ways must be found for Ocean Heights and the rest to contribute to their local area, and the means are already available: increased council tax on static caravans that are obviously holiday homes, and a per head, per night, tourism tax.

PLAID CYMRU AND TOURISM

Despite the damage caused by tourism, Plaid Cymru is a big supporter.

Quite how we square Plaid’s commitment to the environment with support for mile after mile of coastal caravan sites,‘Ye Olde’ chippies and amusement arcades, the resultant rubbish, etc., is a mystery.

Equally mysterious is Plaid’s backing for an industry that through its activities and its inescapable corollary of settlement has devastated the bastions of the Welsh language.

I can only conclude that in some areas the tourism lobby is so well organised and vociferous, and Plaid Cymru’s position so weak, that the party has just caved in. Certainly the party opposes a tourism tax, with spokesman Steffan Lewis describing tourism as “the lifeblood of the economy”.

Listen, Steffan, if tourism really is the lifeblood of our economy then we’re as good as dead.

Simon Thomas, the regional AM for Mid and West Wales goes further, and wants to reduce the VAT for tourism. Arguing, “It has been estimated that cutting value added tax in tourism from 20 per cent to 5 per cent would bring £7.6 million to (the constituencies of) Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire and £4.5 million to Preseli Pembrokeshire.”

As with so many of the ‘statistics’ produced by the tourism industry these figures are plucked out of thin air.

From studying various statements made by Plaid Cymru people it’s reasonable to conclude that the party has little to offer rural areas other than tourism. Another worrying revelation came in a Twitter exchange I had a couple of weeks back with Ywain Myfyr of Dolgellau which closed with the exchange below.

Ywain was a local headmaster and is a decent guy, heavily involved with the cultural life of the area, through  Sesiwn Fawr and Tŷ Siamas. Which makes his defeatism all the more worrying.

Plaid Cymru’s attitude is unfathomable. Tourism and its corollary will destroy the Fro Gymraeg and with it Plaid Cymru’s heartlands, so by encouraging tourism Plaid Cymru is effectively hastening its own demise!

‘WELSH’ TOURISM, SERVING ENGLAND BETTER THAN WALES

Before concluding, let me make my position clear. I believe there is a role for a tourism component in a broad and diversified economy. But to rely, or over-rely, on tourism is the economics of desperation, or worse.

I challenge anyone to name me one wealthy country that relies for its wealth on tourism.

Take London; tens of millions of tourists visit London (and spend a lot more per head than visitors to Wales) but London’s wealth isn’t generated by tourism. In the bigger picture tourism is just one element.

Or look at our near neighbour, Ireland. I’ve been visiting Ireland off and on for over 50 years, and for most of that time the economy relied to a considerable degree on the tourist pound, dollar, mark or yen, certainly in some of the more rural areas. But the ‘Celtic Tiger’ wasn’t nurtured on tourism.

We can see that tourism brings few benefits to Welsh people, and many problems to Wales, so why is it being promoted as if it was the answer to all our ills?

First, the UK economy is in trouble, and might dive further when Brexit hits. ‘Staycations’, which ensure money stays in the UK, are therefore being encouraged. (The exchange rate also helps.) That’s because most of the money generated by tourism in Wales will make its way to England in one form or another.

So when somebody in London wants more done to attract English tourists to Wales, the message is passed on by the London-controlled civil servants who double up as ‘advisors’ to Carwyn and his gang, and then the directive is repackaged as a “Welsh’ Government initiative”.

WalesOnline headline 8 March 2017

And the ‘Welsh’ Government is glad to do so, because they’ve got no ideas of their own. The same of course applies to Labour’s little helpers in Plaid Cymru. Equally bereft of ideas are our councillors.

This explains why rural and coastal Wales is now a recreation and retirement region for England. And it’s state policy. Because in addition to the economic benefits of staycations tourism has the extra advantage of Anglicising those areas most Welsh in speech and political outlook.

This process is under way from Conwy to Carmarthenshire. Little is done to bring in or encourage the growth of decent jobs, because to do so might make it less easy to fill the minimum wage jobs in tourism, care homes and the like.

Last week we learnt that Welsh workers have the lowest take home pay in the UK. So let’s remind ourselves one last time how Labour and Plaid Cymru plan to make things better – tourism! 

No invective, no hyperbole, no rant from me, could condemn these useless bastards better than they condemn themselves.

Now let’s get our new party started and begin putting things right in our country.

♦ end ♦