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