Miscellany 25.11.2018

This is another omnibus edition of 3,000+ words. But it’s broken up for you to enjoy in instalments.

So take your time, and savour it properly.

ROCKIN’ TO THE RIGHT

Back in September I put out a tweet linking to this report about yet another planning application for ‘holiday cabins’. I was amazed – nay, shocked and appalled – to get the following response from a Shane Baker of Nebo, just outside Caernarfon.

I’m only just getting over the shock, that’s why it’s taken me so long to write about it.

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Naturally, I got to wondering who Shane Baker is, and why my elegant prose might have annoyed him. And so I went a-Googling. The first thing I learnt, from his Twitter account, is that he is a “Film and TV extra”.

His Facebook page header leaves you in no doubt as to his political sentiments and loyalties which, when added to the recent retweets of support for Tommy Robinson, suggest an English nationalist of the far right, or barging towards that destination.

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The same source provided photos of Shane Baker at work. It seems he likes to dress in leather and romp around with men similarly attired. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m sure it’s been legalised.

In fact, it seems to be strictly crowd scenes for Shane Baker. You can almost hear his agent advising him,‘Shane, baby, ya gotta face that would look just great at the back of a crowd!’.

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He should have listened to his agent, but no, for in addition to fancying himself as a medieval mobster, Shane is a vocalist of the Rock ‘n’ Roll genre, with a band called Kabinrock, based in Bath. I’m sure you’ve heard of them, they’ve played all the big venues – Twerton Liberal Club, St Margaret’s Hall (Bradford on Avon), Frys Club (Keynsham).

Here’s a video of Shane performing at a wedding (36 views after 6 years) After watching it you’ll realise why his best option is to lose himself in a crowd.

But enough of his showbiz career, the real question is, why did this latter-day John Bull recently move from his belovéd England to a Welsh-speaking locality? Why did he walk away from both Kabinrock and his other career as a glowering peasant?

Is this yet another example of white flight? Or is it that perverse imperial impulse that propels some English people into Wales despite them being hostile towards just about every manifestation of Welshness?

Or might there be some other reason?

Answers on a post card please. First correct answer pulled from the sack next Friday will receive a video of Shane and Kabinrock performing live at a Tommy Robinson is Innocent (of everything) concert at Scrotum Parva village hall. (Not to be confused with Scrotum Magna.)

‘(SWIVEL) EYES RIGHT!’

I have been informed of a new BritNat political party that might interest Shane Baker, that bargain basement Baldrick. It’s called the Democrats & Veterans Party.

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Though it’s an odd combination, democrats and veterans. And looking at the qualifications demanded, I’m patriotic, I hate the EU, I’m a tidy bloke, and while I don’t ‘love’ our armed forces I have no real problem in that direction.

The problem arises with, “Those that hate this nation or want to split our nation up need not apply”. Because here the DVP believes there is a British nation and confuses this mythic nation with the multi-national UK state. I do not want to split up my Welsh nation but I do want to split up the UK.

Terminology aside, it’s strange how veterans are used to make a claim on our emotions by the extreme right and the UK state, yet that state almost completely ignores veterans once they’ve served their purpose, leaving them to be politically exploited by the far right.

The relationship is almost symbiotic.

Shades of 1920s Germany. With the difference being that a bankrupt Germany lacked the resources to adequately care for millions of WWI veterans, whereas the UK state is more than capable of discharging its duties to a few thousand desperately needing help.

Anyway, a dickey-bird tells me that Wales is fortunate in having a co-ordinator of its very own for this new party, a Stan Robinson, though that name does not yet appear on the DVP website.

I suspect it’s this guy, who certainly fits the bill, having served in the Royal Observer Corps, after which he worked for the Ministry of Defence, and he’s been a poppy seller since 1985. He now claims to be ‘Chairman of the Family Housing Trust’, but Googling that name only brings up Family Housing Association (Wales) Ltd. Based, as is Robinson, in Swansea.

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Robinson doesn’t appear among the trustees or the management of FHA, making me suspect that he’s claiming to be a consultant. I guess it would be the same with the NHS.

This is his Facebook page, where we learn he’s “English to the core”. His counterpart in Scotland, Ian Pritchard, has no stronger connection with Braveheart and the Bruce than that, “he has been living in Scotland for more than 20 years”. Reminding us – as if we need reminding – that these proliferating BritNat parties are fundamentally about England, with just a Celtic tinge.

With Robinson being based in Swansea it’s no surprise to learn that a branch was formed in the city in April under the leadership of one Stephen ‘Reeco’ Rees. (Don’t be fooled by the flag, it’s not the one they really care about.) Though Robinson doesn’t appear to be in the photograph, maybe he hadn’t joined at that stage.

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Rees has been involved in the ‘Exploit-veterans-to-promote-the-BritNat- agenda’ for some time, having previously being involved with an outfit called SA1ute (geddit!). In fairness, ‘Reeco’ also rescues old dames with heating problems, (though some of the comments suggest a different narrative).

In the picture accompanying the article about the freezing old woman you’ll see Carl Vickers. His attempt at crowd-funding on behalf of SA1ute should be used to explain how not to go about it.

One who enlisted early in the DVP was James Cole. You may remember the name from an earlier incarnation as a Ukip spokesman. Here he is in a video from 2013 warning that the Welsh will be a minority in their own country “within the next fifteen to twenty years” due to immigration . . . but he’s not talking about English immigration.

Cole reminds us that the picture on the far right is almost a mirror image of the far left, not only in being detached from reality, but also with the constant movement of individuals between groups, and with these groups and parties breaking up and new ones forming all the time.

If the Democrats & Veterans Party is genuine, then rather than attacking the EU, immigrants, Islam, or the SNP, they will target the UK state and the British Crown, both of which are directly culpable for the condition of the ex-service personnel the DVP claims to care so much about.

Failure to do this just makes them right wing extremists exploiting desperate people.

Image courtesy of BBC, click to enlarge

To end on a lighter note, the fuhrer leader of the Democrats & Veterans Party is lantern-jawed John Rees-Evans, who was Ukip candidate for Cardiff South and Penarth in 2015.

After coming fourth in one of the many recent Ukip leadership contests Rees-Evans went off to form a new party called Affinity, which presumably morphed into the DVP.

You may remember that he hit the headlines with the claim that a gay donkey had tried to rape his horse.

Make Britain great again, and safe from gay donkeys – vote DVP!

LAMMAS: TROUBLE IN A FEUDAL PARADISE?

Others living in a world of their own are the hippy aristocracy of Lammas, of whom I have writ more than once. Now news reaches me that all may not be well in this settlement ruled by King Tau-Paul Wimbush and his Queen Hoppi.

To understand the ‘thinking’ behind Lammas and similar projects you must have some understanding of the collective stupidity and gullibility of Labour and Plaid Cymru politicians. For Lammas links with the promotion of One Planet projects which wants us to believe that Wales will reduce her carbon footprint by attracting into the country more wood-burning hippies.

The One Planet bollocks is yet more ‘Welsh’ legislation that is of no benefit whatsoever to Wales or the Welsh, but obviously of benefit to England and sections of the English people. But as I never tire of reminding you, this is how colonialism operates.

My sources tell me worrying tales from Lammas.

The first centres on the 999-year lease under which the peasantry live. (It must be a very healthy lifestyle.) Most wish to be freehold, perhaps in order to sell; others simply want to be independent of the Wimbush monarchy – so these putative republicans have had their water cut off, or life is made difficult for them in other ways.

Among those suffering in this way, I hear, is a Welshman from my neck of the woods, perhaps the only Welshman at Lammas, his Finnish wife and their trilingual children. I feel he should be supported.

Similar things happen to anyone foolish enough to ask to see what it’s claimed are the secret accounts of the company running the show, Lammas Low Impact Initiatives Ltd.

This document I dug out – which might have been superseded – names three individuals as founding members of the company: Paul Wimbush (inevitably), Dr Larch Maxey and Dr Mark Edwards Dyson. Who are these other two?

And if you doubted that the Wimbush dynasty are in it for the money, then there’s King Tau-Paul’s £70 an hour planning consultancy. While Queen Hoppi has her own skin care brand. Other money-making schemes include bed and breakfast, with Tau-Paul also selling plots of land at Lammas and elsewhere, which means acting as an unregistered estate agent.

Then there are the courses, extending to, as one source put it, ” . . . witchcraft and fanny worship courses . . .”

I assure you, in the many articles I’ve written about Lammas I have never mentioned ‘fanny worship courses’. And I have no idea what they involve. I was tempted to ask, but thought better of it.

A course you’ve missed, run by Queen Hoppi herself, was, ‘Upcycle Waistcoats with Wenchwear’. ‘Wenchwear’! If I used the term ‘wench’ the assorted loonies of the left who follow this blog would call me a patriarchal, misogynistic, transphobic, etc., etc., bastard. (Which they do anyway. Bless!)

No, this is no rural idyll of hippies growing organic vegetables and selling them at a street market, this is unadulterated greed.

More mundane concerns are whether the water quality is up to standard, and whether planning permission is being adhered to with new buildings.

On the matter of water quality, it is the responsibility of the county council – in this case, Pembrokeshire – to test the water annually. For some reason Pembrokeshire County Council stopped checking, but resumed doing so this year, after an enquiry from a concerned member of the public.

If we look at planning permission there is no escaping the major project at Lammas, the Earth Centre, for which money is now being raised. Confusion arises because permission was given for a dwelling.

The suspicion is that that’s exactly what it will be – King Tau-Paul and Queen Hoppi’s palace. But it may be easier to crowd-fund a communal building.

But then, lack of water testing, departure from planning consent, is par for the course that has seen officialdom at all levels bend over backwards to help Paul and Hoppi Wimbush prosper in their feudal demesne.

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Above you see a recent picture from a Lammas Facebook page showing planning inspector Andrew Poulter, and his wife, paying a visit just a week or so ago. This is the man who gave Lammas planning permission, and, no, he hasn’t retired, he’s still a planning inspector . . . and might therefore be called on to adjudicate on some future Lammas application.

Isn’t it all so ineffably bourgeois, so frightfully cosy? So . . . Acacia Avenue goes rustic. With nothing to tell you that this is happening in Wales.

UPDATE 29.11.2018: I put out a tweet a few days ago which got an answer from Planning Inspectorate. But Poulter’s Linkedin profile suggests he now works for the ‘Welsh Government’, from where I have heard nothing.

GONE WITH THE WIND

A couple of weeks ago, in Corruption in the Wind?, I looked at three wind farm developments: Bryn Blaen, near Llangurig; Rhoscrowther, near Milford Haven; and Hendy, near Llandrindod. Here are some updates.

First, I’m told that despite having been completed almost a year ago, not a blade has turned at Bryn Blaen. It seems there were problems when attempts were made – involving considerable traffic disruption – to connect the site to the Bryn Titli development just down the A470. Did it blow a fuse?

Another source sent me news of the Hendy site, so recently given the go-ahead by Lesley Griffiths, when she over-ruled her own planning inspector. (All explained in the earlier post.)

This source told me, “The Hendy bunch of crooks are already sneakily getting large machinery onto the proposed site, illegally using access points to and onto the Common land there.”

Perhaps these are some of the  ‘allegations’ the developers refer to in the article below, from Saturday’s Llais y Sais.

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Bottom line: The developers know they can get away with anything because Powys County Council is afraid to act, and that’s because the developers have political support at a higher level.

The priority at Hendy now is to get the turbines hooked up to the grid so they can start raking in the money. Whether the damn things generate any electricity is a matter of no importance to anyone involved in this scam.

What a system!

BIKE PARK WALES

I’ve written before about this venture near Merthyr, which has seen a large tract of publicly-owned land leased to a company called Bike Park Wales, which then threatens locals with on-the-spot fines for ‘trespassing’.

You can catch up with it by reading the original article.

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When this was queried, the first response, either from the departed CEO of Natural Resources Wales, or a ‘Welsh Government’ minister, stated that there were no public rights of way on the land leased to Bike Park Wales.

The kindest thing to say is that this was a mistake. The new CEO of Natural Resources Wales has conceded that public rights of way are involved. So my source has now asked his AM to:

(a) Request Welsh Ministers, as landowner, to write to BPW to immediately remove the £50 fine threat from their terms and conditions.

(b) Request the local authority to erect signage “Llwybr Cyhoeddus/Public Footpath” from start and end points of this public right of way within the lease footprint.

(c) Remind BPW that a temporary closure order need be obtained from the local authority, should this be required for future corporate events using this public right of way.

(d) Not to enter into any further lease arrangements that prevent unfettered public access to the estate owned by the Welsh Government anywhere else in Wales.

Natural Resources Wales has in recent years been out of control, so God only knows how many other such arrangements this dysfunctional body has entered into with our assets.

COLEG HARLECH

A lifetime ago I spent some happy years at Coleg Harlech, and so I repeat verbatim the sad message I received last week.

“Jac, I don’t know if you’re aware that the college buildings have recently been put up for sale by Adult Learning Wales. It’s a sad end for the college that for many was the gateway to a better life.

I was a student there between 1984 and 86, and gained an awful lot form my experience. I believe the fundamental ‘last straw’ was the change in government thinking on HE and the rise of FE university access courses that were deemed to offer the same the CH offered. The truth of course is something different.

I know that the college was ‘re-branded’ from HE to FE, though of course the academic standard at CH was always, in the two year Diploma days at least a demanding second year undergraduate standard. That of course changed in the mid 90s, and CH soldiered on, until the merger in 2001 with WEA (N) when things started to unravel badly.

The rest is history, but it puzzles me why nothing was done by those in Cardiff Bay about the colleges plight. It was a unique Welsh institution, which although internationalist in outlook, was at its core essentials an institution with its focus very much on Wales. indeed, the course of study I followed there was entirely focused on Wales.

To be quite honest, I’m just gob-smacked that the financial and managerial incompetence of Coleg Harlech WEA (N) went unchallenged.

And recently we read of another case of apparent incompetence and mismanagement at Theatr Ardudwy, where there was a hole in the roof that compromised health and safety with a repair bill of £150k – a hole like that doesn’t appear overnight, and it would have been known about prior to the installation of state of the art digital projection and sound equipment.

In neglecting to mend the hole in the roof put not only the audiences in danger, but also an investment that, if used properly, could have generated much needed income for a badly needed community and regional resource.

I don’t suspect corruption in either the case of the college, or the theatre, but it’s hard to avoid thinking that there was an amazing level of incompetence at play or a suspicion that all this might have been planned, as over time the college was stripping itself of the very assets it needed to survive as a viable entity.

I don’t know if you would be interested in doing what you do best and dig up the dirty on all the tribulations affecting the college. It’s almost tragic that we, as a nation, are losing what was a very special national institution, and I think it’s a story that should be told.”

There was indeed something uniquely Welsh about Coleg Harlech, so is there anyone out there who can fill in the details?

CAROLYN HARRIS MP AND SOUTH WALES POLICE

Carolyn Harris is the Labour MP for Swansea East, who has been involved in the worthy cause of reducing the damage done by Fixed Odd Betting Terminals, for which I congratulate her.

But like all of us – even me! – she is not without fault.

Many of you will be aware of the saga involving the assault on co-worker Jenny Lee Clarke for being a lesbian, widely reported in the London prints. Almost certainly in retaliation for this embarrassment Harris, by now an MP, accused the assault victim of theft.

Carolyn Harris MP (left) and Jenny Lee Clarke, click to enlarge

This was resolved in a court case in July when Ms Clarke was found not guilty of the alleged theft and Harris, now shadow spokesperson on equalities, came under fire for her homophobia.

Throughout this saga Ms Clarke has been trying to get South Wales Police to charge Carolyn Harris with assault. The response has been prevarication and obstruction. Insult was added to injury when, on Friday, November 16, BBC News reported that the assault allegation against Carolyn Harris had been ‘dropped’.

When Ms Clarke complained to the BBC she was told that this was what the police had told them . . . but of course the police denied this.

As I’ve explained to Jenny, the police have lost one case when she was acquitted of theft, which means that to charge Carolyn Harris with assault, and risk getting a conviction, would further expose the cock-up they’ve made of the whole affair. A cock-up exemplified by somehow ‘losing’ the only eye witness statement to the assault.

I find it so sad that I have to write in such a vein. People might think I’m a cynical old bastard, and that would never do. Would it?

Unless I receive earth-shattering intelligence that I must immediately impart to an unsuspecting world the next post will be Weep for Wales 11.

So if anyone has more news on Paul and Rowena Williams – get in touch!

♦ end ♦

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Life in the old schemes yet

This is something of a ‘shortie’ because I’ve had things to do and I’ve spent a lot of time in recent days looking for a new theme, an attempt to give a new look to this blog. I’m not happy with this theme – 2016 – but I’ll stick with it until I find summat better.

So if anyone can recommend a clean yet flexible blog theme, offering sidebars and plenty of options, let me know. I don’t mind coughing up a few quid for the right one.

Among a number of problems with this theme – post too narrow, too much space around the header, etc – is that comments don’t show on the home page, and the link to the comments is almost invisible, lying as it does at the bottom of the tags in the left sidebar.

But enough of my trifling problems.

For in this post I bring news that there may yet be life in two projects we assumed were on their way to the knacker’s yard – the motor racing circuit at Ebbw Vale and the Swansea tidal lagoon.

Let’s look at Ebbw Vale first.

IF ONLY FANGIO COULD HAVE LIVED TO SEE THIS!

The original scheme, you will recall, was the brainchild of one Michael Carrick, who ultimately revealed himself to be a bit of a lad.

He achieved this status by running up debts, buying a motor cycle parts firm with grant money he’d received, even paying his gardener from the same source, and by generally exposing himself to be a man with a vision . . . of making himself very rich out of spin and hyperbole.

Image: WalesOnline, click to enlarge

Despite the backing of the equally avaricious Lord Kinnock it was eventually realised that the Circuit of Wales project pushed by Carrick’s Heads of the Valleys Development Company and Aventa Capital Partners Ltd was a pipe-dream that was never going to draw the tifosi to Ebbw Vale. (And to call it a ‘pipe-dream’ is being generous.)

But, wait! is that a highly-tuned engine I hear whining its way towards the Heads of the Valleys, powering a sleek Le Mans-style sports car? Yes, it is, and at the wheel we find Newport-born Roger Maggs, or possibly Mark Rhydderch-Roberts of Crickhowell. ‘Who they?’ you demand. Well read about them for yourself.

Their plan differs in a number of regards from Michael Carrick’s vision. Perhaps most notably in the declaration that they will not be trying to attract high-prestige events; their plan being along the lines of “providing state of the art laboratory and testing facilities for the global automotive industry”.

Which would obviously complement the ‘Welsh Government’s Automotive Technology Park at Rhyd y Blew.

Another major departure from the Carrick vision is that Maggs and Rhydderch-Roberts say they won’t be demanding vast amounts of public funding. Their project is priced at a modest £150m, roughly a third of the estimated cost of the Circuit of Wales, and would not seek “any direct financial support or underwriting from the Welsh Government”.

Though funding would be sought from the £1.2bn City Deal for the Cardiff Capital Region, which is where I fear they might run into difficulties.

To begin with, there are ten local authorities in the Cardiff Capital Region and some may not favour such a development on the northern edge of the region, especially, perhaps, the largest of those local authorities.

For £734m of the City Deal funding has been ring-fenced for electrification of Valleys’ railway lines so as to make it easier for people to travel from dormitory communities into Cardiff to work and spend money. If the developments we’re discussing take off they will be of little or no benefit to Cardiff. Yet whether or not a project benefits Cardiff is often the prime consideration for ‘Welsh Government’ funding decisions and so things may not bode well for the Maggs-Rhydderch-Roberts plan.

On the plus side, with the widening of the Swansea – Hereford A465 proceeding apace Ebbw Vale becomes more reachable from the English Midlands, heart of the automotive industry.

Yes, I know, I’ve just mentioned the Automotive Technology Park at Rhyd y Blew, but don’t get carried away. After building up people’s hopes by supporting the Circuit of Wales, and then pulling the plug, the ‘Welsh Government’ had to offer something to Ebbw Vale. Motivated not by guilt but by the consideration of saving Labour seats.

I wish both projects well. But if they are to truly benefit the Heads of the Valleys region, the most deprived part of a poor country, then we need assurances that local people will be recruited and trained and that as much as possible of the money involved stays in the area.

Let us now take that A465 to the city of my dreams.

WAVING OR DROWNING?

Another ‘character’ who has been entertaining us for a few years now, in many ways a contemporary and rival to Michael Carrick, is Mark Shorrock of a host of companies under the Tidal Lagoon umbrella. His particular vision was for a tidal lagoon in Swansea Bay tapping into Neptune’s bounty.

It’s enough to make an old Sea Scout like me nostalgic for the smell of brine and Robert Newton impersonations, ‘Arr, Jac lad’. But enough of that.

This project also went mammaries skyward when the UK government refused to fund it. Though Shorrock, a man with a number of unfulfilled dreams to his name, believed it could still proceed. Like the man who has covered the floor in broken crockery he insists that given one more try he really can do this trick with the tablecloth.

Our Glorious Leader mumbled something about his mob getting involved, but like most of what he says ’twas naught but piss and wind. (As Ms Sturgeon and countless others can testify.)

More plausible perhaps was the salvage attempt mooted by Holistic Capital. And this may, or may not, be the scheme favoured by Swansea council and involves one of the local degree factories. Certainly the council is showing enthusiasm for pushing ahead with the project it has dubbed ‘Tidal Lagoon 2.0’, even setting up a ‘task force’.

The Circuit of Wales would have made Michael Carrick very wealthy (and has certainly enriched him considerably), the Swansea tidal lagoon would have showered even greater wealth on Mark Shorrock and his nearest and dearest. Perhaps especially his wife’s company, Good Energy.

Mark Shorrock, courtesy of WalesOnline, click to enlarge

At one stage, on the understanding that the UK government would fund the lagoon, the Welsh Local Government Association promised to invest in the project. Then there’s possible funding from the Swansea Bay City Region deal. There are also recent reports that private funding is being sought.

Your guess is as good as mine as to the state of play now.

Though I hear that Swansea Labour’s inner circle recently discussed pushing ahead with the lagoon by investing some of the council’s own money in the scheme. Possibly pension funds. How those with money in the pension scheme feel about this has yet to be ascertained.

But I’m sure they have nothing to fear. If this goes ahead it will be an investment made after due deliberation by the finest minds in the Swansea Labour Party – what could possibly go wrong?

Again, joking aside, I wish this project well. As with Ebbw Vale, I hope it takes off and benefits the local community. In fact, I look forward to visiting in a few years and viewing the whole shebang from the new cable car running from Kilvey Hill.

FROM THEM THAT HAVE NOT SHALL BE TAKEN

The uncomfortable fact is that Wales attracts far too many like Carrick and Shorrock for the simple reason that Wales is a colony of England. Let me explain.

As a colony, the last thing either the ‘Welsh Labour Government’ or their masters in London want is to encourage Welsh initiative. With many in Labour it’s due to an atavistic, leftist aversion to ‘capitalism, innit’; while with their London bosses it’s a desire not to give the natives any thoughts about being able to do things for themselves.

The second being classic, ‘You couldn’t manage without us’ colonialism.

On a more prosaic level there is the purely economic consideration. By which I mean, if the UK government gives the the ‘Welsh Government’ a sum of money every year – let’s say £18bn – then the UK administration will want to recoup as much as possible of that funding, or in other ways take advantage of what cannot be sucked back over the border.

This may be achieved by flooding Wales with English retirees, persuading the ‘Welsh Government’ to put up wind turbines to help the UK meet emissions targets, allocate social housing to those who’ve never set foot in Wales, get said ‘Welsh Government’ to accept and fund bankrupt luxury car makers, improve the M4, or direct to Wales con men or dreamers with half-baked schemes that might just work.

The word soon spreads via the Con Man’s Chronicle and other outlets that Wales is a soft touch for funding and lunatic schemes. You want dosh to built a 900 foot helter-skelter atop Cader Idris? – then all you’ve got to do is get your ten-year-old nephew to put together a bisnuz plan, tell Ken Skates it’ll pull in the tourists better than the Flint Sphincter and he’ll embarrass your pockets with big wodges of folding.

And that’s without considering the third sector, where we find thousands upon thousands of self-righteous shysters who’ve moved from England to ‘help’ nobody but themselves – to our money!

Such is life in a colony. Woe to Wales!

♦ end ♦

Corruption in the wind?

People contact me regularly asking, ‘Why don’t you write about wind energy, Jac, and about saving the planet, because we’re all doomed, doomed!’ To which I usually respond, ‘Sod off.’ But one recent request to look into wind energy was different, and after an hour or so of digging I realised I just had to write about it.

Essentially, this is the story of three, linked, wind farms, but it’s also a reminder of how easy it is for political decisions in Wales to be controlled by those who care nothing for us or our country. Those I’m talking of see Wales as an exploitable resource, while we can be brushed aside with, ‘What’s it gotta do with you, Taff?’

Few things remind us more forcefully of this state of affairs than decisions concerning ‘the environment’.

Whether it’s allowing hippies to set up camp anywhere they like under the One Planet nonsense, encouraging ‘re-wilders’ to force out Welsh farmers and take over vast swathes of our country, or allowing ugly wind turbines to produce their piddling amounts of electricity . . . but lots of money for those involved.

THREE WIND FARMS

Let’s start with Bryn Blaen wind farm near Llangurig, the village situated where the north-south A470 meets the A44 running down to Aberystwyth. Bryn Blaen was refused planning permission by Powys County Council, but the Planning Inspectorate overturned that decision in August 2016 and allowed the project to go ahead.

So on this one, the developers got their way.

Next stop is Rhoscrowther, near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. This was turned down by Pembrokeshire County Council in 2015, the appeal by the developers was rejected by the Planning Inspectorate, but then a High Court judge said that it must be reviewed by a different planning inspector. It was, and in April this year she upheld the decision to refuse planning permission.

This second refusal by the Planning Inspectorate was confirmed by Lesley Griffiths in a letter in May to the applicants’ agents. But the applicants made yet another appeal to the High Court, which in September blocked any further appeal.

That would appear to be the end of the Rhoscrowther wind farm.

The vista that some want to mar with the Hendy wind farm, click to enlarge

Back to Powys, and the Hendy wind farm, near Llandrindod. Planning permission was refused by Powys County Council in April 2017, and that decision was upheld by a planning inspector in May . . . but then, last month, Lesley Griffiths, Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Secretary for the management team in Cardiff docks said that she would ignore the planning inspector’s decision and allow it to go ahead.

Such a move is unusual. The management team can certainly over-rule local authorities – as we’ve seen with the latest developments in the Mumbles Pier project – but to go against the Planning Inspectorate is unusual.

Here’s the letter Lesley Griffiths sent to Keith McKinney of Aaron and Partners LLP, a firm of Chester solicitors acting for the developers. (You’ll note that there appears to have been some uncertainty over the date.)

In point 2 of the letter mention is made of the Developments of National Significance legislation under which the ‘Welsh Ministers’ have authority to rule on electricity generation projects with a maximum installed capacity between 10mw and 50mw. The three projects we’re looking at range from 12.5mw to 17.5mw.

Though according to the capture below from the ‘Welsh Government’s website the decision should be made by the Planning Inspectorate, which is what happened initially with Hendy, before Lesley Griffiths intervened.

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So who’s promoting these schemes, who are ‘the developers’ I’ve referred to?

SLICES OF CAKE FOR EVERYONE!

Each of these projects has its own company: Bryn Blaen Wind Farm Ltd, Rhoscrowther Wind Farm Ltd and Hendy Wind Farm Ltd. But all these companies have the same registered office address, 7a Howick Place, London SW1P 1DZ.

A director of all three companies is Steven John Radford who seems to take another slice of the Welsh wind farm cake through his consultancy, Njord Energy Ltd, which sounds comfortingly Scandinavian. (Though he obviously farmed out some work to Cunnane Town Planning of London and Manchester.)

In September Radford branched out again with Bute Energy Ltd, joining six days after its two founding directors. Bute Energy is in the electricity business, the production, transmission, distribution and trade of electricity to be exact. Will this be electricity generated in Wales?

Also involved somewhere in these projects has been Viento Environmental Ltd, of Shrewsbury, yet another consultancy, this one run by Fran Iribar, whose Linkedin profile mentions the three wind farm sites we’re dealing with here plus a number of others in Wales.

Have you noticed yet? Three projects in Wales – no Welsh involvement whatsoever!

What a system! You don’t need to be a nationalist to see how wrong this is. It’s basic economics.

Whatever their roles, Aaron and Partners of Chester, Viento of Shrewsbury, Njord and the rest, are all bit-part players, with everything being directed from London by the U and I Group plc. Which was quick to celebrate Lesley Griffiths’ intervention in the Hendy project.

A curious beast, U and I. It was known as Development Securities plc until 5 November 2015. And on the very same day a previous incarnation of the U and I Group Ltd changed its name to Development Securities Ltd.

We often come across shape-shifting and Lazarus-like resurrections on this blog. Think Paul and Rowena Williams, of Weep for Wales fame, with their Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd and Rural Retreats & Leisure UK Ltd (which even confused an Employment Tribunal!); and recently, in Wilmslow-sur-Mer, we sobbed for Natural Retreats UK Ltd . . . only for it to be brought back to us by resurrectionists from ‘Ol’ Virginny’, who just happen to be closely linked with those behind the expired company.

Offshore companies are also favoured by Marcus Owen Shepherd, Matthew Simon Weiner and Richard Upton, prominent figures in this deliberately confusing tangle of companies, but they’re not really offshore at all. Certainly that was the decision arrived at last year by HMRC which concluded that Development Securities (No 9) was trying to pull a fast one.

I’m sure you’re as shocked as I was to learn that there might be something underhand, dishonest even, about tax havens and offshore hideaways. Whatever next!

Not only that, but U and I’s Welsh assets are already sold or up for sale. The panel below comes from the latest accounts (for y/e 28.02.2018) of the group received by Companies House 01.08.2018. It suggests that the Bryn Blaen wind farm has either been sold or is about to be sold, giving the group a profit of £6 – 8 million.

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Perhaps more significantly, U and I is also confident of raising £10 -12 million from Hendy and Rhoscrowther. We now know that Hendy seems to be in the bag, but are they still holding out hopes for Rhoscrowther? Either way, how could they be so confident months ago? Did they know something we didn’t or was it just blind optimism linked to share prices?

MYSTERY WOMAN

Back in 2017, on April 27 to be exact, there was a curious scene played out at a meeting of Powys County Council’s planning committee. At a point in the meeting after the committee had refused planning permission for Hendy and was about to discuss further conditions for Bryn Blaen, a woman who had been sitting with the developers tried to hand a note to one of the committee members.

The woman had to be forcefully ushered away. She was recognised as a lobbyist, working for Invicta Public Affairs, a company based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The company is run by Mark Cummings, who boasts, “We specialise in advising private businesses how best to promote their commercial interests by overcoming barriers to enterprise caused by the UK national and devolved policy and regulatory framework.”

Cummings seems to operate in Wales through Invicta Public Affairs (Wales) Ltd, which has never been anything more than a name, with a Newcastle address, but clearly it has employees in Wales. So who was the mystery woman?

It was Anna McMorrin, who had been recruited by Invicta in October 2016 for no reason other than she was a Labour Party insider, having joined the party when she was a student, and as a result of her subsequent career she knew exactly who to approach to get things done.

As her Wikipedia entry tells us, “After graduating, McMorrin worked in public relations and communications. After working as a part-time communications officer for the Labour Party between 1996-1997, she worked for public affairs consultancy Hill and Knowlton. In 2006, McMorrin became Campaigns and Communications Director for Friends of the Earth Cymru. In 2008, she joined the Welsh Government as an appointed Specialist Advisor, working with Ministers including Jane Hutt AM, John Griffiths AM and Alun Davies AM.”

While she was working for Alun Davies they began an affair which resulted in both leaving their long-term partners. They now live together.

In the general election of June 2017 Anna McMorrin was elected Labour MP for Cardiff North.

ANALYSIS

U and I and/or Development Securities planned three wind farms of a size so that even if the local planning committees voted against them then their bacon could be saved by the Planning Inspectorate or, as a last resort, the ‘Welsh Government’.

To help them carry through this plan they employed Mark Cummings, useful for his expertise in dealing with devolved administrations. Cummings then needed someone who was a Labour insider, so he recruited Anna McMorrin.

No doubt, the developers had hoped to get planning permission for all three developments, netting them as much as £20 million. Being more realistic, they were probably prepared to settle for two out of three. But the High Court going against them on Rhoscrowther in September meant they were left with just Bryn Blaen, and so they were only going to make a small profit.

The High Court couldn’t be challenged over Rhoscrowther so pressure was applied to Lesley Griffiths to overturn the Hendy decision. And she came good.

Who applied the pressure to Lesley Griffiths? Well, Anna McMorrin fits the identikit picture issued.

Another reason I suspect Lesley Griffiths hadn’t planned on making the Hendy intervention is because the Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Secretary couldn’t even come up with a plausible reason for her action.

We’ve just read that she argued the Hendy wind farm was in the ‘national interest’, but in point 4 of that letter to Aaron and Partners of Chester she also quoted from the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 which, ” . . . requires the Welsh Ministers, as a public body, to ensure the development and use of land contributes towards improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales”.

I have a question for you, Lesley Griffiths.

Will you please explain how Wales benefits from being exploited by London property developers and their assorted hangers-on all over England?

There is no Welsh benefit whatsoever from the Hendy wind farm, or the other two; Wales already produces more electricity than we need, so I can only assume that Lesley Griffiths is acting in the ‘national interest’ of some other country.

Which makes her clumsy and questionable behaviour another example of London’s management team in Cardiff making sure that Wales does what it’s supposed to do – serve the interests of England.

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The truth is that Lesley Griffiths made an indefensible decision under undue and possibly illegal pressure. If I’m wrong, let her justify overturning the planning inspector’s decision on Hendy wind farm.

With her earlier support for those seeking to dispossess Welsh farmers, dealt with here in The Welsh Clearances, and now with this decision to further serve alien interests, Lesley Griffiths has, in just over a month, proven herself to be the enemy of Wales and its people.

There should be no way for this wretched and duplicitous woman to hold any position, even in a body as discredited as that which masquerades as the Government of Wales.

The Labour Party and its various appendages are a poison corrupting Welsh public and political life. There is no hope for honesty and openness, progress and prosperity, until this poison is drawn and Wales is made healthy.

♦ end ♦

UPDATE 19:50: I am indebted to Karen Roden for her comment to my Facebook page telling me that Lesley Griffiths did something very similar earlier in the year with her decision to over-rule a planning inspector who had supported Denbighshire County Council’s refusal of Pant y Maen wind farm on the Denbigh Moors.

This development was promoted by Pant y Maen Wind Ltd of Oxfordshire. Though this company seems to have been controlled by Brenig Wind Ltd, a company run by Chinese citizens giving an address in France. The accounts are overdue at Companies House and I suspect we shall hear no more of Brenig Wind.

Though victory was claimed by Natural Power, which has an office in Aberystwyth. Note that the report I’ve linked to thinks that Lesley Griffiths is part of the UK Government!

In April, soon after Lesley Griffiths gave consent for Pant y Maen wind farm, control passed via a couple of LLPs to Guy and Julia Hands, residents of Guernsey.

Once again, no Welsh involvement, and I guarantee that those I’ve mentioned don’t give a toss about the environment – it’s all about the money. So we despoil our country, inflate our electricity bills, to enrich bastards like these.

Is Lesley Griffiths too stupid to understand how she’s being used?

 

Guest Post: Update from Patagonia

I first became acquainted with Jeremy through my old mate, the late Rhobert ap Steffan, known to the inner circle as ‘Castro’, who made a number of trips to Patagonia. I’d known Rhobert for many years, we spent the Investiture period in ’69 with a couple of other young rebels in Ireland.

We had a great send-off on the Swansea-Cork ferry from our Special Branch ‘tails’ (we each had two), who didn’t believe we were going. They followed our car in a convoy down to the docks, boarded the ferry, even bought us drinks, and then waved good-bye from the quayside as we sailed off.

God! it was a touching scene. Them: ‘The bastards really are going’. Us: ‘F### off, copper!’ Ah! Happy days!

But enough nostalgia. First, a biography of our guest writer, Jeremy Wood, and then he’ll bring you up to speed with events in Esquel, Trevelin, Ysgol y Cwm and Bodega del fin del Mundo. (Ahhhh . . . Malbec!)

JEREMY WOOD

Jeremy Wood is one of the best-known authorities on Welsh Patagonia (to the extent of sometimes being referred to as ‘Mr Patagonia’). He lives in the home town of his Esquel-born wife, Cristina, and young son, Tomos. He is on the committee of the Welsh Society in Trevelin and is actively involved in fund-raising for the town’s Welsh school, Ysgol y Cwm.

JEREMY WOOD (click to enlarge)

He featured extensively in Jon Gower’s 2015 book, Gwalia Patagonia, the sales proceeds of which have been generously dedicated to Ysgol y Cwm. He is involved in numerous projects relating to Patagonia and to the Welsh in Patagonia, about which he writes regularly for newspapers and magazines in the UK and the United States.

Jeremy has also contributed important, newly-discovered archive material to the Welsh museums across Patagonia, including a long lost manuscript regarding the murders of 3 young Welshmen in 1884 by John Daniel Evans, and has recently published a book on that tragedy.

He is also involved with film, writing Esquel  (20:35) as part of the programme of twinning with Aberystwyth (which he initiated and completed). Jeremy also worked with Matthew Rhys to produce a Spanish version of Hollywood Gaucho. While as a film historian he has unearthed from the BBC archives 22 films made prior to 1980 about the Welsh in Patagonia and not previously seen in Patagonia.

He was asked by the producers of the Oscar-nominated film, Patagonia, to develop a special tour of Patagonia which follows in the footsteps of the film. He was the Patagonia-based ‘fixer’ for Huw Edwards’ Patagonia documentary released by the BBC in 2015. He has a special relationship with the Palaeontological Museum in Trelew, featured in David Attenborough’s 2016 documentary about the largest dinosaur (and animal) ever to have walked the Earth.

Away from movies and television Jeremy organises tours of Patagonia for small and large groups and has organised several musical tours, including two sell-out concert tours for tenor, Rhys Meirion.

Fittingly, he was one of only 30 Patagonians honoured to have been chosen to re-enact the landings of the first Welsh settlers in the 150th Anniversary celebrations in Porth Madryn in 2015.

Jeremy is a New Zealander and has studied Welsh at Ysgol Gymraeg yr Andes, the Welsh school in Esquel.

WELSH LANGUAGE IN PATAGONIA SHORED UP WITH EIGHT-INCH NAILS

Hoelion Wyth is a Welsh phrase for somebody who can be relied upon. It literally means an eight-inch nail, which was the longest nail used in the construction of chapels in Wales and, as such, had to be very strong and reliable. It is also the name of a Welsh society whose motto is “Nid rhwd anrhydedd hoelen”, which means, more or less, “A nail doesn’t wear rust with honor”.

Hoelion Wyth is a society to which honor and trustworthiness are very important. It was founded many years ago and the members (about 200 people) meet every month throughout Wales to enjoy wine and conversation. They regularly invite people with an interesting story to tell to attend their meetings and speak to them.

In 2015, I had the pleasure of taking 4 of their members for a trip around Chubut, the Argentinian province where all the Welsh towns and communities lie. In anticipation of their love of wine, I loaded 14 cases of Patagonian wine into my Toyota 4×4 and we travelled from Puerto Madryn on the Atlantic coast to Trevelin in the Andes for two weeks, meeting many members of the Welsh community, visiting homes, farms, schools and cemeteries, travelling to some of the most remote corners of Chubut to see our national parks, glaciers, deserts, geology and dinosaurs. And, with each Welsh Patagonian experience, we enjoyed Patagonian wine.

All my passengers were/are fluent in the Welsh language and use it in preference to English when they speak to each other. Outside Wales, the only place in the world where the language is still spoken is Chubut. Therefore, the most emotional moments we shared during our trip were when we met Argentinians who spoke Welsh and when we visited schools in Patagonia to see children learning and speaking Welsh.

Our visitors understand that the Welsh language is endangered in Chubut and that no money is available from any official source in Chubut to pay for Welsh schools. Therefore, when they returned to Wales, they talked about how they could combine the interests of their Society with the strengthening of the Welsh language in Argentina. The magic formula was then invented – to import wine from Patagonia to sell in Wales (and the rest of the UK) and to donate all the profits to our school in Trevelin, Ysgol y Cwm (which means School of the Valley). At that time, in the early days of the project, they bought the wines from importing agents in Wales and added labels around the necks of the bottles to demonstrate the connection with the Welsh School in Patagonia. To date, they have already raised over $15,000 and haven’t taken a penny in profit themselves.

The group has just visited Patagonia again (much to the regret of my liver) and, on this occasion, we visited the Bodega del Fin del Mundo (literally, the Vineyard at the Bottom of the World), a Patagonian estate of almost 5,000 acres of 12 different grape varieties and with a production capacity of over 10 million bottles per year.

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We spent the day with Julio Viola, the son of the founder of the vineyard, who insisted that we try over 30 different bottles from the estate, ranging from delicate champagnes to raunchy reds, and that we explain in more detail about the Welsh language still spoken in Trevelin (a few hundred kilometres south of the vineyard) and how the vineyard could help us raise more money for Ysgol y Cwm.

We left many hours later, most on wobbly legs, with a commitment from the vineyard to look seriously into a production run in Patagonia of a Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon blend with a label, in Welsh, explaining the presence of the Welsh language in Argentina and the continued teaching and promotion of it at Ysgol y Cwm.

For more information on the wine, please contact John Watkin – jobawat1@gmail.com

YSGOL Y CWM

The first Welsh settlers arrived in Patagonia in 1865. In 2015, we commemorated the 150th anniversary of their arrival and there were celebrations throughout Chubut. In 2013, the Welsh communities in Esquel and Trevelin met to decide how they would celebrate 2015. (I live in Esquel and I am a member of the Committee of the Welsh Society in Trevelin.) I suggested that we should not plan to do many things, but that we should plan only one thing and that we should concentrate all our efforts to do that thing very well. At that time, children and adults received their Welsh lessons by visiting classrooms in Esquel and Trevelin, but we did not have a full-time school. We decided to build a bilingual Welsh/Spanish school for children between 4 and 11 years of age! The school would teach the Argentine national curriculum in Spanish and Welsh!

The Governor of Chubut (Martin Buzzi) at that time promised to pay about half of the costs as part of his contribution to the 150th Anniversary celebrations. Of course, he paid nothing. Mario Das Neves, the next Governor, also paid nothing. The National Government of Cristina Fernandez paid nothing and the current National Government of Mauricio Macri paid nothing. In fact, the Minister of Education in Macri’s government said that it was the national policy not to support bilingual schools.

The Welsh Society in Trevelin owned some land near to the centre of the town. It decided to divide the land into building plots and sell the plots to raise money to build the school. It did not expect to sell all the plots immediately and therefore asked an Argentine-Welsh architect from Esquel to design a school which could be built in stages – a few classrooms at a time. As it sold more land, it could build more classrooms. Of course, it didn’t anticipate how quickly the Argentine peso would go down and how quickly inflation would increase. But, despite all these difficulties, the school was opened on time in 2016 with the first class of children. Each year since, it has introduced another class. In March 2019, it will introduce another class and open the 5 new classrooms, which are nearing completion (at the moment, the Welsh Society does not have enough money – about 5,000 dollars – to pay for a boiler, so there is a chance that the very picky Argentine inspectors may delay the opening).

Trevelin and the Welsh community in the Andes now have a nursery school and a junior school, which are recognized by the Chubut government and which are regularly inspected. The project has been so successful that it has a waiting list of parents who wish to send their children to the school. The reason for its success, despite being a fee-paying school, is that the school has “old-fashioned” values, that its teachers are committed and passionate and that it is not influenced by the politics of education at a national or provincial level. The majority of children who attend the school have no Welsh blood, but their parents recognize the above benefits, plus the internationally acknowledged merits of a bilingual education (irrespective of what the languages are).

The business model for the school is that the Welsh Association raises funds for construction and it provides the school buildings to a separate legal entity which operates and runs the school. This entity pays all the running costs, pays the teachers and collects the fees from the parents and from adult learners, who use the school facilities at evening classes. The school also receives assistance from the Welsh government, which provides the services of a Welsh teacher on a half-time basis (the other half of the teacher’s time is spent in nearby Esquel). However, the school receives virtually no financial support from the government in Chubut, which pays for one administrator and for 22 hours of teaching per week.

In 2018, the school employed a teacher from Wales, paid for from its own funds, and provided accommodation for her and her family. In 2019, an additional teacher from Wales will be recruited and paid for by the school. Your correspondent opened a bank account for the school in London and it receives money from supporters across the world in the form of standing orders and one-off donations. Trevelin is twinned with Aberteifi/Cardigan and they also hold fund-raising events for the school.

When the group from  Hoelion Wyth came to the school, the children welcomed them with songs in Welsh and the ceremonial raising of the Welsh flag.

The Welsh society is now preparing another piece of land for sale to build houses. With the money received, it is planning the final phase – a small (400 seats) concert facility for use of the school and a permanent home for the annual Welsh festival, the Trevelin Eisteddfod.

For more information, please contact jeremywood@welshpatagonia.com

♦ end ♦

 

Housing in Colonial Wales: The Sun King teams up with The Godfather

Let’s begin by setting out my stall: Housing in Wales is dysfunctional, inefficient, corrupt, wasteful of public funding, damaging to Welsh community life, and undermines Welsh nationhood.

It’s a great system . . . but not for the Welsh.

LE ROI SOLEIL

In an earlier post (scroll down to the section ‘Who will buy . . . ‘), we met Dr Glen Peters. An interesting character, Glen.

Before moving to Wales he was a senior partner in PwC, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, those pillars of the City of London that give glowing reports of financial health to firms about to head up Shit Creek and when they’re not doing that they’re extolling the probity of corrupt third world regimes.

The ‘Big Four’ will do and say anything for money. Making Peters a man with an interesting past.

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He seems to have arrived in Wales in 2010 and in December of that year he founded Western Solar Ltd.

He also launched himself as the beneficent and culture-loving squire with Menter Rhosygilwen, a charity (No 1139848) which, to judge by its programme, at least recognises it is in Wales. Rhosygilwen being the name of his mansion not far from Cilgerran in north Pembrokeshire; with performances taking place in Neuadd y Dderwen, which looks like a set for Game of Thrones. Neuadd y Dderwen must have cost a few bob.

Being a man who understands money it didn’t take Glen long to realise how easy it is to screw grants out of the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’. For it came to pass that he received £141,000 to turn an old cowshed into a small factory turning out units for eco-friendly homes.

Six such properties were built in the off-the-beaten-track hamlet of Glanrhyd, a development called Pentre Solar. We are told that these were built specifically for the Ateb group (formerly Pembrokeshire Housing) who took all six of them for £900,000. Money it had been loaned by the aforementioned and self-styled ‘Welsh Government’.

But given that there is no worthwhile oversight or monitoring of ‘loans’ it’s unlikely this money will ever be repaid. As far as the ‘Welsh Government’ is concerned, once the money is gone, and the boxes are ticked, that’s the end of it.

Though there are a number of curious features about this deal.

Let’s start with the fact that in a number of places it’s claimed that these eco homes were built for half the price of traditional brick-built homes. For example, in this video, at 0:32, by Peters himself. Yet Ateb paid £900,000 for six properties, £150,000 per home.

To build a traditional 2/3-bedroom, semi-detached house in north Pembrokeshire would cost £90,000 – 120,000. Which means that if Glen Peters is right, and he could build his houses for half that, then he made a very tidy profit when Ateb paid him £150,000 per house.

Something else that troubles me is that housing associations like Ateb already receive millions of pounds every year from various funding streams, so why was it necessary to bung them another £900,000? Because I’m damn sure the Tŷ Solar properties were not bought to meet a pressing local demand out in the middle of nowhere.

Question 1: Can Ateb guarantee that the houses at Glanrhyd, paid for with Welsh public funding, were allocated to Welsh people?

Whatever the answers, a lot of moolah has already gone west and there’s more on the way. Next up is a 15-home ‘garden village’ for Boncath. Why Boncath? Well it might be because that’s where Victoria Beard lives. ‘Who’s she, Jac?’ you demand.

Well, she appeared on the website a few months back (before I wrote my earlier piece), as one of the locals connected with, or employed by, Menter Rhosygilwen. Though I’m told she was actually employed by Pembrokeshire county council before branching out on her own with Foresight She Ltd, yet another ‘consultancy’ that seems to have gone the way of all flesh.

BURRY PORT

Also mentioned in the piece I linked to regarding Boncath is “a 30-unit scheme of affordable homes already lined up for a site in Carmarthenshire on behalf of Carmarthenshire County Council”. To be specific, this development is in Burry Port, to the west of Llanelli.

For some reason Burry Port has been targeted for excessive development in recent years with hundreds of new houses built, almost all of which have been bought by English buyers, mainly retirees or those close to retirement. Yet more housing is planned – and Plaid Cymru welcomes it!

Councillor Alun Lenny is quoted as saying, “There’s 103 first-step homes here, affordable homes, all low cost homes”. Yet the WalesOnline report in which he’s quoted tells us: “There will be eight different house types on the new development, mainly two and three-bedroom homes, as well as some with four bedrooms, with the majority semi-detached.” And goes on to say: “21 of the 103 homes will be offered as affordable housing for sale or rent”.

Four-bedroom houses are not “first-step homes”.

Plaid Cymru really hasn’t got a clue. They don’t even understand what they’re giving planning permission for. No wonder Wales is in the mess it is. Though it would have been nice if the report had told us who plans to build these houses, and how much public funding is involved.

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Question 2: For Plaid Cymru. Can you offer any promises that these “affordable homes” will be bought by local people and can you guarantee that the properties in the social housing “ghetto” (mentioned in the report) will be allocated to local people?

The development with which Glen Peters is involved in Burry Port, the “divided town which didn’t want any more new homes”, is for 32 homes to be built by Cartrefi Croeso Cyf., which we looked at in the previous post. Let’s remind ourselves what we read there.

The managing director of Cartrefi Croeso is Robin Staines, and the sole directors are Jacob Morgan and Sarah Wendy Walters, also employees of Carmarthenshire county council. Which effectively means that this company belongs to Mark Vincent James, the Cardiff Bay property magnate who doubles up as CEO of Cyngor Sir Gâr.

But why would a council with its own housing department need Cartrefi Croeso? I suppose an obvious answer might be that the county can no longer build new council housing. But then, there are any number of housing associations operating in the county – shouldn’t they be filling the gap? The obvious answer to that is, yes they should. And to all intents and purposes they are.

But Mark James doesn’t control those housing associations.

‘STICK ON A FEW SOLAR PANELS – BINGO!’

Even so, let’s not be too hard on Jamesie Boy, because he’s received great encouragement from (the aforementioned and self-styled) ‘Welsh Government’; that shower is providing the funding for what appear to be the retirement properties Cartrefi Croeso plans to build.

Specifically, the funding comes from the Innovative Housing Programme, launched in February 2017. In its first year the IHP was restricted to Registered Social Landlords and councils, but in its second year – beginning April 2018 – it was open to private companies, which explains the involvement of Cartrefi Croeso. For although it’s owned by the council it is a private company and registered as such with Companies House.

Though it seems to have given itself a wide remit, as shown in the panel below, taken from the Companies House entry. The first two categories, 41100 and 41202, obviously cover the Burry Port development, but the other two suggest it might be worth keeping an eye on Cartrefi Croeso.

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Over three years the Innovative Housing Programme budget will shell out £90m.

We’ve come a long way from the £141,000 given to Glen Peters to convert the old cowshed. We’ve considered a lot of Welsh public funding, and you have to ask how much benefit Welsh people and Welsh communities will derive from this expenditure. As I mentioned earlier, the properties being built by Mark James Cartrefi Croeso in Burry Port are almost certainly retirement properties.

Given the excessive housebuilding the town has seen in recent years, and the buyers’ profile, I can’t help wondering if someone, somewhere, has designated Burry Port a retirement settlement. Perhaps the locals should be informed?

Question 3: For Lesley Griffiths. Why is your self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ giving public funding to private companies to build new homes – for which there may be no local demand – when you already fund countless housing associations and there is already a private sector building open market dwellings?

Almost inevitably, there are hidden costs to the Welsh public purse, for in this article from last week’s Tivyside Advertiser Glen Peters tells us that to build his houses, “Welsh tree trunks will arrive at one end and houses will emerge from the other” . . . which will mean paying ‘re-wilders’ and the like to plant more trees.

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As I said earlier, it’s a great system . . . but not for us.

LABYRINTHINE, CORRUPT, COLONIALIST

Looking at the wider picture, housing in Wales is an absolute shambles. I could write a book about it, but it would be too depressing, it would drive me to drink. One example, again from the Wild West, might serve to explain what I mean.

Ateb has a subsidiary named Mill Bay Homes. I’ve written about Mill Bay Homes more than once, and had threats from solicitors for suggesting that everything was not above board. Just type ‘Mill Bay Homes’ into the Search box at the top of the sidebar.

Since then, Mill Bay Homes has gone entirely private, is no longer a Registered Social Landlord, and yet is still somehow part of the Ateb group. But despite being a free-flying bird MBH still owes the parent company £5.5m, secured with a floating charge over everything MBH has.

Much of this five-and-a-half million pounds – and the debt was larger at one time – is public funding given to Ateb, then transferred to Mill Bay Homes for it to build nice properties in Pembrokeshire for investors, retirees, and those seeking a holiday home.

How about that – holiday homes funded from the Welsh public purse!

Even if you’ve never heard of Walter Scott’s Marmion I bet you’ll be familiar with “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive”. Though I’m not for one minute suggesting that it’s apposite to the relationship between the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’, the Ateb group and Mill Bay Homes.

To explain how convoluted and confusing it can all get when publicly-funded bodies spawn private companies let us hie to Cilgerran, just a short distance from Glen Peter’s sumptuous pad.

There we find properties being built by Mill Bay Homes. Here’s one for sale with John Francis and it offers ‘Shared Ownership’ (actually a shared lease). Ateb, the Registered Social Landlord, is allowed to offer Shared Ownership, but Mill Bay Homes, the private company, is not.

Question 4: I throw this one out for anyone. Seeing as private company, non-RSL, Mill Bay Homes should not be offering buyers ‘Shared Ownership’ why is it allowed to do so?

Maybe I’m wasting my time, for as I say, there is no effective monitoring or oversight of housing associations.

It’s a jungle that gets more impenetrable every year. But that’s how housing associations like it. That’s how the ‘Welsh Government’ likes it. And it’s certainly how those who control devolution in Wales like it. You and I are not supposed to understand . . . or question.

But sod it, because I’m going to end with some questions for the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’:

  • Why do you allow the building of so many houses Wales doesn’t need, at prices most Welsh people can’t afford, and often in places where these properties are not needed?
  • Given the way housing associations operate tens of million of pounds every year is spent housing people with no Welsh connections, so how difficult would it be to insist on a five-year residency qualification for social housing, and then divert the money saved to the NHS and education?
  • Why do you not ban publicly-funded bodies from setting up private subsidiaries that often receive indirect public funding and yet over which you have even less influence than the parent?
  • If you’re serious about encouraging the private sector why threaten it with these private subsidiaries that also have the unfair advantage of insider knowledge?
  • Will you examine the relationship between Ateb and Mill Bay Homes and all similar publicly-funded bodies with private subsidiaries?
  • Can you offer a definition of ‘affordable housing’?
  • Thinking of Burry Port, do you ever consult local people over plans for their community – real locals?
  • Explain how it is in the interests of Wales to attract an elderly population from outside of Wales?
  • Will you revisit the £900,000 given to Ateb to purchase six properties from Western Solar Ltd that – if the builder is correct – cost less than half of that sum to build?
  • Why do we have so many housing associations competing with each other, duplicating each other’s role, and all in receipt of public funding? How much do you estimate could be saved from mergers, simply on chief executives’ salaries?
  • What do you intend doing to help those in the south east currently being outbid in the local property market by commuters from Bristol?
  • Why don’t you relieve local authorities of the hassle by imposing a national 200% council tax on all second homes? And close the loophole.
  • Can you guarantee that there are no properties sold as holiday homes that were built with public funding, or bought using one of the many schemes you offer to help people buy a home?
  • Even though you’ve had twenty years, why have you found it impossible to develop a housing sector attuned to and serving the needs of Welsh people?

♦ end ♦