Well, here we are again, with the latest instalment in this saga, and the first since Weep for Wales 19 in November 2021. As that title tells you, there were 18 previous instalments (and a few updates scattered about), so set a day aside if you want to catch up with it all.
For this latest chapter I’ve had to buy quite a few documents from the Land Registry, so why not help out by making a contribution? Just click on the ‘Donate’ button in the sidebar. (Believe me, you’ll feel better for it!)
I should add that WfW 20 contains, inevitably, a considerable amount of update; because without understanding the past it’s difficult to make sense of the present, and impossible to make informed assessments of what lies ahead.
Though I’m hoping this contribution ends the saga; and that the current owners, and future owners, give me no reason to return to Plas Glynllifon.
Let’s start with the location. Plas Glynllifon is an impressive old pile found just outside the village of Llandwrog, on the A499, a few miles south west of Caernarfon.
That said, it’s not that old, having been built in the decade after 1836 for Spencer Bulkeley Wynn, third Baron Newborough. But on the site of at least three earlier houses. (The eighth baron can now be found at the Rhug Estate.)
By one route or another the Glynllifon estate passed to Caernarvon County Council, then its successor authority, Cyngor Gwynedd, before it became the responsibility of Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, which merged in 2012 with with Coleg Llandrillo and Coleg Menai to form Grŵp Llandrillo Menai.
But soon after the handover in 2001 – maybe even before – it became clear that while a further education college could certainly use the other buildings it had no need of the mansion, and so it was put up for sale.
Though I find it odd that this company was set up as early as 7 November, 2000, by pharmacist Dr Devendra Shah. For this was even before the site was officially handed over to Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor.
But it was two and a half years after its formation when Glynllifon Ltd bought the mansion for a stated £500,000. Though by then Shah was long gone, and the only director at the time of the purchase was Pravin Gabhubha Jadeja.
Their company is still alive, with four outstanding charges. The long-departed Welsh Development Agency is owed an unspecified amount from March 2004, and Cyngor Gwynedd £130,000 from a month later. (The two may be linked.)
All the various purchases and Land Registry titles involved can be found in this table I’ve drawn up for you. (Available here in pdf format with working hyperlinks.)
The way this 2003 transfer was done, or perhaps the way it wasn’t done, has caused confusion for many people over the years, myself included.
I say that because if we consult the original Land Registry title number CYM 8531 we see that ‘The Mansion House and Glynllifon Estate, Glynllifon, Caernarfon’, is still shown as belonging to Grŵp Llandrillo Menai. Which is obviously not the case.
Confusion added to by the real title document for the mansion, CYM127981, referring to ‘land adjoining Glynllifon College, Clynnog Road, Caernarfon (LL54 5DU)’.
I’m sure this mess could be tidied up without too much trouble or expense.
Despite liabilities pushing two million pounds Glynllifon Ltd hoped to give out an impression of liquidity by valuing the mansion at £2,245,053 and claiming a share issue of £400,000.
No one was fooled. And so the company was voluntarily liquidated in April 2016 with the mansion, Plas Glynllifon, now ‘Estimated to realise’ £720,000. A third of the valuation.
What I found strange was that, despite the charges still being outstanding, neither the Welsh Development Agency nor its successor body – the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ – was listed among Glynllifon Ltd’s creditors.
Had the debt been written off?
THE ERA OF THE CRIME FAMILIES
Now we enter the glorious chapter when Paul and Rowena Williams appear on the scene. And what a splash they made. Without going into too much detail, the Gruesome Twosome were (among other things) mortgage fraudsters.
They operated like this . . .
Step 1: Buy a property – maybe from a liquidator – for, say, £200,000.
Step 2: Set up a company to ‘buy’ that property, from yourself.
Step 3: Get a qualified (but bent) valuer to say the property is worth £1,000,000.
Step 4: Ask a bank to loan the new company £500,000 to help buy the property.
The bank is happy to lend the money in the belief that even if the company goes bust it can recoup its ½ million loan because it has first call on a property worth £1m.
The most outrageous example would be the Radnorshire Arms in Presteigne. It was claimed that Leisure & Development Ltd, in August 2015, paid £3,487,049 for this modest pub with a restaurant and a few rooms.
The panel below, from the Administrator’s report of July 2020, tells us that of £6.2m loaned to Leisure & Development Ltd by the NatWest, only £1.7m was repaid (realised from the sale of the properties against which the loans had been secured), leaving a shortfall of £4.5m.
But spare a thought for the unsecured creditors, owed £306,961.36, who got sod all; these were the employees, the tradesmen, the suppliers, and all the small people who lost out to Paul and Rowena Williams, and their equally crooked associates.
Plas Glynllifon was bought through a new company, Plas Glynllifon Ltd. Which soon racked up debts with the ever-obliging Together Commercial Finance. Eight charges in all, unpaid when that company went into liquidation in January 2022.
Before liquidation, with the whole scam now being exposed, help arrived in the form of Myles Cunliffe, described at the time, by Paul Williams, as a “finance guy”.
Which would be one way of putting it. For Cunliffe and his mentor, Jon Disley, were certainly involved in money, and on an international scale.
But the poor buggers working for the new management saw no real change. For just like those the Williamses had abandoned in Powys and elsewhere, the staff at Seiont Manor were left high and dry, unpaid, just before Christmas 2019.
The first development to report is that Seiont Manor and its ‘gatehouse’ property, Llwyn y Brain Lodge, which were owned by Paul and Rowena Williams and then the Disley-Cunliffe gang, have now been separated from Plas Glynllifon. These properties are situated just outside the village of Llanrug, north east of Caernarfon.
The address given for these companies is, ‘The Khyber, Holyhead Road, Kingswood, Albrighton, Wolverhampton’. I couldn’t find that establishment, but I did find an Indian eatery on Waterhouse Lane, off Holyhead Road, named The New Khyber. A successor?
I have no idea what the Nedic family’s plans are for Plas Glynllifon, but last June they set up a new company, Glynllifon Estates Ltd. So, given their established interest in caravans and chalets, maybe this is the future planned for Plas Glynllifon.
Watch this space?
God knows, the old pile has suffered enough indignities in recent years, often at the hands of television. Also social media. The latter culprit includes this 37 minutes of faux terror and bullshit by some silly buggers with American accents making money out of videos for even sillier buggers.
We can but hope that the future for Plas Glynllifon is an improvement on the recent past. But this cynical old bastard is not optimistic.
And the problem is not limited to Glynllifon, for there are big, unloved old houses all over Wales.
One in the news of late stands where once stood a house that Glyndŵr knew. For Nannau is the estate where legend says the great man killed his traitorous cousin Hywel Sele, and stuffed the body into a hollow oak.
But Nannau is owned by somebody in England who doesn’t care, or doesn’t have the money to save it, and so it’s falling down.
It Nannau had belonged to Horace FitzLandgrabber, and if he had killed and cleared the Welsh off the land, no doubt our ‘Welsh Government’ and Cadw would be throwing money at it.
Maybe if the name was changed to ‘Gilestone‘ . . .
We have a problem in Wales that too many people would rather ignore. That many have never even thought about. I’m referring to the ownership of domestic property and smaller commercial buildings, also farms and land.
So many issues could be resolved by addressing that problem with a simple piece of legislation. Legislation that has been introduced in other countries.
A recent example is the Balearic Islands, part of Spain with a devolved administration. This interesting article cites both independent states and sub-national territories where such legislation exists.
There is a system in the Channel Islands that divides the housing market into ‘Open’ and ‘Closed’ sectors. A majority of domestic properties is in the ‘Closed’ sector, which is restricted to local buyers.
To qualify for ‘Entitled status’, ‘You must live on Jersey for a combined period of 10 years before you’re 40’. Which seems designed to rule out retirees.
By restricting ownership of domestic property and smaller commercial property to permanent residents of Wales, with a qualification period of 10 years, we could, in one fell swoop, solve a number of current problems. Such as . . .
The ‘Welsh Government’ has empowered councils to increase council tax on holiday homes to 300%. But even if raised to 300% these new provisions will only reduce the numbers of holiday homes not eradicate them altogether.
A bigger obstacle to Welsh people being unable to buy a home is those moving to Wales as permanent residents. With too many of these falling into the older age brackets, with the inevitable strain on our NHS and other services.
Thanks to climate hysteria and the scams it encourages we see Welsh farms bought by hedge funds for ‘greenwashing’. Welsh farms now owned by money-shufflers who can’t even pronounce the names of those farms!
I can already hear the Conservative and Unionist Party, and other defenders of England’s hegemony, tut-tutting and dismissing the very idea. One argument I guarantee we’d hear would be that the property market would collapse.
But it wouldn’t. Because its effects would be gradual. And in some areas of the country the impact would be minimal.
What’s more, in the early stages few would notice because no one would be thrown out of their home, or off their land. And we could allow properties to be passed on to (inherited by), but not sold to, non-residents.
Flexibility would be one of the keys to making the policy work. Flexibility without losing track of the objective.
Obviously, domestic property prices would fall, allowing many Welsh families to buy a home. Perhaps their first home. Who could object to that?
Just think, Gwent could be saved from degenerating into the outer suburbs of Bristol. And the north would be spared any more commuter communities linking to the A55.
But legislation such as I’m advocating would obviously have its greatest impact in our rural areas, where the indigenous Welsh population is on the point of becoming a minority. In some areas it’s passed that point.
Whereas in our cities, major towns, and post-industrial areas, where property is more affordable, and incomes generally higher, there would be less impact because there’s less cross-border ownership.
I’m open to suggestions, even criticism; but let’s at least debate the idea.
If nothing else, it would mean that I wouldn’t have to write about any more of the con artists, money launderers and other crooks I’ve written about over the years. I could instead turn my hand to embroidery.
Everyone I think accepts that in Wales we have a dysfunctional housing or property sector; one not fit for purpose, and one that certainly doesn’t serve the needs of the Welsh people.
But I’m not simply talking about holiday homes and English migrants squeezing us out of the private housing market, though that is the biggest problem in rural areas, especially in the west.
No, the issues in Welsh housing go beyond asking £2.2m for a ‘fisherman’s cottage’. There are problems less obvious, that don’t attract such attention. And yet, if these problems were remedied, then the money saved could go towards solving other issues.
In this post I shall deal with two of those problems.
There have been persistent reports of trouble in Aberystwyth of a kind that almost beggars belief. I quote from this recent report, “There’s been a number of instances where a fight took place between rival gangs from the midlands (sic), apparently, who were fighting over a turf war.”
The area worst affected is close to the castle, in the Rheidol ward. Here’s a map of that ward, with one address marked with an x on Upper Great Darkgate Street. I’ve done this because I’m going to tell you a little story.
So make yourselves comfortable.
This part of the town, Upper Great Darkgate Street, between Clock Square and the castle, holds fond memories for me. For back in the ’60s it was home to two great pubs, The Angel and The Farmers, next-door to each other.
I sank many a pint in both. And oft-times in wonderful company. I have great memories of Cayo on his accordion leading the ensemble.
The Farmers is closed, but the Angel is still open, but obviously not what it used to be, to judge by this review. Though if they think this is the dirtiest, scruffiest pub in Wales, then the Sheppey family of Pontypool enjoy a very sheltered life.
Note the reference to this pub being “full of drug people”.
The reason you’re traipsing down Memory Lane with me is because, back in June 2019, I was in the vicinity when I came across a strange scene. The road around the clock tower was blocked off by the police and I could see somebody up on a second floor window sill, apparently threatening to jump.
I joined the small throng that had gathered to shout advice to the would-be jumpee. (For next to suspenders and stockings few things get the old Jac adrenalin pumping better than a raucous mob!)
Realising I was going to use this image sent me to the Land Registry website, where I was able to establish that the property in question – No 50 – is owned by our old friends Wales & West Housing.
The property was originally bought by Cymdeithas Tai Pumlumon in 1989, which merged with Cymdeithas Tai Dyffryn Teifi in 1993 to form Cymdeithas Tai Cantref. Cantref was eventually swallowed up by Wales & West in 2016.
Which is just before the problems in this part of Aberystwyth started.
Wales & West has an appalling record for dumping petty criminals and drug addicts on Welsh towns and villages. In this news report from January 2018 W&W admits there have been “issues” in Lampeter.
That’s because Wales & West is a business, and housing England’s problems pays well. Which goes hand in hand with W&W rejecting its responsibility to Welsh communities, or Wales in general, and its “Do we have to!” attitude towards the Welsh language.
Though this recent report from the Tivy-Side Advertiser about W&W’s plan to damage a community in north Pembrokeshire makes clear that locals now know exactly how Wales & West operates.
But Wales & West is not alone in causing the kind of problems we see in Aberystwyth. A few other housing associations do the same thing, then there are third sector bodies, and private landlords. Often working together, as we saw in Tyisha, Llanelli.
But what makes Wales & West especially damaging is that it’s the biggest housing association in Wales, and it achieved that position through favouritism and funding from the ‘Welsh’ Labour ‘Government’, and through operating a business model that a more responsible organisation would reject.
Can you imagine a Labour Party election manifesto that read: “We shall increase funding to housing associations and third sector bodies so they can bring into Wales more criminals, drug addicts and families from hell”?
It seems that Kayleigh Parnham can no longer afford to rent a home for herself and her three children in Kent and so, “in a few weeks’ time she will be moving more than 200 miles away to Wales”.
Later we read, “Miss Parnham says a friend who found herself in a similar situation moved to a town in Wales – so she has decided to follow suit, successfully applying for a council house.”
(Though of course “council house” in this instance could mean any kind of social housing, which would include housing association properties.)
The question many of you are now asking is – How does this woman qualify for social housing in Wales? So let’s examine some possibilities. (Here I am indebted to a couple of people who contacted me after I put out this tweet on Sunday.)
The article tells us that Kayleigh Parnham has lived in Kent all her life. This rules out her having local connections with any part of Wales. But it mentions her “friend” who made the move, so is she claiming kinship with this trailblazer and saying she needs to be near relatives?
Because this is a loophole often exploited.
This loophole also explains how a youngster who’s got into trouble is ‘adopted’ by Wales-based do-gooders and then, within months, his extended criminal family appears. And is immediately housed.
Cos there’s good money to be made.
Another scam, rife in coastal areas, is to move your family into a caravan – plenty available, especially in winter – claim “cramped living conditions”, etc, then tell the nice lady from Cwmscwt Housing Association that little Chardonnay is coughing all the time and you’ll soon be offered a nice big house.
Or, if that doesn’t appeal, then find anywhere to live, stick it out for six months and, bingo! – you qualify as ‘local’. Look you.
I even knew one guy, came down from Manchester, pitched a tent on Tywyn beach for himself, his wife, and their 5 kids. An absolute rogue. I used to go drinking with him. I even got talked into ferreting for rabbits one forgettable Sunday.
But these scenarios don’t seem to apply here. It looks as if Kayleigh Parnham, living in Kent, is just waltzing straight into a home in Wales. A country she may never even have visited.
The photo in the article I’ve linked to shows Ms Parnham with her two daughters, but there is a third child, her son, 12-year-old Alex. And as this article from the Daily Mirror informs us, Alex has ‘issues’.
Not only are we taking in a family with no Welsh connections, it looks as if one of the children will need expensive treatment.
Thank God Wales is a wealthy country!
But it’s not just Kayleigh Parnham and the friend who preceded her coming to Wales.
This story carried by CornwallLive is headlined: “Ponsanooth mum might be forced to move to Cardiff after eviction notice”.
I love the use of “forced”. But then, I’d have to be dragged kicking and screaming to live in Cardiff . . . and I’d leg it at the first opportunity.
To misquote that great Swansea poet, Harri Webb. Better a shed in Landore than a mansion in Lisvane.
The issue for mother-of-four Rae Layton in Cornwall is Section 21 notices, which allow a landlord to evict a tenant with just two months notice. Often done to switch that property to Airbnb or to sell as a retirement / holiday home.
Or else the sitting tenant is evicted and the property is rented out again at a greatly increased rent. Which is what seems to have happened to Laura Williams of Penzance, another woman with four children.
One contact on Sunday directed me to the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, and in particular sections 73 and 75. Where we read that Wales has an obligation to house the homeless, no matter where they come from. In some circumstances the obligation extends to those who are intentionally homeless.
This looks like another nice little earner.
Because I bet that a Welsh council or housing association taking in a family from almost anywhere in England will be able to charge the ‘home’ authority more than they could charge local tenants. And the ‘home’ authority won’t mind paying because it’ll still be cheaper than if they’d housed that family locally.
As with housing criminals, drug addicts, neighbours from Hell, it’s a business model.
But what about local people waiting for social housing, who see people with no local connections being housed ahead of them time after time after time, because they are “priority cases”?
I don’t wish to appear heartless, these women obviously need help. But they should not be our problem. Section 21 evictions are happening all over England – do we take them all in?
It doesn’t matter which vantage point you take, or which sector you focus on, the housing market in Wales is screwed.
In the village where I live every property that comes up for sale is bought by an English buyer. Either as a holiday home or somewhere to retire to.
There’s little demand for social housing because there is no employment locally, so young people leave. This explains the closure of the village school, the age profile, and the language shift.
I was only able to buy the house I live in thanks to Right to Buy legislation. This provided the only chance for most locals to buy a home in many parts of Wales. Especially coastal and rural areas.
But the socialists in Corruption Bay did away with Right to Buy. Hypocrites, many owning two or three properties. That’s ‘socialism’ for you.
A country with a modicum of self-government becoming increasingly less accommodating to its native population suggests either a malevolent guiding hand or incompetence such as no nation should be expected to tolerate.
Radical action is needed to put things right. Here are some suggestions:
Instead of tinkering with council tax rates that councils will never have the balls to implement, the ‘Welsh Government’ should itself impose a 500% national surcharge on all holiday homes.
Airbnb and similar operations should be banned from Wales.
Failing this, then we must have a split market such as operates on the Channel Islands. This sees most properties reserved for local buyers, with a smaller ‘open’ market accessible to everyone.
Something that could be implemented tomorrow – and should be – is the ‘Welsh Government’ ceasing to fund housing associations and third sector bodies that bring in criminals and other undesirables from England. (A practise that should surely compete with Einstein’s [alleged] definition of insanity.)
Close the loophole that allows the victim of a greedy landlord in the bucolic idyll of Scrotum Parva to qualify immediately for social housing in Wales. This is England’s problem, not ours.
Make local connection the overriding qualification for social housing in Wales. And someone has to have lived in Wales for at least 5 years before they qualify as ‘local’.
The options are endless for those with imagination and the will to implement the kind of legislation Welsh people need. Regrettably, both imagination and the will to act in the nation’s interests are alien to the political class that claims to be running Wales.
But something must be done to straighten out a housing sector currently working against Welsh interests; otherwise Welsh people becoming strangers in their own country will be perfectly justified in taking matters into their own hands.
Finally, and this should go without saying – don’t vote for a socialist party tomorrow. Vote for a party that is uncompromisingly Welsh or, seeing as these are local elections, give your vote to a decent independent candidate.
At the very end of the latest Heritage Great Britain Annual Report & Accounts we read that everything is owned by a Jersey company:
So the Snowdon Mountain Railway Ltd is owned by Heritage Great Britain PLC which in turn is owned by Cherberry Ltd of Jersey.
And as I found out when writing the earlier piece, Cherberry Ltd of Jersey is in turn owned by Dukla Ltd of Gibraltar, set up August 2015. And Dukla is probably owned by a company based in an even more sun-blest location.
So it’s Snowdonia to Liverpool, Liverpool to Jersey, Jersey to Gibraltar, Gibraltar to God knows where.
Which means that the patriotically named Heritage Great Britain PLC is ultimately owned by an entity based offshore. But why would a company running tourist attractions need such a twisted web of ownership?
His interests are now looked after by his son, Allan James Stuart Leech, who sits as a director on the boards of these companies.
The reason I’m returning to the Snowdon Mountain Railway is because of its new hybrid locos, built by Clayton Equipment of Staffordshire. Word has it that these new locos are not performing as hoped.
As you can read in this piece from the Rail Technology Magazine website, “SMR plan to operate at Llanberis entirely on battery power, operate the generator charging on the uphill journey, turn off the generator on the downhill journey and use the regenerative braking to recharge the battery packs”.
The problem I’m hearing about seems to be two-fold. First, the batteries don’t charge as the loco descends, with the brakes on; and second, the brakes themselves don’t work too well as brakes. And with each battery weighing ten tonne, this is a serious matter.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions these problems have been hidden, but they won’t go away. And with the SMR planning a full switch to electric and hybrid technology they need to be fixed, pronto.
Due to this problematic investment in hybrid locos, and the loss of income from Covid-19, there must be a possibility that the Snowdon Mountain Railway will soon be seeking financial support from the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’.
The ‘Welsh Government’ should not give a penny to a company that is ultimately owned by persons or companies based in tax havens.
BALA LAKE RAILWAY
One toy train that is definitely seeking ‘Welsh Government’ money is the Bala Lake Railway.
The BLR line currently runs from Llanuwchllyn up the eastern – Llangower – side of Llyn Tegid to Pen-y-Bont station, near to where Afon Dyfyrdwy (Dee) leaves on its journey to the border and the sea.
Last Friday we learnt that the Bala Lake Railway is asking the ‘Welsh Government’ for £2.5m to extend the line to a new station in the town of Bala. And the ‘Welsh Government’ seems keen on giving the money. (Kenny – ‘Flint Ring’ – Skates is already brushing his teeth for the photo op as you read this.)
Then, in a couple of places, I read, as the aim: “To advance enjoyment, education and learning and to promote regional public benefit through the restoration, maintenance and exhibition by operation steam locomotives, rolling stock and other railway artefacts directly associated with the slate industry of north Wales and in particular those regions of Dinorwic and Penrhyn.”
But the Bala Lake Railway runs along a stretch of the old line from Barmouth to Ruabon. It has no connection with the slate industry, and certainly not with Dinorwic or Penrhyn. (Did I say ‘Penrhyn’! That BLM woman will be after me!)
So who runs this show . . . from Shepton Mallet? The six trustees are: Squadron Leader Toby Kenneth Watkins, Steve Valentine, Julian Peter Charles Birley, Roger Hine, Christina Lillian Kennedy, Steve Davies.
Hine was quoted: “I didn’t expect to be cut off in peak season. My next door neighbour runs a guest house and said it was typical in Wales because they are not tourism-orientated.” Useless bloody Welsh! Thank God the English come here to run the tourism industry for us. Did I just say, ‘for us’!
Steve Valentine “owns and runs an award-winning confectionery company in Bala which is also the town’s largest single employer”. This is presumably Gwynedd Confectioners, though the company registered with Companies House is Sweet Valentine Limited, with a Porthmadog address.
I would have expected to see ‘trading as’ somewhere in the Sweet Valentine documents filed with Companies House, but I couldn’t find anything.
Two military officers, someone awarded the British Empire Medal, and the rest suggest a very English establishment outfit. The only thing the Bala Lake Railway seems to want from us is our country and our money.
The question is, boys and girls: Should £2.5m of Welsh public money be used to fund a hobby train, one encouraging the ‘Playground Wales’ tourism that is turning us into strangers in our own country, or should those involved be told to steam off into the sunset?
Answers on the usual post card, please. (And if you’ve run out just send me a message on a post card and I’ll send you some more.)
Another of the ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’ is the Welsh Highland Railway, which runs the 25 miles from Caernarfon to Porthmadog via Beddgelert. At ‘Port’ it links with the Ffestiniog Railway that goes on to Blaenau Ffestiniog.
These lines are for tourists, few locals can afford to use them. I say that because it costs £80 for two to make the 15-mile trip from Caernarfon to Beddgelert in a ‘seating bay’, which I assume to be two, facing bench seats.
Which reminded me of something written by Julian Birley B.E.M. on the BLR Trust website; talking of narrow gauge railways, he said: “Largely based in rural regions, these railways are becoming a lifeline for people in areas of high unemployment and in need of regeneration.”
How true is that?
But I digress.
The reason I’m introducing the Welsh Highland Railway is because one of its directors is David Edward Firth, who happens to live in Beddgelert, so I’m sure he uses the train regularly . . . without having to pay.
Another company of which Firth is a director is Glaslyn Leisure Ltd. I’m sure the name won’t mean anything to you and I only came across it in a story about five holiday homes being sold in Beddgelert. Being sold together as an ‘investment’.
They seem to be in a cul-de-sac off the main A498.
I suppose £1.2m for five holiday homes in a place like Beddgelert is about right, but when I checked the company accounts an anomaly was revealed. For according to the accounts, or rather, the unaudited financial statement, the company’s tangible assets / net book value amount to only £275,524.
Almost a million pounds less than is being asked for the Beddgelert properties. How is this explained? In two words – debts and depreciation.
The creditors are almost certainly the four directors of Glaslyn Leisure and the debt is presumably what it cost them to buy the land and build the six properties.
Perhaps the real anomaly is depreciation. For in the real world, and especially with holiday homes in Wales, values increase every year; but in declarations to Companies House owners are allowed to apply depreciation of 2% a year on freehold property and 20% on fixtures and fittings.
Which means, over a period of time, property that is increasing in value can, on paper, be made to lose value. Clever, no?
To help me make sense of things I drew a table. Starting in 2010 we see that the fixed assets / book value stood at £526,612 which, a decade ago, with property markets still suffering from the financial crisis of 2008, might have represented some two thirds of what the properties would have fetched if they’d been sold.
This sale – the ‘disposal’ mentioned in the financial statement – also explains the reduction in the amount owed to creditors from £519,280 in 2017 to £266,433 in 2018.
I was able to get details of Plas Tegfryn from the Land Registry, but the properties for sale – Sygun, Aran, Y Garn, Hebog, Craig-y-Llan – seem not be registered by name or number. (I got the names from AirBnB.)
And of course we aren’t told how much these properties have earned in the two decades since they were built. So it could be £1.2m clear profit from the sale. Perhaps more. And it will all go to England.
I’ve included this story because it tells us so much about what’s wrong with Wales.
On the one hand we have narrow gauge railways, run by strangers, for the enjoyment of strangers; with hardly any local involvement, but always looking for Welsh public funding by suggesting they provide some public service!
And then we have the kind of tourism-linked property speculation we see in Beddgelert. But not limited to this or any other area.
For as a correspondent from Llandysul wrote a few days ago: “Stories from all directions about ‘selling a shithole house in England and buying three here. One to live in and two to rent out’. I think we’ve had it now.”
This is a decent, caring Welsh person resigned to the death of his nation.
Talking of property speculation reminds me of Jake Berry, the Conservative and Unionist MP for Rossendale and Darwen in east Lancashire. Berry owns an unknown number of properties on Ynys Môn.
One of those properties is Rhyd-y-Bont, at Rhoscolyn, an area of the island being rapidly cleansed of the Welsh and other undesirables. Berry, or his wife, Alice Molly Radclyffe Berry, bought it last year for £780,000.
The name of this rural retreat translated into English takes us to Ford Bridge Farm Ltd, a company formed in May, that uses the address of an accountant in Bacup, in Berry’s constituency. The directors are Berry and his wife, with said accountant, Paul Fitton, serving as secretary.
There have been some developments worth reporting. I just hope I can explain them.
On the Companies House website, at the top of an entry, all company names are given in upper case, so I was amazed to see, Ford Bridge, FARM LTD. Also, this curiosity has a date of birth! Though December 1983 is also when Jake Berry’s wife was born.
Had she changed her name?
At the second attempt I found another entry for Ford Bridge Farm Limited, with Palatine Hill Limited listed as an appointment. This is in addition to the original entry given above.
Palatine Hill could be a ‘Russian doll’ arrangement for Jake and his missus’ property dealings, set up to deter enquiries – cos there’s some nosy buggers out there! I suppose the next step would be offshore, but that might look bad, even for a Tory MP.
I suggest that because checking the ‘Filing history’ I saw this entry for 31 July, 2020 “Withdrawal of the directors’ residential address register information from the public register”. And if you want a ‘company snapshot’ then you’ll need to cough up £15.
As you all know, the Palatine Hill was one of the seven hills of Ancient Rome. It’s where the toffs were said to live. Which is entirely fitting for upwardly mobile Jake and Alice Berry.
But under no circumstances should it be confused with the Capitoline Hill or any of the other five. And it’s nowhere near Blueberry Hill, of which the late Antoine ‘Fats’ Domino so often sang.
See, you don’t just get informed on this blog, you get bloody well educated as well.
ONE PLANET DEVELOPMENTS
Towards the end of August I wrote Black Mountains College, in which we looked at this project in Talgarth, Powys that seeks to become a kind of university for eco-warriors.
One of the sidetracks down which comments took us led to the OPD settlement at Rhiw Las, near Whitland in Carmarthenshire. I’d been keeping an eye on this through regular updates from Companies House on Rhiw Las Ltd, a company formed in September 2013.
But of course, filings to Companies House can’t always tell us what’s happening on the ground. And that’s why I’m indebted to those who commented to the blog or contacted me in other ways.
The 21.5 acre Rhiw Las site is made up of four couples living on separate OPDs, each of roughly 5 acres. Planning permission was granted by the Planning Inspectorate in June 2016 after being rejected by Carmarthenshire planning committee.
The stated thinking behind OPDs is to encourage people to live self-sufficient, off-grid lifestyles, in order to reduce Wales’ carbon footprint. The fact that all those choosing to live on OPDs have moved to Wales, thereby increasing Wales’ carbon footprint, is an inconvenient truth and therefore ignored.
As it is set out in the ‘Welsh Government’s Technical Advice Note 6 the strategy is about “delivering sustainable rural communities”. And what a welcome innovation this will be, for in the 10,000 years since the retreat of the ice Wales has never known sustainable rural communities.
Soon after releasing into the wild the piece about Black Mountains College news started arriving about the denizens of Rhiw Las. One couple in particular may have been telling porkies about where they live, and what they do.
I’m referring now to Chris Vernon and Erica Thompson. That’s Dr Chris Vernon, who works for the Met Office in Bristol; and Dr Erica Thompson, a Fellow of the London School of Economics.
When she’s not teaching in London, or attending conferences, or at her holiday home OPD, Erica Thompson is chairwoman of the One Planet Council. Which means that she knows the buzz-words, she has the connections, and the buttons she needs to push are invitingly illuminated.
OPDs can look commendable, deserving of support, until you learn more and appreciate the bullshit involved.
Great dollops of which can be found in the Management Plan for Rhiw Las, that accompanied the planning application. It makes a big thing of the availability of wild food. But if you’re going to use wild food to strengthen your case then you might as well say there’ll be lots of air to breathe, and birds singing, and flies flying . . .
One Planet Developments are supposed to be about people doing things for themselves, not relying entirely on Mother Nature . . . plus of course, the Met Office and the LSE.
Then there’s Wycliffe Tippins, another resident of Rhiw Las. It seems Wycliffe lives or works in Gloucestershire. As a comment to the Black Mountains College post told us, “Wycliffe is a computer games developer. Another useful addition to the rural skillset at Rhiw Las !”
What’s more, not so long ago, Wycliffe was advertising for unpaid help to look after his OPD while he was designing computer games in England.
And before he was even using the static caravan on his visits to Wales, and before Rhiw Las was given planning permission, Wycliffe was demanding a strong Well-being of Future Generations Bill! Which would of course be of benefit to him and his friends.
Which meant he was trying to influence Welsh legislation when he wasn’t even pretending to be living here! Arrogant colonialist fucker!
Another member of the Rhiw Las gang who may be working full-time in England is Dr Paul Jennings. But what I found really interesting about him came from this interview with Lowimpact.org in April.
Contrary to what I’m sure most of us believed, according to Paul Jennings, ‘The (OPD) policy is intended to strengthen local, rural economies in Wales – it’s not about self-sufficiency.’ Though in other areas he agrees with us.
Over at Lammas we find Cassandra Lishman, the ‘Woman of the Willows’. Are she and her husband living a self-sufficient, off-grid lifestyle? Almost certainly not, for as the article tells us, hubby “Nigel has a ‘conventional’ job as a care support worker.”
To which he drives every day.
“Cassie is at pains to stress that living at Lammas – reliant upon sun, water and wind for power, and running smallholdings in tune with nature – does not preclude having a ‘normal’ life”.
All they really want is a cheap place in the countryside. And it has to be the Welsh countryside because no other country on Earth has been so stupid as to submit to these people by introducing the OPD system.
Once they’ve got their little bit of heaven, built for a few thousand pounds, it can be sold for a premium price as a dwelling in open country.
Clearly, the OPD system is being abused on a massive scale. And yet the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ refuses to intervene, leaving local planning authorities helpless. And so the envirocolonists keep coming, in an ever-increasing tide.
Here’s what one local source told me:
“As far as I can tell there in no policing by Pembs CC and given the fear of litigation that Carm CC suffered at the hands OPD lawyers they are reluctant/can’t afford to enforce any of the planning restrictions imposed originally
I foresee many of the properties sold as general housing with a very large garden and a lifestyle
Sure as hell nobody local will be buying these properties as it will be cash buyers only, I somehow doubt that they are mortgageable
Lammas is a shambles and beyond any controls it seems. The latest episode is —– laying down on the track to stop a farmer hedge cutting because he can’t get his hay equipment to fields further up the hill
There are more appearing in the valley and it is divisive. A farmer is buying blocks of land just to prevent more arrivals as he is already surrounded.
They are not going away so sooner or later most will be sold on the open market.
I don’t see the an end to it.
Wealthy incomers, from SE England and Bristol queuing up to buy a toy farm in countryside, working from home and not having the skills abide to OPD planning conditions. What then?
The farms are being fragmented and they will never be able to be reinstated as a viable family farm of the type that has built the indigenous community”.
I know it’s easy to laugh at these people and their pretensions, but they are ambitious, greedy, well connected, and dangerous. Never forget that the clowns in Corruption Bay have already bent over backwards to do their bidding.
The ambition I’m referring to stretches way beyond the few settlements we see today, mainly in the south west. According to Paul/Tau Wimbush, a Lammas guru, Wales could easily accommodate another 115,000 eco-holdings. That’s 414,000 people – all them land-grabbing charlatans, with few living the life they’ll claim to be living.
Chris Vernon agrees that there should be many more faux OPDs. Go to 7:10 in this video to hear him say: “There is no reason why Wales couldn’t support several tens of thousands of smallholdings in the open countryside”.
Glynllifon is a name you’ll be familiar with, but this section has nothing to do with Plas Glynllifon, the old mansion south of Caernarfon that has attracted so many crooks over recent years.
No, this Glynllifon is on Ynys Môn, near Marianglas, with Benllech to the south and Moelfre to the north. Though just like its mainland namesake it also attracts crooks!
As I was informed in a couple of anonymous e-mails earlier this month telling me that certain ‘businessmen’ had a project at Traeth Bychan, Marianglas, and that a company called Glynllifon Ltd was involved.
This company was formed 10 June last year, with Neil Moir as sole director. (The name is sometimes spelt ‘Muir’.) The company soon took out two loans with Goldcrest Finance Ltd to buy the Glynllifon hotel. Goldcrest Finance is yet another “specialist lender based in central Manchester”. How many of them are there?
Here’s the Land Registry title document. I suggest you keep it open in another window. Because before moving on to the latest developments I’d like to concentrate on the title document for a bit.
Going back to 1999 (page 2) it would appear that the Glynllifon Hotel passed from people named Beardsley to a Lesley Karen Boshell. Yet on page 3 we find that, “A Deed dated 17 September 2015 made between (1) Thelma Eileen Beardsley and (2) Ocean and Country Developments Limited contains restrictive covenants.”
Turning to Ocean & Country Developments Ltd we find Ronald Kenneth Boshell of Cheshire as a director. It’s reasonable to assume that he is related to Lesley Karen Boshell.
Ocean & Country Developments is heavily in debt and the debt may be explained by an outstanding charge held by ‘The Santhouse Pensioneer Trustee Company Limited Marc Howard and Avis Howard’ against . . . the Glynllifon Hotel. Marc Howard is the other director, with Boshell, of Ocean & Country Developments.
The Boshells were obviously living on Ynys Mon in January 2005 because this report from the Daily Post tells us that one of the Boshell children was hit by a car on the way to school.
The report also told us that, “Mr Boshell and wife Leslie (sic) said they closed the hotel last year because the road was so dangerous”. The hotel was called the Beauchelles Hotel (geddit?), though closing due to traffic is unlikely.
UPDATE 22.09.2020: My suspicion has been confirmed – the Beauchelles Hotel was Glynllifon. Sources say it went downhill, almost as if it was designed to fail.
One source sent me a photo of Ronnie Boshell, now domiciled in Spain.
“Cllr Durkin said: ‘For years now Benllech and its surrounding areas has seen a number of its prominent hotels and properties purchased by property developers just to be closed down with no work done. (My emphasis.)
‘They have been left dangerously, inadequately secured and are blots on the beautiful landscapes.”
He drew attention to Y Gorlan, on Benllech promenade, which has already been set on fire, has been left open to the elements and has become a magnet for unsuspecting children to get injured or killed.
Some of the eyesores also include the Bay Court Hotel, the Bryntyrion (sic) Hotel and the Beauchelles Hotel, which Cllr Durkin says are letting the village down.'”
It could be that companies were being set up, and property bought, to launder money. Such things happen.
The image below, from Google, was captured in July 2016. It would appear to show some plan to develop the Glynllifon site as apartments and holiday cottages, perhaps by Ocean & Country Developments Ltd.
The Boshells, or Beauchelles, appear to have moved back to north west England.
The empty and semi-derelict Glynllifon Hotel has now been bought by Glynllifon Ltd and Neil Moir. So who exactly is he?
THE winner of top TV quiz Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is set to lose his fortune – because he is a crook.
Millions saw 51-year-old Neil Muir land a £64,000 prize this week. But under the programme’s rules he is BANNED from entering.
Muir has convictions for theft, deception and forgery. And Rule 6 says: “You must… have no criminal convictions (subject to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974).” London TV company Celador launched an investigation yesterday.
Although his roots seem to be in north west England Moir is, I believe, living on Ynys Môn. In Bodorgan, on the opposite side of the island to Marianglas.
In recent days the Glynllifon Hotel has been in the news because the planned development – if it’s not another money laundering operation! – plans to open under the ‘Traeth Bychan Heights’ label. This has upset many locals angry at so many traditional names being lost.
(Bryn Llys has been renamed ‘Snowdon Summit View’.)
Now what interest would Shane Baker have in the Marianglas / Benllech area? Silly me! – it’s where the police found his boss John Joseph Duggan hiding out. Though given what we now know about the area I can’t help wondering who owned the property in which Duggan was hiding.
I’m sure I’ll return to this story in future posts. If anyone has more information, then get in touch.
Toy trains, ‘investment’ holiday homes, Tory MPs’ property empires, envirocolonists and outright crooks are just the same monster glimpsed in different lights. All elements of a colonial system that no longer simply exploits but also destroys.
Either we start taking back control, from those you’ve read about, and from those who refuse to take action against them, or it will be victory for Shane Baker and those who agree that doing away with everything that makes us Welsh is progress.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
We are confronted by a paradox. The stock of housing in Wales is growing, yet less and less of it is accessible to Welsh people.
What I’m describing is a bizarre housing system that works against the native population while promoting the interests of strangers. A system too complex and too consistent in its outcomes to be attributed to incompetence or happenstance.
Once the bigger problem is deconstructed and its component parts exposed, then remedies present themselves. All that’s needed then is the political will to implement those remedies.
In this article I shall explain a problem and then make one or more suggestions for tackling it. I’m sure many of you reading this will have your own ideas – so let’s hear them.
PRICES, TOO HIGH AND TOO LOW
When dealing with house prices we find problems at both ends of the scale. On the one hand, houses are being built in many areas that most locals can’t afford – but that’s OK because they’re not intended for us.
Take Newport, Pembrokeshire, a ‘holiday hotspot’. Locals are being squeezed out of the local housing market and this shortfall is then used to justify building new housing . . . that is also beyond the reach of locals!
Those who profit from trading in undesirables – with the full support and financial backing of the ‘Welsh Government’ – were initially attracted to Ty Isha by low house prices, and they have succeeded in driving property values down even more!
Some of those interviewed in the report are now trapped in houses they have lived in all their married lives but can only sell at a price below what a house such as theirs would fetch in a normal neighbourhood.
Yet in a system that prioritised Welsh needs the small terraced houses of Ty Isha would make ideal starter homes for young people.
SUGGESTIONS: In the case of Newport, Pembs and countless other such developments, the answer is that we simply do not allow the building of new properties that locals either do not wish to buy or cannot afford to buy.
I’ll explain later how we could both achieve this and forecast local need.
To argue that allowing such properties takes the pressure of the existing stock, thereby making many such properties available for local buyers, is absolute bollocks. The numbers wanting to relocate to Wales is limitless, and the demand for holiday homes insatiable.
As for Ty Isha, funding should be withdrawn from any third sector body importing problems from outside of Wales to any part of Wales. The same should apply to housing associations.
I shall also offer suggestions for achieving these objectives.
Those whose properties have been devalued, and their lives affected by the riff-raff dumped around them, should be compensated by the ‘Welsh Government’.
THE NUMBERS GAME
Let’s now focus on the problem of houses being built in numbers greatly in excess of what Wales needs. And, again, at prices most of us can’t afford. This is particularly noticeable in the eastern parts of the country as English commuters look west for cheaper housing and nicer scenery.
Black-spots are along the A55 in the north and the M4 in the south and, since the removal of tolls on the Severn Bridge, increasingly evident in southern Gwent, including the city of Newport. An example would be the 900 dwellings of the ‘urban village’ planned for Mamhilad, north of Pontypool, towards Abergavenny, but close enough to the M4 for Bristol commuters.
Building in Wales to meet a demand from England has also become noticeable around Wrexham in recent years. It begins with the ‘Welsh Government’ producing absurd population projections to justify building an excessive number of new houses.
Then, when the projections are shown to be exaggerated, the Planning Inspectorate insists on sticking with the original number of new houses. This article explains it well.
I looked into this problem back as March 2014 in a piece I wrote about Denbighshire. The council said, “Look, the latest projections suggest a smaller population increase, so we don’t need to build so many new houses”.
The Planning Inspectorate’s response was, “Yes, you’re right about the population projections . . . but we insist on sticking with the original number of new dwellings”.
A response like that sort of gives the game away, doesn’t it?
Back in 2011 the ‘Welsh Government’ was insisting that the population of Wrexham would increase by 20% in the near future, then the projected increase reduced to 10%, and the latest calculation is that the borough’s population will actually fall by 1.5% by 2028! Yet the number of houses ‘needed’ must remain the same as when an increase of 20% was forecast.
As the map above makes clear, the planned developments are all to the north or the east of the town, in other words, convenient for Cheshire. Or rather, convenient for those who aren’t wanted in Cheshire, in order to preserve property values in Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and the other communities of the ‘Golden Triangle’.
What has clearly been happening is that the ‘Welsh Government’ (or others acting in its name) has been producing what it knew to be inflated, contrived, population projections. Done to justify building excessive numbers of new dwellings.
When the population projections were exposed as bogus, and revised downwards, the Planning Inspectorate stuck with the discredited figures in order to push on with building what were now clearly excessive numbers of new houses.
And by so doing the Planning Inspectorate exposed a dishonest system.
SUGGESTIONS: To begin with, calculations to determine how many new homes an area needs must be based on what the people of the area need, not on how many properties developers think they can sell. In fact, I can’t think of any good reason why developers need to be involved in assessing demand.
The Wrecsam area being used to take pressure off Cheshire is part of the wider integration strategy of the Mersey Dee Alliance. A giveaway is estate agents referring to the area as ‘West Cheshire’.
The Planning Inspectorate does not serve Welsh interests, it never has. It must be replaced with a new Welsh body free from political interference and divorced from commercial interests.
Why can’t we have a register of those who think they’ll be looking to buy a new home within an area; something similar to the waiting list for social housing. Once people grasp that contributing to such a database will make it more likely they’ll find the home they need then the more likely they’ll be to participate.
A perennial issue in Wales and the Covid lockdown has highlighted the problem. First, it was people sneaking to their holiday homes for lockdown rather than staying at their usual residence, while more recently it’s been the increased demand for holiday homes.
The latest figures for Gwynedd suggest that 40% of the properties being sold in the county are now bought for use as holiday homes. Take the towns out of the calculation and it’s reasonable to assume that a majority of the properties in villages and in the countryside are being sold as holiday homes.
Gwynedd council is run by Plaid Cymru but it has only imposed a 50% surcharge on holiday homes. Yet another example of Plaid Cymru wringing its hands, “Oooh, isn’t it awful, something should be done”, yet when a roar of defiance was needed Plaid Cymru could only whimper.
This is Plaid Cymru terrified of being called ‘anti-English’. That mauling Glenys Kinnock handed out to Ieuan Wyn Jones on Question Time in February 2001 has left a deep and painful scar.
Compare Gwynedd to Swansea, where the Labour-controlled council has imposed a 100% surcharge, (which also applies to properties left empty for a long period). And in case you think this is only a gesture because the city has few holiday homes, there are many hundreds in the waterfront area, and of course, on Gower.
All the arguments used in defence of holiday homes are self-serving bullshit. “Nobody else wanted the place” . . . “But we put so much money into the local economy!” . . . “An essential part of the tourism industry”, etc, etc.
SUGGESTIONS: One simple change in the law would go a long way to easing the misery of holiday homes.
Legislation stating that only 10% of properties in any electoral ward can be registered as holiday homes, with the figure reducing to 5% in 2030 would have a number of immediate effects.
First, in wards where more than 10% of properties are currently registered as holiday homes such legislation would immediately curtail future demand. Knowledge of the change in 2030 would remove the threat of further properties being bought as holiday homes.
Resulting in more properties, at reduced prices, becoming available for locals.
Severe penalties must be imposed for using a property as a holiday home when it is not registered for that use. And the loophole allowing holiday homes to escape council tax by registering as a business must be closed.
To further reduce the demand for holiday homes and increase their contribution to the local community council tax should be charged at a rate of 200%.
Some may think that a 5% figure is too low, others that it’s unduly generous. My belief is that no area of Wales should suffer more than 5% of its housing stock being used by strangers flaunting their greater wealth.
RETIRING TO WALES
An often overlooked factor in inflating house prices is retired and elderly people moving to Wales. The negatives increase when we remember that the older a person is the more likely they are to need medical care of some kind. This is a universal truth.
Which means that this influx will obviously impact on our NHS and other services.
In fact, it’s difficult to think of any benefit Wales derives from people in the older age brackets moving in. But that doesn’t stop some from trying.
Some three years ago I wrote to the ‘Welsh Government’ with a few questions on this subject. What I received by way of an answer contained a paragraph that has caused either mirth, or head shaking, whenever people read it. (For the full letter, click here.)
On a planet where all other countries view an ageing population as a ‘ticking time-bomb’ Wales alone sees the takeover by alien wrinklies as something positive. Or rather, the ‘Welsh Government’ wants us to believe it does.
This is the sort of nonsense that officialdom spouts when it’s cornered. I say that because while the letter I received makes highfalutin’ references to “liberty of movement” the truth is that the ‘Welsh Government’ has enacted legislation that encourages retired and elderly people to move to Wales.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine that Welsh people going into care can hold on to £50,000, I might benefit from such a provision myself one day. But it also encourages into Wales people who have spent their working lives elsewhere. And the cost of looking after these elderly goes into the debit column of our national accounts and is used to prove that Wales is a financial basket-case.
I see a boy at the back with his hand up, “How big is the problem, Sir?”
Here’s a table I compiled using data from the 2011 Census. You’ll see that in some local authority areas only a minority of the population in the 65+ age bracket was born in Wales.
With the problem not confined to the north, just look at Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. There’s a definite correlation between tourism and the numbers of retired and elderly people moving to an area.
Though Flintshire would appear to buck the trend in that it is not a tourism hotspot, but even so, half of the over 65s were born in England. While this can be partly explained by maternity services being located in Chester I can also suggest another explanation.
Let’s say you’re a likely lad living on the Wirral. Aunt Mabel is going to leave you her money, a nice round figure of £100,000. If she goes into a local care home you might only see £23,350, but take her to Mold or Connah’s Quay and you’re guaranteed at least £50,000. More if you can get the local authority to cough up.
And, anyway, is the old girl going to know where she is!
Finally, let’s not forget the political dimension to this phenomenon. It has been proven time after time that the older an English voter is the more likely that person is to be royalist, patriotically British, pro-Brexit, conservative and Conservative.
From a Welsh perspective, encouraging retired and elderly English people into Wales is both an economic and a political disaster. But it benefits England for the same reasons.
SUGGESTIONS: There’s no need to deny Welsh people the £50,000 limit, but insist on 20 years residency in Wales before anyone qualifies.
And let’s stop building retirement bungalows and flats to be advertised over the border. Many of those who move to such properties may be fit and active when they arrive, but Father Time will soon do his work.
Only a country run by idiots drives out its own young people and replaces them with another country’s elderly.
At one time it was so simple – local authorities built and rented council houses. You put your name down on the list and you waited your turn. Obviously there was favouritism shown in certain allocations, but by and large the system worked to the benefit of Welsh communities.
Then came the housing associations and the transfer of council housing stock.
There’s a general and touching misconception that Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), more commonly known as housing associations, have simply replaced councils, and that social housing is universally available for those who cannot afford to buy a home but would rather not rent from a private landlord.
That was the intention, and that may have been how it started under the new system, but things got much more complicated as years went by. Much more complicated.
There are a number of fundamental problems with the way RSLs now operate.
1/ To begin with, social housing in Wales is locked into an Englandandwales system. This was explained to me in December 2010 in a response I received from Nick Bennett, who was then CEO of Community Housing Cymru, the umbrella organisation for housing associations.
He wrote, “There are over 2 million people on waiting lists for social housing”. This figure cannot be for Wales alone, and yet it was provided by the head of the body supposedly responsible for social housing in Wales. And only in Wales.
Bennett emerged a couple of decades ago from under a lily pad in Cardiff Bay as a fully-formed Spad, before becoming a business partner of Labour’s Alun Davies. He then served as CEO at Community Housing Cymru from 2006 to 2014, and since leaving CHC he has guarded the posterior regions of our politicians and civil servants as the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.
Corruption Bay in mortal form.
Who gets a vacant house may be decided by a third sector body, in contact with a sister body in England, which has ‘recommended’ Chardonnay and her six semi-feral children; the little darlings having been chased out of their last home by neighbours fed up with the thieving and the vandalism.
They get priority treatment, “Cos they is homeless, innit. Little kiddies, look”.
It was never explained why this was done. And no politicians asked . . . because they didn’t want to know. ‘Priority cases’ are still being dumped in Wales, every day.
2/ A more recent problem with housing associations – and there are dozens of them, competing with each other – is that they are now privatised, but still in receipt of public funding.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, nearly all of them have subsidiaries, or private companies that are not subsidiaries but still members of the group. And then there are the partners.
This diversification has led to the mis-use of public funding, an almost complete lack of monitoring and accountability, and RSL group members building private housing for open market sale. Sold to retirees (officially ‘downsizers’), buy-to-rent landlords (officially ‘investors’), and even as holiday homes. While also selling shares in leasehold properties, with the agreements poorly explained and many duped into thinking they’re buying a freehold property.
This, remember, is the hated leasehold system that the ‘Welsh Government’ elsewhere opposes. Yet it is funding RSLs who then slip money under the table to subsidiaries, or partners, to con people into buying a share in a leasehold property.
What a system! What a ‘government’! What a country!
SUGGESTIONS: The bottom line is that what Wales needs is social landlords renting decent housing to Welsh tenants. Nothing more.
We don’t need subsidiaries of RSLs using diverted public funding to build and sell buy-to-rents in Pembrokeshire. Nor do we want convoluted arrangements using Chinese money to build more retirement bungalows and flats on the north coast.
Housing associations are past their sell-by date. A root-and-branch reform of the social housing system is needed. Wales must leave behind the mess created by ‘diversification’ and adopt a system closer to the original council housing model.
One big question will be what happens to the housing stock currently held by RSLs. Seeing as almost all of it was either built by local authorities, or built since stock transfer with money from the ‘Welsh Government’, a strong case could be made to bring it back into public ownership.
This twilight zone of private bodies living off the public purse while also taking out commercial loans with banks and behaving like private developers must end.
In the meantime, to avoid the dumping of undesirables, no one should be allocated a social tenancy by a RSL unless that person has been resident in Wales for at least 10 years.
We have a housing sector in Wales that has for years been steadily divorcing itself from the needs of our people. The situation has worsened under devolution.
There is clearly a strategy to settle in Wales as many people as possible who are loyal to the UK or England, in order to ‘secure’ Wales. We can expect this assault on Welsh identity to intensify with Scotland looking more and more likely to choose independence in the next few years.
There is one final weapon in the armoury that can be employed to stem the tide of colonisation. That is the Land Transaction Tax (LTT). It replaced Stamp Duty and it’s already in operation.
Below is a table I’ve compiled showing the current LTT rates with higher rates I’m suggesting as a way to curb the invasion. ‘Existing main residence’ is self-explanatory. Holiday homes are covered by ‘Existing higher residential’.
My suggestions are at the bottom, in yellow. What I’m proposing is higher rates all round for those not already living in Wales. Exceptions could be made for key workers, investors and others deemed necessary for the national good.
I am also suggesting that LTT kicks in lower down the price scale, and there’s a good reason for this. In the Valleys, post-industrial towns, even parts of Swansea, properties sell at prices buyers from prosperous areas of England find irresistible. Many are being bought for the wrong reasons.
Just think back to Ty Isha, Llanelli.
What’s more, most properties bought by retirees will be below the £250,000 threshold, so why should they be free of LTT?
I suppose one response to everything I’ve written will be, “It all depends on the political will”, and clearly that political will is absent. For the following reasons.
Civil servants of the ‘Wales would be better without the Welsh’ mindset ‘advising’ – some shagging! – ‘Welsh Government’ ministers.
A zealously Unionist Labour Party containing too many politicians who can dismiss concern for Welsh identity as ‘ugly and narrow-minded nationalism’. And then of course they have their third sector and housing association cronies to think about.
A Conservative Party (plus a rag-bag of BritNats) who will never object to English people moving to Wales, or the votes they bring. “All British . . . free to move anywhere . . . God Save the Queen.”
A so-called ‘national party’, Plaid Cymru, scared witless of being called anti-English by the anti-Welsh. And anyway, national survival is nowhere near as important as trans rights, BLM, refugees, getting Trump out of the White House . . .
You’ve read that 40% of the properties now sold in Gwynedd are to be used as holiday homes. I’ll bet that another 40% are bought by people moving from England into Gwynedd permanently. And it’s the same in other rural areas.
Thanks to the refusal of successive ‘governments’ in Corruption Bay to build a rural economy, the forced reliance on ‘shit anywhere’ tourism, the neglect of everywhere other than Cardiff . . . Wales, thanks to the ‘progressive’ parties’ refusal to confront the assimilation agenda, is approaching the point of no return.
To refuse to challenge the assimilation agenda is to accept it.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
This is a subject I’ve tackled before; I’m returning to it because the problem seems to be spreading, yea! even unto the city of my dreams.
This is another ‘biggie’ but, as usual, broken down into easily-digestible chunks. Enjoy!
For those new to the subject, One Planet Developments were introduced and encouraged by the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition management team (2007 – 2011), at the instigation of – among others – Jane Davidson, who served in that team as the Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing.
The issue being addressed was, we were told, how Wales could play its part in saving the planet. Yet this excuse was – as we political commentators are wont to put it – bollocks. The lie is exposed by the claim that OPDs will reduce Wales’ carbon footprint – by attracting more people into the country.
For Wales is the only country on Earth to allow OPDs. No one else has been so stupid.
The true motivation was that Davidson’s ‘alternative’ friends wanted smallholdings in Wales but didn’t want to pay commercial property prices. Enacting legislation –TAN 6 strengthened with the Well-being of Future Generations Act – allowed hippies to settle just about anywhere by claiming OPD status, then demanding – and getting! – planning permission for structures that no one else would be allowed to build.
This meant they could set up a smallholding on a shoestring.
Perhaps in the hope of disguising the relationship between the Labour Party and higher education, and to give her some academic credibility, Davidson is billed as ‘Dr Jane Davidson’, but her doctorate is purely honorary, and from another Labour-linked institution in Pontypridd.
Predictably, ‘Dr’ Davidson lives on a smallholding of her own.
The majority of OPDs are to be found in Pembrokeshire and west Carmarthenshire, but as I’ve suggested, they’re creeping east.
Earlier this month a planning application was submitted to Carmarthenshire County Council for a OPD at Llansteffan. To be exact, in ‘Pentowyn farm yard’. Here’s the full planning application.
Pentowyn farm is located across the Tâf estuary from Dylan Thomas’s boathouse at Laugharne. Nice.
Note that the work on this OPD started on 1 May last year, so it’s taken over a year for what is now the retrospective planning application to be submitted. Which is how OPDs operate, knowing that no matter what the local planning authority might say, the ‘Welsh Government’ or the Planning Inspectorate will always grant planning consent.
To help you follow the tale, here’s the plan submitted with the planning application. It shows a long, thin section of land to the east and north east of the farm buildings, with a more compact area to the south and south west, on the other side of the road. The planned buildings are located on this second area.
A number of things struck me about this application. First, the agent is Tao Wimbush; and if that name rings a bell, then it’s because he is a hetman in the Lammas commune not far away, up towards Crymych.
I’d always assumed that these enviro-colons were vegans, or at least, vegetarians – so why is there a ‘butchers unit’ and a ‘mobile refrigeration unit’ at this OPD? But then, Wimbush is only the agent, the adviser.
The applicants are Mark and Ann Oriel, and even though their company name as given on the planning application is ‘Lammas Earth Centre’, and their address that for the Lammas commune, I suspect the Oriels live in Bancyfelin, and Mark runs a slap, rub and squeeze outlet in nearby Sanclêr. (No, not that kind of establishment.)
Which might suggest he too lacks the necessary background in the butchering of livestock and the preparing of meat for sale. So why the ‘butchers unit’? (I wish to God people would use apostrophes.)
Certainly, the Oriels own the land to the east of the farmhouse, the land edged in red on the Land Registry title document plan (scroll down). But the land to the south of the farmhouse, where the shack and the butcher’s building will be located, is not on that title document. So who owns that land?
When I tried to get the document from the Land Registry I drew a blank. The land is either not registered or not yet re-registered.
If you go back to the planning application (20) you’ll read, ‘A butchers unit for processing meat grown on the farm’. I’m not sure that the Oriels have enough land to graze many animals so this must refer to other land.
When asked if neighbours or the local community have been consulted about the proposed development (23) the applicant answers, ‘I have discussed the proposal with my direct neighbours’. So who are the ‘direct neighbours’?
The farm buildings and the land down as far as the road are owned by a woman living in Sketty, Swansea. Shown here edged in red on the Land Registry title plan. I suspect they (or some of them) have been converted into holiday cottages.
The land across the road to the south east, adjoining the land for which planning permission is sought, is owned a local farming family. Are they the ‘direct neighbours’?
The more I think about this, the weirder it seems. We have a hippy asking for planning permission for a sports therapist to have a OPD complete with what reads like a mini abattoir. And we don’t know who owns the land on which the new buildings are to go.
Is someone using the near-certainly of planning permission being granted for an OPD to get consent for something that might otherwise be difficult to get past the planners and other authorities?
If so, then this is a dangerous development, and might signal that OPDs are now being used in a way that I’m sure was not intended by the buffoons who agreed to this idiocy back in the days of the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition.
As we know, planning is never a problem for OPDs, so we can take that for granted.
Of course, if someone wanted to repair and renovate the old house then they wouldn’t need planning permission for an OPD. But that house needs a lot of work, and it would cost a lot of money.
So I assume that the house and the outbuildings are not the big selling point.
Certainly, Cwm-Garenig is a bit off the beaten track, and there’s no mains electricity, so that might attract potential OPD dwellers. But it’s still only 19 acres, and the area round about has been mined for centuries.
I’d hate to switch on the Evening News to hear that, ‘Police and rescue teams are still searching for survivors after a yurt-full of tofu tasters disappeared today down the old Number 9 shaft . . . ‘.
Wouldn’t that just be too, too awful!
It seems to me that Rees Richards is selling 19 acres of land, some of it possibly unstable. Not only that, but we have a Swansea-based estate agency cottoning on to the possibility of bumping up the price of low value land by adding the magic letters ‘OPD’.
Clearly, this is no longer a rural thing, as you’ll learn from reading on.
If estate agents and others have latched on to the fact that OPDs are a sure-fire way of getting planning permission for dwellings in open country (and maybe not just open country), then who knows where it might lead?
The Brighton gang goes by the name of the Ecological Land Cooperative (ELC) and want two smallholdings on an 18 acre site it bought in December 2017. These smallholdings will be of 5.5 acres each because the rest of the land is already being used by the ELC’s local partner, Cae Tân CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).
Though there are very few locals involved with Cae Tân and so it’s questionable how well it’s supported by the wider community.
The leading light in Cae Tân would appear to be Anthony ‘Ant’ Flanagan, who has set up a string of companies, none of which seem able to survive without public largesse, and at least one of which has entered into a disastrous partnership.
It may be worth listing these companies, seeing where their money comes from, and checking on their fates. (CIC means Community Interest Company.)
CORDELIA COMMUNITY ENERGY CIC. Formed 15 June 2015; 5 loans taken out 2017, three with Finance Wales, all still outstanding; 4 new directors appointed February 2017; either merges with or is taken over September 2017 by YnNi Teg Cyf.
COIGACH COMMUNITY CIC (originally Willowcroft W. Community Energy CIC). Formed June 2015; address moved from Parkmill to Manchester July 2016, when Flanagan ceased to be a director; net assets £10. (‘Coigach’ is a Scottish Gaelic name.)
These council-owned energy companies end up costing council taxpayers a hell of a lot of money. We know that Swansea council has been very generous to Ant Flanagan, so how indebted are my fellow-Jacks as a result of this generosity?
Ant Flanagan and his playmates are responsible for the arrival in Wales of the Ecological Land Cooperative of Brighton, who want the smallholdings at Ilston.
A point I made about the planning application in the earlier piece was that letters of support for Furzehill were coming in from all over England but there were few letters from locals. Well that’s changed. And the locals haven’t held back in their criticisms.
If we click on the ‘Comments’ tab, then from local residents we read:
‘This is nothing more than a vanity project from a group of opportunists who are hell bent on claiming community grant subsidies and then feeding that funding through its various other side projects . . . ‘.
‘ . . . In the meantime small farmers trying to scratch a living from the earth are being displaced by larger cooperatives, being unable to compete with grant led, subsidised or community funded groups.’
A third says, referring to OPD legislation:
‘The Ecological Land Coop, an organisation based in South England, would not be likely to be investing money in land in Wales if this planning law applied equally to England.’
This writer continues:
‘As a former organic market gardener, serving people in and around Swansea by growing and selling through a veg box scheme between 1994 and 2018, I no longer even try to compete with these market rigging opportunists.’
While a another objector has this to say:
‘I object about this proposal on two grounds That this a means of laundering and misappropriating WG and any LA grant funds, rather than a being of benefit for local produce growers/vendors, many of which are being put out of business because of the practices unscrupulous organisation.
There were other objections along similar lines. Arguing that these people are exploiting OPD legislation, they’re only here because of easy access to public funding, which then helps them under-cut genuinely local growers and companies. Some objectors make specific claims of dishonesty.
How the hell did we get to a situation where we are funding interlopers to put local people out of business?
Because . . .
Wales is a land of make-believe, especially when socialists are in charge, and image is more important than reality. Being seen to do the right thing has become more important than actually doing the right thing . . . and far, far easier.
Which is how we end up with One Planet Developments, and the mantra that Wales can show everyone how to save the planet. Idiocies that are welcomed in the Guardian, cheered by superannuated hippies in California, and will have Eco-capitalists from Sweden to Australia rubbing their hands with glee as they think about how many bird-slicing, flood-causing wind turbines they can erect on our hills . . .
There are no material benefits for us Welsh from OPDs, and wind turbines, and saving the planet, yet we are lectured that it’s done for some greater good, and for generations to come. Intangible and unquantifiable benefits that may never materialise. But then, virtue signalling is so much easier than coming up with a serious economic strategy for Wales that might create business opportunities, careers and jobs.
When you think about it, the message being put out today by the ‘progressive’ parties in the Senedd is not a lot different to that preached in earlier times by clerics in the pay of landowners and industrialists. It runs, ‘There’s nothing for you in this life, but if you’re virtuous and obedient then your reward is in heaven’.
Those clergymen were serving someone else’s interests, not the interests of those to whom they preached. And it’s the same with the ‘Welsh Government’ today.
Anthony Flanagan appears to be still in charge, but with other directors on board, prominent among them, Roy Kenneth Church. The Church family has for many years run the Gower Heritage Centre at Parkmill, which seems to be the base for most of the Flanagan Companies.
Roy Kenneth Church is also a director of Swansea Bay Community Energy Ltd, which has now been deregistered and for which documents are no longer available on the FCA website. Yet another ‘Energy’ company, and given the name, this one suggests ambition on the scale of the municipal failures we looked at earlier.
Though on the FCA document Church is also listed as a director of Swansea Bay Community Energy Two Ltd, for which I can find nothing. Did a ‘phoenix’ company rise from the ashes of Swansea Bay Community Energy Ltd?
Church is also one of the two directors of Tourism Swansea Bay Ltd which, despite the grand title, is a shoestring outfit based, again, in Parkmill. But at a different address to the Gower Heritage Centre.
Then there’s Gower Power Solar Ltd, where we find Church, Flanagan and John Christopher Whiten. The only documents filed, in October 2017, tell of a dormant company. Possibly linked with Gower Power Co-op CIC, where we find Flanagan and Whiten among the directors.
The name ‘Killan’ refers to a couple of farms which give their name to a road in Dunvant, on the western outskirts of Swansea. We need to focus on the land to the right of the land outlined in red on this plan of Killan-fach farm, Land Registry title number WA289902.
The land we’re looking at is covered by title number WA289901.
Dunvant SBG was formed in 2001 and the five outstanding charges go back almost as far. Roy Kenneth Church was a director from 24 December 2001 until 1 October 2009, and then rejoined in September 2019, probably following the death of his father.
The plan being hatched, it seems, is to build an ‘Eco village’ of 12 ‘farmlets’. Yes, ‘farmlets’. What a twee word, I wonder what idiot thought that up? I ask because even though the land seems to be owned by Roy Kenneth Church the pre-application submission came from Gerald Blain associates of Whitland.
Equally perplexing is why Church couldn’t find an architect in Swansea, which might have spared him a trip to Whitland. But wait! Whitland . . . now who do we know in that area? Why, Tao Wimbush’s postal address is Whitland. And having a background in architecture himself I’m sure he knows Gerald Blain and his mate Mark Sanders.
Gerald Blain Associates seems to be another shoestring outfit. The latest accounts at Companies House show total assets of £49. Confirmed by Company Check. Why would Church rush down west to hire this lot?
I say Church, but the applicant for these ‘farmlets’ is named as a Captain Steve Croaker. But I cannot find a Captain Steve Croaker. Who is he? Does he even exist?
UPDATE 01.07.2020: ‘Captain Croaker’ has been identified. He is Steven William Crocker of Cefn Gwlad Solutions Ltd, though I’m assured he has other strings to his bow. A Swansea man with strong links to Roy Kenneth Church and Parkmill.
What we have is an area on the edge of Swansea where development is not permitted because it would result in Dunvant, a part of the city, merging with the village of Three Crosses, viewed as Gower. But OPD promises a way around this problem.
Because anyone who could get planning permission for substantial properties sitting in an acre or more of land, with Gower on the doorstep, could rake it in.
Gerald Blain mentions OPD more than once in his submission. He makes a big play on how difficult it is for young people to get into farming. Which may be true, but this is not farming. You won’t see any of the old Gower families on these ‘farmlets’.
For they are intended for the friends of Tao Wimbush, and the land-grabbers from Brighton. Using OPD almost as blackmail – “If you don’t give us planning permission we’ll scream ‘OPD’ and our friends in Corruption Bay will give us what we want”.
The council clearly sees what’s behind this plan – expensive dwellings in the green belt with planning permission obtained by subterfuge. This extract from the council’s response to Gerald Blain makes that clear.
It seems very unlikely that the council will look favourably on this project when it’s discussed at 2pm today (Monday). It may be possible to follow proceedings by installing this Microsoft app.
But what happens if the mysterious Cap’n Croaker appeals to the so-called ‘Welsh Government’? Will those clowns allow it?
The problems with OPD go beyond what I’ve listed here.
For example, a lady in Powys writes to me regularly with tales of a family that thinks OPD status gives them carte blanche to erect other buildings, to dump vehicles, etc. The parents and adult children who live on this OPD cause havoc on a narrow access track.
It seems they’re now looking for someone to sell what little they produce in the way of vegetables because they’re too busy themselves at the jobs that take them away every day from the ‘OPD’!
One Planet Developments should be self-sufficient agricultural smallholdings, not a little place in the country from which you commute to your job.
The supine behaviour of Powys County Council towards this OPD encourages others to behave in a similar fashion.
As might be expected, Powys County Council’s refusal to act, and local AS’s and MP’s unwillingness to get involved, not only encourages mess like you see in the picture, it drives out decent residents and it deters investors.
I shall return to problems in Powys in more detail at a later date.
Information comes in from various sources about OPD problems in other areas.
For example, a reliable source who has provided information before writes:
‘What I can tell you briefly is that the most, if not all, of the plots at Tir y Gafel are no longer Lammas as such but are freehold properties that can be brought and sold without restrictions.
This is a game changer.’
This source also advises that the hub, central to the Lammas community, and built with funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change in London, has been abandoned because it is structurally unsound.
Furthermore, it is now surrounded by freeholders unwilling to take responsibility for what was intended to be a shared, community building. Presumably it will now be allowed to fall down.
What’s being promoted here is a new village, a new English village in Wales. And note how this new village will be tagged onto ‘an existing settlement’, just like the ‘farmlets’ in Dunvant. OPDs were not supposed to be new suburbs.
Andrew Slade? Does that name ring a bell? It should. Slade is one of the English civil servants who run the ‘Welsh Government’. He it was who took EU money off our farmers (Pillar 1) and transferred it to ‘Rural Development Projects’ (Pillar 2).
Together they’re all working to get Welsh farming families off their land – so they can be replaced by OPDs, and ‘rewilders’, and Mongolian yak herders . . . any bugger will do, just as long as they’re not Welsh.
This is naked racism. This is ethnic cleansing. Yet this is what One Planet Developments have become.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
The original ‘Jake Berry MP’ was such a hit with the popcorn-munching public that Jac Universal Studios is unashamedly rushing out a sequel featuring our lantern-jawed hero.
In this offering you will meet a number of new faces including another Jake, the police get involved, and there’s a cameo appearance by Boris Johnson.
So dim the house lights, sit back, and prepare to be entertained. (But don’t make too much noise with the popcorn!)
LAST TIME . . .
We left our hero clinging to a ledge above a 1,000 foot drop with the villain about to stamp on his aching fingers . . . oh, sorry, wrong screenplay.
Though it would have been a good place to start because at least we’d know where he was. For Jake Berry is a difficult man to pin down; he ducks and weaves, always on the move, like the Muhammad Ali of the government benches.
This tale began last week, you’ll remember, with reports that Berry and his family had turned up at one of their Rhoscolyn properties on Ynys Môn in defiance of lockdown instructions. They had probably come from their London SW1 home.
But Virginia Crosbie the local MP, unexpected victor in last December’s election, insisted that the family had been at Rhyd-y-Bont since February, long before lockdown. It was just that no one had noticed them . . . for three months.
Her exact words, quoted by NorthWalesLive, were: “Mr and Mrs Berry have been living here in the island since February – it is their home.” Though whether telling us that the MP for an east Lancashire constituency lived on Ynys Môn really helped Berry is a moot point.
Then evidence started dribbling out making it clear that if the Berry family had been at Rhyd-y-Bont since February then Jake Berry had been regularly breaking lockdown. And if they’d arrived on Ynys Môn the week before last, then that too was breaking lockdown. It was no longer a question of whether Jake Berry was guilty, but of which offence.
The unravelling of the alibi also tells us that the local Conservative MP has been telling porkies.
YOU WERE LEFT WONDERING . . .
Now then, let’s clear up a few loose ends from the previous blockbuster. We identified three properties at Rhoscolyn owned or part-owned by James Jacob Gilchrist Berry.
There was Cerrig, part-owned with his parents. Plas Coch, part-owned with his mother and another family member. Then there’s Rhyd-y-Bont, the farm for which he paid £780,000 up front in November.
Correction 19.05.2020: I am now informed that Max Jonathan Berry and Ruth Elizabeth Berry, co-owners of Cerrig, are Jake Berry’s siblings. Lucy Charlotte Berry, co-owner of Plas Coch, is either another sibling or the wife of Max.
I mentioned that there was a fourth property at Rhoscolyn waiting to be identified. Well now I have it. It’s Mountain View which, I’m informed, is next to Silver Bay Caravan Park. Lovely, traditional Welsh names. Names like these being the benefits of tourism and social engineering.
So that’s four properties, but I’m told there might be more properties in the area owned by Jake Berry. Specifically, the property where his defender, local MP Virginia Crosbie lives when she visits the island. I await information from my man in the shrubbery.
There was also some uncertainty as to where the Berry family actually lives. Do they have a fixed abode, or do they move with the seasons, like members of some pastoral society, driving their flocks before them?
As I’ve hinted, the permanent abode is in London SW1, a property bought for £2,150,000 in February 2017, with money up front, just like Rhyd-y-Bont. So the Berry clan will in future be moving between London and Ynys Môn with the pater familias making the occasional foray into his constituency.
You’ll see that I have redacted the identifying details from the London property. This seems the right option following a telephone conversation with North Wales Police on Saturday, a convivial chat with a chief inspector who agreed that what Jake Berry had complained about – me putting out his personal details – was already in the public domain via the Land Registry.
What I can tell you is that the London property is in the name of Berry’s wife.
The difference is that the Rhoscolyn properties were known locally and being identified on social media before I got involved. The London address is not publicly known.
THE MAGIC MONEY TREE
Something else I wondered about in the first part was where the lucre is coming from to make these expensive purchases. For Berry is a non-practising solicitor and seems to have no directorships. I remarked that his MP’s salary seems to go a long, long way.
Though I suppose with the London property being in his wife’s name she might be worth a few bob herself. Alternatively, the SW1 house could have been bought with Berry’s money and registered in her name to throw people of the scent.
On the question of companies and directorships, while there seem to be no current directorships for Jake Berry there have certainly been directorships in the past.
One snippet I was sent mentions a company called Rhoscolyn Limited. I’m afraid I don’t have the context. (Though maybe it’s from the site Company Director Check?) And of course this is how I learnt about Mountain View.
I drew a blank on the Companies House website and other sites, so if anyone out there has information on Rhoscolyn Limited, then it’s the usual routine, either leave it in the old hollow tree or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s return to companies and directorships, for while Jake Berry himself seems to be ‘clean’, others close to him do dabble.
There’s PEPC Ltd which was run by Berry’s Parliamentary PA Paul Lambert Fairhurst and his Personal PA Louise Inglis, using a Liverpool address. This company was dissolved in December 2018 without apparently troubling HMRC or anyone else. It just did nothing in its brief existence.
Fairhurst was also involved with a company called PND Group Ltd, with a Manchester address, which went under in March 2020, also after a short period of apparent inactivity.
Inglis was further involved with a company giving a Nottingham address, called Licensing Objective Ltd. It was dissolved in February 2019 after less than five years of shuffling around a bit of small change.
Setting up companies to provide a cover for nefarious activities is something I report on regularly on this blog, but that can’t be the case here, surely? So why set up companies and just let them fold?
Let’s conclude this little excursion into the corporate world by turning our attention to Ford Bridge Farm Ltd. And if that sounds weirdly familiar then it’s because it is of course Rhyd-y-Bont, one of Berry’s Rhoscolyn properties, rendered into English. The sole director is Mrs Berry.
The company gives a correspondence address in the town of Bacup, in Berry’s Rossendale and Darwen constituency. Though why a company that uses a corrupted version of the Ynys Môn property’s name needs to be based in Lancashire is a mystery.
Can anyone offer a suggestion?
To be exact, Ford Bridge Farm Ltd is headquartered in this splendid old building in downtown Bacup that was available for rent or lease when this Google Earth image was captured in September 2018.
UPDATE: I am indebted to @JanZamosky for suggesting that Mountain View Ltd might have been formed to avoid paying council tax. Would this also explain the more recent Ford Bridge Farm Ltd?
GODFATHERS AND A ROAD TRIP
When Jake Berry’s first child was born in 2017 one godfather was Harry Cole, former co-editor of the Guido Fawkes website and now deputy political editor for the Mail on Sunday. He had rented a flat from Mrs Berry and was the long-time partner of Carrie Symonds. The other godfather was Boris Johnson.
Jake Berry obviously had important and influential friends.
Then on 24 May last year Theresa May surprised no one by announcing that she was jacking in it and told the Tories to look for a new leader. Jake Berry threw himself into Boris Johnson’s campaign.
And it was godfather Harry Cole who reported rather sniffily that Berry was to do a tour of north west England in a “yellow truck like the ones used in the cheesy 1990s American TV series Baywatch”. And for company Berry would have Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking – what a pleasure it must have been to travel 170 miles in the company of Jacob Rees-Mogg! Though I’m sure there are some who’d feel sorry for Rees-Mogg having to spend that much time with Jake Berry.
Maybe they deserve each other.
One source – who seems to know his stuff – suggests the £4,000 quoted as the purchase price for the Ford Ranger was on the cheap side. While another source might have provided the answer by telling me that Berry sends his PA Fairhurst to auctions on his behalf! Is this covered under MPs’ expenses?
As history now records, it all paid off. Boris Johnson won the leadership vote and the general election in December. Jake Berry was made Minister of State for the Northern Powerhouse. Though Rees-Mogg seems to have fallen from favour since his hommage to a fin de siècle slapper reclining on a chaise longue.
Though it turned sour for Berry as well because earlier this year he was sacked. Yes, he was allowed to make the ‘spend more time with the family’ excuse and resign. But this was a ‘Make him an offer he can’t accept’ kind of ‘resignation’.
I have no idea what became of the yellow Ford Ranger that must carry so many happy memories. Indeed, it might have been an attempt to recapture those memories that prompted Jake Berry to buy another. There’s certainly one parked now at Rhyd-y-Bont. (Or are we expected to call it ‘Ford Bridge Farm’?)
What’s odd is that the registration for the truck used in last year’s Boris Johnson Productions re-make of Thelma and Louise was CV60 ZJE, while the one parked up now is CV11 JYA.
CV is the registration for Swansea.
Harry Cole told us the road trip vehicle was “formerly used by council street cleaners”. If so, then does Jake Berry have a direct line to Swansea Guildhall that enables him to pick up old council vehicles on the cheap?
Or is there some other explanation? Does anyone recognise those registration numbers?
It’s all very well having a laugh at Jake Berry and the rest of them, but turning us into strangers in our own land is no joke.
Yet we are expected to welcome being priced out of our communities because a lying politician or a trainee hack on a provincial rag tells us that rising property prices is a sure-fire indicator of prosperity.
That may be the case in a normal society, but not in a colony!
Wales may lack the monuments to a great past, and the institutions of a mighty state. But we have something far more important – a sense of nationhood that has survived without these trappings, and in defiance of them.
Today this nation nation is growing restless because the ‘progressive’ parties have failed us.
They’ve failed us because they refuse to accept that there’s a real country beyond Corruption Bay; a country with broken communities and angry people who are sick of funding middle class lesbian co-operatives and other forms of gesture politics.
While we who are trying to combat colonialism are traduced by wassisname, who leads the ‘progressives’, as inherently right wing.
If so, then I’m proud to be a right wing nationalist standing up for my people. It’s more honourable by far than being a smug, two-faced ‘progressive’ collaborating with the colonialist system.
You’ll have noticed that in my playful way I just referred to them as a ‘gang’, but they couldn’t really be a gang because one of them is an an ex-copper, who seems to have bought ‘a place in Wales’ and then got a transfer for the final few years of his service.
In fact, many police officers get pre-retirement transfers to Dyfed Powys and North Wales. To which we can add others who get transfers because they can’t cope with the pressure in England’s towns and cities.
And this phenomenon is not confined to the police service, it’s widespread with cross-border employers, Royal Mail would be another example. I wonder how many jobs we Welsh lose due to transferees filling vacancies in scenically attractive parts of the country?
But I digress, let us hie back to Talyllychau.
WHO ARE THEY AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
In the hope of learning more about Talley Community Amenity Association I turned to documents filed with Companies House. The company was Incorporated 18 July 2002 and gives as its business, ‘Support services to forestry’. The TCAA also registered as a charity – number 1097539 – 15 May 2003, where its ‘Activities’ are listed as ‘Management of local woodland’.
Clearly, TCAA is interested in woodland around Talyllychau, partly explained in a piece by one of the company’s original directors, Stephen Upson. This document also makes clear that TCAA existed in some unspecified form before it became a company and a charity, and that it was in discussions with both Forestry Commission Wales and the Welsh Development Agency to acquire local woodland as a community amenity. (This map might help you better understand the area. The village proper is just visible on the far right centre.)
These negotiations probably explain the need to become registered, for in the first ‘Financial statement’, for 2003, we see that the money is rolling in, and there is now £81,733 in the pot, but no mention of whence it came. Though I couldn’t help noticing that these accounts were prepared by ‘Gray & Associates, Accountancy Services, Talley House, Talley’. This is presumably the Sarah Ellen Gray who became a director of the company on 12 September 2005.
Isn’t this cosy!
The balance sheet for year ending 31 July 2004 shows fixed assets of £64,999, explained as ‘Land sold to the Association by WDA repayable 9 May 2029’. Elsewhere on this filing we read of ‘grant funding’ of £112,021, but again, no clue as to the source of this moolah. But don’t worry, because ‘Grant work completed’ amounts to £111,748, leaving just £273 for tea bags, sugar and biccies.
These second ‘accounts’ – and I use that term loosely – give no indication as to who prepared them, who audited them, who the company’s solicitors are, or its bankers. Talley Community Amenity Association seems to be using every loophole in the Companies Act to give out the bare minimum of information.
I mean, if the land was returned to the ‘Welsh Government’, or the Notional Assembly, then surely the charge held by the WDA would have been satisfied. Or if the happy band at ‘Talley’ had been paid £65,000 – as the title document suggests – then they would have used that money to pay off the WDA, wouldn’t they?
Yet the charge remains and there is no sign of any income – or little activity of any kind – in the accounts after 2008. The Talley Community Amenity Association has just been ticking over with a few thousand in the bank gaining interest.
Am I missing something in the Plas farm land transfers and sales? Or is something being omitted from the minimalist documents submitted to Companies House?
THE CAVALRY ARRIVES – IT’S BOOTS AND SADDLES!
A recent addition to the ‘Talley belongs to us’ crew is Angela Gail Hastilow, who seems to have arrived in 2012, along with husband Ian, from West Sussex. The Hastilows are saddle-makers. The firm seems to be still based in England, for the website tells us ‘Angie runs the office from Wales’.
I’d like to refer you now to a document filed with Companies House 27 July 2018 telling us that Angela Gail Hastilow replaced Peter Graham Knott as a ‘person with significant control’ (PSC), which usually means the person running the show.
Let me quote Companies House, which words it thus: ‘A person with significant control (PSC) is someone who owns or controls your company. They’re sometimes called ‘beneficial owners’.’
What is also strange is that this occurred on the same day as Mrs Hastilow became a director. I’m sure there’s no legislation forbidding someone joining a company and becoming the PSC on the same day, but it’s unusual.
The only times I’ve come across it is when someone buys out a company. But Talley Community Amenity Association is not that kind of company; for example, it has no shares to be bought or transferred, so it’s difficult to see how anyone could take it over. Or why it would be allowed.
Yet that’s what Angela Hastilow appears to have done. Not only is she now PSC but the company’s registered office has moved to her house in Talyllychau. And it’s the same with the TCAA charity. Hers is the address and she is the contact for the charity. It appears to be a clean sweep.
This takeover throws up another conundrum. I’ve told you that Hastilow became a director and the person with significant control on 27 July 2018, and yet there is another document filed with Companies House that suggests otherwise.
According to this other form, Hastilow became a/the person with significant control 02 September 2017 . . . before she even became a director!
Of course, it may be a genuine mistake. But if Angela Hastilow did really take the reins in September 2017 how was this achieved without her having any declared links with TCAA?
This anomaly has been reported to Companies House.
And now Talley Community Amenity Association is lined up for £522,653 of our money; and it also looks as if they’re going to be gifted – or at least given control over – 800 hectares of prime Welsh land. That is, land we own.
Yet who can blame them for this very human acquisitiveness, for Talyllychau is an idyllic location. Its has lakes, a ruined abbey, and is reasonably close to the M4; all features that make it very attractive to well-heeled English folk.
And the area around Talyllychau has great tourism potential.
Despite all the talk of ‘biodiversity’ and ‘community benefits’ it is being suggested to me that more mercenary motives may be at work. So before money or land is given to Talley Community Amenity Association certain things need to be established:
Why are the TCAA accounts so rudimentary and uninformative?
Where did the £81,733 come from that appears in the 2003 accounts?
What is the source of the ‘grant funding’ of £112,021 shown in the 2004 accounts?
For what was this grant funding given and was its spending monitored?
If the TCAA was paid £65,000 in 2007 for the Plas farm land why didn’t it use that money to clear the WDA debt?
And if TCAA was paid £65,000 then what happened to the money?
If the TCAA was not paid £65,000 then by what route did the ‘National Assembly for Wales’ gain the land?
How was it possible for Mrs Angela Gail Hastilow to become the ‘person with significant control’ of TCAA before she’d even become a director?
Does Mrs Angela Gail Hastilow now control TCAA?
If so, how did this come about?
What are the terms under which the 800 hectares mentioned in the newspaper report will be made available to TCAA?
Will the 800 hectares remain in public ownership if this project goes ahead?
Will the directors and trustees of TCAA be allowed to use the land to further their own business interests?
If this project proceeds will the ‘Welsh Government’ require TCAA to produce full and independently audited annual accounts available for public scrutiny?
How representative of the wider community is TCAA?
Why is there so little Welsh involvement in TCAA?
BOTTOM LINE: Why is the ‘Welsh Government’ paying wealthy outsiders to take over publicly-owned Welsh land that they will almost certainly use to make money for themselves?
PART OF A PATTERN
Returning to the article that appeared last week in the South Wales Guardian we read that the scheme delivering the loot and the land is ‘the Sustainable Management Scheme (SMS)’, administered by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme’.
Despite the order coming from London, via its Wales-based civil servants, ‘Welsh’ Labour enthusiastically endorsed this diktat and justified the decision by waffling about ‘biodiversity’, ‘sustainability’, ‘parsnip trees’, etc.
Resistance encouraged by those with designs on our country over-reaching themselves with their Summit to Sea extravaganza, a vast project that has George Monbiot and his playmates hoping to take over 10,000 hectares of land (and even more of sea!)
The Rewilding Britain website tells us that its partner in Summit to Sea is the Woodland Trust. To understand the quintessentially colonialist nature of this project listen to Natalie Buttriss, the Woodland Trust’s Director of Wales, speaking about the project on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Farming Today’ programme.
Or watch Rebecca Wrigley, Director of Rewilding Britain.
The attitude of these latter-day memsahibs is clear – ‘If the locals don’t like our plans then they can jolly well fuck off’. (From their own country.)
The truth must be faced that we have reached a stage where things done in the name of ‘Wales’ that are antithetical to the interests of the Welsh. Which in turn reveals, among other things, that devolution is nothing more than a confidence trick that allows our masters to filter their colonialist ambitions through their local management team.
This ‘Welsh Government’ is only too willing to comply because ‘Welsh’ Labour hates country people, and especially indigenous country people; with hairy-arsed, Welsh-speaking rustics being the favoured targets down at the Lord Tonypandy Memorial Firing Range. (Garters optional.)
And because it’s a party of very woke and posturing planet-savers Plaid Cymru will support Monbiot and his memsahibs against Welsh farmers and the interest of the nation.
Everywhere we look we see Welsh people being elbowed out of attractive localities like Talyllychau. And as locals are squeezed out they are replaced by white flighters and good-lifers, grant grabbers, retirees and the human detritus of urban England. (This last category brought in by our housing associations.)
With these incomers funded with hundreds of millions of pounds that for some reason was never available for locals.
As we approach the third decade of the twenty-first century there’s a welcome in the hillsides for just about anybody . . . except us. Last year I reminded you of the term coined by Martiniquais poet and political activist Aimé Césaire to describe this phenomenon, it was ‘genocide by substitution’.
This is exactly what we see happening in Wales today – a deliberate and systematic strategy of replacing one people with another. A bloodless form of ethnic cleansing.
Another bumper issue, another mixed bag for you to enjoy; bits and pieces from hither and yon, Ynys Môn to New Zealand, and both sides of the Tawe. You can either take them one at a time or you can gorge yourself.
Go on! you know you want to.
SWANSEA, MY SWANSEA!
An old mate back in the city of my dreams, who served for decades as a councillor, once told me a curious tale about Labour councillors having to give up 10% of their allowance (i.e. salary) to the party every month – or else the heavies would be sent round.
He himself learnt this from someone who had broken free from the Labour Party and gone straight.
I’m told this system of ‘dues’ may have been introduced in Swansea a while back, when the boss was that man of destiny, he who enthralled the crowds from the Guildhall balcony – David ‘Il Duce’ Phillips, who I’m sure you’ll all remember.
Now your bog standard Labour councillor in Swansea gets £13,000 a year, but capos and under-bosses get a lot more, while the capo di tutti capi, currently Rob Stewart, is on £53,000.
Then the allowances increase for sitting on various committees, plus there’s travelling allowance, phone bills are paid, etc., etc. The point is that the Labour Party gets a lot of money every year from its own councillors. In Swansea the figure is well over £70,000.
Eventually my mate, Ioan Richard, got in touch with the Wales Audit Office to enquire about this curious method of extortion voluntary donations. The response he received last week said:
“Further to your email of 14 December 2018, I have met with officers of the Council to discuss your concern regarding payments made by Swansea Council to the Labour Party on behalf of some local authority members.
I can confirm that the practice you refer to is a long-standing one. However, Council officers have informed me that having now given due consideration to this matter, it is their intention to end the practice of making payments to the Labour Party (or any other political party) on behalf of local authority members with effect from April 2019.
May I take the time to thank you for taking the time to raise your concern with us.”
A few questions come to mind. Three, I suppose.
Why should officials of the council, employed to serve the city of Swansea in a non-political way, be forced to manage these donations, thereby spending council time doing what is obviously of benefit only to the Labour Party?
If this practice is widespread in Wales then the Labour Party could be getting over one million pounds every year from its councillors. So should the Labour Party be siphoning off money for itself from the public purse?
And if Labour councillors can afford to give up 10% of their allowances then why do we pay them so much?
Another idol of the Jack masses – well, perhaps not – is the MP for Swansea East, Carolyn Harris, of whom I have often written. Harris made the news a few years back when she attacked a co-worker in the constituency office of the then MP for Swansea East Siân James.
She made it into the public prints more recently when the ‘I’ll-get-you-you-cow!’ accusation of theft she had laid against her victim fell apart at Newport Crown Court.
Harris may have her own constituency party tied down but in the neighbouring constituency of Swansea West there was a less than comradely motion discussed recently. It came in three parts.
The first part noted that the evidence given at the Newport trial raised questions about Harris’s fitness to hold the position of Deputy Leader of Welsh Labour.
The second part urged support for the elected members of Labour’s Welsh Executive Committee (WEC) who have asked what processes were used by the party to address concerns about Harris.
The third part asked the Swansea West Constituency Labour Party (CLP) to refrain from inviting Carolyn Harris to CLP events until the WEC members had satisfactory explanations.
The first two parts were carried. The third removed by amendment.
On we go to Gower, Swansea’s third constituency, wherein dwells Ioan Richard. His local MP is former rugby international Tonia Antoniazzi.
Now Ioan is the kind of bloke who asks awkward questions, and challenges conventional wisdom, a species with which I identify but one far too rare in Wales. Inevitably, he has asked awkward questions of Ms Antoniazzi – who has blocked him and now ignores him entirely.
I know ‘Welsh’ Labour is very tribal, and sensitive to criticism, but someone should tell Antoniazzi that she represents not just those giving her a clear run to the line but also those wanting to tackle her.
WELSH NOT 2019
A story that recently made the news was of care home staff in Ystradgynlais being told by their employer not to speak Welshamong themselves. That’s because their employer thought ‘it was “unacceptable” for clients to overhear staff speaking in a language they do not understand’.
Now this is Ystradgynlais, or more specifically, Cwm-twrch Isaf, at the top of the Swansea Valley, where almost everyone other than recent arrivals to the area speaks or understands Welsh. So if the residents at the Isfryn care home, owned by the Accomplish Group of Birmingham (formerly Tracs Ltd), are unfamiliar with the Welsh language then they’re obviously not from the area, so where are they from?
There seems to be no leasehold arrangement registered with the Land Registry so I can only assume that Accomplish rents Isfryn from Link Administration Holdings or else manages Isfryn for the Australian company. (If anyone out there is aware of the exact relationship, please get in touch.)
You’ll have noticed that on the title document the property is known as Glynderwen, but I suppose the name changed to Isfryn because there’s another Glynderwen down the valley in Clydach. This would have posed no problem in days gone by, but the Clydach Glynderwen is also a ‘home’ of some kind run by Aston Care Ltd of Reading.
As I said in a recent post: “In our rural areas, and increasingly in our post-industrial areas, (our) poverty is made worse year on year by England shipping in its problem cases via a host of organisations you’ve never heard of.”
To facilitate this social cleansing substantial properties can be snapped up in the Swansea Valley for a third of what they’d cost in the Thames Valley. Properties ideal for small care homes.
Which explains why we have Australian companies, English companies, English care home residents, with Welsh involvement limited to minimum-wage jobs in which staff are banned from speaking Welsh.
And, almost certainly, there’s Welsh public money involved somewhere.
This is how a collaborationist form of socialism manages a colony. It can delude itself that by facilitating such a situation it is both ‘caring’ and creating jobs. This mindset is not limited to the Labour Party.
I wish to God we had politicians asking the right questions about places like Isfryn. Questions such as . . .
Where are the residents from?
Who’s paying for their care?
If they’re from outside of Wales (and being unfamiliar with the Welsh language suggests they are) then is their home local authority making a contribution to the Welsh NHS?
Why are we allowing or encouraging such places to be set up in Wales?
In 2019 who the fuck has the right to tell Welsh people they mustn’t speak Welsh?
In a nutshell, a company called Camp Valour CIC says it wants to take over 19th century Fort Hubberston in Milford Haven and use it as a rehabilitation centre for ex-service personnel.
The problem is that Camp Valour has been making ludicrous claims and telling outright lies. Many of these lies concern Major Fabian Sean Lucien Faversham-Pullen, who I – in my ignorance – had assumed was Sean Keven Patrick Pullen, director of failed company Baron Security (UK) Ltd, based in the same building at Hawarden airport as Camp Valour, but no – they’re twins!
That they’re never seen in the same room together is due to the fact that Keven drifted off to Gibraltar at the same time as Lucian appeared on the scene. But it had nothing – absolutely nothing! – to do with Keven deciding to call himself Fabian.
Or at least, that’s the story according to Camp Valour’s Chief Operations Officer, Nicola – ‘Don’t tell him, Pike!’ – Wilcox.
The Major’s military credentials were also called into question, but Nicola explained that his army record couldn’t be checked because he had served under his mother’s name. (Which would have made him the only Cynthia in the Parachute Regiment!) But is that legal? We’re dealing with the British army not the French Foreign Legion.
But now, the major, a hardened 25-year veteran, who (we were told) saw many conflicts, has taken offence at a few reasonable questions and gone into hiding, to be replaced by someone as yet unnamed. Perhaps it’ll be Sebastian, the third of the Pullen triplets, just returned from Syria where he led an all-female unit of Kurdish fighters against ISIS.
As a spokesperson Nicola does a wonderful job, making everything so clear. For after Ms Wilcox’ ‘clarification’ I am more convinced than ever that we are dealing with shameless shysters of the Walter Mitty variety.
Oh, yes, and I can look forward to another solicitor’s letter to add to my collection . . . if we are to believe Nicola Wilcox. Would you?
As might be expected, the Camp Valour gang has attracted considerable attention in Pembrokeshire. This is what the Western Telegraph had to say (with some interesting comments). While below you can read the report from the Pembrokeshire Herald.
Pembrokeshire councillor Mike Stoddart was also on good form on his ‘Old Grumpy’ blog.
Someone who knows of such things has told me that the SAS is always referred to as ‘The 22nd Special Air Service Regiment’, and presenting an SAS beret to someone who hadn’t earned it is never done.
Something that obviously puzzled me was the name change to Faversham-Pullen. A common reason is marriage, so had he married a Miss Faversham? I could find no evidence for that, so why Faversham?
Something I turned up made me pause, and wonder if it offers a clue. Read it for yourself. Chronologically, the fit is perfect, but I’m not sure what to make of it.
Naturally I checked with various bodies to see if the gang had secured any moolah.
The county council only became aware of the project from a media report! Though it did receive a copy of the business plan – from Milford Haven town council. This plan mentioned Armed Forces Community Covenant funding; on reading this, Dan Shaw, the council’s Liaison Officer for the Armed Forces, contacted Nicola Wilcox, only to be told that this was a ‘mistake’ and that this funding was not being applied for.
Just another lie that was put in the business plan to impress people, and withdrawn when queried. I cannot see the ‘Major’ and his gang applying for such funding because too many awkward questions would be asked.
I have submitted an FoI to the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ and await a reply.
Fort Hubberston is owned by the Port of Milford Haven, so I also wrote to that body. In response I was sent a brief statement issued on February 20th by Claire Stowell, Director of Property, which read: “The Port of Milford Haven has a short term agreement with Camp Valour which allows them to develop full proposals for Hubberston Fort. We will review those arrangements with Camp Valour in due course.”
I have to confess that I cannot get out of my head a suspicion that the copyright for the Fort Hubberston plan may not belong entirely to Phipps and Pullen. For I note some interesting characters among the senior management at PMH, with backgrounds in business and property development.
If I’m right, then this might explain the confusing entry on the Companies House website, where Camp Valour’s ‘nature of business’ reads, “Recreational vehicle parks, trailer parks and camping grounds”.
Somebody may have slipped up and told the truth, for once.
STOP PRESS! A ‘solicitor’s letter’ arrived just before I put out this post. It was signed ‘Alex McCready’, and there is indeed a lawyer of that name, but I’m not convinced she sent this.
To begin with, it came as a personal e-mail, not an e-mail with an attached letter. There was no company logo or contact details and it came from a Yahoo address! There were spelling mistakes and incorrect use or absence of the possessive apostrophe. Finally, I know from experience how solicitors write letters of this kind.
I shall of course be bringing this desperate attempt to silence me to the attention of the real Alex McCready.
UPDATE 10:35: I have now spoken with Alex McCready and confirmed that she did not send the e-mail. At her request the content of the e-mail is no longer available, Ms McCready will be making her own enquiries into what I interpret to be an assault on her reputation.
EMRYS IS ON HIS WAY!
I was in Carmarthen not so long ago to meet a fascinating guy from Swansea (but, then, aren’t all Jacks fascinating?). We talked of this and that, that and this, and he told me of a Welsh exile in New Zealand who had created Emrys the dragon, who will soon be on his way to Wales.
I have paraphrased the information I’ve subsequently been sent.
‘Artist Julia O’Sullivan is from Caehopkin in the Swansea Valley but has lived in Te Aroha, New Zealand for 12 years.
Emrys was inspired by the Huw Edwards’ BBC series, ‘The Story of Wales’. Emrys honours many Welsh people and includes 960 hand-beaten and enamelled copper scales. Some 750 of them etched with the names of Welsh celebrities.
Emrys is made of metals significant in Welsh history, stands on a Welsh slate base in the shape of Wales, with the legs representing pit-head winding gear. Emrys also contains 29 oil paintings, each telling a story – among them the Rebecca Riots, Aberfan, the Mabinogion, Hywel Dda and Owain Glyndŵr.
Emrys is 2.8m high by 3m wide, weighs 200kg and took 22 months to complete.
A special container has been being built and transportation home has now been arranged. Emrys will depart with a youth choir singing the traditional Maori farewell ‘Po Atarau’. A grand welcome awaits both Emrys and Julia on their arrival in Swansea.’
Emrys will be en route to Swansea in just over a week, and when he arrives he will take up the offer of temporary accommodation at the university. (Let’s hope he doesn’t get involved with the Wellness Village or he’ll be helping Plod with their enquiries and then it’ll be the next boat back.)
Emrys is seeking a permanent home in Wales, so we’re open to suggestions. No post cards this time, let’s have comments to the blog or responses on social media.
MORE LABOUR-STYLE ‘DEMOCRACY’
As you probably know, Plaid Cymru beat Labour to win the Ely by-election in Cardiff last Thursday. But because Neil McEvoy was highly influential in the campaign the militant feminist and niche politics elements in the party have had trouble bringing themselves to congratulate new councillor Andrea Gibson.
The best that could be extracted from an eco-friendly, gender-fluid Plaid spokesperson wearing a T-shirt reading ‘Save Socialist Venezuela From Capitalist Foreign Aid’ was, ‘Ely! Ely! Isn’t that in Cambridgeshire?’ When it was pointed out that there was a Cardiff neighbourhood of the same name, the spokesperson admitted ‘We really aren’t interested in such places’.
Further west there was better news for Labour in an election that got less publicity than the Ely contest. This was the by-election in the Mynyddygarreg ward of Cydweli town council. Though I did mention Labour candidate Beryl Williams in a recent post.
And Beryl won, but what was so curious and disturbing about the result was that of the 330 votes ‘cast’ 220 were postal or proxy votes. Beryl got 191 votes to her Independent rival’s 139 and the great majority of her votes were proxy and postal votes.
For I’m told that Beryl, following her defeat in a by-election last year, was well prepared this time, and stalked the ward armed with sheaves of postal vote registration forms, which of course she is perfectly entitled to fill in for elderly and other voters to sign.
And let’s not forget those – and to quote from Beryl’s own election material – who are helping turn Cydweli into “an autism and dementia friendly town”. Achieved by the third sector importing people with autism, dementia and other conditions who are then accommodated by housing associations.
So Beryl was elected thanks to Labour’s control of the third sector and care homes and the kind of extra burden being laid on Wales that we saw at Isfryn in Cwm-twrch Isaf.
I do hope that ‘Welsh’ Labour hasn’t adopted the old Ulster Unionist tactic of personation that exhorted supporters to ‘Vote early, vote often!’ Or perhaps in this case, ‘Don’t bother voting – I’ll do it for you!’
You’ll have read that the company involved is called Anglesey Homes, so I went to the Companies House website to check. First I found an Anglesey Homes Limited which went belly-up in January 2017. But there’s also an Anglesey Homes Ltd, which was Incorporated 16 November 2018.
Someone has been clever and re-used the name. Perfectly legal because the old company was ‘Limited’ and the new one is ‘Ltd’.
Anglesey Homes Ltd has a website that gives information on its projects but nothing about who runs the company, no company number, and not even a postal address. Companies House tells us that Anglesey Homes Ltd is based at Chester Business Park and shares an address with a number of other companies, with the sole director being Emma Elizabeth Scott.
So who is Emma Elizabeth Scott, this major player in the Ynys Môn holiday homes market? She was born in July 1969 and has in the past three years formed a number of companies. Here’s a list I’ve compiled, though it might be incomplete:
At first sight it would appear that we have here a woman in her late forties who suddenly throws herself into a business career with 12 new companies. And she’s the sole director of most of them.
And because they are all so new there’s little or no paperwork to see. This is certainly the case with Anglesey Homes Ltd, the company that claims to be behind the holiday homes at Rhosneigr.
Far more likely is that Emma Elizabeth Scott is fronting for someone. The county council – and indeed anyone else – is therefore entitled to ask Ms Scott who she’s fronting for, and why that person/those persons wish to remain in the shadows.
We are also entitled to ask Ms Scott where the money is coming from.
For as I have made clear on this blog, and explained with examples, a great deal of dirty money from northern England is being ‘washed’ in the property market and the tourism rackets of northern Wales.
I’m not suggesting that Anglesey Homes Ltd is using dirty money, but it’s always nice to be sure.
I’m only just getting over the shock, that’s why it’s taken me so long to write about it.
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.
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!’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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!
Finding myself at a loose end I did what I often do to ward off ennui – I delved into StatsWales, a site I recommend to anyone with a strong stomach who is free from high blood pressure or problems with their cholesterol levels.
And here’s a link to the Buyer’s Guide. In a nutshell; you need to come up with 5% deposit, 75% mortgage, and then you apply for a 20% equity loan from Help to Buy – Wales to complete the purchase of a new-build home. It’s basically a programme to stimulate the building industry.
Going through the various tables, and making comparisons, certain anomalies began to appear, anomalies which, when I gave them some thought, were rather worrying, for it was difficult to think of an acceptable or innocent explanation for some of the curious data confronting me.
Diving in . . . why have there been 1,339 completions in Newport (population 151,485, 2017 mid-year estimate) but only 326 in Cardiff (362,756, ditto)? Or why should there have been 768 completions in Flintshire (155,155) but only 205 in neighbouring Wrexham (135,571)? Moving to the south west we see that Carmarthenshire (186,452) completed 645 while in neighbouring Pembrokeshire (124,711) it was just 191, while up the road in Ceredigion (73,076) it was a measly 21!
Moving down the list, a table I found very interesting was the one dealing with house prices, which is worth spending some time on because it raises more questions about the workings of the Help to Buy system. Let me explain what I mean.
Earlier we noted that there were many more properties bought with Help to Buy in Carmarthenshire than in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion combined. The table suggests that this may be due to most of the properties sold in Carmarthenshire being under £150,000, which would suggest that there the scheme has been used to help first-time buyers, who reassuringly made up 80% of sales, one of the highest percentages in the country. By comparison, the first-time buyer figure for Torfaen was just 59%.
The figures for Merthyr I find very strange. Without wishing to do the area down, I was surprised to see that 68% of the Help to Buy properties there were priced at over £150,000. For Carmarthenshire – where property values are higher than Merthyr – the figure was just 24%. The figure for Swansea is 25%, and for Blaenau Gwent, the other Heads of the Valleys authority, it’s 22%.
So why are people buying such expensive houses in one of the poorest areas of a poor country?
For most areas – even Merthyr – there is a tailing off as we approach the £300,000 limit, which is to be expected. Yet in the following local authority areas the top price bracket shows an increase in completions over the cheaper band preceding it: Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham, Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Torfaen.
For Flintshire, the figures are striking: 99 completions in the £200,001-£225,000 bracket, 105 in the £225,001-£250,000 band, and then a leap to 150 in the top £250,001-£300,000 band. Which means that 89% of the properties bought in Flintshire using Help to Buy were priced at over £150,000.
According to the Land Registry, the average house price in Flintshire in June 2017 was £162,703 (and has since dropped). For Merthyr the figure was £98,172. The figures for all local authority areas are available here, scroll down.
In the hope of pulling everything together I decided to compile a table of my own. (Available here in pdf format.) The columns show, from the left:
The local authority.
The area’s population from the ONS’ mid-year estimate for 2017.
A breakdown of the prices of properties bought with Help to Buy (split into four bands rather than the eight supplied by StatsWales).
The total number of Help to Buy completions.
The number and percentage of first-time buyers.
The average house price for each area in June 2017, supplied by the Land Registry.
The average price paid for a Help to Buy property.
The difference between 6 and 7.
So in addition to the questions already posed, why have there been so many Help to Buy purchases in some areas and so few in others? As mentioned, the most obvious stand-out is Newport, which with 4.8% of the population accounts for 18.7% of the Help to Buy completions.
Could it be that many, or most, of the Help to Buy purchases in Newport are investments in anticipation of the expected influx of Bristol commuters? Come to that, are many of these properties being bought by Bristol buyers thinking ahead? It’s difficult to explain the Newport anomaly without bringing Bristol into the equation.
But whatever the explanation, isn’t Newport taking up a disproportionate amount of the £170m available? Is there no mechanism to ensure that all parts of the country are treated fairly?
As for Flintshire, we can reasonably assume that many of the buyers there will have come from over the border, which points up another serious shortcoming in Help to Buy.
It would be nice to think that this scheme focuses on first-time buyers, local young people buying their first home. We have the excellent example set by the three south western counties but elsewhere the picture is patchy. With 83% of Help to Buy sales in Wrecsam and Cardiff being made to first-time buyers but just 59% in Torfaen, Newport’s hinterland.
Carmarthenshire also deserves praise for the fact that 76% of the properties sold in the county with Help to Buy were priced at £175,000 or under. Which when coupled with an 80% first-time buyer figure suggests that it’s young locals being helped.
You’ll notice that in three local authorities – Vale of Glamorgan, Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire – the average Help to Buy price is lower than the average sale price for those areas. But Monmouthshire and the Vale have the highest property values in Wales so this is nothing to worry about. While for Pembrokeshire we see that 77% of the Help to Buy properties were £175,000 or less which, when coupled with an 85% first-time buyer rate, suggest that it’s on the same righteous path as next-door Carmarthenshire.
Though I’d like an explanation for why there have been so few Help to Buy sales in Ceredigion. (And I don’t want any Cardi jokes!)
And then there’s Merthyr. I can think of no good reason why most of the properties bought there with Help to Buy were priced over £175,000 when the average house price is £98,172. And why are only 67% of them first-time buyers? Somebody’s taking the piss.
Administered properly Help to Buy could have done a lot of good. If it had been limited to first-time buyers and those who had lived in Wales for a minimum of five years. But because the impetus was to build more houses, and because the more expensive the house the bigger the profit margin, ‘anomalies’ were guaranteed.
When we look at the list of participating builders we see a long list of companies, a list that contains quite a few outfits that I bet have never laid a brick in Wales.
Going back to the ‘Welsh’ Government website, those thinking of using Help to Buy are also advised to find, in addition to a builder and a lender, an approved financial advisor and an accredited conveyancer. Clicking on the links for these brings up the same long list of professionals, and again, many of them are outside of Wales. Bristol and Chester seem popular locations. (List available here in pdf format.)
As I say, properly applied and administered Help to Buy could have helped a lot of our people, and given a boost to Welsh companies, but like most legislation that passes through Cardiff docks and then into the hands of civil servants it is intended that as much as possible of the benefits spread over the border.
And inevitably, there will be some jiggery-pokery, as alliances are forged between builders, solicitors and lenders. Other may be drawn in, such as local government officials and councillors. Also, friends and family of those involved will be ‘helped’ to apply for Help to Buy.
Standing back, looking at the big picture, one thing becomes clear. By and large, the Help to Buy programme seems to have been implemented more sensibly, more fairly, and less wastefully, in those local government areas that are not controlled by the Labour Party.
Seeing as no one knows what kind of Brexit the UK government wants, and because so much of what you’re reading and hearing on the subject is either biased or just ill-informed, it falls upon Uncle Jac to shed a little light on the matter. Because there are implications in Brexit for the unity of the UK, and these are already being addressed with covert strategies that may be reported in the mainstream media but are not identified for what they really are.
To make the best sense of what follows you must understand that the whole debate has moved beyond Brexit to the point where it is now about two unions, the EU and the UK, and also the future of the Conservative and Unionist Party. Not to be outdone the Labour Party is also confused, but there we also find other issues at play.
The overall UK vote was 51.89% Leave to 48.11% Remain. In Wales 52.53% voted Leave. By comparison, Scotland voted 62% for Remain.
Since then, from the UK government, it’s been a revolving stage of pantomime, tub-thumping jingoism, farce, soap opera and slapstick, but now, as the end approaches, things are beginning to take a darker turn.
But before getting to the creepy bits let’s consider where we are with the main UK political parties.
EU membership has been a divisive issue within the Conservative Party for half a century or more. In the hope of settling things prime minister David Cameron announced in February 2016 that there would be a referendum. He also stated that he would be campaigning to stay. When he lost, he resigned.
Since the referendum it has been almost impossible to separate what passes for ‘negotiations’ with the EU from the ongoing civil war within the Conservative Party, with the internecine fighting being a prelude to the inevitable leadership contest.
We’ve now reached the stage where it seems to be the incumbent Theresa May versus Boris Johnson. ‘Bonking Boris’, reviled by ‘progressives’ and opposed by many in his own party. Yet Tories of a more pragmatic bent may see him as a winner.
Not least because Boris Johnson has achieved that priceless political status of being universally recognised by his first name. How many politicians today can say that?
And don’t forget that Johnson was elected mayor of multiracial London in 2008, beating Comrade Livingstone, and increasing his share of the vote in getting re-elected in 2012, again by beating Livingstone. There will be a number in the Conservative Party who’ll see a lesson there for a future tussle with Comrade Corbyn.
At the time of writing this the elite against whom I and many others voted in June 2016 is pushing for a People’s Vote on the “final Brexit deal”. Having lost the vote in 2016 they’re hoping for a re-run and a different result . . . but believe me, it’s got sod all to do with ‘the People’.
The English Labour Party in Wales is generally supportive of this initiative because by and large our MPs and AMs want to remain in the EU. But their leader is proving more cautious, for Jeremy Corbyn seems to understand better than his Wales-based representatives why Labour voters in the post-industrial areas and the lower socio-economic brackets voted for Brexit.
Corbyn is reluctant to further alienate this white working class, and so, sure of the loyalty of his Momentum base, and believing that his ethnic minority and middle class voters have nowhere else to go, he seems to have concluded that the best option is to keep ’em guessing.
Others in Labour are less reticent about speaking out against Brexit and in favour of a second referendum. Here in Wales Labour politicos have reminded us how much money we’ve received from the EU, which doesn’t really help their cause because too much of that money has been frittered away by successive Labour management teams in Cardiff docks with no discernible benefits accruing to the areas in need.
But what the hell! – we’ve got the biggest third sector money can buy.
He’s not alone in seeing the possibility of Brexit breaking the UK apart – it’s one of the reasons I voted for Brexit – but I’m sure he takes the side of his Tory masters and will do his best to maintain the Union. Why change the habit of a lifetime?
But Carwyn’s masters are not blind to the danger either, and are implementing measures to counter the threat, certainly in Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland is, as ever, different.
Without knowing anything about the Flight of the Earls, the Plantation, Partition, or even the Troubles, most people are vaguely aware that the politics of ‘Ulster’ or the Six Counties is dominated by whether this part of Ireland should remain in the United Kingdom or whether it should join the rest of the island.
(Though this does not apply to Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who seems to have imagined a homogeneous population made up of individuals who take a pin into the polling booth.)
As things stand, those wishing to stay part of the UK remain in a majority, but a majority being whittled away year on year by demographic trends. So that by 2030 there will probably be a Catholic majority and a referendum on reunification could choose a united Ireland.
Brexit has added a new ingredient to the mix and might accelerate reunification.
Because the prospect of a ‘hard’ border after the UK exits the EU will not only be bad for business, it also raises fears of a return to violence. This has resulted in a number of people hitherto opposed to a united Ireland prepared to consider that option in order to stay in the EU. And let’s not forget that Northern Ireland voted by 56% to 44% to Remain. The only party pushing a Leave vote was the Democratic Unionist Party, predictably following the BritNat line.
Yet one of the alternatives, that of somehow keeping the Six Counties within the UK and the EU by having the customs border somewhere in the Irish Sea, has Mrs May’s DUP allies shouting ‘No Surrender!’ and strapping on their Lambeg drums.
The other option seems to involve no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and a ‘soft’ or invisible border, with customs checks carried out by technology that doesn’t exist, or possibly by leprechauns.
The question of whether there should be a united Ireland could of course be resolved with a referendum, allowed for in the Good Friday (or Belfast) Agreement (Schedule 1,2). But the power to call such a vote rests with the Secretary of State. As we’ve seen, at the moment that is Karen Bradley, who thinks people in the Bogside don Orange sashes when the humour is on them.
So we’re in the absurd position of the Secretary of State having the authority to call a referendum , ” . . . if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.” Which, when you consider it, is a very good reason for the British government NOT to call a referendum.
The political situation is further complicated by the fact that the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed in January 2017 and seems unlikely to get back on its feet any time soon.
There is little the British state can do to influence things in Northern Ireland for a number of reasons: 1/ the Republic’s government keeps a close eye on events; 2/ Ireland is now crucial for the EU because it will soon be a land border; 3/ there’s the interest from the USA, for no American politician can ignore the Catholic Irish-American vote.
And as I’ve suggested, the UK establishment is resigned to losing Northern Ireland in 10 or 20 years time anyway due to ‘the revenge of the cradle’, so the worst Brexit can do is hurry up that process. While never having to deal again with Northern Ireland politicians is a prospect most civil servants welcome.
In Scotland, things are very different.
The 2014 Scottish independence referendum gave the UK establishment one hell of a fright and may only have been won at the last minute by the intervention of senior politicians promising everything short of independence in The Vow. Though Brexit is causing a rethink for the man behind it.
The Scots voting to Remain coupled with the growing prospect of a ‘hard’ Brexit is increasing support for Scottish independence. This has prompted the UK state go on the offensive. It’s worth focusing on two, ongoing elements of this attack.
First there’s the crude and unambivalent ‘Britification’ campaign, most visible in the packaging of Scottish goods with the Union flag. In the image below we see whisky and, even weirder, that quintessentially Scottish delicacy, haggis, branded as ‘British’!
But the alternative name for whisky is Scotch. Can you imagine anyone going into a bar and saying, ‘Give me a large British, barman’? Which might get the response, ‘A large British what, sir?’ As for haggis, branding it with the Union Jack is liable to lose sales because people might think it’s counterfeit, something like Albanian ‘champagne’.
In the main it seems to be the supermarkets at fault rather than the manufacturers, for I’ve read that Lidl and Aldi, the German chains, have stuck with Scottish branding.
I can imagine a meeting deep in the bowels of Whitehall between representatives of the main supermarket chains and high-ranking civil servants to discuss ‘promoting a sense of shared Britishness in these difficult times’, and perhaps achieving the objective without even mentioning Scotland.
(But I warn them now, if they come to put a Union Jack on my laverbread they will have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.)
The other point of attack has been the allegations against Alex Salmond former leader of the Scottish National Party and former Scottish first minister. Let me say that I don’t know whether these allegations are true or not, but the motivation behind them is crystal clear.
I first understood what it was all about watching Newsnight soon after the story broke. It had been broken by the Daily Record, the Scottish version of the Daily Mirror, and therefore the mouthpiece of the Labour Party, once dominant in Scottish politics but now languishing in third place as the Unionist vote coalesces behind the Tories.
The assistant editor responsible was a cocky Ulsterman named David Clegg, and without knowing his background I would hazard a guess that he has never voted for Sinn Féin. He was positively bouncing at being interviewed over his ‘scoop’ . . . and then something rather strange happened – he kept talking about Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond’s successor in both positions!
The light bulb flashed above the old Jac noggin, I took a sip of Malbec and nodded sagely.
And so it came to pass that where there had been unity of purpose in a political party determined to achieve Scottish independence, now they were at each other’s throats! Or at least, that’s what newspapers were reporting. And desperately hoping that the Scottish public would believe it.
What we see in Scotland suggests that secret polling has confirmed the British government’s worst fears – the Brexit cock-up has created a majority for independence.
Added to the blatant BritNat bias the BBC in Scotland has exhibited for some years we now have government-controlled newspapers in a constituent part of a democracy. Were this happening anywhere else it would be reported, and condemned . . . by the very media outlets that have so readily submitted to government control.
What absolute hypocrites!
Here in Wales the Britification campaign has been less obvious and offensive, partly because we have less indigenous produce to be plastered with Union Jacks, due in large part to the unwritten rule that says any successful Welsh company is only allowed to reach a certain size before being taken over by an English rival.
That said, the campaign has taken other forms, two examples will suffice to explain what I mean.
To begin with, early last year that most colonialist of ‘Welsh’ organisations, Cadw, announced that there was to be a ring of steel erected near Flint castle to celebrate the 2017 Year of Legends, one of the regular, tiresome, and often insulting tourism marketing ploys.
Ring of Steel is an obvious reference to the castles built by Edward I to encircle Gwynedd and subjugate its inhabitants. Cadw knew this. The proposed structure was soon dubbed ‘The Anus of the North’, an epithet that then seemed to transfer to Ken Skates, the hapless minister for culture or some such in England’s Cardiff management team.
After a public outcry, political opposition, and a petition that attracted 10,000 signatures in a matter of days, this squalid and deliberate attempt to celebrate English conquest was dropped.
But then came the renaming of the Second Severn Crossing as the Prince of Wales Bridge. Again, this was widely opposed, with little support from within Wales, but it went ahead in a secret ceremony.
The renaming idea is attributed to Alun Cairns, the oleaginous Secretary of State for Severnside, but I’m not so sure. I believe the idea came from the same source as the ‘request’ for supermarkets to smother Scottish produce under the Union Jack. Cairns was only too happy to oblige.
Alun ‘Tippy-toes’ Cairns is now one of the most ridiculed and reviled politicians in Welsh political history, even more so than some of his predecessors such John Redwood; for while we expected no better from them, Welsh-speaking Cairns is viewed as a turncoat.
Having mentioned Severnside, the renaming of the bridge and the removal of the tolls will begin what we are asked to welcome as the great property bonanza in the south east. In practice, no bridge tolls and cheaper property prices on the Welsh side of the bridge will encourage a population movement into Wales.
Replicating what we see in the north as commuters from Manchester and Merseyside are guided away from exclusive communities in Cheshire into the commuter communities planned for the A55 corridor.
These machinations on the part of the UK state, coupled with the cowardice and incompetence of the English Labour Party in Wales has predictably resulted in a reaction.
In the past couple of years we’ve seen the emergence and growth of YesCymru, the launch of new party Ein Gwlad, and the realisation within Plaid Cymru that a hard left party obsessing over issues that mean nothing to 99% of the Welsh population is going nowhere.
There can no longer be any doubt that there is a Britification agenda operating in Scotland and Wales. Because the BritNats driving the Brexit process are awake to the fact that if they win they risk the Union. More moderate elements can also see the risk to the Union and even though they might oppose Brexit they have little alternative but to join in the Britification offensive.
Yet Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the rest must push ahead because their political reputations and their places in history are now tied up with Brexit. They cannot afford to fail. If they succeed, they know it will be easy to use the rallying-call of ‘Save the Union’ to reunite the Conservative Party, and leave the other parties no alternative but to fall into line.
The real worry is that the Britification and dirty tricks we’ve seen so far in Scotland and Wales could be nothing compared to what we might experience after the Brexit shit hits the fan.
I remember, back in the 1960s, when I was a wild young thing, visiting Owain Williams (of Tryweryn fame) on his farm, Gwynus, and then heading down for a drink at the local hostelry, the Plas Pistyll Hotel. I remember it well because ‘G–‘ and I picked up a couple of girls from Birmingham and took them up the mountain to enjoy the view. (Who says we don’t welcome tourists?)
Ah! happy days.
The old pile, with its uninterrupted views of the sea, fell on hard times and was eventually abandoned to the elements. But even if it was no longer viable as a hotel, the location alone dictated that somebody would some day come along with a plan for the site.
And so it was. . . .
THE PLANNING APPLICATIONS
Let me start by explaining that I have drawn together all the planning references I can find relating to both Plas Pistyll and neighbouring Pistyll farm and caravan site, I’ve done this because as early as 2008 they had become one and the same project.
Here’s the link to the pdf version. Click on the planning reference number in the left-hand column to be taken to the Gwynedd planning site.
Below you’ll see a montage created for Natural Retreats by the Ark Company Landscape Architects of Middlesex, and although things have moved on the image gives the layout of the site.
The obvious place to start is with the three earliest applications, which tell us that both the farm and the Plas are owned by Sustainable Leisure, a company I couldn’t find on the Companies House website.
Even so, I know that the properties were owned by a Bill Gleave of Greater Manchester. I know because by August 2009 he had hit the rocks owing local businesses money. You’ll note that in the Daily Post report I’ve just linked to the Pistyll site is called ‘Nature’s Point’ (A name I’m sure I recall from the Mabinogion.)
This catastrophe was confirmed when the Bolton News reported that Gleave company BGH had gone tits up, with Sustainable Leisure following.
It all went quiet for almost three years until, in August 2011, there was an application from new player Natural Retreats to demolish Plas Pistyll and replace it with 20 self-catering holiday units. These to be complemented with “16 self catering holiday units in lieu of the existing static caravan site” at the farm.
To begin with, I had the same problem with Natural Retreats as I had with Sustainable Leisure – I couldn’t find it on the Companies House website. But I found a Natural Retreats website and eventually unearthed Natural Retreats UK Ltd, which changed its name to The UK Great Travel Company Ltd on 25 October 2017.
Permission was given in August 2012 to demolish Plas Pistyll with the condition that the same individual or family could not live in the new holiday units for more than three months in a year. Natural Retreats appealed against this decision and the appeal was allowed permitting unrestricted holiday use for the whole site.
I understand that the last time the planning committee met was to discuss C11/0661/43/LL, thereafter everything was delegated to planning officers. Some very important decisions were made that many feel should have been referred back to the committee, not least the decision to allow unrestricted holiday use.
Having got the big prize Natural Retreats – usually operating now as Natural Land & Sea – chipped away over the next few years at more of the planning conditions imposed by Gwynedd’s planning committee, to the point where few remained.
For Gwynedd’s planning department seemed to bend over backwards to oblige: “. . . deletion of Conditions 8, 9, 10 (Code for Sustainable Homes) . . . vary the materials proposed for the external wall of the units on the farm site . . . Discharge conditions 20 (slate), 22 (stone) and 24 (external finishes) . . . Discharge condition 2 (agree stone) on planning permission . . . “
Instead of stone and slate cottages in keeping with vernacular styles (including Pistyll farm), using local materials and labour, what are being thrown up now on the Plas Pistyll site are prefabricated units brought in from God knows where – Estonia being one suggestion – with no local benefits whatsoever.
And again, predictably, searching the Companies House website turned up nothing for Natural Land & Sea. Either there is no such company, or it’s registered outside the UK, or it’s the trading name of another entity (in which case we should know the name of that entity). But Cyngor Gwynedd and its planners don’t seem to know or care who they’re dealing with.
It should be standard practice for any elected or public body dealing with a commercial entity to insist on that entity identifying itself with a Companies House, Charity Commission, FSA, etc number or some other form of identification, or else explain why it cannot meet this requirement.
Relevant digression: I’ve been helping a neighbour who’s lived in the village all his life renew his blue parking badge, but he still had to provide his birth certificate and other proof of identity. If he’d rocked up claiming to represent Intergalactic Con Men Inc, and wanting to build 5,000 holiday apartments in tower blocks around Llyn Tegid I suppose Cyngor Gwynedd would have rolled out the red carpet, like they’ve done for Paul Williams, Natural Retreats, and God knows how many others.
I’ve told you that Natural Retreats UK Ltd renamed itself The UK Great Travel Company Ltd on 25 October 2017. On that very same day a company was born named NRML Technology Ltd. The sole director was soon joined by another gentleman from Bobby Lee’s home state of Virginia and in June the company name was changed to Natural Retreats UK Ltd.
Why would Natural Retreats UK Ltd be resurrected under American ownership? We shall consider this in just a minute.
Before that, let’s take a closer look at who’s behind this disaster at Pistyll, on the very site where a young Jac downed pints and chatted up young ladies. (Though I use the most generous application of that epithet.) As we’ve seen, there can easily be confusion about the name of the company involved. Hardly surprising when you read on.
There may be other companies for all I know but the people involved with almost all of those I’ve listed are: Matt Spence, Anthony Wild and Ewan Kearney.
The founder and driving force is Matt Spence, who was born on a Yorkshire sheep farm where – he tells us – it was a struggle to survive, so he and his brothers looked for alternative ways to make money. Spence hit on the idea of high quality accommodation in national parks and other areas of great natural beauty.
A noble ambition that he’s partly met in finding the right locations. But in reality Spence’s business is raising money in the form of investments – the minimum seems to have been £50,000 to join NR Investors LP (check out the document for 16.01.2008) – and whether all the money raised goes on lodges and chalets is a moot point, for he and his associates have their fingers in so many pies.
But whatever the company or partnership the bottom line remains making as much money as possible. And this often seems to mean cutting corners, for I’ve heard from a number of quarters that the ‘Natural’ empire is not always a good neighbour, or employer. Here are reports from the Cairngorms, and Yorkshire.
There are even suggestions that the empire may not be in the best of financial health. But with so many interlinked commercial and financial entities constantly changing addresses and names it’s not easy for anyone to keep track.
I earlier alluded to an intervention from the Commonwealth of Virginia, so maybe it’s time to expand on what I’m sure you found to be a tantalising reference.
Spence is something of an evangelist and so we should not be surprised to learn that he spread the ‘Natural’ gospel to the USA, where they have a hell of a lot more open spaces than us. This bore fruit in Natural Retreats USA. And yet . . .
Those who have raised Natural Retreats UK Ltd from the dead appear to have no connection with Natural Retreats USA. And yet, under its original name of NRML Technology Ltd the company was formed by a Christopher Holden who gave his correspondence address as, ‘Natural Retreats, 675 Peter Jefferson Parkway, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, 22911’.
Holden works with venture capitalists and investors, Court Square Ventures of Charlottesville, which has no obvious connection with Natural Retreats USA, it’s certainly not listed among CSV’s clients. He was later joined as a director by Douglas Burns. On the CSV website Holden is described as a ‘General Partner’, whereas Burns is ‘Principal & CFO’.
Unless they plucked the Natural Retreats UK Ltd name out of thin air, and found Manchester by sticking a pin in a map, there has to be a connection between Court Square Ventures and Matt Spence and his associates.
But it still doesn’t make sense.
Because if we read the CSV website, and the biographies of the partners, then we see that their backgrounds are in media, technology, communications and the like – not a sasquatch-terrorised log cabin to be seen!
And yet, Court Square Ventures is an investment company, so it’s reasonable to suggest that the boys from Charlottesville come bearing greenbacks, which inclines me towards three options:
They have come to get a slice of the action, at Pistyll and elsewhere, perhaps by investing in one or more of Spence’s many financial vehicles.
They have come to help Spence out of a financial hole.
They have come to take over.
And if you think about, it could be a bit of all three; or maybe options 1 and 2 culminating in option 3.
In the hope of clarifying the situation I e-mailed Natural Retreats USA on Friday with, “There are companies of the same name operating in the UK, in Wales, Scotland and England. I see that Christopher Holden is a director of Natural Retreats UK Ltd. What exactly is the connection or relationship between the US and UK companies?”
The reply said, “Thank you for your inquiry into Natural Retreats. I would be happy to offer some more information as to how the different companies are related. You may also view our website for further clarification: https://www.naturalretreats.com/about
Natural Retreats was originally founded in the UK by Matthew Spence, and started with a few luxury lodges in the Yorkshire Dales. Over time, Natural Retreats grew to include destinations in the Eastern and Western United States as well. At this time, the US and UK now operate separately; they only share the name of Natural Retreats. The US main office is located in Charlottesville, VA and the Western Support Office is located in Park City, UT.
If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out. Thank you, again, for your inquiry; we hope you will stay with us at one of our luxury retreats in the near future!”
To which I responded with, “I am grateful for your speedy response. As I mentioned in my original query, I was a little confused seeing Christopher Holden of Charlottesville, Virginia listed as a director of Natural Retreats UK Ltd (Co No 11031026). A company formed in October 2017. This would appear to be a UK presence for the US operation, or is there some other interpretation?”
At this point the line went dead!
So we are no nearer to knowing why venture capitalists from Virginia with no obvious expertise in tourism have set up in Manchester using a company name previously used by those building at Plas Pistyll. But it’s surely no coincidence that Rural Retreats USA’s eastern office is in Charlottesville. Which throws up other questions.
I’ll ask again, does Cyngor Gwynedd and its planners really know who they’re dealing with? Not just because of the find-me-if-you-can company names but also because Spence specialises in getting others to invest in his plans, and even though I’m sure he scrupulously screens each and every investor, the fact remains that the money to develop Plas Pistyll could be coming from anywhere.
Court Square Ventures is another company that invests money for third parties.
The properties at Pistyll are now being advertised on Rightmove and other sites. So let’s consider what we’re dealing with, and its implications.
For a start, I note that these properties are being sold leasehold. Yet England’s management team down in Cardiff docks – those clowns that hope to be mistaken for a ‘Welsh Government’ – has turned against leasehold, except, apparently, when it’s used by RSLs or, more secretively, by unregistered private subsidiaries of publicly-funded RSLs. And of course by the likes of the ‘Natural’ empire.
Then again, just imagine Matt Spence and his gang turning up and saying, ‘Oi, Taff, we want to build a new holiday village overlooking the sea. We ain’t gonna use local materials, suppliers or labour. Then we are gonna give it some idiotic English name and there’s fuck all you can do about it’.
There would have been an outcry, even Plaid Cymru might have been roused to mumble something.
But that is exactly what has been achieved incrementally!
This development at Pistyll is only a few miles from Plas Glynllifon where dwells our old friend Paul Williams of Weep for Wales fame. Yet Plas Pistyll and Plas Glynllifon represent for the ‘Welsh’ Government ‘high end’ tourism, which must be unquestioningly encouraged.
For it is all set out in TAN 13: Tourism (1997) . . . which observant readers will have noted was two years before the Assembly first sat. That’s really thinking ahead!
Yet from what I can see, ‘high end’ tourism only attracts the smarter shysters and the outright crooks. Though if we are to attract high end tourism then what is being done to phase out the barrel-scraping tourism represented by mile after mile of ugly coastal caravan parks that can only deter the high rollers?
Because we are expected to believe that in a tiny country like Wales we can have all kinds of tourism and unlimited numbers of tourists without causing catastrophic cultural and environmental damage.
This is because it’s what England wants, due to the fact that a) money spent in Wales will make its way back to England, and b) tourism and the population influx it encourages makes Wales less of a ‘worry’.
As for the aforementioned clowns down Geiger Bay, well they’ll always do what London tells them, and some of them are even stupid enough to believe that a healthy economy can be based on tourism. Not forgetting that many in the Labour Party would be happy to see the death of Welsh identity.