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
While you’re recovering from Christmas, getting your breath back for further excesses at New Year, just take time to read this little piece.
BRYN BLAEN WIND FARM
Just over a year ago, I wrote Corruption in the wind?, which was primarily about the Hendy wind farm, but I also mentioned the linked Bryn Blaen installation. And it’s Bryn Blaen I’m concentrating on here.
The six turbines of the Bryn Blaen wind farm lie to the north of Llangurig, the village you pass by if travelling north-south on the A470, and through which you pass if leaving the A470 to take the A44 down to Aberystwyth.
Bryn Blaen wind farm is owned – in the first instance – by Bryn Blaen Wind Farm Ltd, which was Incorporated May 18, 2011, though the company was originally known as Development Securities (No 74) Ltd. The project was funded with five loans from Close Leasing Ltd, a Manchester finance company that seems to have a keen interest in renewables.
Hendy wind farm not far away is owned – ditto – by Hendy Wind Farm Ltd, which was also Incorporated May 18, 2011, this time as Development Securities (No 71) Ltd. Thus far there is just one charge with Close Leasing Ltd.
The immediate parent company in each case is DS Renewables LLP, which is in turn owned by U and I Group PLC. The U and I Group is a property company focused on London, Manchester and Dublin, but its portfolio extends beyond these cities and is not restricted to commercial and residential property.
Like most of its ilk the U and I Group pretends to be something better than just a property speculator. This clip from the 2019 accounts says it all.
Bryn Blaen appears on page 26, where we also find mention of Hendy and Rhoscrowther wind farms. The figures on the left are the ‘Previous target’ column while those on the right are ‘Realised gains/losses’.
We see that Hendy and Rhoscrowther have realised nothing; this is due to Hendy still being under construction, while Rhoscrowther was denied planning permission for a third time in April 2018 and appears to be dead in the water.
Bryn Blaen on the other hand has made a return of £4.7m, quite remarkable seeing as its turbines have never turned. This was being reported in January 2019 and little has changed, though I should report that some turbines have shaken the dust off recently . . . almost certainly powered by diesel generators, and done for the benefit of an increasingly sceptical local audience.
The reason Bryn Blaen is not generating electricity is hinted at in the image above, where it mentions ” . . . increased costs in connecting to the grid”. This alludes to a major problem. To wit, there isn’t the capacity on the existing local infrastructure to carry anything generated by Bryn Blaen.
Though a closer look at page 7 of the accounts (shown below) tells us that Bryn Blaen Wind Farm’s true assets are in fact just £2,076. The thirty-three million figure is made up of debts, and page 15 explains that these are £21,410,000 in bank loans and £12,934,555 owed to U and I Group PLC.
(Wow! If debts can be counted as assets then Jac is rolling in it!)
All of which means that Bryn Blaen wind farm is just a pachyderm of a very pale hue, desecrating the Welsh countryside for no discernible benefit to anyone. And yet . . .
On page 9, paragraph 2.2, of the Bryn Blaen Wind Farm Ltd accounts we read the passage below. The implication is that the debts (certainly the bank loans) will be repaid when Bryn Blaen is disposed of at the end of February 2020.
Which suggests that someone is going to buy a wind farm that cannot export any electricity it might generate . . . which is why it has generated nothing in the two years of its existence!
This episode raises a number of questions:
Why did the Planning Inspectorate overrule Powys County Council to give planning permission in August 2016 to a project that the most cursory investigation would have revealed was utterly useless?
Are there other examples like Bryn Blaen?
Turbines that have generated nothing for six months can be demolished, so will Lesley Griffiths now do as protesters request and have the Bryn Blaen turbines demolished at developers’ expense?
The U and I Group plans to re-submit a planning application for Rhoscrowther wind farm on Milford Haven Waterway; can we therefore assume that Lesley Griffiths will be instructed to approve this application?
The scandal of Bryn Blaen should be a matter of national concern, so don’t just leave it to the locals – you write to Lesley Griffiths, and to your local AM, asking what the hell has happened. Insist on Bryn Blaen being demolished. And demand more stringent checks on local grid capacity and other issues before planning permission is granted for any future wind farms.
For those who may not be familiar with this document, it is the supreme planning guidance for Wales to which plans such as councils’ Local Development Plans (LDPs) and all sub-national strategies must conform. I wrote about it in August.
The NDF is big on renewable energy, as the map below shows. What isn’t given over to wind and solar ‘farms’ is largely accounted for by urban areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the proposed ‘National Forest’, and the vast area north of Aberystwyth promised to the Summit to Sea ‘rewilders’.
But I can’t help wondering what’s planned for that area between the A5 and the A458, east of Dolgellau.
Though I suppose the really big question is – who is going to benefit from this National Development Framework?
The individual beneficiaries will be landowners (often absentee), property developers like the U and I Group, and other English ‘investors’. Proving yet again that wind power is more about cashing in on the subsidies than with replacing fossil fuels.
But over and above the individual beneficiaries the National Development Framework is for the benefit of England.
Wind and solar farms won’t provide jobs for Welsh people. And we already produce far more electricity than we consume; yet as with water, we are not allowed to make a profit from what we export. (Though ‘our’ water and electricity can be sold back to us at over-the-odds prices.)
The National Development Framework allows Wales to be exploited as never before, but rather than standing up for Wales our current crop of politicians will rhapsodise over it.
Labour, Plaid Cymru and Lib Dems will bleat about Wales ‘making its contribution’ to ‘saving the planet’, etc., when, in reality, they’ll be turning our beautiful homeland into an al fresco power station. What isn’t covered by wind and solar farms will be retirement and recreation areas for England. Zimmer frames and zip wires.
Tory and Brexit parties will of course support anything that makes money for their pals in the financial sector . . . no matter how shady the deal, no matter how heavy the price Wales has to pay.
The Union with England has never worked to Wales’ advantage, but then, that was never the intention. Yet devolution, we were told, would provide ‘Welsh answers for Welsh problems’; but as Bryn Blaen, the National Development Framework, and countless other examples make clear, devolution is just a pitifully transparent veneer of ‘Welshness’ for continuing exploitation.
If we are to survive and progress as a nation it can only be done by prioritising our interests and focusing on independence without any distractions or self-imposed divisions. So let’s continue building momentum in 2020 on the broadest possible front.
This decision that took most of us by surprise needs to be examined and certain ramifications and possibilities considered. For last week’s decision might have significance beyond a single road project.
When Carwyn Jones was First Minister it was understood that the relief road would go ahead. So for a start, the decision announced last week means that things have changed under his successor, Mark Drakeford.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of last week’s decision is that Mark Drakeford, and the ‘Welsh Government’, have gone against the wishes of their superiors in London. It’s impossible to over-stress that what happened last week was a form of insubordination.
Our Secretary of State, Alun Cairns, that most London-loyal of individuals – and, we now learn, a Boris Johnson supporter – was “hugely disappointed” by the decision. It may have come as a bit of a shock to him, for Cairns knew long ago what the inspector’s recommendation was, and he probably expected the new management team in Cardiff docks to follow Compliant Carwyn’s lead and do as the inspector (and London) recommended.
So maybe any consideration of this shock to the system political boils down to two questions:
Why has Drakeford refused to do London’s bidding in this instance?
Is this a one-off act of rebellion or does it herald a fundamental change of course for ‘Welsh’ Labour?
One possible explanation might lie in the fact that despite all the criticism of London-centricity, and the disproportionate amount of infrastructure spending in London and the south east of England, for two decades Wales has followed exactly the same course.
Because a curious feature of devolution is that those areas that voted against devolution in 1997 have been the areas to benefit most since 1999. Maybe this is related to the phenomenon that has seen successive Labour administrations in Cardiff Bay neglect those areas that vote Labour.
So, to be generous, this decision not to proceed with the M4 relief road might mark the beginning of attempts to ‘rebalance’ the Welsh economy.
Even if I’m being too generous there, on a purely financial level, it would have been difficult to justify expenditure of £1.5 bn (at the very least) in a country of just over 3 million people unless the benefits are widely enjoyed. That would obviously not have been the case with the M4 relief road, and further, expenditure on that project would mean fewer infrastructure projects elsewhere in the country.
It’s even being suggested that areas of England – notably Bristol – would have benefited more from an M4 relief road than areas of Wales just twenty or thirty miles away, such as the Heads of the Valleys.
This is how Alun Davies, AM for Blaenau Gwent, put it in a couple of tweets.
Weighing up cost and benefit, the M4 relief road would have meant the ‘Welsh Government’ borrowing a great deal of money for a project that at best would only benefit one corner of the country, and at worst, might have been of more benefit to adjacent areas of England.
On those grounds alone, no body claiming to be the ‘Welsh Government’, serving the whole of Wales, could have given the go-ahead for the M4 relief road.
But that consideration has never before stopped an administration in Cardiff Bay from pouring investment into the city at the expense of the rest of the country. So there may be other explanations.
THE PLANNING INSPECTORATE FOR ENGLANDANDWALES
Having mentioned the Planning Inspectorate this is a good time to remind you of the malign influence this agency has exerted over Wales.
In this example from March 2014 I wrote about the plan to expand Bodelwyddan and how it linked with the Local Development Plan (LDP) for Denbighshire. In this post we see how the Planning Inspectorate was forcing a Welsh local authority to allow housing greatly in excess of any local need.
And even after census findings made it clear that the county would need less new housing than had previously been anticipated, the Planning Inspector insisted on keeping to the now discredited figures:
“Objects and aspirations” can only mean catering for an influx of new residents from outside of the county, and almost certainly from outside of Wales. Which means that in many cases the LDPs that have been forced on our local authorities by the Planning Inspectorate are ‘local’ only in the sense that they affect areas of Wales.
In Denbighshire, the northern part of the county lies within the A55 corridor, which is being developed as a linear commuter belt for north west England. The ‘Welsh Government’ will never admit this – in fact, it might not even be consulted – but others know, and are planning for it.
What’s being done here could be done without devolution – so what’s the point of having a ‘Welsh Government’ if it doesn’t live up to the name? Is devolution just a chimera, a smokescreen?
Cross-border co-operation is one thing, and desirable, it happens all over the world; but it must be done on a basis of mutual respect with both sides benefiting. The map you see above is Englandandwales in operation. Anyone arguing otherwise would probably describe Tryweryn as a mutually-beneficial project.
Without labouring the point I hope you get the gist – the Planning Inspectorate has done a lot of damage to Wales over the years. Which explains why the agency’s relationship with the ‘Welsh Government’ has always been a source of confusion for Welsh politicians and others.
The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales has a desk in Cardiff but takes its orders from London, with the ‘Welsh Government’ allowed to pretend it has some control.
The truth is driven home when we see an inspector adjudicating on a Welsh case one week and being in Yorkshire or Devon the following week. (Though of course, never in Scotland.)
It was no surprise then that the Planning Inspectorate wanted the M4 black route. Because that’s what London wanted.
Though if Mark Drakeford can see the problem with the Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales then he must also be aware that this is only the tip of an iceberg. That ‘iceberg’ being the problem of ‘Welsh’ civil servants relaying orders from London.
PLANNING FOR A WELSH FUTURE?
The fact that the ‘Welsh Government’ went against the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate, its London masters, and a number of powerful lobby groups (perhaps even . . . whisper it – Deryn!), means that Mark Drakeford has really stuck his scruffy neck out.
Which leads me to suspect, or hope, that this decision might be about more than the explanations we’ve been given on cost and environment damage. There might be things bubbling below the surface that could prove to be more important in the medium term than the M4 decision itself.
First off, I am convinced that the M4 decision links with this announcement from a month ago that Wales will soon have its own planning inspectorate. Let’s look at what the article in The Planner says.
“Currently, the Planning Inspectorate for England and Wales is responsible for making decisions and recommendations on planning-related land issues and appeals. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Welsh Government fund it.
Based in Cardiff, the inspectorate’s Wales Division manages casework on planning and related applications and appeals, including developments of national significance. It examines local development plans, which set out land use planning policies and form the basis of local planning decisions, using a team of dedicated Welsh inspectors and administrators.
The new planning inspectorate for Wales is expected to be fully operational by the end of the current assembly term, which is May 2021.”
This move was explained by the ‘Welsh Government’ thus: “planning law and policy has diverged and continues to diverge at an accelerating rate from England”. Which makes a certain sense, but if that’s the real reason then policing, broadcasting and many other powers would also be fully devolved.
Though a cynic might suggest that Drakeford is launching the new agency because he’s burned his bridges with the Planning Inspectorate after giving them two fingers over such a high-profile project as the M4 relief road.
Whatever the reason, I’m hoping Drakeford and his cabinet want a separate Welsh planning inspectorate to do things differently in future and for the right reasons. Otherwise, why set up a new and separate agency?
IN CONCLUSION . . .
Does the dropping of the M4 relief road coupled with the announcement of the new planning inspectorate herald a change of direction for the ‘Welsh Government’?
The cynic in me thinks, ‘Nah, this leopard ain’t gonna change its spots, Jac. After twenty years of screwing up on devolution Labour’s only pretending to do things differently now because it’s slipping in the polls. Any change will be purely cosmetic.’
But then, the optimistic side to my nature (long dormant) asserts itself and says, ‘Wait! Maybe from now on they will put the interests of Wales and Welsh people first. Perhaps they’ll realise that there are communities within twenty miles of Corruption Bay approaching third world standards of deprivation. And that our rural areas need more than zip wires and granny farms.
‘Perhaps it’ll mean no more insane legislation to encourage hippies, ‘rewilders’ and other enviroshysters; no more grants showered on multinationals’ branch factories and con men with ludicrous ‘projects’; no more red carpet treatment for exploitive ‘celebs’ such as Bore Grylls; no more funding and other encouragement for the third sector to import England’s problems so as to maintain thousands of unnecessary jobs with our money.
‘Maybe, at long last, Wales will be treated as a country, in which the interests of those who belong here are considered more important than kudos gained from playing to galleries that only seek to exploit and marginalise us. Perhaps our kids will be given a decent education to prepare them for better jobs than scurrying around an Amazon warehouse or desperately waiting for Easter in the hope of some low-wage tourism job.’
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!
People contact me regularly asking, ‘Why don’t you write about wind energy, Jac, and about saving the planet, because we’re all doomed, doomed!’ To which I usually respond, ‘Sod off.’ But one recent request to look into wind energy was different, and after an hour or so of digging I realised I just had to write about it.
Essentially, this is the story of three, linked, wind farms, but it’s also a reminder of how easy it is for political decisions in Wales to be controlled by those who care nothing for us or our country. Those I’m talking of see Wales as an exploitable resource, while we can be brushed aside with, ‘What’s it gotta do with you, Taff?’
Few things remind us more forcefully of this state of affairs than decisions concerning ‘the environment’.
Whether it’s allowing hippies to set up camp anywhere they like under the One Planet nonsense, encouraging ‘re-wilders’ to force out Welsh farmers and take over vast swathes of our country, or allowing ugly wind turbines to produce their piddling amounts of electricity . . . but lots of money for those involved.
THREE WIND FARMS
Let’s start with Bryn Blaen wind farm near Llangurig, the village situated where the north-south A470 meets the A44 running down to Aberystwyth. Bryn Blaen was refused planning permission by Powys County Council, but the Planning Inspectorate overturned that decision in August 2016 and allowed the project to go ahead.
So on this one, the developers got their way.
Next stop is Rhoscrowther, near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. This was turned down by Pembrokeshire County Council in 2015, the appeal by the developers was rejected by the Planning Inspectorate, but then a High Court judge said that it must be reviewed by a different planning inspector. It was, and in April this year she upheld the decision to refuse planning permission.
In point 2 of the letter mention is made of the Developments of National Significance legislation under which the ‘Welsh Ministers’ have authority to rule on electricity generation projects with a maximum installed capacity between 10mw and 50mw. The three projects we’re looking at range from 12.5mw to 17.5mw.
Though according to the capture below from the ‘Welsh Government’s website the decision should be made by the Planning Inspectorate, which is what happened initially with Hendy, before Lesley Griffiths intervened.
So who’s promoting these schemes, who are ‘the developers’ I’ve referred to?
A director of all three companies is Steven John Radford who seems to take another slice of the Welsh wind farm cake through his consultancy, Njord Energy Ltd, which sounds comfortingly Scandinavian. (Though he obviously farmed out some work to Cunnane Town Planning of London and Manchester.)
In September Radford branched out again with Bute Energy Ltd, joining six days after its two founding directors. Bute Energy is in the electricity business, the production, transmission, distribution and trade of electricity to be exact. Will this be electricity generated in Wales?
Also involved somewhere in these projects has been Viento Environmental Ltd, of Shrewsbury, yet another consultancy, this one run by Fran Iribar, whose Linkedin profile mentions the three wind farm sites we’re dealing with here plus a number of others in Wales.
Have you noticed yet? Three projects in Wales – no Welsh involvement whatsoever!
What a system! You don’t need to be a nationalist to see how wrong this is. It’s basic economics.
We often come across shape-shifting and Lazarus-like resurrections on this blog. Think Paul and Rowena Williams, of Weep for Wales fame, with their Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd and Rural Retreats & Leisure UK Ltd (which even confused an Employment Tribunal!); and recently, in Wilmslow-sur-Mer, we sobbed for Natural Retreats UK Ltd . . . only for it to be brought back to us by resurrectionists from ‘Ol’ Virginny’, who just happen to be closely linked with those behind the expired company.
I’m sure you’re as shocked as I was to learn that there might be something underhand, dishonest even, about tax havens and offshore hideaways. Whatever next!
Not only that, but U and I’s Welsh assets are already sold or up for sale. The panel below comes from the latest accounts (for y/e 28.02.2018) of the group received by Companies House 01.08.2018. It suggests that the Bryn Blaen wind farm has either been sold or is about to be sold, giving the group a profit of £6 – 8 million.
Perhaps more significantly, U and I is also confident of raising £10 -12 million from Hendy and Rhoscrowther. We now know that Hendy seems to be in the bag, but are they still holding out hopes for Rhoscrowther? Either way, how could they be so confident months ago? Did they know something we didn’t or was it just blind optimism linked to share prices?
Back in 2017, on April 27 to be exact, there was a curious scene played out at a meeting of Powys County Council’s planning committee. At a point in the meeting after the committee had refused planning permission for Hendy and was about to discuss further conditions for Bryn Blaen, a woman who had been sitting with the developers tried to hand a note to one of the committee members.
The woman had to be forcefully ushered away. She was recognised as a lobbyist, working for Invicta Public Affairs, a company based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The company is run by Mark Cummings, who boasts, “We specialise in advising private businesses how best to promote their commercial interests by overcoming barriers to enterprise caused by the UK national and devolved policy and regulatory framework.”
Cummings seems to operate in Wales through Invicta Public Affairs (Wales) Ltd, which has never been anything more than a name, with a Newcastle address, but clearly it has employees in Wales. So who was the mystery woman?
It was Anna McMorrin, who had been recruited by Invicta in October 2016 for no reason other than she was a Labour Party insider, having joined the party when she was a student, and as a result of her subsequent career she knew exactly who to approach to get things done.
As her Wikipedia entry tells us, “After graduating, McMorrin worked in public relations and communications. After working as a part-time communications officer for the Labour Party between 1996-1997, she worked for public affairs consultancy Hill and Knowlton. In 2006, McMorrin became Campaigns and Communications Director for Friends of the Earth Cymru. In 2008, she joined the Welsh Government as an appointed Specialist Advisor, working with Ministers including Jane Hutt AM, John Griffiths AM and Alun Davies AM.”
While she was working for Alun Davies they began an affair which resulted in both leaving their long-term partners. They now live together.
In the general election of June 2017 Anna McMorrin was elected Labour MP for Cardiff North.
U and I and/or Development Securities planned three wind farms of a size so that even if the local planning committees voted against them then their bacon could be saved by the Planning Inspectorate or, as a last resort, the ‘Welsh Government’.
To help them carry through this plan they employed Mark Cummings, useful for his expertise in dealing with devolved administrations. Cummings then needed someone who was a Labour insider, so he recruited Anna McMorrin.
No doubt, the developers had hoped to get planning permission for all three developments, netting them as much as £20 million. Being more realistic, they were probably prepared to settle for two out of three. But the High Court going against them on Rhoscrowther in September meant they were left with just Bryn Blaen, and so they were only going to make a small profit.
The High Court couldn’t be challenged over Rhoscrowther so pressure was applied to Lesley Griffiths to overturn the Hendy decision. And she came good.
Who applied the pressure to Lesley Griffiths? Well, Anna McMorrin fits the identikit picture issued.
Another reason I suspect Lesley Griffiths hadn’t planned on making the Hendy intervention is because the Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Secretary couldn’t even come up with a plausible reason for her action.
We’ve just read that she argued the Hendy wind farm was in the ‘national interest’, but in point 4 of that letter to Aaron and Partners of Chester she also quoted from the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 which, ” . . . requires the Welsh Ministers, as a public body, to ensure the development and use of land contributes towards improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales”.
I have a question for you, Lesley Griffiths.
Will you please explain how Wales benefits from being exploited by London property developers and their assorted hangers-on all over England?
There is no Welsh benefit whatsoever from the Hendy wind farm, or the other two; Wales already produces more electricity than we need, so I can only assume that Lesley Griffiths is acting in the ‘national interest’ of some other country.
Which makes her clumsy and questionable behaviour another example of London’s management team in Cardiff making sure that Wales does what it’s supposed to do – serve the interests of England.
The truth is that Lesley Griffiths made an indefensible decision under undue and possibly illegal pressure. If I’m wrong, let her justify overturning the planning inspector’s decision on Hendy wind farm.
With her earlier support for those seeking to dispossess Welsh farmers, dealt with here in The Welsh Clearances, and now with this decision to further serve alien interests, Lesley Griffiths has, in just over a month, proven herself to be the enemy of Wales and its people.
There should be no way for this wretched and duplicitous woman to hold any position, even in a body as discredited as that which masquerades as the Government of Wales.
The Labour Party and its various appendages are a poison corrupting Welsh public and political life. There is no hope for honesty and openness, progress and prosperity, until this poison is drawn and Wales is made healthy.
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 19:50:I am indebted to Karen Roden for her comment to my Facebook page telling me that Lesley Griffiths did something very similar earlier in the year with her decision to over-rule a planning inspector who had supported Denbighshire County Council’s refusal of Pant y Maen wind farm on the Denbigh Moors.
This development was promoted by Pant y Maen Wind Ltd of Oxfordshire. Though this company seems to have been controlled by Brenig Wind Ltd, a company run by Chinese citizens giving an address in France. The accounts are overdue at Companies House and I suspect we shall hear no more of Brenig Wind.
Though victory was claimed by Natural Power, which has an office in Aberystwyth. Note that the report I’ve linked to thinks that Lesley Griffiths is part of the UK Government!
In April, soon after Lesley Griffiths gave consent for Pant y Maen wind farm, control passed via a couple of LLPs to Guy and Julia Hands, residents of Guernsey.
Once again, no Welsh involvement, and I guarantee that those I’ve mentioned don’t give a toss about the environment – it’s all about the money. So we despoil our country, inflate our electricity bills, to enrich bastards like these.
Is Lesley Griffiths too stupid to understand how she’s being used?
In my earlier post, Hippies and associated problems, I dealt at some length with the drop-out, cash-in white settlers of Lammas in Pembrokeshire. More information has come to light that I feel merits this little update.
As you’ll have read in the article I’ve linked to the money was given specifically for the Community Hub. But the article tells us that the first house on the site cost just £4,000, and seeing as the community hub would also have been built by volunteers, I really can’t believe that it would have cost £350,000. (I hope the UK government asked for receipts.)
Come to that, why was the UK Government funding a project like this in Wales?
So what is the Community Hub used for?
The Hub’s own Facebook page tells us it’s an “Educational research centre in Glandwr (sic), Pembrokeshire, United Kingdom”. And on the ‘About’ page we are told, “The Hub is a unique Off-Grid resource for the wider local community, it supports land based livelihoods at Tir-y-Gafel and promotes low impact living.”
The ‘local community’, eh, but how true is that?
To judge by the photographs, reviews and comments on that Facebook page there are no visitors from the local community and few from Wales other than those who share the lifestyle of the Lammas residents. Which means that with no ‘outsiders’ visiting the £350,000 Community Hub is nothing more than a very expensive meeting place for hippies.
I was alerted to this funding by A.E. with this report from the Off-grid site. Read it carefully, there are some chilling passages in there, none more so than a remark attributed to Paul Wimbush, who seems to be the local chief or shaman – “We have an unprecedented opportunity here to transform rural Wales”, he said.
I was also struck by the bit that reads, “The nine families (at Lammas) come from all walks, of life – we have a teacher, a nurse and they have come from a semi-detached house in Liverpool and a top-floor flat in Bath, for example.” Yes, but none of them come from Wales.
Which means that we have the English government, with ‘Welsh’ Labour and Plaid Cymru support, funding English hippies to settle in Wales; with the English Planning Inspectorate overruling any attempt by local planning authorities to enforce regulations.
Lammas, Red Pig Farm and all the other settlements springing up faster than the mushrooms they grow expose Plaid Cymru for what it has become. For given the choice between an eco-village of English hippies and a Welsh village modern Plaid Cymru will choose the hippies every time.
EARTH CENTRE, TEMPLE, OR DWELLINGHOUSE?
There is currently a major building being erected on the Lammas site, though what it is is open to speculation. This video from Hoppi Wimbush’ Facebook page shows the erection of a building some 6 metres or 20 feet high to the eaves. (Click on ‘expand’ box in bottom right corner to view it in full screen.)
In this post from her Facebook page (below) she refers to the construction as the ‘Earth Centre’. In the video she calls it a ‘temple’. Suggesting that it is a religious or spiritual building of some kind, and yet . . .
The planning permission granted for that building describes it as a ‘dwellinghouse’. The front elevation below shows the full extent of this ‘dwellinghouse’, with the section shown in the video and the Facebook picture shaded in yellow.
By any criterion, and no matter what it is, this is a bloody big building. You or I would never be allowed such a substantial structure in open country . . . in our own country. But then, we aren’t middle-class English hippies.
Given that there is every likelihood this building, when completed, will be far more than a ‘dwellinghouse’, I suggest that Pembrokeshire County Council planners hot-foot it over to Lammas pronto and find out what the hell is going on.
UPDATE 19.01.2018: I think this information confirms that what’s being erected now, the central part of ‘Maes Melangell’, is definitely a temple. This must surely contravene and invalidate the planning permission granted for a dwellinghouse.
I think somebody’s taking the piss, like they have been since they first invited themselves into our country.
But let me conclude with this warning to planning officials – or anyone mad enough to visit Lammas without good reason – take your own food and drink! And try not to touch anything unless wearing surgical gloves.
‘I can hear the rumblin’ river as it rushes underground’
Those of you familiar with 60s folk music will know that the title of this piece is shared with a great song by Tom Paxton, a song in which he articulated the growing anger he sensed among disparate elements in the 1960s USA.
For the halcyon days of the 1950s were over, gone with their jobs for all. In the inner cities and the Deep South black people were being influenced by Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jnr, and taking their destiny into their own hands. And as President Johnson sent more and more troops to south east Asia the anti-war movement grew in size and determination. America was in a ferment, from which it became impossible for anyone to insulate themselves, black or white, rich or poor, north, south, east or west.
Which probably explains why we saw an explosion of folk singers trying to articulate or capitalise on the zeitgeist. Though, musically, the 1960s was a difficult time for me; the golden era of early Rock was over, Buddy Holly was dead, and so was Eddie Cochran, while Little Richard seemed to alternate between searching for God and being searched for by the men in white coats. Fortunately, I had by then journeyed back to Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Country roots, with Folk providing another distraction from the horrors of the Beatles and the Beach Boys.
Though as I say, it wasn’t easy. For a start, I was in love with Joan Baez (and couldn’t figure out what she saw in that weird little git, ‘Dylan’). Then there was Judy Collins, and Joni Mitchell – it was great to be alive! The problem was of course that while I loved the music and the singers, I opposed the political sentiments expressed. For I supported the USA in Vietnam, Young Jac had bought into the Domino Theory.
Of course there are political songs, but even some of these are done with humour; Daily News, What Did You Learn In School Today?Others songs are fun commentaries on life, a favourite of mine isAnnie’s Going To Sing Her Song. It reminds me of the Swansea pubs of my youth, where there was always some old bird who’d insist on singing . . . whether anybody wanted to hear her or not. (Sophie Tucker renditions were particularly popular, I recall.)
Finally there are those Paxton songs about life, or death, that just make you think. Try I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound, and Jimmy Newman. The latter is a very strange song, but often held up as a musical companion to All Quiet on the Western Front.
‘I can hear a thousand voices making ready for a fight’
So why did I choose that particular Tom Paxton song? Because I sense a mood abroad, a growing belief that Wales is being screwed and we are being lied to. There seems to be an increasing realisation that politicians and their corrupt system – including devolution – have no answers, and may even be the cause of the problem. It almost goes without saying that we no longer trust the mainstream media or any representatives of traditional authority.
I have not known these sentiments to be so widely shared since the 1960s.
The one big difference today from the 1960s is of course that Plaid Cymru is not benefiting from this mood. Back then the national resurgence encouraged by Tryweryn, Aberfan and the Investiture resulted in an upsurge in support for Plaid Cymru, but this time around, after 50 years of Plaid Cymru failure, many have concluded that if not part of the problem, then Plaid certainly isn’t part of the solution either.
We are therefore in uncharted territory.
Another factor contributing to this strange combination of confusion and anger is that we are seeing attacks on the Welsh language from quarters that many had hitherto regarded as friendly, or certainly not hostile. From bastions of left-liberal orthodoxy such as the Guardian and Newsnight.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has proved to be another disappointment. He has certainly disappointed Welsh Remainers through his understanding that if Labour is not to become the unelectable party of the chattering classes and ethnic minorities it needs to reconnect with the English working class.
An English working class that is more aggressively and intolerantly English than at any time in living memory. A mood that has spilt over the border to encourage those among us of a BritNat or anti-Welsh mentality.
Wales needs a new voice, but where will that voice come from? And knowing that actions speak louder than words, how do we leave the enemies of Wales in no doubt about our refusal to accept the destruction of our country?
‘And I guess it’s up to me because we’ve given up on you’
The mood I’m describing runs from frustration in some to real anger in others. What unites them is a realisation that Wales is going nowhere with the current system, or with the existing political parties and politicians, except backwards.
Literally, for not only is the UK government trying to avoid devolving powers ‘repatriated’ from the EU but behind the scenes Englandandwales organisations are spreading their tentacles, making a mockery of devolution, and slowly but surely absorbing Wales into England.
Look around Wales today and everywhere our country is both less Welsh and poorer than it was when we voted for devolution 20 years ago. How did this happen, for devolution was supposed to serve the interests of the Welsh people?
It happened because the interests of the geographical area of Wales were allowed to become divorced from those of her people, to the point where politicians and other liars can argue that a policy or an initiative is ‘good for Wales’ yet closer examination reveals that it may indeed benefit somebody but that ‘somebody’ is rarely Welsh.
It’s called colonialism, and history is full of such examples. I bet that in the 1870s Indians on the Great Plains witnessing the destruction of their way of life were told, ‘But look at the money all these buffalo hides bring into the region . . . you ungrateful bastards’.
As I say, this outcome can only be achieved by divorcing a people from its territory, then insisting that the territory in question belongs to everybody, and that’s because it was terra incognita ere the arrival of the enlightened colonialist bringing ‘progress and prosperity’. (They invariably go together.)
In Wales this progress and prosperity will take many forms: managed decline, zip wires, new housing we can’t afford or don’t need, having England’s decrepit, dysfunctional and delinquent dumped on us, and seeing what were once Welsh universities engaged in a race to the bottom. All designed to increase the numbers of strangers in our country, make Wales less Welsh, and slowly assimilate Wales into England.
Any attempt to defend or promote Welshness against this ‘progress and prosperity’ will be decried as ‘racist’, even ‘backward-looking’. (Always amusing to hear this from the English Right and the London redtops.)
A slander made easier to lay by the position taken by Plaid Cymru. For the Party of Wales is more afraid of being labelled ‘racist’ by the Guardian than it is of its national executive being filmed in a drug-fuelled orgy with rent boys and under age girls in William Morgan’s old gaff.
And the rise of the Right across the Western world has made Plaid Cymru shy away even more from promoting Welsh interests. Which further emboldens our enemies.
So the system grinds on almost unchecked.
‘I’ve been listening to some people and one thing I understand’
Or it did until relatively recently.
But as I’ve suggested, there is a mood abroad; a mood that rejects much of what we have been asked to accept in devolved Wales. Not that there is anything anarchistic or nihilistic about this mood, it is simply a realisation and a rejection of the prevailing corruption.
A growing belief that Wales is dying before our eyes. Or, more truthfully, being killed off.
If you want to see this mood, then look at recent developments such YesCymru, consider the outcry against the Ring of Steel planned for Flint castle, and not just the responses to the recent attacks on the Welsh language from the Guardian, Newsnight and elsewhere but where the responses came from.
The internet and social media are of course vital in encouraging this mood. I like to think that this blog plays its part. Fortunately I’m not alone, there are a number of good sites out there. One I’ve mentioned before is Nation.Cymru, which came up trumps again recently.
On the first of this month Dylan Iorwerth, a respected journalist, argued that immigration into Welsh-speaking areas must be halted. In other words he is calling for measures to stop English people moving into Wales. Of course this has been said before . . . and it has always provoked a violent reaction from within Wales and without.
Perhaps the most famous example would be the response to Gwynedd councillor Seimon Glyn’s call, back in 2001, to curb English immigration, for which he was pilloried in the English media. As a result, his party leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, was severely mauled over the issue on Question Time, by Glenys Kinnock.
Not long before, Plaid Cymru vice-president Gwilym ab Ioan was thrown off the party’s national executive for saying that Wales was being used as a dumping ground for England’s elderly, misfits and oddballs.
What I’ve found strange is that there has been no reaction from politicians or media to Dylan Iorwerth’s call to halt English immigration. Why might that be?
Could it be that it’s now generally accepted that there is massive and damaging immigration into the Fro Gymraeg? And if the phenomenon is undeniable then it’s best not to discuss it and stir things up further? Maybe others sense this mood I’m alluding to?
‘A great flood is a-rising fast and there’s a rumbling in the land’
If I’m right, then what’s the best way to capitalise on this mood?
For a start, I suggest that we stop fighting battles that have nothing to do with Wales, or else are beyond our power to influence. One example being those idiots who want President Trump to be impeached or removed by force. I call them idiots because achieving that objective would give the extreme Right the excuse to reject the democratic process altogether and take up arms. (And they have a hell of a lot more guns than their opponents.)
Such distractions are usually the result of ideology. Which is why there can be no place for ideology or dogma in the future struggle. Anyone trying to introduce ideology, or to promote issues external to Wales, must be dealt with, and dealt with ruthlessly. For such people are the enemies of Wales.
Equally dangerous are those who slink in the shadows, whispering, trying to get the more headstrong involved in violence. Also root them out and deal with them.
At this critical juncture Wales needs unity of purpose. As yet, we don’t need a new political party, but we do need a movement. This movement needs to coalesce from the disparate groups and individual voices found on social media and other forums.
We must promote what strengthens and advances Welsh identity, and combat everything that threatens it; all the while accepting that full independence is the only guarantee of the long term survival of Welsh national identity.
In the short term the agenda or strategy could be reduced to a simple Good / Bad list. That which is good for Wales is supported, that which is bad for Wales is opposed.
But if an issue is needed, where widespread support could surely be guaranteed, it would be a campaign to reform how housing operates in Wales. To take planning matters away from the Planning Inspectorate, to reduce the input from Wimpey, Redrow and the rest, to ensure local allocations in social housing, to demand local markets – such as operate on the Channel Islands – reserving most properties for locals.
Or to put it simply: a housing sector serving Welsh needs and interests.
If we cannot get together, sinking our various differences, to agree on a housing campaign such as that, then I’ve misjudged things completely, and there is no mood for radical change.
That’s my contribution. I now suggest that those reading thisThink It Over(That’s Buddy Holly, not Tom Paxton.)
P.S. I am not putting myself forward for any role in any movement, my days of activism are long past.
I withheld judgement on this new venture because with so many different contributors it was difficult to get a handle on where it stood on things close to my heart, such as the Swans, or the price of laverbread. Another issue was that my comments – or certainly those submitted as Jac o’ the North – disappeared into the ether. I accepted the explanation that this was due to some glitch rather than to censorship . . . but even so, a suspicious old bastard like me will still mutter to himself when in his cups.
Over time I have attuned myself better to the eclectic nature of Nation.Cymru accepting that I won’t agree with everything I read there; an example being the recent article defending Cyngor Gwynedd’s surrender to the Planning Inspectorate. But then, Nation.Cymru is there to give a platform to divergent views and it balanced Dyfrig Jones’ lamentable piece with this counter-argument by Huw Williams.
As I say, I was already warming to Nation.Cymru and then I read Why the Welsh national movement needs Brexit voters by the man himself, Ifan Morgan Jones. Quite simply, this is one of the best political analyses I have read for a long, long time. And nothing sums up what’s wrong with the ‘national movement’, and Plaid Cymru in particular, better than this sentence.
But recent experiences of mine suggest that the problems with ‘the national movement’ may go beyond a disconnect between it and the greater part of the Welsh nation. For I see a split within the movement itself.
Or maybe those I’m going to deal with now are examples of what Ifan meant when he wrote, “Ironically, the people who currently make up the Welsh national movement are also the group that’s probably one of the least likely to vote for Welsh independence.” He continued . . .
I suppose it could be extrapolated that the middle class national movement, with so many of its members dependent directly or indirectly on the UK state, has a vested interest in not engaging with the untutored mob to create an effective national movement. Self-interest with a dash of snobbery.
Though I first suspected this back in the 1960s. Those I associated with most closely wanted independence and nothing less; independence for the good of Wales and all her people. Yet I soon grasped that there were others hanging around, some egging us on, and using the unrest to press for personal advancement.
The ‘language movement’ seemed to contain more than its fair share of those whose antipathy to England and all her works could be vanished away by a cushy number at the BBC or a quango. Little different to socialists accepting peerages and arguing that henceforth they would be working against the system from within. Right on, comrade!
Yes, I’ve known a lot of hypocrites in my time. All prepared to do their bit for Wales . . . as long they didn’t lose out. And yet the ultimate test of an individual’s principles is that he or she is prepared to suffer for them, otherwise they’re just vacuous dinner party spoutings.
As a student of history, one thing I’ve learnt is that it is invariably the case that empires are brought down, governments are overthrown, and new countries brought into existence by those who have little or nothing to lose, not by those who’d like to tinker with a system to their own advantage.
DON’T WELSH LIVES MATTER?
Every so often I have a little run-in on Twitter or some other medium with those of a younger generation and a more leftward political orientation. It amuses me until my opponents become irrational – to the point where I can visualise the spittle on the keyboard or phone – and then I just block them.
This week I’ve enjoyed a couple of exchanges that I think are worth sharing with you. On the one hand, they’re illuminating of themselves, but equally, I believe they link with what Ifan Morgan Jones wrote.
First, let me introduce @PollyLizManning. I’m not entirely sure how our little contretemps started, I think she joined an exchange I was having with someone else. Anyway, it centred on my use of the term ‘wimmin’, which I’d been told was a feminist word used to avoid the ‘men’ element in women.
But that’s not really important, what might interest you is how she framed her response to me after I’d said that I reject political correctness. Here it is.
“White bloke”! Yes, OK, I’m white, I confess; but I blame my parents, and their parents, and their parents’ parents . . . Joking aside, what possible relevance is the colour of my skin? Is she so involved with the politics of race that she subscribes to the view that all white people are racists?
Or is she trying to sound black, maybe identify with black people in the patronising way the Left always has done? Well, maybe she is, because this is the tweet proudly pinned to the top of her Twitter timeline.
“Croeso i Refugees” the placard reads. But Wales has no power to admit refugees or refuse admittance. And as for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ poster she’s holding, I can only assume that this is protesting about all the black folks being shot down by redneck sheriffs in Powys.
What I’m asking is – what the hell has this got to do with Wales? And the reason I’m asking is because Polly Liz Manning is the Women’s Officer for Plaid Ifanc. This is the future of Plaid Cymru.
On the face of it, standing up to racism would be commendable . . . if this was Mississippi in the 1960s. But when you package it up with other issues, such as immigration and Donald Trump, and then argue that anyone who isn’t in favour of unrestricted immigration or impeaching Trump must be a racist, you are no different to the fascists in using the combination of corrupted arguments and vilification.
Below you’ll see a photograph from the ITV website of the march that Polly Liz Manning attended. I think it makes my point. (I think we can see Ms Manning behind the police officer.)
Though if racism is such a concern why don’t Polly and her comrades confront white flight into Wales? The answer to that is simple: to deal with white flight would mean discussing English colonisation, which is a taboo subject because to discuss it will a) alienate Plaid’s English allies in the fight against ‘international fascism’ and b) bring down the wrath of the English redtops.
Far safer to ignore Wales and ‘fight’ faraway issues.
Another with whom I exchanged words was @Wales4Europe. I don’t know who this is, but whoever it is he or she is another fighting against Brexit, supposedly on behalf of Wales.
I’d seen a tweet somewhere quoting Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary, so I re-tweeted it and encouraged the curious response below. Which raises quite a few questions.
For a start, what was the thinking behind giving my name? Was it an attempt to expose me? Was the writer trying to intimidate me – ‘We know who you are, pal’? Or was it just showing off? Whatever the answer, my name is no secret, so nothing was achieved except making the writer look a little weird.
As for Voice of Europe, I’ve no idea who or what this is. As I say in my reply, I was showing support for Viktor Orbán. What is a national leader supposed to do but protect his or her people? Though of course I wouldn’t expect that to be understood by Leftist members of the ‘national movement’.
I found the reference to the Arrow Cross, a fascist organisation of the 1930s and ’40s, intriguing. For remembering the Arrow Cross but ignoring the Muslim invasions and occupations that colour Hungarian attitudes to Islam is another example of the Alt-Left’s selective interpretations of history to serve its own political agenda.
And it goes without saying that the heroic national uprising against the Soviet Union in 1956 will never be mentioned by Welsh Leftists, too many of whom still have a lingering affection for the old USSR.
Onwards and upwards.
“FAR RIGHT” IN BARCELONA
Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru, made a monumentally stupid and insensitive remark following the recent atrocities in Catalunya committed by Muslim extremists. I’m sure most of you are aware of it, but in case anyone missed it, here it is.
What I think she was trying to say was, ‘These people are no different to the extreme Right you saw last week in Charlottesville’. Certainly her defenders argued that her use of the term “far right” made sense because both are violent and intolerant of the views and beliefs of others. Which may be fair enough . . . up to a point.
That point is passed when you realise that she’s likening law-abiding political opponents to terrorists. And by suggesting that the evil people in the world all belong to the far right she lines herself and her comrades up on the side of the angels (not that such enlightened and progressive beings subscribe to primitive superstitions).
I say that because fundamental to interpreting her remark would be an understanding of who exactly Leanne Wood regards as “far right”. I suspect that for many who share her views anyone to the right of the Liberal Democrats is flirting with fascism. This is certainly close to what we’ve heard from within the party when working with the Tories has been suggested.
Though to fully understand why Leanne Wood made that stupid remark you have to put yourself in her position.
She leads a party going nowhere, a party that has gone backwards since it deposed Dafydd Wigley. Her own position as leader is under threat from more Wales-focused elements within the party, which means that she needs to rally the Left around her to stay at the helm.
But it goes beyond Plaid Cymru, because for a socialist and an ‘internationalist’ like Leanne Wood things have not gone well lately. First there was Brexit, and then came Trump, followed by the return of Theresa May. Bitter blows for the Left, represented in Wales by the likes of Polly Liz Manning, WalesForEurope, and of course Leanne Wood herself.
The lesson most observers drew from Brexit and the election of Donald Trump was that a majority of voters on both sides of the Atlantic reject the views held by Leanne Wood and her cohorts. But they can’t accept that.
Seeking to rationalise or explain away these defeats has led many to persuade themselves that Brexit and Trump were victories for racists and fascists. That’s why Charlottesville was such a godsend, and played for all it was worth by the Alt-Left and its media allies – ‘We told you so! Look! there they are on the streets, carrying guns – Trump supporters.’
Which elevated a couple of hundred saddoes into the manifestation corporeal of tens of millions of Trump supporters. Which made the ‘horror and revulsion’ that filled our television screens complete theatre.
If we add the political escapism above to Ifan Morgan Jones’ ‘national movement’ then what we have is a socialist party that just happens to be located in Wales, but with little or no interest in improving the lives of the vast majority of Welsh people. Which of course disqualifies it from being a national movement.
More damningly, it confirms that these people do not aspire to be a national movement.
If those in Plaid Cymru who care about Wales more than Wood, Manning and the rest, have any sense they’ll get rid of their leader and try putting their party on a different course in order to appeal to more of our people. Personally, I’m past caring, as I believe Plaid Cymru is now beyond saving.
This is due to the largest towns being outside the Park, while Blaenau Ffestiniog, Barmouth and Tywyn are surrounded by the Park but form ‘islands’ covered by the Gwynedd LDP. The largest towns within the Snowdonia National Park are Bala and Dolgellau.
In a sense, both are right. But Dyfrig Jones is also wrong. Let me explain.
‘WHERE WILL OUR YOUNG PEOPLE LIVE?’
Once upon a time, when tribunes of a fraternal bent controlled rural councils, Ceredigion was ruled by Dai Lloyd Evans and his crew, one of the most corrupt, self-serving groups ever to run a Welsh council. (And by God that is saying something!) Not for nothing did Paul Flynn MP refer to Ceredigion in some Commons committee as “the Wild West Show” when it came to planning matters.
Because most of these fraternalist councillors were landowners they wanted to build lots of houses to enrich themselves. Dai Lloyd Evans even bought a field – or was it two? – outside of his native Tregaron and then made sure that the settlement boundary was moved to include his field(s). Planning permission was of course granted for said fields.
In defence of this bonanza of housebuilding all sorts of bollocks was trotted out; from Dai Lloyd himself I remember, ‘But without these new houses where will our young people live?’ We were asked to believe that three- and four-bedroom houses selling for £180,000+ (in 2005) were targeting young, local buyers.
Now I’m not comparing Dyfrig Jones to Dai Lloyd Evans, but . . . the ‘young people’ argument does echo the timeless hypocrisy of the former Ceredigion council leader.
For a start, too many of our young people can’t afford to buy a new house – full stop. But these properties are not intended for local buyers anyway, something made clear from where the new developments are located.
The new housing planned for Gwynedd is mainly in the north of the county (as is the case in Conwy and Denbighshire) and there’s a very good reason for that – the A55 Expressway. What is taking shape before our eyes is a commuter corridor along the A55 that will allow people working in the Merseyside and Manchester conurbations to live ‘in the country’.
OH, GIVE ME A HOME WHERE THE MILLIONAIRES ROAM
Let me start explaining this with a wee digression.
When I was growing up in Swansea, someone who moved out to Gower was usually thought to have ‘made it’, done well for themselves (or maybe knocked over a bank). I suppose the Vale of Glamorgan fulfils a similar function for Cardiff.
On a larger scale, Cheshire entices those who wish to, and can afford to, avoid the urban sprawl of north west England. Some of the communities with the highest property prices outside of London and its ‘stockbroker belt’ are to be found in Cheshire.
Human nature being what it is, if you’ve paid a million or two for your house in Prestbury, Wilmslow or Alderley Edge, then you don’t want your idyll spoilt – and the value of your property lowered – by a new estate full of double-glazing salesmen and Stockport County footballers. It’s ‘Him off the telly’ and Wayne Rooney or nothing. Which results in many of those who’d like to live in leafy Cheshire being moved on. (This also explains why, in the code used by estate agents, Wrecsam is now ‘West Cheshire’.)
But even if giant ‘Sod Off!’ signs were placed at regular intervals on every highway and by-way approaching the Golden Triangle it would do little to stem the flow of the upwardly mobile out of the nearby cities. And as there’s not much of a welcome further west, around Chester, either, they trudge on further.
Another reason for building so many new houses close to the A55 is that politicians, being what they are – lying bastards, generally – can interpret this protection of Cheshire property values as an indicator of a healthy economy along the north coast. It’s nothing of the kind, or course, but politicians will never miss an opportunity to pat themselves on the back.
Just picture it – Guto Bebb, David Jones, Michelle Brown plus Carwyn and his cohorts fighting over the best spot in front of the cameras!
Finally, let us not forget the grand design to assimilate Wales into England. New housing built in Wales for which there is little or no local demand is a vital part of that strategy.
‘STATISTICS, WHAT STATISTICS?’
Huw Williams was right to argue that accepting this LDP was a defeat for Welsh democracy, though not only because Gwynedd council caved in but because of the way in which housing ‘need’ figures are arrived at, or contrived, and the ruthless inflexibility with which they have been enforced.
The problem with LDPs is that the Planning Inspectorate predicted future need on a combination of population and household size estimates produced before the data from the 2011 Census were available, and using recent demographic trends – i.e. English immigration!
When the Census findings became available, and they showed that population increase from 2001 to 2011 was less than the Inspectorate had predicted, and that household size was greater – combining to mean fewer properties needed – these inconvenient truths were brushed aside to insist on sticking to the original, and now discredited, predictions.
One example is Denbighshire. The council there argued that in light of new figures the county now needed far fewer properties than had been called for by the ‘Welsh’ Government’s projections, which argued for 8,500 new units between 2008 and 2023. For what the Census and the ONS’ predictions told us was that the projected population increase for Denbighshire in that period was now 4,134.
The Planning Inspectorate accepted the council’s argument (how could they contradict the Census and the Office for National Statistics?) but insisted on sticking with the original – and now discredited – projection! The clip below is from the Inspectors’ report.
So, for a predicted population increase of just 4,134, and a household size of 2.31 reducing to 2.23 in 2026 Denbighshire must still build 8,500 units.
Of course, it helps to understand all this when you realise that the Planning Inspectorate is an Englandandwales body answering to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London . . . though the ‘Welsh’ Government is allowed to pretend that it has control of the Inspectorate in Wales. It doesn’t.
As might be predicted with such a body, the Welsh language is a vital concern. The recommendation for Denbighshire being . . . bilingual signage.
A SYSTEM TO SERVE WALES
Where Dyfrig Jones is right is in arguing that building fewer houses will drive up prices . . . but to follow that argument to its illogical conclusion is to believe that house prices will start falling, will come within the reach of Welsh people, only when the external demand is sated – but the external demand is insatiable.
With Local Development Plans we are dealing with a broken system, certainly one that does not work for Wales. There are a number of reasons for this.
First, and as I hope I’ve explained, is the role of the Planning Inspectorate, an Englandandwales body working within an Englandandwales strategic framework that sees Wales helping meet England’s need for housing. There is no way that such a body can serve Wales.
Second, when it comes to strategic planning, the ‘Welsh’ Government has willingly subordinated itself to the UK government to the detriment of Wales’ best interests. So much for devolution!
Third, as Huw Williams suggested on Nation.Cymru, the whole system is a negation of democracy that sees those we elect bullied by persons sent into Wales to serve a dubious agenda. That is bad enough, but too often the Planning Inspectorate finds ready accomplices in the higher ranks of council employees.
Radical change is needed.
It should go without saying that Wales needs a planning system that serves Welsh needs, not the interests of those who can’t afford to buy the property they’d like in Wilmslow. This must be a priority. No more imposed LDPs.
To build fewer houses yet ensure that Welsh people are not excluded we need legislation to guarantee that a majority of the housing stock is restricted to those with strong local connections. To those born and educated in the area, perhaps those who have lived locally for a given period.
It might be worth considering the models that operate in the Channel Islands.
On the largest island, Jersey, there are four categories of resident: ‘Entitled’, ‘Licensed’, ‘Entitled to Work’ and ‘Registered’. As the website tells us, “The “Entitled” category is attributed to those who are Jersey born and have reached the required aggregate residency period. This category also applies to people who have lived in Jersey for a continuous period of 10 years.”
On the second largest island, Guernsey, the system is even simpler. There they have a Local Market and an Open Market, which is almost self-explanatory. The Open Market covers larger, more expensive properties (some 7% of the housing stock), and while locals can buy in the Open Market the Local Market is reserved for them.
‘Ah, but Jac’, I hear you protest, ‘to implement such a policy in Wales would be decried in the English media as ‘racist’. Really! How could it be racist in Wales yet no one complains about the Channel Islands using these methods?
Might the silence have something to do with so many English newspaper proprietors and others having money hidden business interests on the islands, with the Barclay brothers, owners of the Telegraph, actually owning one of the smaller islands, Brecqhou?
As someone who has been involved in nationalist politics – often on the ‘hairier’ fringes . . . sometimes very hairy – I know that for fifty years our masters have carefully avoided gifting us another Tryweryn, or another Investiture, anything that might mobilise armchair patriots and produce converts.
Instead, the strategy employed since the 1960s has been to chip away at what makes Wales different. The most effective tactic being demographic change; reduced to its crudest expression – ‘Welsh out, English in’.
The beauty of this strategy is that no single blow ever rouses enough people to challenge the strategy . . . so on it goes . . . chip, chip, chip. The Gwynedd LDP, the managed decline of the Valleys, turning our countryside into a recreational and retirement area for England . . . all these are chipping away at the distinctiveness of Wales, and the survival of Welsh identity.
This strategy is succeeding; soon there will be little left at which to chip. If we don’t wake up soon and grasp that we are in a struggle for national survival, one that must transcend politics and take precedence over everything else, then we might as well stop kidding ourselves and call it a day.
A national struggle against English colonialism is our only hope. No party politics. No divisive ideologies. A national struggle.
Following victories over the Persians at Salamis (480 BC) and Plataea (479 BC), and with mainland Greece liberated, the Spartans withdrew from their leadership of the wartime alliance. Athens seized the opportunity and in 478 BC created the Delian League.
Athenian greed and heavy-handedness soon made the other city-states realise that what they’d thought was an alliance of equals was nothing of the kind. Everything now flowed to Athens and the other city-states were little more than colonies. The League’s treasury was used to enhance and glorify Athens, funding prestige projects such as the Parthenon.
Eventually, the other city-states could take no more and rebelled. They appealed to Sparta for help and so began the Peloponnesian War, which ran, in three phases, from 431 BC to 404 BC. At the end of the war Athens was defeated and ruined, Thebes and Corinth even wanted to destroy the city and enslave its citizens, but Sparta said no.
The Peloponnesian War was bloody and destructive. Due to Athenian selfishness the other Greek states were even prepared to seek Persian help in bringing her down and ending the golden age of Greece.
Two news items this week have reminded me of Athens and the Delian League.
BACK TO THE 1960s
The first was that the ‘Welsh’ Government will not back the Circuit of Wales in Ebbw Vale. This is something most of us knew weeks ago, it’s why announcing the decision was postponed until after the general election.
But don’t worry! Economy and Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates, softened the blow with: “The Welsh Government is therefore today committing to building a new automotive technology business park in Ebbw Vale, with funding of £100million over 10 years, with the potential to support 1,500 new FTE jobs. We will begin this work with the delivery of 40,000 sq ft of manufacturing space on land currently in public ownership.”
So the ‘Welsh’ Government kills off the Circuit of Wales yet still plans to build an ‘automotive technology park’ in Ebbw Vale. Apart from Ferrari’s Cafe what links does Ebbw Vale now have with the automotive industry? Or to put it another way, after 18 years of devolution and ‘Welsh’ Labour rule we’ve gone back to the 1960s with depressed areas offered nothing better than industrial parks. God Almighty!
But this saga may not be finished, for what if the scheme’s backers are able to find full private funding for the venture, will the ‘Welsh’ Government then support the Circuit of Wales or continue to be obstructive? I know where my money would go.
Let’s be absolutely clear: The Circuit of Wales was not supported by the ‘Welsh’ Government because Ebbw Vale is too far from Cardiff and the project didn’t offer enough benefits to Cardiff.
The nearest major trauma centres to Wales are in Liverpool, Stoke, Birmingham and Bristol. Some time ago the decision was taken that south Wales should have its own trauma centre. The two candidate sites were Morriston Hospital in Swansea and the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.
On Wednesday we learnt that some anonymous panel had recommended that the MTC should be located in Cardiff . . . despite Cardiff being so near to the existing centre in Bristol.
The centres in England are located where they are for the very good reason that patients suffering serious injury or sudden and serious debilitation benefit greatly from being treated within the first hour; in fact, it’s a matter of life or death. This period is referred to as the ‘golden hour’.
The maps (kindly supplied by BBC Wales) below show the ‘golden hour’ distances from those Major Trauma Centres closest to Wales together with the predicted ‘golden hour’ ranges for MTCs located in Cardiff and Swansea.
The first map, for existing MTCs, tells us that Cardiff and Newport are already within the ‘golden hour’ for the Bristol MTC, while anywhere west of Bridgend is not covered.
Turning to the second map, the Cardiff option, we see a slight improvement, in that Swansea Bay is now covered by the ‘golden hour’, but not western Gower, nor, I suspect, Llanelli. What’s more, rather than complementing the Bristol MTC to form a network of coverage – as we see in England – a Cardiff MTC would almost be in competition with Bristol. The overlap is huge.
The Swansea option, however, provides a real improvement, with the ‘golden hour’ now extending deep into Pembrokeshire and reaching the Cardigan Bay coastline. The ranges of the Swansea and Bristol MTCs overlap around Cardiff and Newport, but they don’t duplicate each other to anything like the same extent as the Cardiff option. Swansea and Bristol would complement each other perfectly.
Of course it’s being argued that, ‘Cardiff has this, and Cardiff has that’, to justify a MTC, but anything can be built or transferred. What cannot be changed is geography, and the critical and determining criterion for locating the Major Trauma Centre should be saving lives in the ‘golden hour’. You cannot emphasise the golden hour all the way through the process and then ignore it in order to locate the MTC in Cardiff.
To put a large area of the south west outside the ‘golden hour’ through handing Cardiff yet another prestige project – for that’s how it’s viewed in Cardiff – will be a difficult decision for politicians to defend.
The role of the ‘Welsh’ media in this debate has been somewhat bizarre, though predictable. On Wednesday WalesOnline ran this story. Putting the case for Swansea was Rob Stewart, leader of Swansea council. (Though the story was quickly updated and for some reason Stewart was replaced with Clive Lloyd, his deputy!)
Putting the case for Cardiff – which is what I assume he was doing – was a ‘speed flyer’ named Niall McCann. (Though by the time the story appeared this morning in Llais y Sais McCann’s contribution had disappeared.)
McCann had shattered his spine speed flying off Pen y Fan and it had been put together by the University Hospital of Wales. McCann opined, “I’m 100% on board with anything that will improve the NHS services on offer. We are a capital city and we should be leading the way in Wales.”
So in the expert opinion of Niall McCann of Cardiff the new MTC should be in Cardiff, ‘Cos Cardiff’s the capital, innit?’ For reasons best known to itself WalesOnline even included in the article a video of McCann speed flying to remind us of the unnecessary risks he takes.
Perhaps the message we were expected to glean from this article was that having injured himself on the Beacons McCann would have been dead or crippled ere the donkey carrying him could have reached an MTC based at Morriston Hospital. If not, then I have no idea what purpose Trinity Mirror thought it was serving by including McCann’s cameo.
But the problems of Wales today go beyond putting all the nation’s eggs in the Cardiff basket, they reach into every corner of our national life. Just look around you and ask what 18 years of devolution have achieved. Go on, and be honest!
Wales is poorer relative to other parts of the state, and other parts of Europe, than she was before we voted for devolution. Outside of Cardiff our urban and post-industrial areas are suffering managed decline, while our rural and coastal areas serve as recreation and retirement areas for England, with the Welsh population, and their identity, marginalised in both situations.
We have a self-styled Labour ‘Government’ in Cardiff docks that refuses to use even the limited powers it has for fear of upsetting anyone in London – including its own MPs and peers! Competing with Labour we have a Conservative Party currently in league with the Orange Order and the UDA, and a ‘national party’ that is, as Martin Shipton described it this morning, “a pressure group”. (And it’s not often I agree with Shippo!) Though it’s questionable whether Plaid Cymru really is challenging Labour.
‘Ah, but we’ve got devolution now, it’s something to build on’, I hear, from those who are in reality satisfied with this simulacrum of self-government, where free suppositories or some such nonsense qualify as radical initiatives. So who’s going to do the ‘building’? We know it won’t be Labour. It will never be the Conservative and Unionist Party. And there’s not a hope in hell of it being the pressure group.
Devolution has delivered a comfortable and undemanding level for ambitious councillors. To serve these politicians we now have a burgeoning and expensive bureaucracy. Because the party in control is Labour devolution has resulted in a vast and corrupt Third Sector sucking up billions of pounds to keep otherwise unemployable Labour supporters in jobs.
Yet we have no media to hold this juggernaut to account. (Though it’s debatable which is worse – the absence of a Welsh media or the constant bigotry exposed in the English media.) There is no real oversight or control of expenditure, and no justice for anyone wronged by this system. Yet if you investigate ‘devolution’ in any depth you soon realise what a sham it is.
For example, the ‘Welsh’ Government pretends it has its own Planning Inspectorate. The truth is that the Planning Inspectorate for Englandandwales answers to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London, it merely has a branch office in Cardiff. Which means that the Local Development Plans for Welsh local authorities are determined in London . . . and the ‘Welsh’ Government goes along with the charade!
P.S. Soon after publishing this post my attention was drawn to a perfect example of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s relationship with the Planning Inspectorate. This development at Llay is part of a wider strategy to turn our north east into commuter territory for north west England. And Carwyn Jones knows it.
The ‘Welsh’ Government and the whole apparatus of devolution soaks up money that could be better spent in Wales, and might be better spent if the useless edifice was swept away. Which is why I plan to start a petition to the UK Parliament asking for a referendum to be held to determine whether we should keep the Welsh Assembly and all that goes with it. (This will be done once a new Petitions Committee is formed.)
Yes, I know such a petition will attract Kippers and other BritNats, but I don’t care, there are bigger issues at stake. On almost every issue that matters we are still ruled from London anyway – so what do we stand to lose? Devolution is used to hide this fact, and to make us believe that we control our own affairs. It acts like some national dose of Prozac.
When you’ve taken a wrong turning you have two choices: either plod on until you fall off a cliff or sink in a bog, or else admit you made a mistake, retrace your steps, and next time make sure you know where you want to go.
I’ve argued many times that Wales is in a bad way, a condition I described in a recent blog as “a basket case country with a begging bowl ‘economy'”. We’re at the bottom of every table measuring the state of the nation – PISA results are woeful, GVA figure are terrible and the number of economically inactive people is worrying.
Devolution has achieved nothing; in my more cynical moments I think it’s just a distraction, or a placebo.
All that seems to matter is that the money keeps rolling in to prop up the edifice and keep the politicians and their legions of cronies in jobs; with Labour trying to soothe away every damning statistic or latest piece of bad news with yet more platitudinous bollocks. Despite having had almost 18 years to improve things, the truth is that ‘Welsh’ Labour has made things worse.
The only conclusion to draw is that the party is either incapable or unwilling to improve things for our people. (Or maybe that devolution is designed to fail.) Which makes you wonder why so many Welsh people have stuck with Labour for so long. But now, after a hundred years of failure, I sense that more and more people realise that these clowns will never deliver a democratic, prosperous and confident Wales.
Despite Labour’s countless shortcomings there always seemed to be little point in looking to Plaid Cymru for meaningful change. (Regular readers will know my views on that score.) Though that said, one new face among Plaid politicians has caught my eye, I’m referring now to South Wales Central AM Neil McEvoy.
Let me make clear that I have never met Neil McEvoy, but it’s obvious from a distance that he’s cut from a different cloth to most Plaid politicians. He comes from neither the cultural nationalist wing nor from the Left-Green wing. He seems to be a man with both feet firmly planted in his own community, not looking to save the planet or pander to Guardianistas. This rootedness makes it almost inevitable that he confronts Labour head-on, and exposes the corruption at the heart of the ‘Welsh’ Government.
In addition, he seems to be that rarity among Plaid politicians, a street fighter, a species of which Labour has always had plenty, but dear parchus Plaid always found rather, well . . . not neis.
I find this refreshing, because as I’ve always argued, there are too many in Plaid Cymru who allow outdated and discredited ideology to dominate their thinking, and then they pile one mistake on another by lining up with their Guardianista friends in seeing the Tories as the enemy. But the biggest party in Wales, and therefore the real enemy of Wales, is Labour.
As I said just now, McEvoy fights Labour on their own turf. And it’s working. In the May 2016 Assembly elections voters in the working class estates in the west of Cardiff turned out to get him within 1,000 votes of unseating Mark Drakeford, Labour Health Minister at the time. That means that the former seat of Rhodri Morgan, head of the Morgan dynasty, is now a key marginal for the next election.
Understandably, this has sent Labour into something of a panic, and it’s not solely attributable to the votes McEvoy’s taken from them. For example, since being elected AM he’s called for an official Welsh register of lobbyists. When Carwyn Jones said lobbyists had no access to Labour Ministers McEvoy produced photographic evidence of Labour Ministers meeting with lobbyists. Backtracking followed, and Jones had to confirm that lobbyists do have access, just not formal access. In other words, and like so much else with ‘Welsh’ Labour, it’s all done in the shadows.
I’m also glad to report that McEvoy has been asking questions about David Goldstone and his influence on the ‘Welsh’ Government’s property deals. Questions that other politicians should have been asking a long, long time ago. He exposed the scarcely believable loss of £1m on just 2 shops sold by the ‘Welsh’ Government, without a valuation, in Pontypridd. (My 9-year-old grandson could have got a better deal than that! Come to think of it, so could his kid brother.)
Now I hear he’s chasing up something unearthed by the Public Accounts Committee, on which he sits. It seems Cardiff Aviation at St Athan doesn’t pay rent; one suggestion being that someone, somewhere, possibly belonging to a certain political party, gave the OK for Cardiff Aviation to enjoy the St Athan facilities rent free. Then there’s an issue with planes being unable to land in fog, which it seems lost Cardiff the EasyJet link. And if that’s not enough to get the bruvvers worked up, allegations of institutionalised corruption have been made against Cardiff’s Labour-controlled council.
Despite that litany of nasal intrusions what may have really marked the South Wales Central Member’s card with ‘Welsh’ Labour is his objection to the billions likely to be made on the Cardiff Local Development Plan. Labour campaigned on the promise to protect Cardiff’s green fields. As soon as they were elected they announced plans to build on most of them. Contrived population projections from the English Planning Inspectorate (dealt with more than once on this blog) being used as the justification.
Make no mistake, there is something very shady about the Cardiff LDP, and challenging it will make you a target. Though I don’t think anyone expected Labour to be so desperate as to try to tarnish McEvoy a racist for his objections (a default position for Labour politicos), with even the First Minister getting involved. Bizarre in the extreme given Neil McEvoy’s multi-ethnic family background.
So deeply under Labour’s thick hide has Neil McEvoy managed to wriggle that I have it on very good authority (a former Labour councillor) that up to a third of Labour group meetings in Cardiff are dedicated to plotting his downfall. I was unable to confirm if voodoo dolls and pins are involved.
So no one should be surprised that he’s now being investigated by Wales’ Public Services Ombudsman in a desperate attempt to find him guilty of bringing the Council into disrepute – after trying to stop a bedroom tax eviction! How could anyone be charged with bringing a Labour council into disrepute!
The ‘charge’ seems to be that he was overheard saying that he can’t wait for Cardiff Council to be re-structured after May’s election. ‘Welsh’ Labour’s hope is to get the Local Government Panel to ban him from council elections – for talking about a policy of restructuring! The PSO, Nick Bennett, is hardly politically neutral himself (see my previous article here).
The article linked to reminds us that in an earlier existence Bennett was the business partner of an up and coming Labour politician who went on to become a Minister. Combine this with his lobbying for the tobacco industry and his role in huge wage increases for executives at Community Housing Cymru – the umbrella group for our housing associations (of which he was then CEO) – and it all tends to tarnish his credentials as an impartial arbiter of behaviour in political and public life.
Nick Bennett is an insider, he’s part of the ‘machine’, and in a working democracy he would never have been appointed Public Services Ombudsman.
But things go beyond run-of-the-mill political corruption when we remember that twice in the last 12 months Neil McEvoy has been burgled. In 2016 he came home from a public meeting about a landfill site to find the house ransacked by intruders, but while they took a great deal of trouble to break in they ignored the money, jewellery and pocket-sized iPads. Preferring to rifle through his paperwork, stealing some documents.
And McEvoy’s ‘Welcome to 2017, you bastard!’ was an office burglary, with valuable items once again ignored, but papers rummaged through and locked drawers broken open. This is simply too much of a coincidence not to be coordinated.
When the two burglaries are linked to the persistent allegations of the stalking of his sister, with the boys in blue refusing to interview independent witnesses, to the mass theft of placards during his election campaign (some removed by a Labour-controlled housing association!), we begin to get an understanding of the breadth, the depth, and the bitterness of the campaign against him.
I cannot think of any Plaid politician who has got under the skin of Labour in the way Neil McEvoy has – too many haven’t even tried. No Plaid politician before has ever stood up in the Assembly and named just some of the Labour cronies earning huge salaries in the public and third sectors. And no other Plaid politician has had the guts to take on the corrupt land deals that the Labour Party waived through.
One bad apple may spoil the barrel, but one good apple doesn’t save the cider either. Plaid is still too cosy with the liberal, statist, anti-Brexit, ‘Isn’t Trump ghastly’ elite, so embittered since they learnt what ordinary people really think of them and their ideas. But whether you support Plaid Cymru or not, if you believe in honesty and democracy, then you should support Neil McEvoy.
If devolution is ever going to be more than a chimera then at the very least we need more AMs prepared to take on the corrupt establishment and stand up to the vested interests. If that establishment can be so rattled by one ballsy Plaid politician then it makes you realise what effect a few more could have.
But from where I’m sitting too many in Plaid’s hierarchy seem to be ‘uncomfortable’ with Neil McEvoy. Because there have always been people in Plaid Cymru reluctant to make a ‘fuss’, terrified of actually succeeding, some have even worked to undermine the party when success threatened.
By comparison, the Labour Party in Wales has always been ruthless in maintaining its hold on power in order to support its networks of cronyism and corruption. Labour has been so dominant for so long that people seemed resigned to these abuses, but times are changing, and with Labour losing electoral support – getting just a third of the vote in last May’s Assembly election – there’s a growing perception that a century of political control – and the power of patronage that goes with it – may be coming to an end.
Which is wonderful news for Wales, but this fin-de-siècle moment is not with us yet. The system is decayed and rotten, like a dangerous tree, but while we are trying to push it over there are still many people reliant on it for sustenance, and they’ll fight dirty to keep it standing. But it will fall, that’s now certain; so it’s up to us to make sure that when it comes down it topples on the right people.
Let it be clearly understood – in case any lawyers read this – that I am not for one minute suggesting that the Labour and Unionist Party was implicated in the break-ins suffered by Neil McEvoy. No, sir. It could well be that these offences were committed by an insomniac with an insatiable urge to read political documents by torchlight. If so, then that person clearly needs help.
If there is no help available then I shall set up the Welsh Insomniac Burglars Aid Society and whack in a grant application for a couple of mill to tackle this horrendous problem; then it’ll be a new motor . . . a few months of wine-tasting in Argentina, maybe go watch Boca . . . apartment down Mumbles . . . conferences in St. Petersburg, Hong Kong, Rio . . . Why not? That’s how Labour’s Third Sector operates.
I’d have to use a false name of course, and pretend to be an English Labourite luvvie who’s just arrived in Wales.
In addition to the previous post on tourism I also put out a message on Twitter and Facebook last week reminding people that Gwynedd Council was consulting over whether, or by how much, to raise council tax on holiday homes. The ability to raise council tax on second homes and empty homes being just one of a number of changes we can look forward to in the housing market.
Holiday homes also face the possibility of higher Stamp Duty Land Tax when this is devolved in April 2018. (As do Buy-to-Let properties.) Or rather, from that date, we shall see Stamp Duty replaced with a new Land Transaction Tax, to bring Wales into line with the Scottish and UK governments. There was a consultation process, but few responded, seeing as it was not well advertised and ran from July 13 to the end of August.
High summer is an odd time to hold a public consultation process, but while the rest of us were sipping mint juleps and humming Summertime, you can be sure that the organisations representing holiday home owners and private landlords were beavering away ensuring that those they represent had their concerns noted.
Another change is that the ‘Welsh’ Government is now empowered to introduce a tourist tax of the kind found across Europe in cities and regions experiencing large numbers of tourists, with the money raised then used to fund those local services that tourists use but otherwise would not pay for.
Taken together, and implemented imaginatively, as an integrated system, these changes could have wide-ranging and far-reaching implications, all of which would be beneficial to the national interest. Let’s look at these measures in a little more detail.
COUNCIL TAX ON SECOND HOMES
This is an issue that provokes a great deal of debate and passion, and tends to divide people along rather predictable lines. For example, how many second home owners will support increasing council tax on their properties? And how many of those attending one of the regular Meibion Glyndŵr Reunion Dinners (black tie affairs) will argue for anything less than a 500% increase?
A great deal of nonsense is talked in defence of second homes. Here are some of the arguments we’ve heard ad nauseum over the years.
‘To raise council tax on holiday homes in Wales would be racist’. Which is one way of confirming that they are overwhelmingly English owned.
‘Holiday homes put a lot of money into the local economy’. Which wants us to believe that a property lived in for two or three months a year puts more into the local economy than that same property would if lived in permanently by a local family.
‘Nobody else wanted to buy it’. Of course not, you conducted a comprehensive local survey, didn’t you?
‘People would stop coming here’. Why? And as I say, holiday homes often put little into the local economy. Something brought home to me a few weeks ago as I was a-sauntering through Aberdyfi.
A builder crossed the road and asked, ‘Are you Royston Jones?’ Despite not knowing him, and being unsure of his position, I nevertheless answered in the affirmative. After which he introduced himself and we discussed this and that. He’d been in school with my kids and he seemed an easy-going sort of bloke until, while discussing holiday homes, he made it clear that one thing that really pissed him off was holiday home owners bringing in tradesmen from their home area, rather than giving work to locals.
I knew exactly what he was talking about. My wife looks after a holiday home in our village for a family from the East Midlands (she has done for a few decades). Earlier this year there was a builder from the same area working on the property for months, and living in it while he worked. So here we had an example of local tradesmen denied work and local B&Bs denied business.
There is no doubt that raising council tax on holiday homes would encourage some owners to sell and deter others from buying. And the greater the increase then the greater the encouragement/deterrent. More importantly, increasing council tax on holiday homes would bring more properties into full-time use, and this would lead to more vibrant towns and villages, because shops, pubs and other facilities struggle to survive in communities with too many properties empty for most of the year. And this is not just a Welsh problem.
Consequently, there is no sensible or rational argument against raising council tax on holiday homes across Wales, which is why opponents of such moves are forced to employ absurd arguments. Here are a couple of examples that the Cambrian News (where else?) carried some three years ago, when the subject of council tax on holiday homes was being discussed. (Click to enlarge.)
According to Eric Richards of Aberdyfi, second homes are essential to the local economy. He seems to believe that a property ceasing to be a holiday home would remain empty and fall derelict. Another blind spot is failing to understand that Aberdyfi is not representative of Gwynedd. The economy of Bangor – the largest settlement – is based on higher education, administration, the retail sector, etc. The economy of north Gwynedd as a whole would hardly notice a doubling of the council tax paid on holiday homes.
While ‘Pat Beaumont’ believes that increasing council tax “borders on racism”, and might result in “property burning starting again”. Quite how tackling the problem of holiday homes would lead to “property burning” is not explained. Does the writer envision an arson campaign being waged by those feeling aggrieved because they’ve sold their holiday homes to locals?
LAND TRANSACTION TAX (FORMERLY STAMP DUTY)
The new Land Transaction Tax (from April 2018) offers another tool with which to reduce the numbers of holiday homes, or certainly to tax sales of holiday homes and invest the funding gained in the wider community. Of course there are issues to be resolved, fine tuning needed here and there, but a feel for the issues involved can be found in the Summary of Responses (to the consultation process).
As I suggested in the Introduction, those in the know, the property professionals and the business associations, made sure their views were known. The Summary tells us there were six, formal written responses, and these came from:
1/ Chartered Institute of Taxation and Stamp Taxes Practitioners Group
Many of these organisations of course operate within an Englandandwales framework, which explains their wish that there “should be ‘only one rate throughout the UK’.” Though I suggest that the ‘Welsh’ Government be guided by what’s best for Wales, not what’s convenient for the National Association of Estate Agents.
The current Stamp Duty does not apply to the following categories: property purchases of £40,000 or less; caravans, mobile homes and houseboats; non-residential transactions; employer provided accommodation; and certain purchases of leasehold interests subject to specified conditions.
Seeing as those responding to the survey were asked if they agreed with these exceptions it’s reasonable to assume that these are not set in stone. Which would mean that it’s within the powers of the ‘Welsh’ Government to reduce the threshold to £10,000 or less and apply the new Land Transaction Tax to the sale of static caravans.
Another imaginative use of the new Tax would be to reduce the numbers retiring to Wales, or certainly make retirees contribute more to the country in which they plan to spend their declining years. There is nothing heartless or racist about this, it’s pure economics.
Everyone – and here I really do mean everyone – agrees that the ‘advanced world’ is facing a demographic time-bomb with its ageing population. With a decreasing percentage of the population in work, paying the taxes needed, it becomes more and more of a burden on the national purse to support the growing numbers of elderly people.
Therefore, any country or territory attracting elderly people from outside of its borders has problems. Any country actively encouraging another country’s older people to move in is behaving irresponsibly.
Yet in Wales, this is exactly what we do, by allowing, even encouraging, the building of tens of thousands of new properties in rural and coastal areas that planners – and here I include the Planning Inspectorate – know will not be bought by local people, some of them will even be marketed over the border as ‘retirement properties’. And yet politicians and civil servants refuse to publicly admit what they all know – attracting large numbers of elderly migrants inevitably results in an overburdened health service and other issues.
I know I’ve used this example before, but it explains perfectly what I’m talking about. In the area where I live, south west Gwynedd between Barmouth and Aberdyfi, the 2011 census told us that the 65+ age group makes up 30.1% of the population. And within that age group 65% was born in England.
The figure for the percentage of the population in the 65+ age group is 20.7% for Gwynedd as a whole. For Flintshire it’s 17.6%. For Cardiff 13.2%.
This is not natural. This is not sustainable. This is a recipe for disaster for our health service and our wider economy. Unless of course you believe that retirement homes and the like, paying the minimum wage or less, can be the foundation for a healthy economy.
A partial remedy lies in applying a higher level of the new Land Transaction Tax – why not double? – to persons over the age of 50 moving to Wales who have never previously lived here. The extra funding could go straight into the Welsh NHS.
As I’ve said above, tourist taxes of various kinds can be found around the world and, increasingly, across Europe. This article from lovemoney.com explains the tourist taxes you can expect to pay in a variety of countries. If we look at the figures for Italy we see that – as in other countries – different cities and regions charge different rates. Rome charges €6 a night to stay in a four-star hotel whereas Palermo, on Sicily, charges just €2. Florence charges €2.50 a night for self-catering, Milan charges nothing.
There is no reason why Gwynedd couldn’t charge £2 a head per night for self-catering, including static caravans, but Merthyr, or some other area wanting to attract more visitors, could decide against any charge at all. The system across Europe seems to be left to local authorities to decide and it could be the same in Wales.
The Bevan Foundation discussed the issue in February and said, “We suggest that a tourism tax should operate in Wales as a per night charge on hotel room and holiday park stays, capped at seven nights. The tax would be collected and managed by local authorities, and the money raised would be allocated to fund local authority and police services.”
For once I find myself agreeing with the Bevan Foundation (God!), the money raised by a tourist tax must stay within the area where it has been collected and used for the benefit of the local people, the majority of whom derive no benefit from tourism. The money raised must not, as the tourism operators will demand, be spent on encouraging more tourists.
And as for something else we’ll hear –‘This will drive people away!’ The continental experience is that it doesn’t. It’s just a small surcharge that ensures tourism puts something back into the communities it affects. The greater that effect, then the more that should be put back. (And with the post-Brexit pound plummeting and hard times ahead, now is the ideal time for Wales to introduce a tourist tax, ready for the 2017 season.)
With a co-ordinated strategy using legislation already in place or soon to be enacted we could achieve a number of what I consider to be desirable objectives:
By increasing council tax on second homes, and also using the new Land Transaction Tax, we could greatly reduce the numbers of holiday homes and make the dwellings released available to the wider community.
By applying the Land Transaction Tax and a tourist tax to static caravans, but exempting serviced accommodation, we could take the first step on the long road to removing the hideous caravan sites that mar our coastlines and replacing them with hotels and other establishments that will provide more jobs and put more money into local economies.
By applying the Land Transaction Tax (and perhaps Council Tax) selectively to retirees we could reduce the pressures on the NHS and various services in many parts of the country. Again, this could be done by district. For example, increase the LTT for those wanting to retire to Pembrokeshire and Conwy, but not to Wrexham and Neath Port Talbot.
There will of course be obstacles to making any of this happen.
To begin with, there will be those who’ll argue, ‘Oh, but caravans and care homes are the basis of our local economy’. If anyone really believes that then what they consider to be ‘the local economy’ is no better than living in the shadow of a big house, surviving off scraps and cast-offs, and constantly being lied to about ‘generosity’.
Yet the defenders of caravan sites and care homes will not all be beaten and brainwashed, for some people make a lot of money from them. These will not give up easily. There will also be well-connected interests opposing Wales using the Land Transaction Tax, council tax and tourist tax in her own interests.
Finally we can guarantee opposition from the ‘Welsh’ politicians in London, who see their role as opposing anything that might benefit Wales . . . if there’s the remotest possibility it might harm England’s interests. Also the civil servants in Wales, advising our Assembly and ‘Welsh’ Government, but answerable to London. And with so many senior officers in local government having no loyalty to Wales we can expect hostility from that quarter too.
It will be an uphill struggle to change a system that has been in place for centuries in order to start running Wales in the interests of the Welsh. The tools are available; it’s now a question of having the will, the courage, to use those tools.
But it must be done, because living in the shadow of the big house has never served our interests. And nowadays, the big house is not what it was; cracks are appearing and they’re struggling to pay the bills. They’ve also started drinking, shouting at the neighbours and anybody else who comes too close.
It’s time to put up a little fence, nothing too intimidating, just enough to make them understand that this side of the fence belongs to us. They’re still welcome to come . . . but on our terms.
I went to the Tryweryn commemoration on Saturday. (I wouldn’t have bothered, but two old friends came up, stayed with me Friday night, and so I went with them.) There was a good crowd there, but not many young people; though in fairness, I suppose an event like that was always going to attract what’s left of the Sixties generation. (God! am I that old!)
There seemed to be a great many, er, mature women there, with the uniforms and hairstyles of their age and class. Many of these had been sparky young things in mini skirts back in the 1960s, and had marched with placards held aloft before, rebelliousness spent, settling down to become Miss Pugh of Nantiestyn Juniors, and stalwart of Merched y Wawr.
So it should come as no surprise to learn that the Tryweryn commemoration was exclusively a Plaid Cymru affair, which meant that the small number of ‘militants’ that turned up was massively outnumbered, though of course some were in mufti, while other firebrands of yore – like the aforementioned ladies – have turned quite respectable. In fact, there was a rather parchus – almost bourgeois – overlay to the whole thing. I swear anybody who’d farted would have been stared down into the murky waters covering Capel Celyn.
This parchus overlay might have influenced the pervading air of elegiac nostalgia. There was a lot of hand-wringing and reminiscing, nostalgia for a lost bucolic paradise; but little to dissuade me from believing that the only reason we haven’t seen another Tryweryn is the fear – on the part of the British state – of unleashing forces more threatening to English colonialism than Plaid Cymru.
Speeches were delivered by former Plaid leader Dafydd Wigley, 60s protest singer and politician Dafydd Iwan (who also gave us a couple of songs), former and current MPs for Meirionnydd Elfyn Llwyd and Liz Saville Roberts, with it all compered, rather well, by councillor Elwyn Edwards, a native of drowned Capel Celyn.
Absent was Plaid’s current leader, Leanne Wood, up at the SNP conference in Aberdeen getting the kind of reception she can only dream of in Wales and, much more surprisingly, the man who’s been the local AM since the Assembly started, Dafydd Elis Thomas.
As I say, there was a curious atmosphere hanging over the whole event, as if no one was quite sure how to deal with celebrating what was obviously a defeat for Wales but which turned out to be one poke in the eye too many even for a defeated and complaisant people like us.
This strange and uncertain mood became even more obvious at the anti-climatic conclusion. Speeches over . . . and that was it . . . no singing of the anthem, no Yma o Hyd from Dafydd Iwan, just people milling around wondering what to do next. As it turned out, we were told to line up behind the ‘Cofiwch Dryweryn‘ banner and march back to the car park on other side of the dam.
I remarked to a local freelance photographer I knew that the crowd marching silently over the dam looked more like the type of procession one sees in Catholic countries than anything political. And I suppose it was a kind of pilgrimage, but many there were not sure exactly what they were supposed to be commemorating. Or how they were supposed to commemorate it.
MORE ON ‘HAPPY DONKEY HILL’
In the previous post I referred to the property known as Faerdre Fach near Llandysul being re-named Happy Donkey Hill. I have since been passed information that throws more light on the woman responsible for this insult.
It seems that the proprietrix of Happy Donkey Hill is named Kate Clamp, and she’s into ‘animal welfare’, as this report from the Northern Echo (of Newcastle) tells us. Though this 2008 article also tells us that she was forced to give up the Ramshaw Rescue Centre at Low Garth Farm because of a neck injury. Mercifully she recovered well enough to bring herself to Wales and buy Faerdre Fach, which she re-named Happy Donkey Hill.
After moving to Llandysul Kate Clamp branched out into B&B and other holiday accommodation. Not only that but she tried to advertise her new venture with this appearance on Channel 4’s Four in a Bed, a show in which B&B owners visit and assess each other’s establishments (not what you’re thinking!). In part excruciating, in part embarrassing, this example of ‘Welsh’ tourism should chill the heart of any true Welsh person.
Clearly, the multi-chinned Ms Clamp sees herself as one of those big and bubbly ‘personalities’ we are all expected to cherish. Anyone who doesn’t accept this depiction is often dismissed as a ‘snob’. A less generous interpretation might be that she’s a loud and domineering woman more concerned with animals than people. With the latter being used to fund her concern for – even preference for – the former. (It may be significant that visitors to Happy Donkey Hill can bring their dogs but not their children.)
I trust that the required planning permissions have been received for all the changes she and her young partner are making to Faerdre Fach Happy Donkey Hill, and that the RSPCA is keeping check on the welfare of the assorted animals there, for Kate Clamp is a very busy woman. (And it must be worth asking, ‘How many more animal ‘refuges’ are we going to allow?) Another concern should be for public health inspectors, for I’d be concerned about so many animals in close proximity to where food is cooked and people sleep.
But at the end of the day, this is ‘Welsh’ tourism. Crude and alien. The time has surely come to curb the excesses of this exploitive and colonialist activity; for tourism, and the colonisation that comes with it, are now the biggest threats to the survival of Welsh identity, the Welsh language, and even Welsh place names, in our rural areas.
LEGISLATING FOR GOOD-LIFERS
Back in January last year I wrote a piece about the ‘Welsh’ Government transferring 15% of EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2. (Read it here.) In other words, instead of this money going to Welsh farmers it would in future be given to ‘rural development projects’. (I think most people reading this will understand the code employed in ‘rural development projects’.) There have been many other assaults on Welsh agriculture recently. Here’s one I noticed in January this year.
On the one hand it would be easy to dismiss these attacks on farming as the behaviour of a political party whose ‘Wales’ is bounded by Llanelli, Ebbw Vale and Coedpoeth. Reasoning that, ‘Them buggers don’t vote for us so why should we do anything for them?’ But this argument doesn’t hold water because even areas that do vote Labour also get shafted. (Just think Valleys.)
One reason for these constant assaults on Welsh rural life is the advice received by the ‘Welsh’ Government in recent years from bodies such as the Wales Rural Observatory (WRO), which I wrote about back in September 2012. (I apologise for the lack of spacing, due to the formatting not transferring properly from my old Google Blogger blog.) Though since writing that piece I understand that the WRO may have had its funding pulled . . . I do hope it was something I said.
By a rather roundabout route I was recently made aware of yet more ludicrous advice being fed to the ‘Welsh’ Government, advice that, yet again, works against Welsh interests and also encourages further colonisation. I’m referring now to the ‘Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities’, set out in Technical Advice Note (TAN) 6 as ‘One Planet Development’. You will note that this was ‘prepared’ for the Planning Division of the ‘Welsh’ Government by Land Use Consultants and the Positive Development Trust. Although the address given for this lot on TAN 6 is in Bristol, their head office is in fact in London, so I presume that Bristol is the regional office for this part of Englandandwales.
I urge you to read TAN 6, especially if you want to expand your eco-babble vocabulary.
To cut a long story short, the civil servants who run the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Planning Department have accepted this guidance and imposed it on our local planning authorities. It demands that our local authorities give planning permission to projects meeting the criterion of ‘self-sufficiency’. The panel below is taken from TAN 6 and tells us that this directive does not merely apply to single properties, it can be used to build whole new ‘ecovillages’.
The specific example I read about was in Carmarthenshire, planned for Rhiw Las, near Whitland. (Read more here.) While the source, West Wales News Review, is obviously published by environmentalists, it has some use in that it provides us with the name of Rhiw Las Ltd, Company Number, 08686077, Incorporated in September 2013. Rhiw Las Ltd has applied for what are, essentially, four new dwellings in open country, justified on the grounds that they will be self-sufficient smallholdings of the kind demanded by the One Planet legislation. (Read the planning application here.)
It was good to see Plaid Cymru (and other) councillors on Carmarthenshire council reject this application, but we can be sure of two things: 1/ The application will be allowed by the Planning Inspectorate on appeal, and 2/ No matter what the local councillors may think of it, Plaid AMs would have been falling over themselves to support this One Planet eco-bollocks.
The legislation set out in TAN 6 could result in whole new villages of hippies and other undesirables setting up anywhere in Wales. In fact, TAN 6 encourages it. All they’d need to do is form a small company, buy a bit of land (I’m sure the ‘Welsh’ Government will help) and whack in a planning application. It’s frightening to think that a government supposedly serving Welsh interests is agreeing to legislation like this. For no matter that this colonisation ploy originated in England, no matter that is was taken up and presented by the English civil servants controlling the Assembly, it still had to be agreed by those traitorous buffoons down Cardiff docks.
Everywhere we look in rural Wales, and along our coasts, we see the same picture – Welsh identity being swamped under a tide of colonisation. Worse, the ‘Welsh’ Government is facilitating this ethnic cleansing by legislating against the indigenous Welsh and passing laws that can only benefit strangers. Also, by encouraging activities and industries that are guaranteed to work against Welsh interests.
We Welsh today are a nation without leaders or representatives, those we have put our faith in have betrayed us time and time again. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a monoglot socialist agitator in Dowlais or a lover of the Welsh language in Dolgellau, you have been taken for granted and betrayed, time after time!
This system will eventually turn Wales into a larger version of Cornwall, with impoverished natives being told to rejoice as wealthy outsiders buy everything – for this is ‘investment’, this is ‘progress’. Only a ‘racist’ would fight against his people being marginalised and their identity destroyed in this way.
But ‘racist’ is just another convenient lie for politicians and media, it’s just another smear; like the ‘terrorists’ who fought to free their countries from English oppression. How can these ingrates, these scoundrels, be compared to the visionaries who set up the first concentration camps, the lauded commanders who took the decision to bomb Dresden, or our noble allies in Saudi Arabia – ideal human rights watchdogs!
With devolution we Welsh are confronted with the colonial appendage of a morally bankrupt system. As such, it deserves neither our respect nor our support. So start rejecting it, treat it with the contempt it deserves. Start today!
UPDATE: As I predicted, the English Planning Inspectorate overruled Carmarthenshire County Council to give these colonists planning permission for their hippy settlement. Not only that but the Inspector decided that the council should pay the colonists’ costs in preparing their appeal. No doubt we Welsh will be paying for lots of other things for these bastards in the years ahead because the ‘self-sufficiency’ they’re always banging on about never leads to them being independent of the public purse.