In the previous post ‘Sister Sledge’ and I tried, in our different ways, to explain the Labour Party’s links with various other bodies, from Spartist rent-a-mob-with-whistles outfits to superficially respectable social housing bodies.
Ultimately, such linkages combine to create a system not unlike those we see in one-party states, where the reach of the ruling party extends into every area of national life. Such contempt for plurality ignores the fact that Labour gets just a third of the votes in Assembly elections and it leads, as in true dictatorships, to over-confidence and even corruption.
Which might explain what I’m now going to tell you. Though if someone can satisfactorily prove to me that it’s nothing more than a genuine mistake then I shall make that clear in a subsequent post.
To give you the fullest understanding of the subject I think some background information would be helpful.
Plas Morolwg was a general needs family scheme owned by Bromford Carinthia, an English housing association, and built in the late 1970s. You have to wonder who gave planning permission for an English outfit to ship in dozens of people many of whom would have had special needs, with each one adding to the burden on the local health and other services.
But the importation of England’s problems still goes on, the difference today is that it’s done by ‘Welsh’ organisations using Welsh public money! Yet I have heard of no residential homes or social housing developments in England catering for Welsh people and paid for from English funds. Isn’t that strange?
Tai Cantref, based in Newcastle Emlyn, was pressured into buying Plas Morolwg by Tai Cymru, the former umbrella organisation for registered social landlords, now superseded by Community Housing Cymru. It was not a good buy.
To begin with, Plas Morolwg stood in an exposed location above the harbour/marina in Aberystwyth. It’s a nice spot when the sun’s out but otherwise at the mercy of the weather coming in off Cardigan Bay. Enough of a problem in itself, but Plas Morolwg was not very well built either, and a storm in February 2014 exposed just how bad a job the builders had done.
Almost before the wind had died down Tai Cantref slapped in a planning application on 11 February 2014 to demolish Plas Morolwg and replace it with a “mixed affordable and open market residential re-development”. (Ref No A140117.)
As you’ve seen in the link supplied above, Outline Planning Permission was granted 7 October 2014 and Plas Morolwg was demolished in January 2015.
But more storm clouds were gathering. For some bad business decisions by Tai Cantref encouraged Bay Bubble scheming that saw this housing association brought to its knees and handed over to the Labour Party’s favourite RSL, Wales and West Housing.
This arranged marriage was formalised in September 2016. Which meant of course that Wales and West came into full possession of the now-cleared and ready-to-build-on Plas Morolwg site.
In addition to the Tai Cantref planning application to demolish and rebuild Plas Morolwg Wales and West has submitted a further application – Ref No A170922 – for a further eight “residential apartments”. (Are there non-residential apartments?)
This presumably is in addition to the Tai Cantref application of February 2014 for 64 apartments. The original Plas Morolwg complex was just 44 apartments, but the new building is two storeys higher and many believe it’s an even bigger eyesore than the original.
One thing’s for sure, the biddies on the top floor are in for exciting times when 90mph westerlies blow in from Labrador.
The next development in this saga was Ceredigion council announcing that the Bodlondeb extra care facility in Aberystwyth faced closure. This news was exploited by the Labour Party and its formed-for-the-purpose front organisation the Ceredigion People’s Assembly. (Not to be confused with the People’s Assembly of Ceredigion, or the Popular Assembly of Ceredigion.)
So a Labour-led campaign against Ceredigion’s non-Labour council eventually drove the council into the arms of the Labour-run Wales and West Housing, which may now be in a position to demand whatever it wants on the Plas Morolwg site.
I have been helped with this section by someone who has signed up to the new party, someone with connections in Ceredigion Council and Cantref, and this individual has some very interesting information about the Council’s final quarter Social Housing Grant programme bid to the ‘Welsh’ Government.
Submitted by Keith Davies, on 16th February 2018, I am informed that the bid spreadsheet includes the following statement: “We have included a drawdown request for the Plas Morolwg extra care scheme acquisition stage totalling £1,690,000 . . . ”
The spreadsheet shows £1,051,000 being claimed for site acquisition of Plas Morolwg in the 2017/18 Social Housing Grant development programme; with an extra £188,500 claimed from any spare moolah available in 2017/18 surplus grant round to top up the “remaining acquisition grant only”.
This seems to suggest that Wales and West is to be paid Social Housing Grant to buy a development site that they acquired when the ‘Welsh’ Government encouraged them to take over Tai Cantref. In other words, a site they already own!
But just to be sure, I went to the Land Registry website. From there I downloaded both the title and the map of the site. There seems to be little question that Wales and West owns the Plas Morolwg site and with no money owing to banks or other lenders.
But then I got to thinking, ‘Well, hang on, maybe Wales and West is buying some extra land, and that explains this “acquisition stage” payment?’ So I went to the plan on the Ceredigion Council website, the plan relating to the proposed redevelopment of the site, and compared it with the Land Registry map.
They’re identical. As you can see for yourself.
The proposed development moves down the hill to minimise the impact of the two extra storeys and this will almost certainly mean that access, parking and just about everything else will be located at the rear of the building.
‘THE WILD WEST SHOW’
In the days when Ceredigion council was run by men of property, planning permission was so easy to come by, and planning rules treated with such contempt, that Paul Flynn, the veteran Newport West MP, described Ceredigion council as “the Wild West Show”.
Those days of greedy landowners enriching themselves may be gone, but a new menace to open and honest local government in Ceredigion has emerged in the form of Momentum, whose followers act as foot-soldiers for a locally unelectable Labour Party and its linked organisations.
Juvenile leftists with nothing better to do are one thing, but with Wales and West Housing we are dealing with a ruthless – possibly corrupt – organisation bent on hoovering up rivals thanks to funding and political support provided by its parent body, ‘Welsh’ Labour.
So we need answers to the following questions, and these answers must come from Wales and West itself, Cyngor Ceredigion, and the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government.
First, has the Plas Morolwg development received full planning approval? Then, given the history of the site, where will the residents come from?
But perhaps most important of all – is Wales and West Housing receiving £1.69m to buy a site it already owns? If so, why? And who authorised this funding?
The time has come for opposition politicians in the Assembly to demand an investigation into social housing in Wales; we must know exactly how it’s funded, whether it meets – even exceeds – the needs of Wales, and the relationship between some housing associations – particularly Wales and West Housing – and ‘Welsh’ Labour.
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 01.03.2018: Someone sent me a ‘Welsh’ Government document called a (social housing) Programme Delivery Plan for Ceredigion. I’m not sure how readable it is, but anyway, here’s the link.
The first page lists a number of projects in the pipeline, including Plas Morolwg, but with some information redacted. The other project with information redacted is Mid Wales Housing’s Cylch Caron in Tregaron, which I understand has been scuppered by Cyngor Ceredigion getting into bed with Wales and West up on the windy heights of Plas Morolwg.
Note also on this first page that under the ‘Tenure’ heading all the other projects are listed as ‘Social’, but not Plas Morolwg, which is ‘Neutral’. This I’m told means that it will either be private housing or mixed.
And yet, as I’ve explained in the main post, Wales and West is asking for Social Housing Grant to acquire the Plas Morolwg site. Yet we know a) Wales and West already owns the site and b) the Programme Delivery Plan now tells us W&W will not be building social housing.
So what the hell is going on here?
Scroll down to the third sheet (which I suspect is a continuation of the first) and you’ll find other Wales and West projects with information redacted. In fact, there are five redactions for Wales and West, the two for Mid Wales Housing, but none for Tai Ceredigion which has the most entries on these sheets.
So why does Wales and West Housing get such preferential treatment from the ‘Welsh’ Government? I can understand the reasoning behind commercial confidentially, but when it’s only applied to Wales and West it looks very much like favouritism. Or maybe hiding something?
P.S. I’ve also seen the Pembrokeshire Programme Delivery Plan, and there Wales and West has even more redactions. They may be connected with a development called Parrog Yard in Newport. Any information will be gratefully received and treated confidentially.
While the brothers in Cardiff Bay were fighting over the ashes of Carl Sargeant and positioning to succeed Carwyn the Untrustworthy, no one noticed that another struggle was bubbling away in deepest Ceredigion.
It started around the time of the last County Council election in May 2017, with the first rumblings over proposals for a women-only shortlist, which might have seen sister Dinah Mulholland and others being considered ahead of Ceredigion’s only Labour councillor, Hag Harris, who had served in both Liberal-Independent and Plaid coalition cabinets, building up a nice pension.
The experienced Harris succeeded in seeing off these early stirrings and secured his usual seat in the election, only to be shunned by the Plaid council leader this time round and left on the back benches. The council rumours appear to be that this was due to his opinions on the closure of Bodlondeb residential home; caught in a pincer movement between his previous role as cabinet member with responsibility for social services, which damned him in the eyes of the younger, Corbynite brothers and sisters who sought to exploit the home closure for crude political advantage.
After a lengthy public campaign over the closure of Bodlondeb, which saw the brothers and sisters exultant when Chavs author Owen Jones joined them on the streets of Aberystwyth to argue for public residential homes workers to be kept in a job no matter how much money was being lost, but the home still closed.
Though not before the (under siege) Plaid Cymru council leader was forced to turn to Labour’s favourite housing association, Wales and West, and agree to them having a 60 bed extra care facility on the prime development site where once had stood Plas Morolwg. This site had been gifted to W&W by the Labour Welsh Government when local association Tai Cantref was deliberately shafted by their lenders and hung out to dry.
Outline planning permission was swiftly pushed through, as it became clearer that the fifteen-years-in-the-planning alternative extra care scheme in Tregaron was hitting the rocks. So, the future looked bright, with Wales and West Housing moving back into Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and north Pembrokeshire, backed by certain friends within Ceredigion County Council.
Pretty soon afterwards, plans for lots of flats in Lampeter emerged as well, with proposals to demolish the old Ffynnonbedr primary school right in the middle of Hag Harris’s ward, backed with an allocation of Social Housing Grant from the Welsh Government, via the county council officer who likes to say “yes” to Wales and West.
You would think that Cllr Harris might have been pleased about this development – but no, alas, both he and other members of the Town Council were already aware of the lack of management of the existing Wales and West flats in the town, and the constant visits by the Police concerning drugs and damage to property. Could this be the Corbynista’s revenge?
Lampeter also being the place of work of the Dinah Mulholland mentioned above, where she supports the special students who, having gained their university place to do Egyptology or religious studies, with E or below A level grades, still need that extra bit of support.
Sadly, the drop in the number of students achieving even those grades has meant a surplus of student accommodation, and therefore empty private sector rented accommodation in the town, leading to an increase in second and third generation LSD hippies moving out of their caravans in Silian and into the unlicensed HMOs in the town.
So, having given Wales and West a lift in Ceredigion, what next for the young revolutionaries? Well, social media is a young people’s game, and Cllr Harris and his ilk are not known to frequent those channels.
Dinah and her Aberystwyth university comrades came up with the next idea around January 2018, with the creation of a (quite sinister looking) new Facebook page called Ceredigion Tenants. As you can see, the page has a clenched fist profile picture and other leftist imagery, such as “eating the rich”. The intention is clear – to get down with the ‘tenants’ on Facebook, and encourage them to revolt!
There have been encouraging posts about building more council housing (in a county that couldn’t look after what it already had) and what to do with rogue landlords and how tenants should form tenant unions. Plenty of promoting the posts of Shelter Cymru, most of whose senior staff are active Labour Party supporters, and make a living out of taking landlords to Court on the back of generous legal aid. All good stuff, churned out from their university-paid desks.
The Corbynistas soon latched on to a local issue with Ceredigion-based Tai Ceredigion, who had the audacity to suggest that some of their tenants should comply with the terms of their tenancy agreements, and not keep dogs or cats in flats, or accumulate weeks worth of their faeces.
How dare they! Surely it is the right of every tenant to do what they like, to allow their dog to bite the neighbours or housing association staff, and to dump cat litter over the balcony onto the one below. This local issue has nicely coincided by a new policy initiative from the Corbyn side of the party to propose legislation to give every tenant the right to keep a pet.
A browse through the newly established Ceredigion Tenants Facebook page will show dozens of posts in support of the tenants, many comments urging tenants to visit the local Shelter Cymru advice worker, and to seek legal aid to fight this great injustice of requiring them to adhere to the tenancy agreements that they signed. Petitions have been “organized” (sic) and promoted by Daren Howe, the local expert in change.org petition promotion.
DAREN BRINGS MORE COBBLESTONES
Daren Howe: “Signed and shared several times, I have 3 large groups waiting to post this petition but it needs more detail and more bite, why is this happening?, who is it happening to?, what are the consequences if we don’t win etc.”
Daren has now helped get the pet petition over the 2000 mark, by cross-posting to other Corbynista groups and animal rights activist networks – but with very few signatures from Ceredigion itself. Rumour has it that Daren himself has a bit of a history with a former council house he used to live in, before abandoning ship for a tenancy in Cardigan with those nice people at Wales and West.
Whilst it is clear who is behind the Ceredigion People’s Assembly from cross-postings of the pet ban petition made by members of Ceredigion Labour and from Ceredigion Tenants Facebook page, the brothers and sisters have been reluctant to be up front about it.
However, in one of the postings by the administrator of Ceredigion Tenants, Dinah Mulholland, reveals herself as one of the sisters behind the initiative:
“Ceredigion Tenants I have given your names to Jess from ITV and Sian from BBC Wales. I suggested they make contact via this Facebook page. Hope that works. Let me know if not and I follow it up. Hope you are all OK. Dinah x”
Obviously you won’t find many genuine Ceredigion people among the vegans and the green tea-drinking university sisters such as Dinah Mulholland, Jo Eastlake and Claire Risley.
Where next, eh? Maybe their new-found sister in Cardigan, Morvenna Dorita, will mount a takeover for Cardigan Town Council?
You heard it here first, folks, the revolution started with the comrades in Ceredigion.
♦ end ♦
JAC SAYS . . .
I am indebted to ‘Sister Sledge’ for this timely reminder of how the Labour Party extends its influence in the absence of a democratic mandate by using trade unions, campaign groups, charities, third sector bodies and, increasingly in Wales, housing associations.
Not forgetting how Labour activists exploit local issues such as the closure of the Bodlondeb care home in Aberystwyth and the pets ban in social housing flats. The sort of things Labour councils do everywhere but which only draw the ire of the comrades in areas that Labour doesn’t control.
What’s happening in Ceredigion though may take things a step further because the sudden flurry of activity among the comrades – and perhaps more particularly, the comradesses – is done not just to extend the influence of their party, for I suspect that the faux outrage over the closure of Bodlondeb and the pets ban may serve a bigger agenda.
‘Sister Sledge’ mentioned Wales and West Housing, which I’ve written about many times. This is a Cardiff-based housing association now spreading like a virus across Wales with the help of the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government. It recently built new offices in Ewloe, Flintshire.
In its desire to take over as much of Wales’ social housing as possible and perhaps become the last – or the biggest – left standing after the inevitable reorganisation takes place Wales and West tries to gobble up everything in its path.
‘Sister Sledge’ made reference to Cantref, a housing association based in Newcastle Emlyn, which was undermined by the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government and then handed on a plate to Labour-controlled Wales and West. Cantref’s former properties are now run from Cardiff, and Welsh – the working language of Cantref – is treated as an irritating irrelevancy by Wales and West.
Forget Carwyn’s million Welsh speakers by 2050, the Cantref episode shows us ‘Welsh’ Labour’s real attitudes towards the Welsh language.
A neighbour of Cantref’s now being eyed by W&W, is Tai Ceredigion . . . ‘But wait!’ you exclaim, ‘isn’t Tai Ceredigion that wicked housing association that rips fluffy kittens from children’s arms and smashes their little skulls with lump hammers (the kittens not the children)? Yes indeedy.
Are you beginning to get the picture? For those of you still having trouble, let Jac lead you by the hand . . .
Ceredigion county council had on its hands an extremely pale pachyderm in the form of Bodlondeb, a drain on the public purse that could no longer be justified. Sensing a chance to manipulate public opinion and use it to expand in Ceredigion both ‘Welsh’ Labour and Wales and West Housing swung into action.
Ceredigion People’s Assembly was set up in August 2017, the foot-soldiers were organised and had a protest march on September 16th (Glyndŵr’s Day). A further rally was organised on November 4th which was attended by the saintly Owen Jones.
Result: Ceredigion council closes Bodlondeb but the bad publicity generated by Labour front organisation, Ceredigion People’s Assembly, virtually blackmails the council into allowing Labour-controlled W&W to build a replacement facility on the Plas Morolwg site.
Emboldened by that victory, the next target is Tai Ceredigion, and we see the same foot-soldiers form another Labour front organisation, Ceredigion Tenants, whose Facebook page sprang into life on January 11, just one day after Tai Ceredigion sent its letters about pets to the tenants of the Penparcau flats.
If all goes according to plan the ‘Welsh’ Government will hand Tai Ceredigion and its assets over to Wales and West Housing, as it did with Tai Cantref. And despite being consistently rejected by the electors of Ceredigion the Labour Party will have secured for itself considerable power in the county.
This is clearly a subversion of the democratic process, but it’s only what we should expect from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.
One great irony is that because those involved with Ceredigion People’s Assembly, Ceredigion Tenants, and even the Labour Party, are English, what we see is a kind of hard left colonialism.
Which should remind us that when it comes to English colonialism in Wales there’s no real difference between hard left and extreme right, though maybe the right is more honest about what it’s doing.
Bad enough, but by following links and making connections, it becomes clear how these hippy settlements link with other colonial operations in ripping off the Welsh public purse and arrogantly claiming to have the answers to ‘problems’ the inhabitants of the Welsh countryside didn’t realise existed.
Let’s stick with Lammas for a minute. Which we see here described as an “off-grid ecovillage”.
Something repeated on the Lammas website, where we read: “Electrical power is generated from a series of micro photovoltaic installations along with a 27kW hydro generator. Heating power is supplied from timber (either waste timber from our woodland management or from short-rotation-coppice biomass plantations). Domestic water comes from a private spring and other water needs are predominantly met from harvesting rainwater.”
So it’s off-grid in terms of its electrical supply, and self-sufficient in water, apparently. Though I’m a little confused by the wording, which reads, “Domestic water comes from a private spring and other water needs are predominantly met from harvesting rainwater.” ‘Predominantly’ is not exclusively, and suggests the spring and harvested rainwater are supplemented in some way.
Is water toted from a nearby stream or is there a mains water supply to Lammas?
Worth asking because reports on the recent fire mention a ‘junction box’. Again, this could be explained by the solar, hydro or biomass power, but it also raises the prospect of a mains electricity supply.
Note that the account I’ve linked to in the Telegraph quotes Jasmine Dale, who lived in the house, saying, ” . . . we know the feeling, our first home burnt down . . . “. We also read, ” . . . there have been three similar incidents in Pembrokeshire in the last year.” Bloody hell!
What do these fires have in common, could it be something to do with the way certain buildings are constructed? I ask because someone drew my attention to a Facebook exchange on the subject of the Lammas fire.
Hoppi Wimbush is the wife of Paul, and with her husband is one of the founders of Lammas/Tir y Gafel. What she has to say is very interesting. “The corridors acted like a chimney” suggests that there were no internal doors, certainly no fire doors. All accounts I’ve read suggest that the fire took hold very quickly and burned fiercely. So, again, what might have caused that?
The answer may come, unintentionally, from Rachel Shiamh, who says in the Facebook conversation, “As we all know, straw bale buildings are not a high fire risk . . . “. Now I know that we are dealing here with people who prefer an alternative lifestyle, but this woman also demands an alternative reality, because straw bales are inherently flammable, and to pretend otherwise is insane!
UPDATE 09.01.2018: Just days after the Lammas fire the English Planning Inspectorate overruled Pembrokeshire county council to give planning permission to another ‘low impact smallholding’ in the county. Significantly, the inspector used both pieces of legislation I mentioned above to justify her decision.
UPDATE 16.01.2018: If you’re tempted to visit Lammas – for God’s sake don’t eat there!
You’ll have read that Rachel Shiamh thanks David Thorpe, so who might he be? To begin with, we see that he’s another denizen of Alternative Reality who also believes that strawbale buildings are just fine.
In the immediate future, this recent tweet suggests that someone plans an ecovillage, another Lammas, in the Tywi valley.
Regular readers may be struck by the venue for this meeting last Sunday about a new ecovillage, for it’s at the former YMCA building in Llandovery run by Jill Tatman, which has been told by the YMCA organisation to stop using the YMCA label. I wrote about it a couple of months back, scroll down to the section Llandovery YMCA.
So where might this new ecovillage be located?
I suspect that it’s at Coed Tal-y-Lan aka Red Pig Farm. And if that sounds familiar then it’s because I also wrote about the place and those involved back in September 2016, in The Green Smokescreen, which I urge you to read, in order to understand the kind of people we’re dealing with. Not just the shyster-hippies but the politicians, in Labour and Plaid Cymru, who back them.
The Black Mountain Food Hub had a Twitter account that seemed to think Wales is in England. Quaint!
As you might expect, I went to the Land Registry website for the details on Red Pig Farm or Coed Tal-y-Lan, but what came up for that post code was ‘Pentre Bach’, so I took a chance and bought it.
The title document then confuses the issue a little further by giving the name of the property as Tan-Y-Lan Woodlands, which is obviously a part-Anglicisation of Coed Tan-y-Lan, and is owned by Christopher John Cooper of Ammanford. And although I was able to download the title document from the Land Registry website, there was no outline plan to accompany it, as is normally the case.
So who is Christopher John Cooper? And is Red Pig Farm on his property, perhaps formerly known as Pentre Bach? If Red Pig Farm is not on the land owned by Cooper then why isn’t it registered separately with the Land Registry?
The picture is further complicated by 192.com which suggests that also based at Red Pig Farm are S E & E O Williams, who appear to be genuine Welsh farmers.
In a final attempt to make some sense of what the place is called and who might own it, I went to the Companies House entry for Red Pig Farm Ltd . . . though the company changed its name in December to Coed Talylan Ltd. The company had been known as Red Pig Farm Ltd since June 2016, before which it was Agroecology Land Initiative Ltd.
There have also been a few changes of address since Incorporation in February 2015, with the first registered address being in Stroud, Gloucestershire. In June 2015 the address changed to Werndolau Farm, Golden Grove, Carmarthen SA32 8NE (which seems to be linked to Red Pig Farm via the Black Mountain Food Hub). In May 2016 the address was settled as Red Pig Farm.
So who owns what and how are they connected? And how many different names are there for this property? Answers on a postcard, please . . .
MORE ALTERNATIVE REALITY
Ecovillages and all the other elements of this strategy are being encouraged, so we are told by the ‘Welsh’ Government and those involved, to do something about global warming, and who can argue with that? So let’s give it some thought.
Let’s focus on 76 acres of unused land in north Pembrokeshire, land that has no carbon footprint. Then a bunch of people move in from England. They clear that land, cut down trees, burn wood to create smoke, produce human and animal waste including methane, and create a substantial carbon footprint where there was none before.
Clearly, Lammas and other communities, like the one planned for Red Pig Farm, because they develop unused land and are populated exclusively by incomers, increase Wales’ carbon footprint. Which means that the fundamental premiss of the whole strategy is – as we environmentalists are wont to say after a glass or five of Malbec – utter bollocks.
The counter-argument might be that this encouraged degradation is a price worth paying for the educational role played by places like Lammas in helping Wales become more environmentally friendly. But there is little if any interaction with the indigenous population to facilitate an educational role.
We know this because the only people who attend the courses run by Lammas, or volunteer to work on these ecovillages and similar schemes, are people just like those running them – members of the English middle class hoping to find their own bit of land in Wales and move in . . . to build more fire-traps like those at Lammas.
By moving to Wales those involved with Lammas, Red Pig Farm and similar ventures increase Wales’ carbon footprint but of course they reduce England’s; so is our ‘Welsh’ Government legislating to make England a greener and pleasanter land by attracting these people to Wales?
I have written many times about social housing in Wales, and of the many problems created by the more irresponsible housing associations. Here are just a few of the problems:
Unlike in Scotland, social housing providers in Wales are tied into an Englandandwales system. This results in our housing associations having to give priority treatment to people with no Welsh connections.
Many of those being housed by these routes will be ‘problem families’, or young tearaways, they might be drug and alcohol abusers, or they’ll be recently released from prison. These issues will inevitably place a burden on our health service and other facilities while also affecting the quality of life in many Welsh communities.
Wales has an ageing population. In a decade or so Wales will be the ‘oldest’ country in western Europe. This also places a strain on our NHS and other services which results in money being taken from education and other budgets. Yet many housing associations, particularly in the north, are using public funding to build housing for the elderly and the infirm brought in from outside of Wales.
Despite the recommendations of the Notional Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee social housing providers are still diversifying through unaccountable subsidiaries. This results, for example, in the insane situation in Pembrokeshire where The Pembrokeshire Housing Association is passing public money to its subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes for MBH to build houses for sale on the open market!
Many Welsh housing associations lease or rent properties from companies based in tax havens. I explored this connection in Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. Yet no one in the ‘Welsh’ Government seems to care that Welsh social housing tenants could be living in properties owned by the Mafia, or ISIS.
Housing associations form secretive and costly links with Third Sector and other bodies. Some of these links are of questionable legality, of dubious benefit to Wales, but always costly to the Welsh public purse.
And that, perhaps, is the biggest worry of all. That no one with responsibility for overseeing social housing bodies, no one who funds them with hundreds of millions of pounds of public money, seems to care how they operate. It’s left to self-evaluation and self-appraisal – box-ticking exercises which of course never find any problems. So everybody’s happy!
NEWS FROM THE NORTH
A taste for what follows may be obtained from the post Bits & Pieces of September 30th. Now here’s the latest:
Diggory gives us one of the two qualifications needed to run a Welsh housing association: either be English like him and the CEOs recently appointed to Valleys to Coast, Bron Afon and Hendre; or else have good links with the Labour Party, which accounts for the appointments of both Trivallis’ new £150,000 a year CEO and the new Board chair, Tracy Myhills, previously CEO at the Welsh Ambulance Trust. (How’d you like that on your CV!)
It should go without saying that if you’re English and a member or supporter of the Labour Party then you get to take your pick of which housing association you’d like to run. Being English but supporting some other party would be acceptable, but if you’re non-Labour Welsh, forget it.
This is how a one-party state operates.
Staying in the north for a minute . . . Not so long ago Labour’s most favoured housing association, Wales & West, built a big new office building in Ewloe, Flintshire, very close to the border.
Many thought at the time that a Cardiff-based housing association might be over-extending itself with this office block, but no, for since then W&W has not only swallowed up Cantref of Castell Newydd Emlyn, and branched out into Ceredigion, but is also hovering, vulture-like, over ailing HAs across the land.
One housing association viewed as sickly and about to fall is Pennaf. The Pennaf Group is based in Llanelwy (St Asaph) and includes the Clwyd Alyn housing association and Offa, a lettings and management service. A northern source tells me that a couple of factors may be contributing to make Pennaf look a tasty dish.
First, CEO Graham Worthington – also based in Chester! – has just announced his retirement; plus, it seems that Pennaf has been tardy in bringing its 4,500 properties up to Welsh Housing Quality Standard, something it should have done by 2012.
The reason for Pennaf finding itself in this parlous position is I’m told due to spending too much time and money building care and residential homes – i.e. using Welsh public funding to bring in more retirees, so as to put extra strain on the NHS and social services that will result in education and other budgets being raided.
Only in Wales!
WALES & WEST WAY OUT WEST AND WAY OUT OF LINE
I’ve just mentioned that Wales & West snaffled up Cantref of Castell Newydd Emlyn, which operated mainly in Ceredigion, but W&W is also branching out in other ways.
When the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government handed Cantref over to Wales and West part of the dowry was valuable land at Plas Morolwg in Aberystwyth, overlooking the marina and with nice views out to sea. That site is now earmarked for 60 extra care flats. It’s doubtful if Ceredigion needs this development, certainly, it’s suggested that if it goes ahead it will jeopardise Mid Wales Housing’s Cylch Caron project in Tregaron.
But things are never that simple in Ceredigion.
Ceredigion council’s leader, Ellen ap Gwynn of Plaid Cymru, is under intense pressure over the closure of the Bodlondeb care home in Aberystwyth. Motivated by nothing more than a deep and heartfelt concern for the old biddies therein Labour and Lib Dems have taken to protesting against the closure, even recruiting that one-boy rent-a-mob and self-promoting little shite, Owen Jones.
It is further suggested that certain council officials such as strategy officers and planners who – how can I put this? – whose first spoonful might not have been puréed laverbread, are bending over backwards to help an anti-Welsh organisation like Wales & West.
An unholy alliance of Plaid Cymru and Welsh-haters.
Let’s now turn our attention to Lampeter, where Wales and West is very active, and plans yet more expansion. What follows is information for which I offer thanks to someone obviously well-informed about council business.
To begin with, there are widespread concerns in Lampeter that Wales & West is failing to evict its drug-dealing tenants in Bryn Road and North Road. But things are almost certainly going to get worse, for W&W is said to be in the process of buying the old Ffynnonbedr school building in order to build yet more flats in an area of low need. So Lampeter can expect more drug addicts to arrive. Lucky Lampeter!
This document – at 5.5 and 5.6 – makes great play of an agreement between Ceredigion council and Cantref in the early part of 2016 and seems to suggest that Cantref is the client. But of course Cantref was taken over by Wales & West over a year ago, but I can find no mention of Wales & West. Understandable given the drug dealers and others W&W has already brought into the town.
As if that wasn’t worrying enough for the good people of Lambed, I hear from a former weekend soldier that the old Territorial Army building – also on Bryn Road – is up for sale, and word is that W&W want to buy this as well. But I bet you’d guessed that already!
I’ve mentioned that Wales & West refuses to evict its lucrative drug-dealing tenants in Lampeter, and for this it has been congratulated by fellow Labour Party members in Shelter Cymru. Mutual back-scratching among Labour-run Third Sector bodies is so prevalent and blatant that they even try to make a virtue of it.
Elsewhere the tale of evictions is different. For back in Aberystwyth, mainly local 16- and 17-year-olds are being evicted from Wales & West’s Tŷ Curig hostel . . . to make way for new ‘guests’. Most of these replacements will arrive burdened with ‘issues’, but it is these very ‘issues’ that will allow W&W to charge a hefty fee for housing them – leaving the rest of us to pick up the bill.
Before leaving Wales & West for a moment I should also point out that the new office building wasn’t restricted to Ewloe, for there’s also the new HQ in Cardiff. This too may be in anticipation of expansion, with one of the potential victims rumoured to be Cardiff Community Housing Association, where CEO Kevin Protheroe is about to retire.
WHY DO I SAY ‘ANTI-WELSH’?
I try to be careful in using the right word, and that’s why I have no hesitation in describing Wales & West Housing – and others I’ll soon mention – as anti-Welsh.
Non-Welsh or un-Welsh might imply someone or something having nothing to do with Wales; it might suggest ignorance of Wales’ distinctiveness, possibly ambivalence; but by using anti-Welsh I mean awareness of the Welsh language, and other things that make Wales different, but deliberately seeking to denigrate and undermine them. This certainly applies to Wales & West, which is why I describe W&W as anti-Welsh.
Let’s start with the W&W website – it’s in English only. As is the website of another Labour-run housing association I’ve mentioned, Trivallis (formerly RCT Homes). This is no accident, for when it comes to the Welsh language most Labour Party members and supporters agree with Neil Kinnock rather than with Carwyn Jones.
Other HAs – Bro Myrddin, for example – rely on Google Translate. The CEO at Bro Myrddin is Hilary Jones, said to be an ‘ally’ of W&W, who is rumoured to be taking an interest in Hafan Cymru, reported to be in serious trouble due to its over-reliance on the Supporting People programme and EU funding.
But the point is that all Registered Social Landlords are legally required to give equal status to both languages, and also to have a Welsh language scheme in place. But the Regulation Managers employed to enforce these requirements obviously aren’t up to the job (or maybe they too missed out on the puréed laverbread).
Or does the fault lie with those above them? I ask because this recent advertisement for a Regulation Manager bizarrely and confusingly talks of “capability to work in both English and Welsh” but then says that Welsh is “not necessary“!
This seems to be a case of going through the motions: ‘Look, we’ve got to say this about the Welsh language . . . but in practice it doesn’t really mean anything‘.
A concrete example of Wales and West’s contempt for the Welsh language came recently with its advertisement for a Development Officer in Newcastle Emlyn, with the advertisement in English only and no requirement to speak Welsh in an area where Welsh is widely spoken. Welsh is certainly the majority language among the native Welsh.
This advertisement is not an oversight, nor is the absence of a Welsh website. This is flaunting power. This is a bunch of Labour bigots, with the ‘Welsh’ Government behind them saying, ‘Fuck you, and your language!‘
How will this attitude contribute to Carwyn Jones’ one million Welsh speakers by 2050?
IMAGE CONFLICTING WITH REALITY
We are encouraged to think of housing associations as streamlined, twenty-first century replacements for the old local authority housing departments, but doing a much better job. In fact, they have so little in common that any comparison is invalid.
To begin with, councils operate within defined geographical areas, whereas housing associations are spread all over the country competing with each other and duplicating each other’s work. Competition and duplication that places a wholly unnecessary burden on the public purse.
This has obviously been realised, and the problem is being addressed by encouraging those housing associations that are most ‘reliable’ from a Labour Party perspective – which also happen to be the least Welsh in staff and attitudes – to expand and take over the others. Which has two main results.
One, it increases Labour Party influence in areas of Wales where the party has no MPs or AMs. Two, it encourages instinctively anti-Welsh organisations to expand into areas where the Welsh language is strong. Good for the Labour Party but a disaster for the Welsh language and for Wales
Another difference is that local authority housing departments would never have struck deals with outside agencies to import someone else’s criminals, paedophiles, drug addicts, problem families, etc. The reason being that councils had that link with their patch, that commitment to their people, and of course councillors needed to be re-elected. With housing associations such considerations and restraints are absent.
For housing associations are distant bodies, answerable to nobody, and can do what they damn well like. And because there’s little profit to be made from housing decent, law-abiding locals, but lots of money available if they inflict problems on small Welsh towns like Lampeter, that’s the model they follow.
And while there are healthy profits for Wales & West and others from importing undesirables, once here they place an inevitable burden on local health and other services, and police resources, while causing misery and disruption to Welsh communities. In a different category, but having a similar effect on the Welsh public purse, are the retirees being brought into Wales, and this is no longer confined to the Costa Geriatrica.
All of which results in the Welsh public purse, which funds W&W and the rest of them, losing out again, and again, and again. And we are the public purse, you and I. It is we who lose out in having to endure inferior facilities and strained resources.
But the model followed by Wales & West is profitable. And the profits made, coupled with ‘Welsh’ Labour backing, allow W&W to undermine and then swallow up their smaller and weaker brethren, which will include responsible social housing providers sticking to what should be the role of housing associations – providing rented housing for local people.
And some day in the not-too-distant future, when towns like Lampeter and Aberystwyth are awash with drug addicts and criminals from God knows where, and there are only a few housing associations left standing, the ‘Welsh’ Labour Party will control them all.
Allowing ‘Welsh’ Labour, through its housing associations and other Third Sector bodies, to exert a control over Wales denied it by the ballot box. We shall have arrived at the one-party state.
We are currently celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the referendum that gave us devolution. Ron Davies described it at the time as “a process not an event”, but little if any progress has been made.
In yesterday’s Llais y Sais Ron Davies was allowed to explain why he thinks devolution has failed to deliver, why it has not improved the lives of Welsh people. This seems to have been a print version of what he said the day before on radio (06:00) and television (15:26).
Llais y Sais allowed Carwyn Jones to respond, and his response was pathetic; hiding behind the shade of Rhodri Morgan and talking of increased powers rather than addressing the point raised by Ron Davies, which was that Wales is worse off today – in terms of wealth, health, education and other indices – than she was 20 years ago ergo devolution has failed to deliver. Few outside the Bay Bubble would disagree with Ron Davies.
But lurking in the shadows I perceive another threat, an existential threat to the continuing existence of Wales. A threat made easier to carry out because devolution has failed and because so many people in certain parts of Wales feel that devolution has delivered nothing for their area.
FERRY ‘CROSS THE MERSEY . . . AND MOVING TO BANGOR
Unlike Ireland and Scotland Wales does not have geography or topography on her side, we have a long border with England and all but one of England’s major population centres are within two hours travelling time of Wales.
Which made it relatively easy for Roman, Norman and English invaders to detach the more fertile, lowland areas from our control, largely confining our ancestors to the uplands. That Welsh nationhood survived was largely due to the fact that Wales had little else invaders coveted.
This helped preserve Welsh identity until the arrival of industrialisation, which impacted on areas that were overwhelmingly Welsh in character, and while the new-found prosperity naturally attracted immigrants these were largely assimilated. But time, an English education system, the resultant decline of the Welsh language, colonisation, tourism, lack of national leadership and other factors have taken their toll, to the point where plans are now being drawn up to finally do away with Wales altogether by dismembering our country.
Of course, these plans will never be called by their true name, they will always be presented as being ‘beneficial to Wales’.
Let’s start in the north east. The decline started with the arrival of the railways, and with them mass tourism. The Rhyl station of the Chester & Holyhead Railway Co opened on 1 May 1848. In the more industrial areas closer to the border Anglicisation took a different form with the importation of English workers and the banning of the Welsh language. Perhaps the most notorious example were the events that provoked the Mold Riots of 1869.
Despite it all, the north east remained Welsh, but it was inevitable that the factors I’ve mentioned eventually took their toll. The Flintshire of Daniel Owen, David Lloyd and Emlyn Williams is gone, replaced by what can often be mistaken for semi-rural suburbs of Merseyside.
Rhyl, the once-bustling holiday resort, is now a dumping ground for English criminals, with the town’s streets haunted by drug-addicts and their dealers. (The only plus would appear to be that the gangsters are killing each other quite regularly.) The same fate has befallen smaller communities on the north coast. And as this chaos wreaks havoc on Welsh communities Welsh politicians have done nothing.
So we arrive at the point where someone asks, ‘Oh dear, what can we do to ‘revitalise’ this region? I know! we’ll have closer cross-border co-operation.’ This was certainly the recommendation of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s City Regions Task and Finish Group’s Final Report, the group chaired by Elizabeth Haywood.
Who is Elizabeth Haywood? You don’t remember voting for this woman who wants to dismember Wales? Of course you never voted for her, nobody did; she’s Mrs Peter Hain, or Lady Hain, I suppose, since the Orange Man was ennobled. (You really should get all silly ideas about democracy and accountability out of your head, they’ll only confuse you in one-party Wales.)
The Mersey Dee Alliance to which Lady Hain refers is a body that has been in existence for some time, though it seems to have a strange idea of Welsh geography, or to go by this map that appeared on the MDA website it doesn’t accept the existence of Wales at all.
The prospect of our north east (or the whole north) being swallowed up by north west England would be bad enough, but as I explained last month in Gwynedd LDP, and Wider Considerations, the threat is not restricted to the old unitary authority of Clwyd.
Nor is this encroachment, this gradual takeover, confined to the north. If anyone was in any doubt about that, then statements made over the past few days should have made the threat very clear.
ENGLAND’S LITTLE MOUTHPIECE
One of the great conundrums of Welsh politics concerns the role of Secretary of State for Wales, and boils down to the question: ‘Is the Secretary of State for Wales the voice of Wales in the cabinet or the voice of the cabinet in Wales?’
Different Secretaries of State have provided different answers, but the current incumbent of that post, Alun Cairns MP, is most definitely – and perhaps more emphatically than any predecessor – the voice of the cabinet in Wales. Little more than a mouthpiece, but because he is a mouthpiece, we can more easily tell the plans of those who put the words into his mouth.
The thinking in London towards Wales now seems to come in two parts – gradually undo devolution and then dismember Wales.
Just about everyone outside of the Conservative and Unionist Party believes that Brexit will provide the excuse for Westminster to a) withhold powers repatriated from the EU, and b) ‘retrieve’ powers already devolved. While those inside the party know it but won’t openly admit it.
Even so, the clues come thick and fast. Alun Cairns was given a lot of space in Llais y Sais – with David Williamson serving as his amanuensis – to promote the idea of Cardiff detaching itself from Wales and linking up with Bristol in a Severnside region. (For some reason I can’t find the piece on the WalesOnline site.)
To ram home the message Llais y Sais chipped in with an editorial, one that went beyond Bristol to “the string of cities along the M4” which of course take us to London.
I was so vexed by what I read, and incensed by the lies spouted by Cairns, that I took the unusual step of putting out a short post on my Facebook page.
On Monday morning Cairns maintained his assault on honesty with the claim that too much power is centralised in Cardiff . . . and this, remember, is the voice of the Conservative and Unionist Party that wants to centralise even more power in London!
Some might be tempted to agree with him, until they remember there’s little real power in Cardiff because Wales lacks an effective form of devolution. Of course, most people would agree that Cardiff gets more than its fair share of investment and jobs, and it was this resentment that Cairns hoped to tap into.
But let’s take him at his word. He says he wants to devolve power to the regions, he even talks of elected mayors. So would Wil Pughe of Llanfair Caereinion, like his counterparts in London and Manchester, have power over policing? Would Wil – as he has long desired – have control over local PCSO Cerys Evans?
Having one day advocated a Severnside region Cairns pushes on with a back-of-a-fag-packet suggestion masking a deeper message – ‘Devolution isn’t working for most of Wales. In fact, devolution isn’t working at all – let’s get rid of it.’
“Give power to the regions” is something trotted our regularly by the Tories, but it displays no real concern for the regions at all, it’s just a method of doing away with devolution and undermining our sense of nationhood.
DIVIDED, DISMEMBERED, DESTROYED
What of the areas left outside the shining megalopolis of ManPool and the ‘string of cities’ from Cardiff to London?
The remainder of the northern coastal strip along the A55, or those areas not being used to house drug addicts and criminals from over the border, or serving as geriatric ghettoes, will become commuter communities, even over the bridge onto Ynys Môn, as I found out by accident.
For when trawling the internet I often turn up things I wasn’t looking for, such as the map below, produced by Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners. They know that there are three Strategic Development Areas (or Strategic Planning Areas) for Wales, the two city regions and the A55 Corridor. I found a number of other references to the A55 Corridor: here’s one, here’s another.
All the sources tell us that these three SDAs/SPAs will be brought into existence by the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, which received Royal Assent on July 6.
So why, two years on, are the chattering classes only talking of the two city regions? Is the A55 Corridor a dirty secret being proceeded with by stealth? Interestingly, one feature demanded by a SDA/SPA is joint Local Development Plans, which might explain why Gwynedd and Ynys Môn were recently required to produce one.
The area between the A55 Corridor and the urban south is to become one vast recreation and retirement area for England, offering everything from granny farms and zip wires to Cheshire-sur-Mer (Abersoch), the Birmingham Riviera (Cardigan Bay), and Bear Grylls parting suckers from their money with his ‘get-muddy-and-pretend-you’re-in-the-SAS!’ bollocks.
With assorted ‘Care’ bodies, probation companies and housing associations taking in England’s decrepit, dysfunction, delinquent and downright criminal. For housing ex-cons pays well.
The Valleys are to endure yet more managed decline, the Swansea region will be offered scraps from Cardiff’s table, while Cardiff itself expands and grows fat through exploiting its capital status but simultaneously playing the English provincial city, increasingly linked to Bristol and “the string of cities along the M4”.
Cardiff being a player in Severnside will be welcomed by those Cardiff politicians, such as Russell Goodway, who have always wanted Cardiff to enjoy all the benefits of being capital of Wales while looking down their noses at everything Welsh.
Result: Wales enfeebled, fragmented and exploited as never before. There can only be one outcome.
WHO CAN WE TRUST?
It should go without saying that we cannot trust an individual, or a political party, that has allowed this situation to develop.
Wales is being assaulted from all sides, yet Carwyn Jones may be motivated by loss of prestige rather than the loss of nationhood, or maybe it’s the thought of his party losing its vast network of patronage that moves him to stand alongside Nicola Sturgeon.
The Tories of course are driving this project and they’ll be supported by Ukip. As for the Lib Dems, well, who cares? Which leaves only Plaid Cymru.
Seeing as the destruction of Wales has little to do with Donald Trump, refugees, or trans-gender toilets, and is only tangentially connected with another of Plaid’s current obsessions, Brexit, it would be unrealistic to expect any opposition from Plaid Cymru.
In addition, Plaid Cymru is unsuited for the coming fight because, being a civic nationalist party that welcomes everyone (especially those with ‘ishoos’) – and by so doing supports the colonialist system that sees Wales exporting talent and importing problems – it is psychologically incapable of standing up in a struggle in which it will have to be said, ‘No, you’re not dumping any more of your problems in our country!’
And yet, one doesn’t even need to be a nationalist, or a believer in independence, to become involved in the forthcoming struggle. All that’s needed is the belief that Wales is a nation, with a defined and accepted territory, and that both must be respected.
But our enemies are gathering, they’ve laid their plans, they’ve even told us their plans, so we must resist.
A plan has been unveiled to give Merthyr a ski slope and other goodies, including a much-need equestrian centre and yurt accommodation. Though I was unaware of any yurts in Merthyr needing accommodation; no doubt – as with social and other housing in Wales – these yurts will magically appear from beyond our borders.
We established that Mr Large is a man with a great interest in trees of all kinds, for he is involved with a number of companies that have trees in their names. Many of these ‘tree’ companies seek the conditions that only the British Virgin Islands can provide.
But try as I might I was unable to find any information on Marvel Ltd. There is a company of that name registered with Companies House but it’s definitely not the company planning to house yurts in Merthyr. And as there cannot be two companies with the same name registered with Companies House it was reasonable to conclude that either Marvel Ltd didn’t exist, or else it existed in some other jurisdiction.
Now read on . . .
Thanks to information received I now know that Marvel Limited is registered in Guernsey. So I went to the Guernsey Registry for a few documents. First we have Marvel’s Memorandum of Incorporation dated 09.09.2013. There are two shares, one each held by CN Alpha Limited and CN Beta Limited, both of Guernsey. (And when searching you must type ‘Limited’, for ‘Ltd’ turns up nothing.)
Of course, we may be in the labyrinth of tax-haven registrations where locals can put their names to hundreds or even thousands of companies. Then again, these people might be genuine directors of the company that owns Marvel Limited. How do we know?
Blackwell and Hearse are also directors of a UK-registered property company. (As is Geoffrey Robert Le Page, a former CN Alpha director.) Though the shares in Thornhill Property Investments Ltd are owned by Thornhill Property Holdings Limited . . . of Guernsey. Round and round we go.
Turning back to Marvel Limited I learnt that CN Alpha Limited and CN Beta Limited had been joined as directors by Cavendish International Limited. Going to the Annual Validation for 2016 we see that CN Alpha Limited has now become CCD Alpha Limited, with a similar change for CN Beta Limited.
So who the hell are Cavendish International Limited? Well, that should read were, because the company was voluntarily struck-off on July 17.
Which obviously means that Cavendish International Limited can no longer be a director of Marvel Limited. But the last entry for Marvel on the Guernsey Register is dated January 17. Maybe they’re ducking and weaving so much that those behind Marvel can’t keep up with their own manoeuvrings.
And yet it could be that even if we could get to the bottom of what’s going on on Guernsey we’d find that the trail goes off to the British Virgin Islands. Marvel may have a presence on Guernsey for appearance’ sake only due to the Channel Islands being regarded as more acceptable than those tropical locations full of shifty foreigners.
One thing’s for sure, Leigh Gerald Large is not mentioned anywhere on the Guernsey documents. So perhaps he’s lurking behind the frangipani trees on the BVI. Which might suggest that he’s no more than a front man for somebody else.
Unless fresh information comes in I think I’ve gone as far as I can with this investigation. Which is why I’m passing it over to the ‘Welsh’ media and our politicians to get at the truth. (Don’t laugh!)
There must be journalists, politicians, Merthyr council and Welsh Assembly officials, who have contact details for Leigh Gerald Large. They should get in touch with him and demand that he tells them who owns Marvel Limited, and where it is ultimately registered.
Those behind this ski slope wonderland have gone to great lengths to hide their identity. Which is suspicious in itself. And worrying when we can predict with certainty that this scheme will demand large dollops of public funding.
We are entitled to know the truth.
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 14.12.2017: Pine Fields Private Ltd now has a new director in James Douglas Shanks, and although the address given for him is in East Sussex, the company’s base, I suspect he himself might be located in Scotland.
Shanks was appointed on September 25th, two weeks after this piece appeared. On the same day William John Handley resigned from Pine Fields Private Ltd, leaving Shanks as the sole director.
Bear Grylls: ‘It’s not for me, you understand . . . ‘
I’ve written about Bear Grylls, the television personality, survival expert and tourism operator a couple of times recently. Now I find myself writing about him again.
My first mention of Grylls was an almost light-hearted look at his ‘survival camp’ on Llŷn, done only because I’d picked up a leaflet for this nonsense on a visit to Porthmadog. So demanding and dangerous is this camp that it caters for drunks on stag and hen parties. (Scroll down in this post.)
I next wrote about him was in more serious vein, after learning of his involvement with wide boy Gavin Lee Woodhouse – of ‘Wynnborn’ fame – and their joint attempt to take over another piece of Wales and re-name it the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. Read English Tourism in the Colony of Wales.
I have been in contact recently with a Gwynedd councillor who had more to tell me about Bear Grylls, and although this tale takes us back to July 2014 I think it deserves an airing, so I’m reproducing in full an e-mail exchange that took place between Bear Grylls and Councillor Craig ab Iago. (You can either click on the image on the right to enlarge it, or read it in pdf format by clicking here.)
At the time of this exchange Grylls was applying for planning permission to build a new stone jetty on St Tudwal’s Island (which he owns) off the coast of Llŷn. As a follow-up to the official planning application he wrote to all members of the planning committee.
I’m unsure about the propriety, or the legality, of seeking to influence elected representatives in this way. Maybe an Old Etonian who is now a ‘celeb’ regularly uses back channels in order to get what he wants. Of course, what works in London doesn’t always translate to Gwynedd.
First off, let’s remember that this is a planning application by a businessman to make one of his assets more profitable. That’s all there is to it, really, it’s about Bear Grylls seeking to make more money.
But he can’t say that, so he has to try a different tack; he starts off by mentioning his “young family”, which might influence an application to build an extra bedroom but is totally irrelevant in this context.
Then he presents himself as the benefactor to the local community “in and around Abersoch” (i.e. the Cheshire set), and the partner of Trinity House, which maintains St Tudwal’s Island lighthouse.
At which point you might, like me, be wondering: if Trinity House needs a new jetty why couldn’t they apply for it themselves? Come to that, does a body like Trinity House even need to apply for planning permission?
This appeal by Bear Grylls is nothing but simpering, self-serving bollocks; just a cut above, ‘think of all the drowning kiddies, sob! sob!’ I don’t want to dwell on this stomach-churning bullshit any longer.
Thankfully, Craig ab Iago was able to answer Grylls, and he did so with dignity and passion. It is a response worth reading for its honesty, and how it contrasts to Grylls’ artifice and dissimulation. I urge you to read Craig’s cri de coeur and ensure that it has the widest possible audience.
Tourism and the colonisation it encourages is the surest way of destroying our rural way of life. That’s why Wales is being offered little other than tourism.
~ ♦ ~
Redrow Homes, Goetre Uchaf
One of Wales’ great success stories, so the media would have us believe, is Redrow Homes. A company formed by Steve Morgan, with headquarters in Ewloe, Flintshire, and quoted on the FTSE 250. The truth is that Redrow being in Wales is just an accident of geography, there is no commitment to Wales or things Welsh whatsoever.
Proven by the twee names Redrow gives to its developments and the names of its house types – The Ludlow, The Warwick, The Cambridge, The Windsor, The Shaftesbury, etc. But occasionally Redrow gives the appearance of recognising it’s in Wales by using a Welsh name for one of its developments. An example would be Goetre Uchaf in Bangor.
Unfortunately, the ‘commitment’ is just skin deep. Because of course, like so many companies operating in the building trade and property development – and especially in the north – Redrow targets English buyers. So it is with Goetre Uchaf, as this advertisement proves with, ‘Move to North Wales with Redrow Homes’.
If you want further proof, then listen to the start of this video and hear the mangling of Goetre Uchaf. And if these houses are not needed in Bangor – and seeking buyers over the border suggests they’re not – then why was planning permission granted?
~ ♦ ~
I am indebted to another source for making me realise that, with two elections coming up, ‘Welsh’ Labour will again target the Polish vote in Llanelli (and perhaps elsewhere). For Labour has worked assiduously over the years to exploit forge links with the Polish community in the town.
The starting point would appear to be 2004 when, according to this WalesOnline article from May 2014, a desperate Pole went into the office of the SaveEasy Credit Union in downtown Llanelli, where manager Jeff Hopkins was eventually able to find a Polish speaker to help him.
From this encounter grew the Welsh Polish Mutual Association which opened in 2006 to help Polish migrants arriving in the town. The chairman of the Association is the aforementioned Jeff Hopkins. In an earlier incarnation he had been the agent for Denzil Davies, the town’s Labour MP from 1970 until 2005.
A SaveEasy Credit Union employee involved with the new Association was Halina Ashley, Polish herself. It should go without saying that Mrs Ashley is also a member of the Labour Party. I suppose it’s reasonable to assume that Mrs Ashley was the Polish speaker Jeff Hopkins was able to find on that Sunday morning back in 2004.
The official opening took place in September 2006, conducted by Edwina Hart. From its outset the Association was funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government, partly through the ill-starred Communities First programme, which was finally put out of its misery in February.
Though the Polish-Welsh Association was not registered as a company until 27 February 2013. On the Companies House website you’ll see that the only director other than Hopkins is Janice Williams, a Labour county councillor. Williams has also been a director of the local Citizens Advice Bureau, that body taken over by the Labour Party years ago.
To this day, I understand, the ‘Welsh’ Government funds the Welsh Polish Mutual Association centre in Llanelli, and pays for the ‘Welcome’ packs for arriving Poles, with the SaveEasy Credit Union paying the overheads for the building.
Though I must confess to being appalled to read my source suggesting, “It would not be a surprise to discover that the packs contain postal voting forms . . . I am led to believe that Llanelli Labour have form regarding this”.
I had just put away the smelling salts after reading that when I found myself scrabbling for them again on reading that Hopkins and Ashley have access to confidential data that could be of great use to the Labour Party in targeting the Polish vote.
As I said to myself, ‘But they would never do anything like that, because to do so would contravene the Data Protection Act 1998.’ That said, there is some evidence . . .
The leaflet below, for example, from last year’s Assembly election, is obviously for the benefit of Polish voters; and seeing Mrs Halina Ashley, a woman they know, in the company of the Labour candidate, clearly carries the message, ‘Vote Labour!’.
The Polish vote in Llanelli may not be as large as in some English towns, but it still makes up five or six per cent in the wards where Poles tend to congregate. The percentage is higher in the Tŷ Isha ward where not so long ago the Safer Community Action Group was set up to counter the allegedly anti-social behaviour of gangs of drunken young Polish males.
The group was supported by thirsty Labour councillor and recipient of someone else’s liver, Keri Thomas, on the grounds that the Polish influx “put a burden on services, on the GPs and the hospitals and the schools”. (You couldn’t make this up, could you?) Like most Labour politicians, Thomas is talking rubbish.
The Polish migrants are overwhelmingly healthy young men, consequently they are unlikely to be a burden on the health service. If Keri Thomas and others are so concerned about people moving to Wales and putting a strain on our services why do they say nothing about retirees, or the substance-abusing riff-raff and others with ‘issues’ who get priority treatment from housing associations and other agencies?
Knowing ‘Welsh’ Labour as we do, and with the evidence from last year’s election to guide us, it is entirely reasonable to assume that ‘inside information’, unavailable to other parties, is being used to target the Polish vote in Llanelli for both the council elections and the UK general election
Footnote: Councillor Janice Williams is standing down next month in the Lliedi ward, where one of the Tory candidates is a Stefan Ryszewski. Woe! Woe! Even the Fates mock Labour!
~ ♦ ~
Pond Life in Ebbw Vale
A Gwent source tells me of an interesting sale taking place at 5pm today, in the Park Inn Hotel at Llanedeyrn in Cardiff. (If you hurry, you might still make it!) His interest was aroused by one particular lot of three former feeder ponds for the local steelworks and the land around them.
The catalogue makes interesting reading, for it contains all manner of properties but a majority seem to be small terraced houses of the kind that often make the news when a London ‘paper reports, ‘Englishman buys whole Welsh street for £37.50, ha! ha!’
Which says something about many things, such as the ‘Welsh’ Government’s neglect of the Valleys, and our relationship with England. Consider also that many of these humble dwellings being auctioned are repossessions, each one representing someone’s dashed hope of owning a home. But the Daily Mail don’t give a fuck about that.
In March 2009 the Newport-based South Wales Argus reported that the ‘Welsh’ Government had given £150,000 to transform the site in question, the Argus even saying that work had started. Yet to look at the site now it appears that little if anything was ever done.
So the questions are:
What happened to the £150,000?
Why wasn’t the area improved as promised?
What’s been happening for the past 8 years?
Who owns this land today?
Why is it being sold?
Maybe the ‘Welsh’ Government is hoping that Bear Grylls and ‘Wynnborn’ Woodhouse come galloping over the Beacons, bugles blowing and flags fluttering, to unveil their plan for the Waun-y-Pound Aquatic Adventure Resort, replete with crocodiles and piranhas – let the good times roll!
Regular readers of Private Eye – and perhaps those who abjure Lord Gnome’s organ – will know there is now a database available that tries to list all property in Wales and England owned by overseas registered companies. You can browse it here.
Naturally, my interest was in Wales, and so I extracted the Welsh properties from the database and these can be viewed here, grouped by local authority, and then, within each LA area, ownership is shown alphabetically.
It soon becomes clear that different companies can be found operating in different areas, some in more than one area; but one particular company stood out for the sheer number of properties it owns.
I’m referring of course to the company of the title, Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. Here’s a list of Link’s properties, again, grouped by local authority, and in date order with the most recent purchases at the top. Though you’ll see that Link also owns a few houses (and a garage!) in Colchester, Essex, which seem to be the only properties the company owns outside of Wales. I’d love to know the explanation for the Essex outlier.
Perhaps the most striking thing about the Link properties is that a great majority of the title documents, almost all, in fact, bear the same date, July 24, 2006. There are so many titles bearing this date that I think it must signify the transfer of a large property portfolio to Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd on that date. Which raises the question, whose portfolio was it before Link bought it? Alternatively, it could just be a change of name. In which case, what was the previous name of Link?
Although my interest was aroused by reading the articles in Private Eye and checking out the map, what really kick-started this investigation was someone in Swansea contacting me through Facebook to say that a number of the properties listed for Link in fact belonged to a housing association, which I thought was odd.
The properties my source was referring to are in Penmaen Terrace in Mount Pleasant, three- or four-storey houses, once homes to the local bourgeoisie now broken up into self-contained flats of the kind popular with students. (The picture below shows the kind of properties I’m talking about, though not necessarily the one I shall now focus on.)
My informant referred me to No 5, which she assured me was rented out by the Coastal Housing Group. Nearby properties were also said to be rented out by Coastal. The obvious thing to do was check with the Land Registry, where the mystery was cleared up . . . sort of.
Though remember that Coastal is a relatively new organisation, registered on April 1, 2008 and formed through the merger of Cymdeithas Tai Dewi Sant (1991) and the Swansea Housing Association (1978). Which means that although Coastal is named as the registered owner and proprietor (of the lease) on 04.02.1983 this must have been the Swansea Housing Association.
The two ‘Restrictions’ dated 23.04.2008 would appear to be some kind of recognition that the merger and reorganisation had taken place.
Scrolling to the end of the leasehold document, under the ‘Charges’ (loan, mortgages, etc.) heading brings us to this entry: “(04.02.1983) Proprietor: The Housing Corporation of 149 Tottenham Court, Road, London W1T 7BN.” This quango was the body that oversaw and funded housing associations between 1964 and 2008. I assume it ceased to have any authority in Wales after devolution.
An assumption that seems to be confirmed by a later entry reading: “(12.10.2000) A Deed dated 4 October 2000 made between (1) National Westminster Bank Plc (2) The National Assembly For Wales and (3) Swansea Housing Association Limited relates to priorities as between the Charges dated 12 January 1983 and 4 October 2000 referred to above as therein mentioned.”
In order to find out exactly what this meant, I contacted the ‘Welsh’ Government with a FoI. I submitted the request on Sunday, October 2, which meant that no one would have read it until Monday, then I had a phone call on the Tuesday from a Regulation Manager at the Housing Directorate! Here’s a section from the written reply that arrived a couple of days later.
The answer to my question, ‘How much did the ‘Welsh’ Government chip in?’ would appear to be that the ‘Welsh’ Government put in no money but instead acts as some kind of guarantor for housing associations taking out or revising loans.
Having satisfied myself as to who owns and who leases 5 Penmaen Terrace I decided to look at another property in Swansea owned by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, one mentioned in the freehold of 5 Penmaen Terrace, where it says, almost at the end, “(24.07.2006) Registered Charge dated 29 June 2006 affecting also other titles. NOTE: Charge reference WA99891”.
WA99891 takes us to a part of town with which I am more familiar, for this title number refers to the freehold of 379 Neath Road in Plasmarl, the neighbourhood where my father was born and raised. Once a busy road, in fact, the main road from town to Morriston, it has become something of a backwater due to the new road that now runs past the Liberty Stadium and on up to the M4.
The property on Neath Road is a just a terraced house but, again, it’s owned by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd, though unlike the one in Penmaen Terrace it belongs to those properties bought, or registered, after 24.07.2006. To be exact, 06.10.2006. Another difference is that the lessee in this instance is the Family Housing Association Wales Ltd. And the money to fund the lease came from Orchardbrook Ltd.
I couldn’t get a great deal of information on Orchardbrook, for one thing, it doesn’t seem to have a website, but I did turn up minutes from a 2009 meeting of the York Housing Association, which say, “The Chair explained that Orchardbrook (a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland) took over all Housing Associations loans and the interest rate specified was high.” Suggesting that when the Housing Corporation was wound up in 2008 its assets, in the form of loans made to housing associations, were sold off.
So the Charge entered against the leasehold title of the Neath Road property in 2014 probably means that Orchardbrook ‘revised’ the terms of the loan it had inherited from the Housing Corporation.
We don’t want to get bogged down in the minutiae of Land Registry documents so to explain a little more I’ll use the Zoopla website. Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd owns hundreds of properties in Swansea and many more across the south (but none west of Llanelli).
For example, Link owns many properties on relatively new developments in the Llansamlet area, in Brynteg, Ryw Blodyn, Lon Brynawel and Clos Eileen Chilcott and other streets. Using the data I’d compiled and cross-referencing with Zoopla and other property websites we find that most of these properties are leasehold.
Obviously I can’t check all Link’s properties, there are just too many, but I suspect the same picture will be found elsewhere: older properties – especially large ones and Houses of Multiple Occupation like those in Penmaen Terrace – are leased or rented to housing associations, with newer properties – bought as buy-to-lets – are privately leased or rented. Though I’m not ruling out that newer properties might also be leased or rented to RSLs.
While the big question – ‘Who owns Link?’ – goes unanswered, the profile does advance our knowledge in other areas. It tells us, for example, that Link was incorporated in Gibraltar on September 11, 2003.
Digging around in the FCA website turned this up, which tells us that on 24.02.2006 Cymru Investments Ltd of Jersey changed its name to or merged with Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd. This might explain the rush of registrations with the Land Registry a few months later, for this could be the Cymru Investments portfolio being registered under the new name.
Though given that Link was Incorporated in Gibraltar in September 2003 what was it doing in the intervening period?
You’ll also see that the name Cymru Investments Ltd had only been used for a year or so, so was there a previous name? Yes there was, as this document from the Jersey Financial Services Commission tells us. From 10.09.1991 to 15.02.2003 Cymru Investments was known as Rastlebeg Investments (Jersey) Ltd, and before that, from 14.03.1974, the company went by the name of Gwalia Investments Ltd.
Something you may have picked up on is that there’s a gap of 23 months between Jersey saying the name Rastlebeg ceased to be used (15.02.2003) and the FCA telling us that the name Cymru investments was adopted (08.01.2005). Is this a typo, or was another name used in this period?
In the hope of getting to the bottom of things I decided to buy the original registration document for Gwalia Investments Ltd from 14.03.1974 from the Jersey Financial Services Commission. Here it is. You’ll see that despite what we’re being told, the company was originally registered as Castlebeg Investments (Jersey) Ltd not Gwalia Investments Ltd. Yes, that’s Castlebeg not Rastlebeg – another typo? Well, no.
Because further Googling turned up this entry (below) from Hansard. Castlebeg and Rastlebeg are one and the same, so why the different spellings, was the name changed in an attempt to confuse, or is it a repeated typo?
Here’s a link to another Commons exchange from 1986 concerning Castlebeg Investments (Jersey) Ltd. The company was clearly behaving in improper and even underhand ways. There seems to have been some reluctance on the part of the then Conservative government to introduce leasehold reform. The kind of reforms recommended in the Nugee Report.
Having started the previous section by saying I didn’t want to get bogged down in the minutiae of Land Registry documents I’m now in danger of getting us bogged down in information from other sources, so I’ll just refer to a few more scraps of information before trying to pull the various threads together.
This first document, from the FCA, is the one that confirms Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd as the successor to Cymru Investments Ltd of Jersey (see panel above), but there are tabs on it we have yet to explore. If we click on the ‘Principals’ tab we bring up the name of Brian D Thomas Insurance Services Ltd of Swansea. Here’s the Companies House entry.
This company goes back to May 1977 and was chugging along quite comfortably, with total assets less current liabilities of £399,517 at year end 31.03.2005. But then, this thoroughly Swansea company, soon after it gets involved with Link Holdings, is taken over by the Jelf Group of Bristol, undergoes a few name changes, is moved to Bristol, goes dormant, and is finally put out of its misery by being dissolved 07.09.2010.
Interestingly, one of the many names Brian D Thomas briefly traded as in this period was Gwalia Insurance Services. It’s strange how the name Gwalia keeps cropping up, and those of you familiar with the social housing scene will know that there’s a Gwalia Housing Group in Swansea, which recently merged with the Seren Group to create Pobl. Is there a connection?
You will have noticed that the Principal Place of Business given on the FCA document for Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd is, ‘Cymru Investments Ltd., Po Box 232, Jersey, Channel Islands JE4 8SF‘.
At that same address we find Cymru Management Ltd, Company Number 91117, Registered 06.09.2005. The date of Registration fits perfectly with all the moving and shaking going on, and Link Holdings in the wings waiting to take over. The Annual Return for 2016 informs us that Cymru Management has just two £1 shares issued to Mrs Deanne Mary Pascoe.
Mrs Pascoe is a woman pushing 80 and a director of GUKL Ltd, which I guess is run by another director, Paul Henry Barron Pascoe, a solicitor, who I take to be her son. The registered office is in London, and yet, if you scroll down on the ‘People’ page you come to a couple of names and addresses from the city of my dreams.
One is Zoe Teresa Brooks of Killay, and the other is James Christopher Coughlan of Llansamlet. Both served as directors for just six weeks, from 15.05.1995 until 30.06.1995. And when appointed Ms Brooks was only 18 years of age! Mr Coughlan is a builder, and had his own firm for a short time. It appears Ms Brooks did not trouble Companies House ever again.
Digging into the history of GUKL tells us that it began life in March 1990 as Cruisebase Plc, but the name was soon changed, in July 1990, to Golfads (UK) Plc, and again in October 2015 to GUKL. Would it be reasonable to assume that the current name means Golfads UK Ltd? And if so, what the hell does such a company have to do with Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd?
It might be worth adding that even though a number of sources suggest Cymru Investments morphed into Link Holdings it still exists in some ethereal form, using the same number, 8431, as this Annual Return for 2016 to the Jersey authorities tells us. Five thousand £1 shares held by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd.
I feel a bit like old Gildas writing De Excidio, where he talks of having made a ‘heap’ of all he’d found, because I’ve collected a lot of information but I’m still not sure what it tells us. Anyway, let’s try to make sense of it. (And I need your help.)
We know from Hansard, quoting Ron Davies and Nicholas Edwards, that there was a leasehold company operating in the mid-1980s named Castlebeg Investments (Jersey) Ltd. This company was also and variously known as Cymru Investments (Jersey) Ltd and Gwalia Investments (Jersey) Ltd. Though the jury is out as to whether it also called itself Rastlebeg or whether this was a clerical error. As the names suggest, all these companies were based on Jersey in the Channel Islands.
This company leased both to private individuals and bodies such as housing associations. It may or may not have also rented properties. Then, after being Incorporated in Gibraltar 11.09.2003 (but, according to the FCA, still using the Jersey address of Cymru Investments Ltd) Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd took over or became the latest incarnation of Gwalia/Cymru/Castlebeg. Probably confirmed with the splurge of Land Registry registrations of 24.07.2006.
It doesn’t matter how many sidetracks we follow, or from which angle we choose to approach this subject, there always seems to be a path back to Swansea. Whatever we are dealing with has its origins in or close to that city. But what is it? If Link Holdings is now a massive buy-to-let portfolio, then there is one outstanding candidate for the man behind it. I won’t name him, but everything fits.
It could even be that the Link portfolio today is an amalgam of an older leasehold business, Castlebeg, and more recent purchases by another party of newer properties, such as those in Llansamlet and other parts of Swansea which look as if they could have been bought off plan. So please look at the Private Eye map and the data I’ve compiled, what kind of properties does Link own in your area?
And yet . . . I have this nagging worry that some of the properties now owned by Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd may once have belonged to social housing providers. I hope not. Equally, I hope that Link is not a social housing portfolio that has been moved offshore.
What we can be sure of is that Link Holdings (Gibraltar) Ltd is registered where it is a) to pay as little tax as possible, b) to escape the UK regulatory system, and c) to hide the identity or identities of whoever owns the company. That in itself arouses suspicion.
More worrying is that Link and other offshore companies own so much property in Wales. But worse, is that housing associations, bodies receiving hundreds of millions of pounds in public funding, are doing business with Link.
My enquiries covered just one local authority area, and I looked into only one (admittedly large) offshore property company. But I doubt if the picture will be very different in other areas and with other companies. So go through the information I’ve linked to, have a look around your area, and send me your feedback.
We are entitled to know how much Welsh public funding ends up with companies registered offshore. The ‘Welsh’ Government also needs to explain why these deals were entered into. Finally, we must have a promise that there will be no more of these deals, and that Welsh public funding will no longer enrich those who view Wales as a country to be exploited.
UPDATE 16.10.2016: The online Guardian today carried a piece about Arron Banks, big buddy of Nigel Farage and funder of both Ukip and the Leave.EU campaign. Unsurprisingly, Banks has accounts in many a tax haven, including Gibraltar, where Link Holdings also hides its loot.
But the connection doesn’t end there, for Banks also uses Parliament Lane Nominees Ltd as directors and STM Fidecs Management Ltd as secretaries, just like Link Holdings. (Read Link Holdings’ company profile.) Probably just coincidence, I suppose, but what if . . .
Keeping tabs on the incestuous, grant-fuelled world of the Welsh heritage industry could be a full-time job in itself. It seems there is no end to the number of charitable trusts set up to take advantage of the funding available ostensibly to rescue this or that old ruin or building, with some familiar names cropping up here, there and everywhere, often with tenuous links to our country and its people.
A linguistic digression
Anyone who lives and works in more than one language and has given the matter some thought will tell you that, depending on which language they use, the world can sometimes look rather different. This is often true of conceptual words, for example.
Watching debates in county councils sometimes brings this into sharp focus. One side or the other will table a motion (cynnig = offer, proposal in Welsh). Opponents may then try to change or wreck it by tabling an amendment. In Welsh, that’s a gwelliant (=improvement).
By no means all amendments are a gwelliant.
In English the vast majority of conceptual words are derived from Latin or Greek. Heritage, perhaps appropriately in this context, comes down to us from Norman French and means something you have inherited.
You could inherit a property in Australia or downtown Manhattan without ever having set foot in either place, and your good fortune would be down to luck of the draw and the legal system.
In Welsh the word is treftadaeth, and if we break that word down, as children are encouraged to do at school, we get tref (place/homestead) + tad (father) + aeth, a suffix which very roughly means ‘something to do with’. In other words, places linked to your forebears, an idea not a million miles removed from hen wlad fy nhadau.
The difference between the legalistic connotations of the Norman French and the Welsh word, rooted in real people and places, goes to the heart of the debate which has been raging on the pages of this blog.
To its credit, the Ceredigion Herald picked up on the recent piece on this blog about plans to ‘enhance the visitor experience’ at Ystrad Fflur and help locals to ‘enhance senses of their own identity and wellbeing’, whatever that means, and it contacted Professor David Austin.
In response to questions, the professor huffed and puffed at some length about the wonderful nature of the site and was clearly reluctant to go into mundane details about what precisely was being planned and where the money was coming from.
When pressed, he gave answers which left a lot of wriggle room.
The Strata Florida Trust has acquired the farmhouse, he said, not mentioning the buildings which cluster around it (although the trust’s website says it has acquired those too).
The money had come from a private donation, and he was not prepared to say more on that subject.
The Acanthus Holden plan (the exclusive hotel with attached visitor centre) was to have been financed privately, but had now been ditched.
What happened to the £200,000 donation CHRT received to buy the buildings at Mynachlog Fawr therefore remains a mystery.
Plans, also shrouded in mystery, to develop the old farm, would be financed by a variety of means, he explained:
“There is other funding available to us, which is not Heritage Lottery Fund money, and we are in the process of finalising the arrangements for the allocation of that money to the Strata Florida Trust.”
That does not quite rule out HLF funding, and raises more questions than it answers.
Who is funding this, and why the secrecy? Is cash-strapped Ceredigion County Council involved, for example?
One of the contributors to comments on the original article about Ystrad Fflur suggested that there might be some form of local consultation. In his interview with the Herald, Professor Austin makes no mention of a consultation, and his website is also silent on the subject.
What we are about to get, it seems, is a fully fledged project for the commercial exploitation of Ystrad Fflur with no public consultation and zero transparency about the details of the development.
Adfer Ban a Chwm
Adfer Ban a Chwm (ABC), or to give it its more prosaic English name, “Revitalise Hill and Valley”, is another trust, this time registered to an address in trendy Islington, London where Tony and Gordon made their infamous Granita Pact.
Its annual report for the year to 31 March 2015 says that the charity’s objectives “are to preserve for the benefit of the people of Carmarthenshire, Powys, Wales and the Nation” what it terms “constructional heritage”, and in particular the pretty bits.
Presumably “the Nation” is not the same as Wales.
The website expands on this a little, saying that the trust aims to “address the issues of vernacular buildings in rural Wales and the need for affordable housing in the area”.
Adfer Ban a Chwm’s leading light is an architect, Roger Mears, pictured here at what would appear to be the Henley Regatta, old boy:
ABC (it should really be ABCh) was set up eight years ago and appears to have spent most of the period since applying for and receiving grants from, among others, the Brecon Beacon National Park Authority, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Brecon Beacons Trust, the Community Foundation in Wales and the Quaker Housing Trust. More trusts and foundations than you can shake a stick at, in fact.
It is not at all clear what ABC has actually achieved in those eight years apart from a year of planning, researching and writing a report in 2014-15 and raking in grants.
More grant money came in in May 2016 enabling it to proceed with its Grass Roots Heritage Programme, “a one-year project (the first year of a three-year programme) which we hope will identify buildings that we can turn into affordable homes.”
So after all that time, all that report writing and all those (successful) grant applications, it would seem that not a single building has been restored and not a single affordable home created, although the trust hopes to be able to identify potential candidates by this time next year.
Over the next 12 months, therefore, they will carry out “mapping and community work” in and around Myddfai, Carmarthenshire:
“This information will be used to underpin the next stage of the ABC project, and be broadcast widely in a series of interactive community workshops, where the social history of the buildings will be elaborated by gathering local memories and stories, and where community and student volunteers will learn about how to record old buildings, what to look for and what these buildings have to tell us, how they might be repaired and conserved and turned into affordable homes.”
Helping ABC along the way by working with the trust’s executive director on partnerships has been our old friend, Claire Deacon, CEO of Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust, saviour of Llanelly House and the Merthyr YMCA, project director at Mynachlog Fawr, lecturer and consultant, and former conservation officer with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.
All in all, then, one of the most successful “Welsh” buildings preservation trusts: loads of grants harvested and no sign of any actual buildings. Perhaps Griff Rhys Jones will turn it into a documentary series.
Staying in Carmarthenshire for a moment, let’s take a trip to Gelli Aur (or Golden Grove as some would have it), the former home of the Cawdors near Llandeilo.
The huge late Regency pile has been knocked about a bit and badly neglected since the last of the Cawdors moved out in the 1930s. Carmarthenshire County Council, which had a lease on the place, can take credit for the worst of the damage.
At one time the council and the ever-enthusiastic Meryl Gravell hoped to turn the place into a kind of business incubator for media start-ups. Their chosen partner disappeared with a lot of public money which was never seen again. Ever more exotic investors came and went, until finally the house and 100 acres were sold to a London art dealer, Richard Christopher Salmon.
Salmon has renovated a part of the house and made the roof of the main building weatherproof, but one of his first acts after taking over was to set up a trust.
The Golden Grove Trust, which has no known sources of income, was gifted with a debt of £1.45 million by Mr Salmon, a sum which apparently represents the purchase price of the near derelict house and dilapidated grounds. If that was what he actually paid for this massive liability, someone saw him coming.
The debt is due to be repaid – somehow – to Mr Salmon in just over a year from now.
Filing accounts is clearly not one of Mr Salmon’s favourite activities. The Charity Commission website shows that the 2012-13 accounts were received 583 days late, while the report for 2013-14 was 218 days late. The annual report for 2014-15 is currently 78 days late.
Despite this and the fact that the trust was close to being struck off by the Charity Commission, the charity was last year awarded a grant of just under £1 million by Edwina Hart, Meryl’s old buddy, for the restoration of the park which occupies around 60 of the 100 acres of land and includes, or included (it is difficult to know which tense to use) a public park with a playground, lake, café and arboretum.
With some difficulty the newspaper managed to track down Mr Salmon who thought, but did not seem very sure, that the closure might have something to do with adverse weather conditions, and concerns of the insurers on health and safety grounds.
Readers in Carmarthenshire may struggle to recall unusually bad weather in recent months, but there you are.
Mr Salmon was clearly not best pleased with critical blog posts and press reports published in 2015, and told the Herald that he could have shut the whole place up and kept it private.
But then Edwina wouldn’t have given him £1 million, would she?
Another one to watch.
This is a local fund run by local people
As we have seen, grants are available from all sorts of different bodies, but what the Americans would call the 800 lb gorilla in this jungle is without doubt the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The fund’s website lists 2,785 projects which have received funding in Wales. Amounts vary from a couple of hundred pounds, to mammoths such as Cardigan Castle (£6.5 million) and Llanelly House (£3.6 million).
The HLF divides the UK into regions and nations, and each of these has its own committee and permanent head. The head of HLF Wales is someone called Richard Bellamy, whose previous roles include working on the Channel Tunnel, the National Trust, English Nature and Cornwall Council. If he has a connection with Wales, he is keeping quiet about it.
The committee, which decides on applications in Wales, currently has eight members, and according to HLF’s website:
“The committees are made up of local people recruited through open advertisement. Committees are supported by grant-assessment teams based in the relevant region or country.”
In theory, then, anyone can apply. Who selects the successful candidates is not clear, but it clearly helps if you have worked for English Heritage or the National Trust and, ideally, come from somewhere in or near Cardiff.
Chairing the committee is the august personage of Baroness Kay Andrews of Southover OBE. Andrews, who grew up at Ystrad Mynach, was parliamentary clerk in the House of Commons before becoming policy adviser to Neil Kinnock, from where she went on to found and run her own charity, Education Extra.
On elevation to the peerage, Andrews clearly felt so strongly about her Welsh roots that she chose Southover in Sussex for her title, and it is from Sussex that she claims travel expenses when going to the House of Lords.
The HLF’s rule on appointing ‘local people’ to the Welsh Committee does not seem to be taken that seriously, but no doubt there was nobody ‘locally’ up to the job, just as there were no suitable Welsh candidates for the post of Head of HLF Wales.
But we should all be grateful, shouldn’t we?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ End ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Jac says . . . In these recent posts – and, indeed, in the one I’m working on now – we encounter groups and individuals who have hit on a method of subsidising their move to Wales and/or maintaining themselves once they’re here. Human nature being what it is, this is understandable; what is less easy to understand is why these people are being funded.
To explain how this scam system operates . . . let’s say you want to buy and renovate a somewhat dilapidated old house. And let’s say you pay £100,000 for that property knowing that it will cost another £100,000 to restore. That house will therefore cost you £200,000. But that’s a mug’s way of doing things. What those we’re discussing do is buy a property and get someone else to pay for the renovation. Sticking with the same figures, this means that for an outlay of just £100,000 they get a property worth £200,000.
To which you respond, ‘Ah, but Jac, you’ve been on the Malbec again, and it’s making you forget that these are important buildings, of great historical or cultural significance’. I suppress my usual riposte of ‘bollocks!’ to offer the following argument.
If these buildings are indeed of great historic or cultural significance then they should be in public ownership – WELSH public ownership. If they are not of great historic or cultural significance then no public money should be expended, whether directly or in grants to self-appointed ‘heritage trusts’. The worst of all possible options is to have a building or site of genuine national importance privately owned but maintained by public funds.
This is nothing less than submitting to a form of blackmail – ‘This place I own is very important (take my word for it), but if you don’t give me lots of money I’ll let it decay/fall down/ be turned into a burger joint’.
As I and others have argued, Wales needs a new body, answerable to us, the Welsh people, that protects what is important to us and our past with sympathy and respect. A new body to replace the English National Trust, Cadw, and all the strangers in our midst with their grant-grabbing ‘trusts’.
To properly understand this article it’s best to know a little of the legislative and other background, and when we put it all together it should warn us that what we see at Red Pig Farm (yes, honestly, Red Pig Farm) is one element of the dystopian future envisioned for the Welsh countryside by our masters down in Cardiff Bay. (ALT = Agroecology Land Trust Ltd.)
‘WELSH’ LABOUR, DAVIES OUT, HOWE IN
First, though, let us reflect on the role of Alun Davies AM (then Minister for Natural Resources and Food) who, in January 2014, announced that the government he represented had decided to transfer 15% of EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2. (See it here.) Which meant that henceforth this money, instead of going to our farmers, would be spent on “rural development projects”, most of which will have nothing to do with real farming, and little or nothing to do with Welsh people.
But then, it might be argued that Davies had form when it came to undermining Welsh agriculture, for after the heavy snow of March 2013, when farmers in the north east were particularly badly hit, he announced there would be no ‘Welsh’ Government aid. Justifying the decision with these priceless words (April 3, 2013, BBC Wales News), “You don’t create a strong business base by throwing public money at every problem you face”.
Yes, folks, that came from a ‘Welsh’ Government minister; a representative of an administration, and a political party, that believes there should be a Nobel Prize for frittering away public money.
Despite these manifest idiocies and insults to the collective intelligence the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) Ltd is now law, and is already being taken advantage of by those seeking to move to Wales.
Such as James Scrivens and Sara Tommerup, he English, she Danish. This enterprising duo are the proprietors of the Agroecology Land Trust Ltd, based at the above-mentioned Red Pig Farm, which was carved out of Forestry Commission land near Bethlehem, Carmarthenshire, some years ago, long before Scrivens and Tommerup discovered Wales. We shall return to them anon.
ENTER JANE DAVIDSON LABOUR(?) AM
For in addition to the legislation I’ve mentioned, in 2011 those buffoons down Cardiff docks also accepted the diktats of the One Planet Council. As it says on its website, “The One Planet Council provides a bridge between applicants and local planning authorities, with guidance and tools to support anyone making the transition to this more sustainable way of life. It works also with those who have already made that leap, and with policymakers, academics and landowners.”
In other words, it helps good-lifers, bullock worshippers and others move to Wales and get retrospective planning permission for buildings they’ve erected without consent – even in National Parks. And they can do it because they have the support of the ‘Welsh’ Government. (By the way, that reads bullock . . . though I suppose bollocks-worshippers applies just as well.)
A major reason for the direction taken by the ‘Welsh’ Government in this period is Jane Davidson, former AM for Pontypridd, and now chief Patron of the One Planet Council. It was she who persuaded her colleagues to agree to its agenda before she stood down in May 2011 as Minister for the Environment. After leaving the Assembly she also became director of the Wales Institute for Sustainability (INSPIRE) at Trinity St David Lampeter.
Jane Davidson is one of those middle class Englishwomen one finds in the National Trust, Cadw, and other bodies, who believes that the Welsh countryside is too naice to be left to us; it needs to be run by people like her and those she feels comfortable with, whose numbers can be increased by elbowing the backward locals aside.
For make no mistake, Davidson represents the Green lobby and others who want greater access to the Welsh countryside, and freedom to use and exploit our rural areas as they wish. One such group would obviously be the Ramblers Association, for whom she became ‘Welsh’ President almost immediately she’d left the Assembly.
At Davidson’s direction, fully supported by coalition partners Plaid Cymru, and groups and individuals unlikely to vote for either party, the ‘Welsh’ Government produced, in May 2009, One Wales: One Planet, a document setting out how we are to reduce Wales’ carbon footprint.
Among the ambitions articulated by this document, that could have been been written by Friends of the Earth (and might well have been), we find, “Within the lifetime of a generation, we want to see Wales using only its fair share of the earth’s resources, and where our ecological footprint is reduced to the global average availability of resources – 1.88 global hectares per person”.
So there you are, we’re all entitled to 1.88 global hectares per person – claim yours while stocks last!
Jane Davidson was able to walk into the post of Minister for the Environment because she was one of the few Labour AMs who knew anything about that mysterious world beyond Merthyr known as ‘The Countryside’, inhabited by strange creatures most of whom steadfastly refused to vote Labour.
So she had free rein in the Dark Regions and Plaid to vouch for her in quarters where she might have encountered suspicion or hostility.
Which meas that we could view her appointment at INSPIRE as the reward from the enviro-colon network she had so assiduously worked for while at the Assembly – cos she sure as hell didn’t represent the people of Pontypridd.
But as we know, politicians are not supposed to take up posts connected with their previous ministerial duties. Davidson obviously did by taking the job at INSPIRE and was reprimanded for it . . . but edited her Wikipedia page to hide her little embarrassment.
N.B. You may have noted that even though Wales is the only country to have adopted the One Planet agenda, and this outfit operates only in Wales, OP haven’t got round to doing a Welsh version of the website.
HIPPY, HIPPY STATE
Let’s wend our way back to Red Pig Farm and the happy couple. There can be no doubt that James Scrivens and Sara Tommerup relocated to Wales because of the favouritism shown towards their ilk by the ‘Welsh’ Government. For as it says on the Red Pig Farm website:
I love that phrase “reactionary and conservative local council”. Translated, it means, ‘People who represent the wishes of the majority when confronted with the unreasonable demands of recently-arrived Alternatives’.
Before relocating to Carmarthenshire we find Scrivens and Tommerup in Gloucestershire, running the Yorkley Court Community Farm Ltd near Lydney, a company struck off in August 2015 without apparently doing any business. According to this BBC Points West report it seems that Yorkley Court Community Farm was in fact a squatter camp.
Another company they were involved with at that time was Agroecological Land Initiative Ltd, Incorporated February 24, 2015. The name was changed on April 14, 2015 to Agroecology Land Trust Ltd, and then, on June 26, 2016, to Red Pig Farm Ltd.
Scrivens and Tommerup have settled in quite well, among their ventures is a stake in the Llandeilo Food Hub in a disused railway wagon at the local station. As the report in the West Wales News Review tells us, this project is grant-aided by the ‘Welsh’ Government.
There now follows a short diversion . . .
The Llandeilo Food Hub seems to come under the umbrella of the Heart of Wales Line Development Company Ltd, yet another ‘community venture’ run by those whose parents and grandparents are buried somewhere else. In more senses than one, the company appears to be up a siding, for the latest accounts tell us it has net assets of only £20,169, and is kept in the black through the generosity of a director not insisting on payment of her £35,500 loan.
This benefactrix is Gillian Elizabeth Wright. Now if that name rings a bell then it might be because I wrote about her and her Llandovery Hub, in Ancestral Turf. (I’d like to tell you more about Llandovery Hub, but the website offers neither Companies House registration number nor Charity Commission number. Nothing turns up on the FCA website, either. What kind of outfit is this?)
The Level Crossing Community Interest Company was yet another ‘community venture’ that was only ‘viable’ with public funding and, like thousands of others, that have swallowed hundreds of millions of pounds, it has been a complete waste of money.
UPDATE 07.09.2016: Here’s a report in a local paper from mid-July 2013, before the business opened, with the date suggesting that this tourism venture had already lost half the summer. The report tells us that the building was leased from the owner, Neo Neophyton. Does anyone know to whom it was leased, and the terms?
Moving back to Red Pig Farm we see that Scrivens and Tommerup are seeking human company, for they have submitted a planning application for more dwellings at the ‘farm’, which lies in open country and, remember, in a National Park! But thanks to the legislation passed by the ‘Welsh’ Government they anticipate no problems.
“We are fully aware of the many challenges in obtaining residential planning permission in the open countryside. However, thanks to the pioneering foresight of the Welsh government a planning framework to support low-impact rural developments known as One Planet Development is in place to guide applications that seek to demonstrate the ecological benefits from the creation of sustainable land based livelihoods”.
Finally, let me conclude this passage by highlighting an inconsistency. According to the One Planet gurus and others we must reduce our carbon emissions. Fair enough. Yet Red Pig Farm is also home to Black Mountain Wood Fuels, and as we know, burning wood creates higher carbon dioxide emissions than any other fuel.
Which seems to expose a contradiction in the back-to-nature schema. For the desire to protect the planet obviously conflicts with the wish to live ‘naturally’ by burning wood. And believe me, those seeking the ‘alternative’ lifestyle do love to burn wood.
Corris (Isaf) is home to many such people, thanks to the nearby Centre for Alternative Technology (of which, incidentally, Sara Tommerup is a ‘graduate’). One can drive the A487 past Corris on a still winter’s day and see a vast pall of smoke motionless above the village. It reminds me of the old films of London smog.
And I haven’t considered the issue of regenerating the stocks of wood.
Let’s recap: through legislation and other measures the ‘Welsh’ Government has made life more difficult for Welsh farmers and others who were born and raised in the countryside, while making it much easier – with both funding and relaxation of planning rules – for outsiders to settle in our rural areas.
Now let’s put it all into its chronological sequence:
May 2007: Birmingham-born Jane Davidson appointed Minister for Environment and Sustainability in the Labour – Plaid Cymru coalition government.
April 29, 2015: Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 becomes law.
Spring 2016: James Scrivens and Sara Tommerup arrive at Red Pig Farm, and almost immediately apply for planning permission to erect other dwellings, in open country, and in a National Park.
And all this takes place to the background drone of George Monbiot in his regular Guardian column and elsewhere calling on governments to remove farming subsidies, bankrupt Welsh farmers, and thereby remove sheep from the hills to allow ‘rewilding‘. His voice being one of a chorus. It may be no coincidence that Monbiot moved to the Machynlleth area in 2007.
I’m sure the envirofascists and their political allies would argue that Welsh people are free to get involved, and join them in building their carbon-free (well, apart from the wood stoves) Utopia in our green and pleasant land.
Trouble with that is that I don’t know any Welsh people who want to live in a turf house choking on fumes from a wood fire and shitting in the bushes before batting away the sheep turds while taking a bath in the stream.
The people I know want the best that modern life can offer, and wonder why they have to go without, especially when they see so much money being given a) to people who arrived here yesterday, and b) to activities from which they derive no benefit.
There are so many demands on the Welsh countryside today, from tourism, from the ‘outdoor activities’ industry, from the military (even more so if Scotland becomes independent), from white flighters, from good-lifers, and from so many other quarters. The problem, when viewed from the perspective of such people, is that far too much Welsh land is still in Welsh hands.
And while the Planning Inspectorate can demand tens of thousands of new homes surplus to local need, and housing associations can waste tens of millions of pounds building homes for tenants who have never been to Wales in their lives, and the local economy can be allowed to atrophy with the few jobs that remain increasingly filled by transfers from outside Wales and recruitment from within the local English population, something more is still needed.
♦ ♦ ♦
Which is why, when we consider the bigger picture, and remember the commitment of vast sums of public funding, we have to conclude that moving money around within the CAP, and One Planet, and TAN 6, and all the other ‘Green’ initiatives are just elements of a wider programme of engineered demographic change. A Clearance for the twenty-first century, done without the unsightly bloodshed and the blatant expropriation.
In my more generous moments I used to think that the Assembly and the ‘Welsh’ Government were merely incompetent for achieving so little for our people. But enough time has passed now to realise that this failure is quite deliberate. Worse, successive ‘Welsh’ Governments have actively discriminated against the native Welsh.
Nothing would change if Plaid Cymru had a majority in the Assembly, things might even be worse, because while many in Labour see the envirofascists as just a stick with which to beat those who refuse to vote for them, The Party of Wales has fallen completely under their spell.
The survival of the Welsh nation is under threat as never before. To save the nation we must reject all political parties, and the distraction of electoral politics. There is no hope of winning by that route, and not enough time.
This is just a brief update to my previous post. I have to be careful what I write because I’m being watched. No, honestly, this is not paranoia, certain people will be reading this very carefully.
Therefore I hope you will understand that I have to be cautious, avoiding the injudicious phrase, the unintended calumny, otherwise certain persons down west will again be scuttling to £260-an-hour Ms Tracey Singlehurst-Ward of Hugh James Legal.
A BIG FAT I.O.U.
To recap . . . Mill Bay Homes is a ‘subsidiary’ of Pembrokeshire Housing, it’s raison d’être is to build and sell houses, then hand the profits from the sale of those properties back to the parent company so that it can build more social units for rent.
It may be worth mentioning – by way of background information – that before a name change in the first quarter of 2012 Mill Bay Homes was known as Pembrokeshire Housing Two Thousand Ltd, a company set up in 1998 that never traded.
So that’s the theory, the justification for Mill Bay Homes. But how’s it working out in practice? Let’s look at what information is available, add a few things that have been said, and then let us draw some conclusions, which we are fully entitled to do, as members of the generous Welsh public that has poured tens of millions of pounds into Pembrokeshire Housing.
When it comes to available information, we encounter a major obstacle in that it’s probably easier to get hold of Vladimir Putin’s personal e-mails than it is to see accounts for Mill Bay Homes. The problem being that because it’s not a regular company there’s nothing filed with Companies House. Because it’s not a charity it’s ditto with the Charity Commission. And while MBH claims to have filed accounts with the Financial Conduct Authority, the FCA says it has received nothing since the report for y/e 31.03.2013.
Though when my collaborator Wynne Jones wrote to the ‘Welsh’ Government, using an FoI request to ask for those accounts he was told, by Ceri Breeze, Head of Housing Policy, that the accounts were already in the public domain – with the Financial Conduct Authority! Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid the suspicion that information is being deliberately withheld on Mill Bay Homes, and that fibs are being told in order to throw people off the scent.
Anyway, let’s see what we can glean from the Pembrokeshire Housing accounts. In particular, the extracts below taken from the figures for the year ending on March 31st 2015. Figures that I suspect are connected.
You will see that between 31.03.2013 and 31.03.2015 Pembrokeshire Housing’s cash reserves fell dramatically, from £12,551,763 to £2,782,838. A reduction of £9,768,926, or 78%.
During the years ending 31.03.2014 and 31.03.2015 £6,135,000 was ‘loaned’ to Mill Bay Homes. The most recent figures available for Mill Bay Homes, those for y/e 31.03.2013, show a ‘loan’ of £245,000, which we can be fairly sure came from the parent company. If we add them it gives us a total of £6,360,000.
Without wishing to over-egg it I suggest we must also add other costs not stipulated. For example, Pembrokeshire Housing staff must have been working on the Mill Bay Homes ‘project’, and they must have used Pembrokeshire Housing offices and equipment, plus consumables, before Mill Bay Homes was up and running.
So I think we can reasonably assume that Mill Bay Homes owes Pembrokeshire Housing closer to seven million pounds than six. How is this to be repaid? Fortunately, last week’s Pembrokeshire Herald ran an article on my recent, ahem, difficulties and in this article group supremo Peter Maggs was quoted as saying, “The target is (for MBH) to deliver £1m of surplus for each of the next five years”. Which will – if achieved – return just five of the six million plus that’s owed.
(Note that the Pembrokeshire Herald couldn’t get my name right – “Roytston”, they called me, bloody “Roytston”!!! Is that defamation? Maybe I need a good solicitor – I wonder if Ms Singlehurst-Ward would take the case?)
‘A MILLION A YEAR FOR FIVE YEARS’, SAYS YER MAN
I have no opportunity to buy the otherwise excellent Pembrokeshire Herald except when I’m visiting the county, so I haven’t seen the ‘paper myself. But someone was kind enough to send me a photograph of the article, here, and another kind act saw the piece sent as text.
Seeing as we are talking of Mill Bay Homes repaying Pembrokeshire Housing a cool million a year it might be instructive to know if any of the outstanding six million plus has yet been repaid. The figures for y/e 31.03.2016 are obviously not yet available, but the previous year’s figures tell us that the princely sum of £36,070 was received. Which leaves . . . roughly the same figure we started with. And that’s without taking interest into account.
Another way of looking at it would be that at the rate of £36,070 a year it would take Mill Bay Homes 176 years to repay what it owes.
This might make some of you think that Peter Maggs’ claim is a little overblown, but it could be worse than that. Here are a number of things to consider:
I’m told that Mill Bay Homes is working to a 17% profit margin while the building industry usually works to a 25% margin on new builds.
Before anything can be returned to Pembrokeshire Housing Mill Bay Homes will have to deduct its costs. In addition, it will need to buy the next development site and go through the planning process and other procedures, then pay to build that next development.
So how much from each house sale will Pembrokeshire Housing actually see? Let’s assume that the average sale price of a Mill Bay property is £130,000. At 17% and deducting the costs just mentioned Pembrokeshire Housing might see a return of £50,000 per property.
Of course, these calculations are necessarily speculative due to the absence of any publicly available accounts or other information for Mill Bay Homes.
If the purpose of lending money to Mill Bay Homes is to generate income to build social housing why didn’t Pembrokeshire Housing instead of lending the money to get part of it returned use all of it to build social housing?
One worry I have is that achieving Peter Maggs’ target will result in unfair competition for local building firms without the benefit of Mill Bay Homes’ inexhaustible source of funding, a source that relieves it of the need to return a profit. Is this the plan?
‘Welsh’ Labour we know is anti-business, also a ‘statist’ party that wants to control everything. So is this its way of surreptitiously making house building a state-controlled industry? If not, how else do we explain a publicly-funded housing association being allowed to set up a subsidiary that is, effectively, a no-risk private house builder?
One possibility is that we are discussing a trailblazer for a new type of business entirely. This is not idle speculation on my part, the idea has been knocking around for a while. I’m talking now of fully privatised housing associations. And it’s already started, as this article from the Guardian last August tells us.
The advantages are obvious. Housing associations have solid assets in the form of bricks and mortar, so they’ll have little trouble finding investors and securing loans. As long as the right legal safeguards are in place for all types of tenants, and the right incentives for investors, why not relieve the public purse of a massive burden by privatising social housing in Wales? These could be lucrative, profit-making businesses.
Proven by Pembrokeshire Housing itself. In 2013 it had cash reserves of £12,551,763, yet it’s one of the smaller housing associations, this is partly due to the fact that Pembrokeshire County Council retains its own council housing stock. If such a small outfit can build up such cash reserves then what is the picture with the big boys?
Though that said, some people – more cynical than I, you understand – might suggest that Mill Bay Homes was set up for the express purpose of soaking up this embarrassment of cash. For the nest-egg might otherwise have had to be returned, or might have resulted in reduced funding. Because I’m sure most people would believe that a relatively small, rural housing association with over £12m stashed under the mattress should not be receiving a penny from the public purse.
One thing’s for sure, housing associations as we know them in Wales are discredited. For a start, there are just too many of them, receiving inordinate amounts of funding, with too much of that money going on inflated salaries and administrative costs, and with very little effective oversight by the ‘Welsh’ Government. Housing associations are out of control, like some over-indulged adolescent forever finding new ways to get money out of his parents.
In addition, and perhaps especially in rural areas, housing associations waste money on new properties for which there is no local demand, then they import tenants, many of whom have ‘issues’, because of course they can charge more for housing problem families, petty criminals, drug addicts and other undesirables than they could ever charge hard-working, law-abiding locals.
Unless I receive important new information on Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes this may be my final post on the subject. I think I’ve said everything I need to say at present.
If those who claim to be managing Wales still see nothing wrong with the parent – subsidiary arrangement I’ve described, and if they believe that the current plethora of publicly-funded and competing housing associations is the cheapest and most effective way of delivering rented accommodation, then Wales is in a bigger mess than I had ever imagined.
UPDATE 17.06.2016:Surprise! Surprise! After all the attention Mill Bay Homes has been getting of late the Annual Return and Accounts for y/e 31.03.2014 and y/e 31.03.2015 are finally available on the Financial Conduct Authority website. They were added just a few days ago.
As I’m tied up for the next few days I won’t have time to give these accounts the attention they deserve, but perhaps my analytical readers would like to peruse them and give us their interpretations. Here are the accounts for 2014 and here for 2015.
Quickly skimming through them I was struck by the fact that in the 2015 report, in answer to question 1.19, Mill Bay Homes claims to be a Community Benefit Society because it benefits, “People seeking housing accommodation” (as opposed to any other form of accommodation). If Mill Bay Homes is accepted as a Community Benefit Society then I suggest the FCA gets ready for a rush of applications to join the club – from Wimpey, Persimmon, Redrow and all the rest.
But of course MBH would defend its claim to be a Community Benefit Society by the answer it gives to 1.21, which asks how surpluses or profits are used. The answer reads, “Surplus was transferred to the parent Registered Social Landlord to invest in affordable housing”. Why not just say ‘the parent company’, why stress that it’s a RSL? And why “affordable housing” not ‘social housing’? MBH claims to build and sell ‘affordable housing’.
Though these considerations bring us back to the underlying idiocy of this model. Pembrokeshire Housing, a provider of social housing, has £10m in spare cash. Rather than use that money for the purpose it was given the money is loaned to Mill Bay Homes to build and sell houses. Then perhaps £1m of profit is returned to PH for social housing. Why not use the original £10m for its intended purpose of social housing?
Could it be that Pembrokeshire Housing had more money than it needed, or knew how to use, and rather than admit to that embarrassment, it came up with the absurdity that is Mill Bay Homes?
UPDATE 21.07.2016: In an e-mail of July 18th Simon Fowler of the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Housing Directorate, had this to say: “We have had sight of a confirmation from the FCA that Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes submitted all their regulatory returns by the given deadline. It went on to confirm that due to an error at the FCA, the returns were not published. We are satisfied that PHA and MBH have not acted inappropriately – either deliberately or mistakenly – when submitting the returns required by law.”
Today, my co-investigator, Wynne Jones, received an e-mail from Nazmul Ahmed at the FCA, he had this to say of the Mill Bay Homes returns: “I have spoken to my colleague and we can provide the dates we received the annual return and accounts – 2013/14- 2 June 2016, 2014/15- 2 June 2016′.
The timing is significant. I published posts on Mill Bay Homes on the following dates, April 25th, May 20th and May 23rd. These were taken down under threat of legal action conveyed in a letter from Ms Tracey Singlehurst-Ward of Hugh James Solicitors of May 31st. I can imagine Ms S-W saying to MBH, ‘OK, I’ll try and put the frighteners on him, but you’ve got to get your house in order, don’t give him ammunition’.
But where does this leave Simon Fowler? I think the kindest thing I can say of Mr Fowler and his colleagues is that they make it up as they go along. What I and others have learnt in recent months suggests there is no oversight of housing associations by the ‘Welsh’ Government, little regulation, and that they are free to do as they like – with hundreds of millions of pounds of our money.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ END ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
NEXT: The promised article in which I explain why I’m voting Leave in the EU referendum
Late in the afternoon of Tuesday May 31st I received an e-mail from Tracey Singlehurst-Ward of Hugh James Legal in Cardiff. Ms Singlehurst-Ward was of the opinion that I’d been a naughty boy for saying things about her clients, Pembrokeshire Housing and its ‘subsidiary’ Mill Bay Homes. I of course responded.
Ms Singlehurst-Ward’s letter threatened me with a deadline of 4pm on June 3rd, just three days away. If I had not drastically re-written the offending posts by that time then all manner of unpleasant things would befall me. Being a reasonable man, I offered the compromise of taking down the offending pieces by June 10th, by when I would have published a ‘clarification’ post. Having heard nothing from Ms Singlehurst-Ward by the afternoon of June 2nd I thought I’d better get in touch again, to see if my offer had been accepted.
Finding that my offer had been rejected I had to accept that I was in a somewhat tricky position, and so I decided upon a tactical withdrawal by taking down the offending pieces rather than redacting the offending passages and making them unintelligible.
For there were things I’d written that could be misinterpreted, some of what I’d written might have been wrong (usually due to misinformation, often from official sources). And then Ms Singleton-Ward had produced a litany of earth-shattering inaccuracies such as someone described as a ‘former councillor’ by Pembrokeshire Housing not having been a councillor in Pembrokeshire, as I had reasonably assumed, and stated.
There followed a third round of correspondence between us and, hopefully, that’s the end of it, otherwise we’ll have enough material for an epistolary novel. But wait! – Ms Singlehurst-Ward and her clients haven’t read this post yet!
It seemed fairly obvious from the initial salvo that someone had gone to Ms Singlehurst-Ward with a dossier of posts from my blog. This was, basically, what she sent me; screen shots from my blog topped and tailed with her listing my heinous crimes. It probably didn’t take her long to put together.
But seeing as this assault on me is being funded out of the Welsh public purse, and seeing as Ms Singlehurst-Ward charges £260 an hour, maybe we should be thankful she hasn’t been asked to do too much work.
WHERE I’M COMING FROM
In this blog, which has been running since January 2013 (and in the blog that preceded it on the Google platform), I have consistently criticised the Labour Party and the cronyism and nepotism associated with it; a system of patronage that has seen billions of pounds of public money wasted, a system that does so much to condemn Wales to relative poverty.
One of the great weaknesses of this system is that there is no effective oversight or monitoring of the bodies receiving large amounts of public funding. Much is left to self-evaluation and self-regulation, an approach that served the public interest so well with MPs, newspapers, banks, etc. On the other hand, one of the system’s strengths, certainly from the perspective of the Labour Party, is that it helps spread Labour’s influence.
Because if a Labour regime in Cardiff ultimately controls the purse strings of a body in an area where the Labour Party is weak, then a passive ‘loyalty’ of the not-biting-the-hand-that-feeds-you variety can be assured. Which is rewarded with the ‘light touch’ regulation referred to in the previous paragraph.
Another reason this system flourishes is due to the lack of an effective political opposition. Plaid Cymru occasionally threatens to hold Labour to account but invariably falls into line because too many in that party still view Labour as comrades in arms against the real enemy of the Tories, or the here-today-gone-tomorrow ‘threat’ of UKIP.
But beyond that, Plaid Cymru is fundamentally weak. Even in the dictatorship that is Carmarthenshire Plaid Cymru, the larger party in the ruling coalition, refuses to oust, or even curb, Mark James, which tells us that the chances of Plaid Cymru seriously threatening Labour’s entrenched hegemony in Wales are close to zero.
Another factor that allows Labour to chug on unworried by criticism is that Wales has no media to talk of, virtually nothing that is not owned or controlled from outside of Wales. What masquerades as our ‘national newspaper’ exists to promote Cardiff, to donate page after page to the Welsh Rugby Union and, despite having a readership plummeting towards man and dog proportions, is kept financially afloat by official announcements, legal notices and advertisements paid for by – the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government.
And yet, despite having no real opposition, and with no media to hold it to account, Labour is still losing its grip on Wales. Perhaps it’s an example of the old adage ‘You can’t fool all of the people all of the time’; but whatever the reason, Labour gained just a third of the vote in last month’s Assembly elections.
Wales in 2016 lives under a corrupt political system that generates little wealth and is over-reliant on hand-outs; but these hand-outs, rather than being used for the purposes the money was given – education and training, building of infrastructure, encouragement of twenty-first-century businesses – are instead used to build up a network beholden to those doling out the money.
Which results in Wales today having more in common with the developing world than with Western Europe. In a couple of weeks we’ll be voting on whether to stay in the EU, maybe we should be voting on whether or not to join the African Union.
The issues arise when we consider Pembrokeshire Housing’s subsidiary, Mill Bay Homes, and to appreciate my concerns we need to go back a bit. In 1998 Pembrokeshire Housing formed a subsidiary called Pembrokeshire Housing Two Thousand Ltd, the sort of name popular at the time as we prepared for the Millennium.
Though it does perhaps raise the question of how a company that had never traded came into possession of any assets.
The nature of Mill Bay Homes
So what is Mill Bay Homes, why was it set up and what does it do? Apparently it was set up to do exactly what PH2000 Ltd never got round to doing: “undertake trading activity outside the charitable objectives of parent association”. In that case, why change the name?
The home page of the Mill Bay Homes website spells out quite clearly what it thinks it does, it seems to be all about that overworked word, ‘lifestyle’:
Elsewhere the website tells us, under the ‘Purchasers’ tab, that Mill Bay Homes seeks ‘First Time Buyers’, ‘Moving Up Buyers’, ‘Retirement Buyers’ and ‘Investment Buyers’. So that’s downsizers and upsizers catered for.
The first, and only, returns that I can find for Mill Bay Homes are those for 2012 / 2013, made to the Financial Conduct Authority. It will be seen that Mill Bay Homes has assets of over £300,000, of which £294,390 is “Work in progress”, presumably the development of 11 properties at Letterston, helped with a “Loan from parent company” of £245,000. This seems to be the only sizeable debt – but enough to build eleven new houses?
In the now removed posts I made the mistake of suggesting that Mill Bay Homes was not a Registered Social Landlord because I couldn’t find it on the ‘Welsh’ Government’s website where RSLs are listed. That was because the website did not include subsidiaries. I am happy to clear that up and direct you to the relevant page.
This registration, and the very number, L124, were inherited from Pembrokeshire Housing 2000 Ltd, which some might argue legitimises Mill Bay Homes as a RSL, being nothing more than PH2000 Ltd after a name change. Whereas others might say, ‘Ah, but Pembrokeshire Housing Two Thousand Ltd never traded, consequently there was neither need nor opportunity to challenge its right to be a RSL’. Others, that is, not necessarily me.
Because I’m sure that some people reading this article are wondering whether Mill Bay Homes – which to all intents and purposes is a private house builder – should be a Registered Social Landlord. A question motivated by nothing more than curiosity and a wish to see everything ship-shape.
So let me suggest that the ‘Welsh’ Government clears this matter up. All it needs to say is:
‘We are perfectly happy for Mill Bay Homes to remain a Registered Social Landlord while selling four-bedroom, detached properties, and building other dwellings that target buy-to-let investors and retirees from England’.
What could be easier than that, just to set the record straight?
Financial Conduct Authority
A similar problem presents itself with Mill Bay Homes status via-à-vis the Financial Conduct Authority, where – I am given understand – Mill Bay Homes is registered as an Industrial & Provident Society. And yet, things are not clear-cut.
I can’t help wondering if this conundrum might have something to do with the Co-operative and Community Benefits Societies Act 2014. This new legislation seems to suggests that Industrial and Provident Societies are now a thing of the past – replaced by ‘registered societies’ – though the label may be retained by an I&PS in existence when the Act came into force.
Where I’m really confused – and here perhaps Ms Singlehurst-Ward or one of her colleagues can help – is by the information contained in the panel below. Under the new legislation is Mill Bay Homes is ‘”bona fide” co-operative’ or a ‘for the benefit of the community’ organisation?
I’m genuinely confused, so I shall write to the FCA asking for clarification of Mill Bay Homes’ status. I’m sure officials at Mill Bay Homes have already written to the FCA, demanding an explanation as to why two years’ returns fail to show on the FCA website.
My confusion is not helped by Ms Singlehurst-Ward being unable to provide any evidence of the FCA receiving those submissions beyond an unspecific automated response. And while the Mill Bay Homes return for y/e 31.03.2014 is in the name of Mill Bay Homes alone, for y/e 31.03.2015 the return was made for MBH by Pembrokeshire Housing.
Is the difference in procedure between end of March 2014 and end of March 2015 somehow linked with the new legislation that came into force on August 1st 2014?
Help to Buy – Wales
In the posts now committed to the Outer Darkness I wrote of the Help to Buy – Wales scheme, and Mill Bay’s involvement. Specifically, I drew attention to the fact that one of the beneficiaries of HtB on the Pentlepoir development, Adam Karl Uka, is a close personal friend of Nick Garrod, Land and Construction Manager for Mill Bay Homes.
Ms Singlehurst-Ward had this to say: “For the avoidance of doubt the connection between our client’s employee (Garrod) and Mr Uka could not have had any impact upon the latter’s application to the Help to Buy scheme because our client does not administer that funding”.
So there you have it. Being buddies with the builder is unconnected with being allowed to buy the most desirable property on the development, a property offering access to Help to Buy, and one that, furthermore, was extensively modified to Uka’s personal specifications.
UPDATE 21:26 (see image, click to enlarge)
There were quite a number of other Help to Buy properties at the Pentlepoir development. Many more than at all Mill Bay Homes’ other developments combined.
This talk of Pentlepoir brings us to an issue covered in one of my now lost posts that clearly annoyed Ms Singlehurst-Ward’s clients. I’m referring to my claim that Mill Bay Homes were, in the specific example I used, ‘Neighbours from Hell’. So let me explain why I used that emotive term.
‘Neighbours from Hell’
The property bought by Adam Karl Uka underwent considerable modifications, and these changes caused a lot of anguish and no little suffering to the family most directly affected.
Before going into details of their plight let me clear up the issue of planning permission, for Ms Singlehurst-Ward seems to believe there was no deviation from the original planning permission. This document makes it clear there was deviation. The ‘Plot 10’ referred to in the document became 35 Coppins Park, Adam Karl Uka’s residence.
What Ms Singlehurst-Ward actually said in relation to planning permission was, “All properties (at Pentlepoir) were constructed in accordance with the planning permission granted”. Maybe, but in the case of 35 Coppins Park, it was not in accordance with the original planning permission.
As you can work out from the ‘Variation’ document, the new property became both higher, raised by at least a metre, thereby overlooking neighbouring properties, and it also moved closer to the property most directly affected. This resulted in work being carried out by Mill Bay’s contractors right up to the boundary of a neighbouring property, resulting in damage.
Both proximity to the boundary and some of the damage caused are clearly visible in the photographs below. (Click to enlarge.) Other problems were subsidence and damage to a boundary fence.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the contractors showed they had a sense of humour (or something) with this almost unbelievable incident in which a digger bucket was deliberately swung towards two neighbours. Just watch this video. The neighbours could have been seriously injured or even killed by this idiotic stunt. Here’s a still showing how close the bucket came to the head of the woman.
There is no question that for one family at least, Mill Bay Homes definitely proved to be the ‘Neighbour from Hell’. Read these neighbours’ chilling account of what they had to put up with here.
It may be significant that for Phase 2 at Pentlepoir, which included Mr Uka’s house, and where neighbours experienced such problems, the contractors did not register with the Considerate Constructors Scheme, as they had for Phase 1. I wonder why?
The relationship between a ‘parent’ organisation such as Pembrokeshire Housing and a subsidiary like Mill Bay Homes is one I’ve encountered many times before in my delving into the Third Sector and other publicly-funded outfits.
These subsidiaries are often known as ‘trading arms’. After many years investigating the use of public funding by all manner of imaginative organisations I still get a little frisson when I encounter the term.
It’s quite a complicated picture of an organisation receiving public funding but with money and tangible assets passing between it and subsidiaries, with subsidiaries folding and debts being written off. But the worry here, and this applies to other groups I’ve looked at, is that the funder – in this case, Sport Wales – seems only interested in the parent body because it is the one receiving the moolah. Nobody seems concerned about subsidiaries that may be indirect recipients of public funding.
I am not for one minute suggesting that this is the sort of thing that happens between Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes, I merely use it as a warning of the kind of problems that can arise when a publicly-funded body sets up subsidiaries or ‘trading arms’.
That said, there is one area where Pembrokeshire Housing and Mill Bay Homes could certainly learn from Canoe Wales. After publishing the first post I had a telephone call from a representative of the paddlers. A charming Caledonian gent named Mark Williamson. He even invited me over to their White Water Centre on Afon Tryweryn.
I was tempted, but then I thought, ‘What if it’s a dastardly plot to drown old Jac!’ Because I’ve heard that there are one or two people out there who’d like to do that! (Difficult to believe, I know, but there you are.)
The point is that Mr Williamson didn’t run to a £260 an hour solicitor, he fronted up like a man and said, ‘Let me put you straight on a few things’. Just think of all the misunderstandings that could be avoided, all the problems that could be resolved, and all the public money that could be saved, if more people adopted that approach.
A PLAGUE OF LAWYERS
For a sensitive soul such as I it was quite disconcerting to be on the receiving end of a sudden and unexpected assault from Hugh James, but I soon learnt that I wasn’t the only one getting attention.
At around the same time I received my initial letter from Hugh James my server Systemau Cyfrifiadurol Cambria also received a threatening letter from Ms Singlehurst-Ward. It read ” . . . website hosted by you . . . defamatory . . . Jac utter bastard”. Almost certainly done in the hope that it would lead to the plug being pulled on my blog. Gwilym, of SCCambria, gave a robust response.
But it didn’t end there!
For on Friday June 3rd I learnt that the family in Pentlepoir that had suffered so much, they who had the digger bucket swung at them, had also received a letter from Ms Singlehurst-Ward of Hugh James. Her clients obviously knew who had been giving me information. (Which says a lot, if you think about it.)
I loved the bit in the letter that read, “Whilst out clients have no desire to stifle free speech or indeed honest debate . . . “. Sorry, Tracey, love, but that’s exactly what your now embarrassed clients are trying to do.
The aggrieved couple referred the threatening Hugh James letter to both their solicitor and Dyfed Powys Police.
Then, to cap an extraordinary week, Gwilym received a second letter, from another solicitor, this time a Wayne Beynon of Capital Law in Cardiff. This letter had nothing to do with Pembrokeshire Housing or Mill Bay Homes.
The strange thing about this was that the complaint came down to a single comment made to this post by a third party. So why not write to me? I would have removed it, as I did when Gwilym told me about it. (Here’s my reply.)
While writing this I’ve heard from Gwilym, telling me that he’s had a reply from Beynon. It says, “I have also been contacted by your client, Mr Jones, who has removed the unlawful statements from his website.” And there was me thinking that decisions on what was unlawful involved the police, judges, courts, juries. Perhaps we should do away with the rest of the apparatus and hand the legal system over to lawyers.
What are we to make of the events of last week? If it had just been a letter to me then I would have assumed that I had pissed off Pembrokeshire Housing and / or Mill Bay Homes. But the letters to my server, and the people in Pentlepoir? And then the letter on behalf of Leighton Andrews?
If I wanted to be generous, then I suppose I’d dismiss it all as coincidence. But on reflection I think it could be an attempt to a) deter anyone from associating themselves with this blog and, b) get this blog closed down.
Which I find rather encouraging; for it suggests I might be doing something right!
I do not know any of the leading players in Pembrokeshire Housing or Mill Bay Homes, so there can be no question of me being motivated by personal animus. I have had no dealings of any description with PH or MBH. I have never even lived in Pembrokeshire. And I stand to make no personal gain from my writings on PH and MBH.
My motivation in my enquiries into PH and MBH – and countless other organisations I have investigated – has always been protection of the public interest and defence of the public purse; these ambitions being inseparable from the desire to see transparency in the operations of devolved government, local government and the Third Sector.
I find myself writing this on the anniversary of the attack on the toll gate at Yr Efail Wen. A banner often carried by ‘Rebecca’s followers read ‘Cyfiawnder nid Cyfraith’ (Justice not Law). As appropriate now as it was back then, because not a lot seems to have changed in almost two hundred years.
Wales is still a land with too much law and too little justice. And as ever, it’s those with deep pockets who can afford lawyers – but too often nowadays their pockets bulge with our money!