Miscellany 28.10.2019

PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR

This issue is made up of something old, something new. We start with a brief return to Summit to Sea and end with another hydro project involving Ellergreen. The ‘meat’ in this sandwich is a piece in which I try to unravel who might be involved now and in the past at the Ferodo site in Caernarfon, which is lined up for a major development.

No doubt many of you are looking forward to the infantile grotesquerie of Hallowe’en, while those of a more traditional bent will uncork a bottle for Samhain. For it’s well known that at this time of the year our ancestors were partial to a good bottle of Malbec.

Here at Jac Towers the dogs will be unleashed upon any who come disturbing my peace. A charitable act; for climbing trees to escape the Dobermans will keep young scoundrels fit and stop them developing into socialists or criminals, a fate that demanding money with menaces surely presages.

(Though I rarely differentiate between socialists and criminals, and I’ve invariably found the latter to be more congenial company.)

SUMMIT TO SEA

Summit to Sea is a scam dreamed by a gang of ‘environmentalists’, led or inspired by George Monbiot, that hoped to be handed millions of pounds and given free access to thousands of hectares of land and sea in central Wales. The excuse for this appropriation was that ‘rewilding’ was needed to tackle climate change. (For sheep are absolute bastards when it comes to damaging the planet!)

The ‘Welsh Government’ played its usual role, a combination of Uriah Heep and Vidkun Quisling, by promising to helpfully clear farmers off the land by withdrawing funding, and helping in any other way it could.

In the past year or so Summit to Sea has featured a few times on this blog. With my major contribution coming with The Welsh Clearances a year ago, and this month we had two guest pieces: the first, by Jon Coles of the Pembrokeshire Herald, quickly followed by a piece from an anonymous, but equally well-informed source.

Given the bad publicity received, and the near-total opposition in the affected area – especially from local farmers who were never consulted! – it was almost inevitable that Summit to Sea would be vulnerable. And so it proved; first, when Ecodyfi withdrew its support from the project in September; and then, this month, when Rewilding Britain had second thoughts.

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Summit to Sea has taken two heavy hits and is rocking on its heels, ready for the knock-out blow . . . but will it be delivered?

I ask because there seems to be ambivalence on the part of certain local politicians. Go back to the article I linked to reporting the withdrawal of Rewilding Britain, and there you’ll read Powys councillor Elwyn Vaughan saying: “I am hopeful that it marks the start of a successful partnership between the people of mid Wales and Summit to Sea.”

In this article from Farmers Guardian Plaid Cymru’s Cllr Vaughan expands on his thinking. He clearly believes the project should proceed, but with more local involvement and, perhaps, a slice of the £3.4m said to be available. Though I’m not sure how this is supposed to work out.

The money was only available for the rewilding project . . . a rewilding project to which local farmers are almost universally opposed. So are we to believe that the farmers will implement the rewilding scheme themselves if they get the £3.4m?

At the very least, it suggests to me that Elwyn Vaughan is not opposed to Summit to Sea per se. Maybe his opposition was simply to the way it was being done, and how the money was being distributed.

Which would make a certain sense, for Councillor Vaughan seems to be something of an eco-warrior himself. This tweet has been pinned to his Twitter timeline for almost two years. (We all want to cut down on the use of plastic, but bloody hell! – two years!)

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And when it comes to his party, well, Plaid Cymru is all over the place on this one. We know that Plaid is a very environmentally-friendly political party, but it risks alienating a great many supporters by backing Summit to Sea.

Though looking at it from the other side, if I was trying to implement Summit to Sea as originally conceived, I might think to myself: ‘Right, Labour’s onside, but in this neck of the woods Labour’s got less support than the DUP, so the key is Plaid Cymru’.

I’m not saying Plaid Cymru could win everybody over to Summit to Sea, but just to get Plaid talking of “partnership” might be enough to sow confusion and create division where none had previously existed.

And looking at it from the Summit to Sea perspective it would certainly be worth courting Plaid Cymru. With the project falling apart what have they got to lose?

I invite Elwyn Vaughan to clarify what he means by “partnership” with Summit to Sea.

BRAKES OFF AT THE FERODO SITE

Ferodo opened its Caernarfon factory in 1964, and at its height it employed almost 2,000 people. In the late nineties the site was taken over by American Craig Smith and in 1997 renamed Friction Dynamics. Relations between owner and staff deteriorated.

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An industrial dispute began in April 2001 that lasted until Christmas 2003. The strikers won their case at an industrial tribunal but Smith closed the company and reopened as Dynamex Friction. The money the strikers were awarded at the industrial tribunal was never paid.

The Friction Dynamics strike was one of the longest in Welsh history, beaten only perhaps by the Penrhyn lockout of 1900 – 1903 at Bethesda, not far away. They can be stubborn buggers in that area. God bless ’em.

I’m telling you this to give some background to a report on plans to develop the site. Though I got a flashback when I read in the headline that the project also included Plas Brereton. Daily Post reporter Owen Hughes reminded us about Plas Brereton with, “The site went up for sale last autumn . . . after the deal to sell to Plas Glynllifon owners Paul and Rowena Williams collapsed.”

And it’s true! As the very same Owen Hughes reported last June. And here he is! Paul Williams himself, in living colour.

Come on, be honest – would you buy magic beans from this guy? His eyes are all over the place, a would-be con man who can’t even convince himself! Probably thinking to himself, ‘Nobody’s buying this crap, are they?’

But let’s not dwell in the past; let’s ask what the future holds for the Cofis. For a start, it’s more tourism, more, ‘Wales – England’s Playground’. Though these plans outdo even the Gruesome Twosome.

Though I warn you, it now gets a wee bit complicated, and I might digress. But I think it’s worth sticking with it.

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The company reported as being behind the project is Maybrook Investments, of Bromsgrove in Worcestershire. Though also involved is Landal Greenparks, a Dutch company owned by Wyndham Destinations of the USA.

The Welsh involvement is limited to input from Cadnant Planning and architectural firm Dewis. Perhaps these have been given the work in the belief that local firms would be more likely to secure planning approval. Which has yet to be granted.

There’s plenty of information available on major companies Landal and Wyndham, so I’m going to focus on Maybrook Investments which, unlike those two, has no vast website and very little information of any kind. But we’ll dig anyway.

First off, what does Companies House tell us about Maybrook? Well, there are in fact two Maybrook companies; Maybrook Investments Ltd, and Maybrook Developments (Appley Bridge) Ltd. Let’s concentrate on the first, which is the one mentioned in the Daily Post.

Of the 100 shares issued, 99 are held by Peter Brendan Gerrard O’Dowd and 1 by Noreen O’Dowd. There are 7 outstanding charges for assorted properties, mainly in north west England.

The latest unaudited financial statement suggests a company in pretty good financial health, though a different valuation might not agree that the company’s investment portfolio is worth almost six million pounds.

Next stop was the Land Registry, for a map search of the site, and this is what I turned up. But now it gets rather complicated, for not only does the title record involve the Crown Estate and the ‘Welsh Government’ but there are various covenants and restrictions.

The Ferodo site was bought in July 2015 for £234,000 by the St Francis Group (Caernarfon) Ltd, which began life 10.06.2015. The last of the original directors left in December 2017 when O’Dowd joined. The name was changed to Bryn Coch Ltd in January 2018.

Maybrook Investments is now the sole shareholder. The two charges against this company (one satisfied) correspond with the number on the title document I’ve just linked with, CYM63599.

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These two charges being dated 18.12.2017 and 22.06.2018 suggests they were not used to make the purchase in 2015 but taken out later for some other purpose, with the Ferodo site used as security.

Let us now go back further and check on the history of this site.

Page 3 of the title document seems to deal with rights of access and then, at the end, a transfer of land relating to the other title on the site.

From my reading of the title document for CYM63599, by 2009 the Ferodo site had passed to the ownership or custodianship of ‘The Welsh Ministers’, who then sold it to Bluefield Caernarfon Ltd. The purchase is covered in these charges, taken out 2007 – 2009 which remain outstanding.

But why was Bluefield Caernarfon Ltd set up in July 2007 almost two years before the transfer of May 2009?

You’ll see that the directors of Bluefield Caernarfon at the time of this purchase are are all to be found in the south east, apart from Gary Goodman of Merseyside. With most involved with Bluefield Land Ltd from July 2005.

Bluefield Land took out loans amounting to millions of pounds (also still outstanding) with the Julian Hodge Bank Ltd. The company’s address was at Tŷ To Maen Farm in Old St Mellons. (Which for some reason rings a bell.)

Land disposal in Wales was of course the remit of the discredited Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales. You must remember the RIFW and the case of Stan ‘the Pies’ Thomas who enjoyed such good fortune buying up prime building land around Cardiff for a fraction of what it was worth.

Was the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales involved in the sale of the Ferodo site?

If I had more time (and if this investigation wasn’t making me lose the will to live!), I’d push on because I’m sure there’s a lot to unearth. This may not be a straightforward application by a guy who owns the Ferodo site hoping to involve major players in some over-hyped holiday camp.

If I was Cyngor Gwynedd I would be asking a lot of questions before even considering this site for planning approval.

For a start, Maybrook Investments Ltd doesn’t seem to own the whole of the old Ferodo site. So is the other title holder involved? (There was an option to buy dated February 2009, but has it been exercised?)

Then, if we go to the title document for the land apparently owned by Bryn Coch Ltd we see, at the top of page 4, the extract below. As we know, Bluefield Caernarfon Ltd was dissolved in January 2016. All the shares were owned by Dauson Environmental Group Ltd. So does this company retain whatever rights are referred to?

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Turning to the entry numbered 9, Bluefield Caernarfon Management Ltd also went belly-up in January 2016. The shares here were held by Bluefield Land Ltd (35 shares) and Twenty20 Homes Ltd (65 shares).

We encountered Bluefield Land Ltd earlier, and mercifully it’s still in the land of the living, with all its shares also held by Dauson Environmental Group Ltd. But what of newcomer Twenty2o Homes Ltd? Well, whaddya know, it also breathed its last in January 2016.

Companies associated with the Ferodo site were going down like flies that month!

The shares in Twenty20 Homes were held by Macob Property Holdings Ltd (13,500 shares) and Paul Christopher Markey of Porthcawl (1,500 shares). Macob Property Holdings is undergoing a very long process of liquidation; owing Barclays Bank over £7m (‘before interest and charges’) at the start of the process.

Where does this leave the ‘rights granted by a deed . . . (to) Bluefield Caernarfon Management Ltd for a term of 75 years from 7 April 2009′?

What ‘rights’ were they? Have they been nullified? Have they been transferred? Maybe they’re still held by shareholders, or creditors? Or have they reverted to ‘The Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty’?

This project on the old Ferodo site was a bit opaque to start with. A small-time property dealer trying to break into the big time, with a vague association with major players. While in the background we see a swirling mess of interlinked companies shuffling money between them, taking out huge loans and then going bust!

If I was Cyngor Gwynedd I’d be asking who owns what and who might still have claim on the Ferodo site and anything built on it.

ELLERGREEN HYDRO

In the piece last month, Wales, with us but strangers, we looked at a hydro scheme on the Tywi below Llyn Brianne. Among the many foreign companies taking a slice of this Welsh cake was Ellergreen Hydro Ltd.

As I wrote, “Ellergreen Hydro is based in the English Lake District and seems to be part of a group of companies bearing the name. These are run – in various guises and through assorted holding companies – by the Cropper family, headed by Sir James Anthony Cropper.”

Concerned locals at Mynydd Llandygai have been in touch to tell me that something odd is going on as Cyngor Gwynedd bends over backwards to accommodate a group that has invited Ellergreen Hydro to install a project on Afon Galedffrwd.

To begin with, I’m told that the project is being pushed through by stealth, with the local community not being properly notified and updated.

Then, it’s alleged that the application form has been ‘modified’. For a source insists that the original application – accepted by the council – stated “that the nearest building to the power station is ‘several hundred yards away’ when actually there are houses within 50 yards of it and an industrial unit and 10 plus houses within 100 yards.”

It’s said the council’s planners knew this, but still accepted the incorrect information.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, go to the council planning portal and you’ll find three letters of support. There were many more letters objecting . . . but they seem to have disappeared!

Anyway, let’s look at the planning application, for it contains a few entries to raise a smile, or have you scratching your head. The applicant is Mrs Jenny Wong of Coetir Mynydd (of which more in a minute) who lives in Bethesda . . . in the Vale of Glamorgan!

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The agent is Adam Cropper of Ellergreen Hydro, who gives an address in Penarth, which really is in the Vale of Glamorgan. But as we know, Ellergreen is based in the Lake District, so Pod 3, Avon House is just an accommodation address.

Probably explained by this letter from the council to a Mr Alex Ferraro of Penarth. ‘Who him?’, you ask, as well you might. Somebody must know who he is and how he fits into the picture. So please let us know.

Scroll down to box 27 and we see that the land needed for the project seems to be partly owned by the Penrhyn Estate; partly owned by Rite Goswami of Yr Ocar, Coed y Parc (which is either a B&B or a self-catering holiday let, maybe both); and partly owned by the aforementioned Mrs Wong on behalf of Coetir Mynydd.

Having promised you more information, here’s the Companies House entry for Coetir Mynydd, and here’s the website . . . which doesn’t seem to have been updated since the 2017 AGM. Here’s more on Coetir Mynydd and the scheme, complete with videos!

Locals also wonder who’s paying, and who’s benefiting, for despite promises of ‘community benefits’ in the form of cheaper energy for all, many remain sceptical.

According to Robert Owen Community Banking, shares for similar schemes nearby, ” . . . cost £50, and there is a minimum holding of five shares (£250)”. Later in the article we read that the shares are to be sold online.

Two hundred and fifty pounds might be too much for some locals, and if shares are to be sold online then anyone can buy them. So how local are these schemes?

We have a ‘local’ group, made up mainly it seems of good-lifers and planet-botherers, an English energy company, landowners including Lord Penrhyn (whose ancestor caused the longest strike in history), the mysterious Alex Ferraro of Penarth(?), and shares perhaps being sold online.

What we seem to have here, again, is Plaid Cymru, in the form of Cyngor Gwynedd, unable to resist any scheme claiming environmental credentials. And when the sales pitch is delivered in a middle class English accent they go all wobbly at the knees.

♦ end ♦

 

29 thoughts on “Miscellany 28.10.2019

  1. Dafis

    Vaughan like most farmers probably feels that some of that loot could be usefully diverted. Once secured no servant of the state will be inclined to trace it to its end use unless something really embarrassing is done with it. And it would keep him on-side with the townie-twat wing of Plaid who, after all, know everything about rural matters.

  2. Wynne

    Ellergreen Hydro

    In general, Council planners accepting incorrect information does not surprise me. From my experience, planning applications are often validated on the day the application is received with planners assuming the information presented by applicant is correct. If errors are drawn to their attention during the 21-day public consultation period it is often not clear what action [if any] is taken as planners are reluctant to enter into any correspondence with the public during the 8 week target timeframe to determine the application.

    1. That’s the feedback I’ve been getting on this one. It looks as if a done deal and then they went through the motions, but had no intention of listening to anybody else, let alone changing anything.

  3. Brychan

    I have noticed a distinct difference in the ‘hydro schemes’ identified in this blog and the genuine ‘community schemes’ like Anafon at Abergwyngregyn, and Gelli Ffrydiau at Nantlle.

    This new business model allows for the ‘community shareholders’ to inherit all risks, a generating asset which limited lifespan, exposed to changes in feed-in tariff rates, and an annual liability of a lease without owning the catchment area. The sale of shares to the community after installation (which is likely to be high risk and worthless) means that the scheme doe not fall foul of ‘land strip scam’. This is how it works.

    (a) Set up a subsidiary company with £1 capital.
    (b) Buy a parcel of land, the catchment area, next to a river.
    (c) Borrow from bank using the land as collateral.
    (d) Apply for planning permission for hydro scheme.
    (e) Use part of the borrowed money to install hydro scheme.
    (f) Segment the landholding between installation (leasehold) and land.
    (g) Sell off the catchment land to pay off bank loan.
    (h) Issue community shares in the subsidiary owning only the hydro installation.

    The advantage of this business model is that planning permission can be obtained under ‘green credential’, and it affords an opportunity to renovate existing or new build holiday homes in a location that wouldn’t otherwise get planning permission. The freehold is kept or sold as the cash cow for the shareholders of the original parent company, which usually also own and profits from the company installing the equipment.

    Ferraro of the generating house.
    https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/officers/TpXVlACLZeshl77YTW0DaTgCBeA/appointments

    Top of the tree – conveyance vehicle.
    https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/07470035/charges

    I notice that the bank used is specific. It’s from Svenska Handlesbanken. They offer a specific ‘bridging’ type of loan for ‘commercial buy to let’ real estate. Not your usual high street bank.

    1. Jayne

      Hi Brychan,

      Your comment has the air of being well researched but I stopped listening the moment you called Gelli Ffrydiau a ‘Genuine Community Scheme’ when it is privately owned and famously totally disregarded any community engagement.

      Anafon is a wonderful project which does not deserve to be in the same sentence.

  4. Jayne

    Once again another poorly researched article from you Jack, using only the companies house website to source your information to take a shit on people who work hard for Welsh communities, women, and Plaid Cymru.

    1. I admit I rushed it a bit, but that because it came at the end of what was a very large issue, but I had second thoughts about the first – 1000+ words – article so I pulled it. Any ‘women’ I’ve mentioned are involved in the project. Should I ignore them because they’re women?

    2. Wynne

      Let’s have more than a sentence from you Jayne as you obviously wish to contribute to the debate. Tell us the source of your information. Give us a bit more than a single sentence.

      1. Dafis

        Singe ? Wynne did you mean that ? I thought she was just frothing at the mouth but you’ve seen her flame breath !! A right old dragon in that case.

  5. Dafis

    Followed that link in the tweet about former Pres of U.S.A. Somewhere in the report it says –

    Mr Obama added that “people who do really good stuff have flaws”.

    Hell, he’s heard of, maybe even read, the investigative work of Jac. Word gets around, keep up the good work.

      1. Dafis

        Without labouring the point your original tweet was aimed at Leanne and her sanctimonious crew of sledgers. To them you are a seriously flawed character simply because you challenge their posturing, criticise their shallow groupthink, and expose their lack of relevance.

        So like it or not, Obama is on your side, and he would not take too kindly to likes of Deryn and their puppets spouting malicious crap in any direction ! Adam Price ought to give him a contract to clean out the stables at Plaid.

        1. I know what you mean.

          Someone sent me this Twitter exchange involving young Aled. It seems the boy may not be universally popular.

        2. Stan

          Monbiot’s ex wife on Welsh Twitter earlier expressing her concern about Obama’s “woke” comments. Afraid they’d be used against them by the “alt right” such as Jordan Peterson and Jack of the North (sic).

          That bloke Jordan Peterson, whoever he is, in good company there then. If he drops into Cymru maybe we could ask him to give a talk in the Grand Theatre, possibly take the slot that Chubby Brown has left vacant? If the Welsh Woke and Swansea Council agree to it first, obviously.

            1. Stan

              Seems a tidy bloke, that Peterson. His bete noire is cultural Marxism, and upset the transgender lobby by refusing to call his students by the pronouns of their choice. Sees women and men as actually being culturally different in various ways. Can’t see him being readily accepted in Plaid and no doubt wouldn’t be welcomed on an AUOB inde march.

            2. Mel Morgan

              No, he’s nothing so coherent. He’s a glib sophist who’s discovered that flogging ample helpings of wordsalad to the gullible is a nice little earner. Should be reported to Trading Standards.

        3. I was never a fan of Obama, but I think his criticism of the woke may be due to the realisation that most Americans think they’re a) extremists, and b) to closely allied with the Democrats. Putting distance between the Democratic Party and the woke may be a good move at this point.

          A further benefit would be that if the (mainstream) Democrats do start to distance themselves then it further marginalises the woke and makes them look even more extreme, and therefore easier to pick off.

          1. Mel Morgan

            The Woke, it would seem have taken their place, alongside the Politically Correct, the Extraterrestrial Lizards from Babylon, the Elders of Zion, Mali’r Wrach, et al., in that pantheon of shadowy beings whose fault it all is, whatever it is. Ho, hum …

            1. Now, now, the Woke (capitalisation optional) are very much of this world. I speak as someone with the personal experience to prove it.

            2. Mel Morgan

              You must exorcise them with Bell, Book, and Candle (and a cup of camomile tea). Then the HORRID Woke will go away. Boo to them. Boo, boo, boo. Nyahaaaaaa….

  6. Dai Protheroe

    Well that bloke has summed up the obnoxious Aled Gwyn Williams a treat there, hasn’t he? “A well known Internet bully and arsehole”, Plaid “poster boy”, and a “fucking evil prick”.

    Even better is the bloke’s response to Aled when he attempts to downplay play things with his comment “I’m no one”. A classic riposte of “at last something on which we agree, Aled neb”. I’m still laughing as I’m typing this.

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