This will be just a brief update or, if you want to be posh, a communiqué.
The meeting yesterday went very, very well. I was delighted with the turnout and with the enthusiasm shown – I think almost everyone had something to say, but without anyone hogging the microphone. A blessed relief from some meetings I’ve attended in the past. (Ah! those smoke-filled rooms of yore.)
Such commitment is really encouraging. What’s more it was obvious that many people are thinking the same thing – Wales is in a mess, and none of the existing parties can be trusted to improve things.
The geographical range of the attendees was also impressive, there were people from Wrecsam to Pembrokeshire and from Gwent to Gwynedd. With just about everywhere in between represented. Which bodes well for a new national party.
A full discussion was had on a number of topics and on methods for moving the new party forward, how best to recruit members, and getting the word out. Both those ambitions are so much easier now of course, with social media, than they would have been twenty or more years ago.
As might be imagined, one topic for discussion was a name for the new party. There were a number of great suggestions, and these will now be discussed by the Steering Committee elected on Saturday, which will also work on a draft constitution, set of rules, etc., to present to the first Annual General Meeting, pencilled in for March 3rd 2018.
We have been fortunate in being offered the chance to take over the Electoral Commission registration of an existing party. The surviving member of that party was there on Saturday and agreed to what amounts to a merger.
The party name of course can be changed, but more important is the three logos registered to this party, which are – an outline map of Wales, the national flag, and the dragon as it appears on the flag.
These symbols can be used on ballot papers and other literature, leaving no one in any doubt what we stand for, but perhaps more importantly, because they are registered with the Electoral Commission – ‘copyrighted’, if you like – no other party can use them.
Now I have an apology to make to the venue – I forgot to collect the invoice on the way out. Sorry. I shall almost certainly be in Aber later in the week so I’ll pop in and pay in cash.
To risk repeating myself, it was a great day, perhaps the one disappointment – given the interest he’s shown in the new party – was that Phil Parry of The Eye wasn’t there. You could have had a scoop, Parry – ‘Shock! Horror! irritating little git thrown out of meeting!’
As I made clear early on in developments, once things were up and running, old Jac was gonna pull back. And that’s how it will be. For I’m fairly sure that the bright young things involved – another plus being the number there who weren’t around in the ’60s! – will soon be utilising the interweb for themselves.
If you haven’t yet made up your mind to commit to the new party, then I urge you to do so now, because we’re on the move! Wales is on the move! Get on board!
Human trafficking is a term we’ve become increasingly familiar with in recent years, it’s a clandestine and largely illegal activity that reduces human beings to transferable commodities, to be moved around and exploited for the financial benefit of some third party.
Many people will be surprised therefore to learn that this practice is widespread here in Wales – and it’s funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government.
Though in the more recent post I’d neglected to mention that the Care Society is itself a landlord with three properties in Aberystwyth. Which made me wonder – seeing as it administers the ‘Welsh’ Government’s tenant bond scheme – if it pays itself a bond for those it houses in its own properties?
Both societies also operate as lettings agencies. In Pembrokeshire we have Pathway Lettings and in Ceredigion Cymdeithas Gofal has its Estates and Lettings agency. Letting agencies always charge a commission.
From the Pathway Lettings website it looks like a £50 up-front administrative charge for tenants, the landlords pay £50 for an Introductory Service’, a ‘Let Only’ service costs £150, then there’s another £150 for the ‘Managed Property Service Charge’, plus ‘10% (negotiable) of monthly rental income’. And there are further charges! (read them all here).
Cymdeithas Gofal’s Estates and Lettings is more coy in that it doesn’t give the figures on its website, but there’s no reason to suspect that it operates a lot different to its Pembrokeshire counterpart.
So we have two letting agencies with a ready supply of customers thanks to their parent bodies, which also administer the ‘Welsh’ Government’s tenant bond scheme (to themselves?), and act as unfair competition to private letting agencies and estate agencies that don’t have access to the public purse.
Which sums up the ‘Welsh’ Government’s attitude to what it likes to pretend is business. In truth, it’s the anti-business attitude of ‘Welsh’ Labour and Plaid Cymru.
In case anyone thinks I’m making a big deal out of nothing here, let me conclude this section by telling you that the amount received by Pembrokeshire Care under the tenant bond scheme totalled £575,922.16 for the three financial years ending 31.03.2016.
And that is just part of its income; an income that allows it to sit on reserves of £756,542, with that hoard made up almost entirely of “cash at bank and in hand” most of it “unrestricted funds”, which means it was not given for a specific purpose and so can be used for just about anything. All figures available here in the latest accounts.
With a further £120,000 set aside for “Senior Management Succession Planning”. Isn’t that comforting?
ENTER GRWP GWALIA AND THE MONEYBAGS WALLICH
Anyway, the reason I’m returning to this subject is that both Pembrokeshire Care and Cymdeithas Gofal have competition, particularly the Ceredigion outfit. It began when someone referred me to a poster on the board in the Quarry Cafe in Machynlleth.
Now this is not an establishment I frequent when I’m in our ancient capital, due to its connection with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Corris, but last week the wife wanted to visit the town’s weekly street market and that’s how I found myself pushing past hippies, knocking over skinny lattes, and ignoring the ‘ . . . last time I was in Kathmandu’ conversations, to take the photo you see below.
It looks innocent enough, until you know a little more about the two bodies involved. Grwp Gwalia is a housing association based in Swansea and is now part of the Pobl Group.
If the name rings a bell it might be because this is the housing association that was happy to take on the gang of Satanic paedophiles from London and inflict them on Kidwelly.
Though nowadays, it seems that Grwp Gwalia is concentrating on students! But should a publicly-funded housing association be in this neck of the property jungle?
Anyway, moving on.
I hadn’t realised until a short while ago that Grwp Gwalia has an office in Newtown, which is where Mid Wales Housing is based. So for a minute I wondered if the move into Powys was the first stage in a takeover bid for MWH? Well, perhaps not, because this page on the Gwalia website suggests that it has found a ‘niche’ to exploit, primarily homelessness and mental health.
So where does ‘The Wallich’ fit into the picture? I suppose many of you may even be wondering, ‘What is “The Wallich”?’The Wallich is an all-Wales agency, and the trading name of the Wallich Clifford Community, which caters for the homeless and those with other – often associated – ‘issues’.
As I say, The Wallich operates across Wales, with a major presence in Swansea and Cardiff, but is also busy in Wrecsam and Rhyl (I bet that mention of Rhyl surprised you!). A quick perusal of the latest accounts (up to 31.03.2016) tells us that The Wallich is a multi-million-pound operation.
In year ending 31.03.2016 The Wallich had a total income of more than ten million pounds, six and a half million of which came from the ‘Welsh’ Government and assorted local authorities, with a further three and a half million coming from “rent and service charges”. Which contributed towards total assets of nine and a half million pounds, most of it in “tangible fixed assets”i.e. property; these figures include over one million pounds invested and £2.8 million in “cash at bank and in hand”.
The Wallich is clearly awash with cash and assets despite two-thirds of its income going on salaries and pensions. There is a strong case to be made for saving the public purse a few million pound every year by cutting back on The Wallich’s funding.
THE WALLICH IN ABERYSTWYTH
And now Grwp Gwalia and the Wallich are spreading their wings in Machynlleth. From their perspective I suppose it makes sense in that it gives them a footprint in a new area, though how much call there is in Machynlleth for the ‘services’ they provide is another matter.
As I did my checking on The Wallich I began to suspect that the operation planned for Machynlleth might be no more than an outlier for The Wallich’s operations in Aberystwyth, just 18 miles away.
For there, in Aber’, and nearby Borth, we find that The Wallich has no less than four properties:
First, in 9 Corporation Street, catering for for “individuals with a range of complex support needs including needs around offending behaviour, being a prison leaver, mental health issues, substance misuse issues, physical health needs, housing needs or a mixture of these”.
A few doors away, No 13 provides “temporary accommodation for single homeless people who need low level support, or for individuals ready to move-on from projects where they have received a higher level of support and wish to increase their independence.” Perhaps people move from No 9 to No 13.
On No 14 Queens Road we have ‘Tŷ Nesaf’, “The project aims to work with the residents to support them to reduce the various harms they have in their lives e.g. homelessness, substance misuse issues, mental health issues and repeat offending. The project also aims to reduce the level of negative impact these individuals may have on the community in general.”
Finally, just out of town, in Borth, we have the ‘Families Temporary Accommodation Project’, and the blurb tells us: “We support residents to increase their control, understanding and involvement around the issues they have identified as needing assistance with, in order to prevent further homelessness.”
COMPETITION OR CO-OPERATION?
So now we know that Aberystwyth, the Queen of Cardigan Bay (or is that Aberteifi?) is blessed with not only Cymdeithas Gofal, providing accommodation for the homeless, those recently released from ‘the secure estate’, alcohol and substance abusers, and others, but that the town is doubly blessed in having The Wallich in the same line of business.
Together they provide many dozens of rooms for their clients, who are then passed on to private landlords and social housing providers with the tenant bond supplied by the ‘Welsh’ Government. A conveyor belt of problems.
Realising how well supplied Aberystwyth is with facilities for those experiencing difficulties (invariably of their own making) some of you may be saying to yourself, ‘I didn’t realise Aberystwyth was so big’. Well, it’s not. It’s roughly the same size as Tredegar.
Yet despite being a post-industrial town, and among the poorest in Europe, Tredegar seems to suffer little from homelessness, certainly it doesn’t have the veritable industry we find in Aberystwyth. So why does relatively prosperous Aberystwyth – apparently – have such a homelessness crisis?
The answer is obvious – the ‘homelessness problem’ in Ceredigion (and Pembrokeshire) is largely imported from over the border. But who cares, everybody’s dipping their beak – from the 262 staff of The Wallich to the private landlords of Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. Plus the ‘Welsh’ Government can tick a few more boxes to claim it’s doing a wonderful job.
(The influence of private landlords, coupled with the proliferation of houses of multiple occupation – and the scarcity of both in Valleys towns – may go a long way to explaining the thriving ‘homelessness’ business in Aberystwyth.)
To answer the heading of this section, I found no evidence of co-operation. Typing ‘Cymdeithas Gofal’ or ‘Care Society’ into the Gwalia Search box turns up nothing. Type ‘Wallich’ into the Cymdeithas Gofal Search box and it comes up as one of many external links.
Which means that greedy Third Sector bodies are now in competition to import England’s problems into a small Welsh town – and you pay for it. You contribute to making Wales perhaps the only county on Earth with a state-funded system of human trafficking.
If the ‘Welsh’ Government has decided that Wales is to become the dumping ground for England’s decrepit, dysfunctional and delinquent – and to judge by the funding provided, this must be the case – then let Carwyn and his gang have the honesty to say so.
Not so long ago I wrote about the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm project, and developer Vattenfall’s use of bribery to win over or silence the local populace. (Click here and scroll down to the section Vattenfall of Money.) Well now I know the route by which the turbines for Pen y Cymoedd will be arriving . . . from China. Yes, China.
Because despite what it says on the Pen y Cymoedd website about, “Siemens, our turbine supplier”, they were not made in Germany, or anywhere else in Europe. We have here a Swedish nationalised industry with a German partner importing wind turbines from China! A journey of some 10,000 nautical miles by the quickest route and taking 22 days at 20 knots. Twenty-two days of a huge ship belching smoke, spilling oil, ‘accidentally’ emptying the bilges, and all manner of things falling overboard.
Though in fairness, it is suggested that these turbines, each in three sections (plus blades and spindle), will be shipped from China to Immingham (the major container port just south of Hull) in one consignment, before being broken down into smaller cargoes for trans-shipping to Swansea. The distance from Immingham to Swansea is 606 nautical miles so if, as suggested, coastal vessels are used, each carrying the component parts of a single turbine, this adds up to a further 92,000 nautical miles (counting return trips)!
With its turbines shipped in from China to Immingham and then shipped on to Swansea, with a total distance covered of some 102,000 nautical miles (plus 532 return lorry trips between Swansea docks and Rhigos), the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm project has the environmental credentials of a dozen coal-fired power stations, each run by a thousand spectacularly flatulent cows. Perhaps we might get a comment on this from La Bartolotti or those competing to succeed her as regional mouthpiece for the Green Party of Englandandwales.
Consider this, also . . . The European steel industry is suffering from Chinese steel being ‘dumped’ on the global market at prices with which European producers cannot compete. These Chinese-made turbines for Pen y Cymoedd will be landed in Lincolnshire, yet just a few months ago, and not far south of Immingham, it was announced that steel production will cease at Redcar with the loss of 1,700 jobs, and there are to be more redundancies at Scunthorpe. On top of which, the turbines are to be landed at Swansea docks, within sight of Port Talbot steelworks! Insult upon injury.
The turbines for Pen y Cymoedd are built in a country where environmental considerations are laughed at, then lugged across oceans, around coasts, and up steep gradients, before each of them is implanted in a concrete base the size of a football pitch in what had previously been virgin moorland. These turbines will provide no permanent jobs in Wales and the profits they generate will go to Sweden or Germany. All we shall see is the annual bribe, the pretty beads paid to the backward natives while their land is raped, again.
Let’s face it, ‘Green energy’ is a massive con. And few projects are proving to be a bigger, or a more insulting con, than Pen y Cymoedd. The turbines there will probably have to run for about 300 years just to pay off the ‘debt’ to the environment incurred by making and transporting the bloody things.
UPDATE 21:00: On Friday the 4th, a few days before posting this, I sent an e-mail to Vattenfall at Pen y Cymoedd asking where the turbines for the site were made. This afternoon I received a ‘phone call from Emily Faull of Vattenfall, a charming young lady who was able to give me a few more facts.
First, she confirmed that the turbine towers were made in China, but the blades and the spindles were made in Denmark and Germany. When I asked whether the turbines had come in through Immingham Ms Faull said no, and that on November 22nd she was at Swansea docks to see “64 sections” arrive on the good ship Amethyst from China. Though if this is the right ship, then it does not appear to have docked in Swansea on November 22nd, though at that time it was en route from Spain to the Netherlands.
Whatever, 64 sections represents 16 turbines (they come in 4 sections, not 3 as I thought), so there would still need to be another four similar voyages to bring the rest of them from China. Though Ms Faull was able to confirm that the transformers were landed at Immingham, and moved by road to Pen y Cymoedd. I’m not sure where the blades and spindles were landed, or how they reached Pen y Cymoedd if they weren’t landed at Swansea.
In a part of the conversation I had some difficulty following, Ms Faull said that it had been hoped to build the turbines at the Mabey Bridge works in Chepstow, but Mabey Bridge felt it was not worth taking on workers only to lay them off again after the Pen y Cymoedd contract was completed. There was also mention of the ‘Welsh’ Government, but what role those clowns played I have no idea.
I have sent Ms Faull another e-mail (07.12.2015) to clarify the remaining details.
UPDATE 18.12.2016: I received the reply today from Ms Faull. It reads:
“Many thanks for your email and apologies for the delay in responding.
Amesthyst landed on 22nd November and I visited the ship on 24th November. The attached photo was taken at Swansea Docks on 23rd November and 64 tower sections were on board. The remaining tower sections will also come via this route. As I said on the call Mabey Bridge were lined up for the tower manufacture, but subsequently withdrew from the bidding process.
The ship came from China and the only stops required would have been for refuelling and personnel changes.
The blades have not yet been shipped, but 192 of these will come from Denmark, with 26 coming from Canada and will again be off-loaded at Swansea Docks.
The size of the wind farm means that means that the operations and maintenance team of around 30 individuals will be based on-site and early next year the team will make a special effort to recruit skilled individuals locally.
With regards to the transformers, these were manufactured at ABB in Bad Honnef, Germany, each of which weigh in at around 125,000 kg and are around 6 metres wide and 8 metres long.”
So in addition to China, Denmark and Germany, we now have components for Pen y Cymoedd also coming from Canada. The environmental credentials of this project, never good, are now compromised beyond redemption. The jobs referred to “early next year”, for which it is hoped to recruit some locals, is not a “maintenance team” at all, this team is on site solely for the erection and installation of the turbines. Once that’s done there will probably be no jobs at Pen y Cymoedd.
The Pen y Cymoedd wind farm is all about money, it’s not about the environment, or even about the generation of electricity. The hundreds of thousands of miles taken up in transporting the components from around the world, by sea and by land, means that the project’s contribution to the environment is entirely negative even if it were to run at optimum output for centuries. Pen y Cymoedd is the most blatant ‘green energy’ rip-off I have ever encountered.
ABERYSTWYTH, THE NEXT RHYL?
Some of you may recall reading about five or so years ago that there was a terrible shortage of student accommodation in Aberystwyth, the poor dabs were dossing on the promenade, or else the lack of accommodation had driven them to outlandish places such as Corris where, it was rumoured, locals stared at strangers. Here’s one tale from the BBC in August 2011, and another from Aber Student Media a month later.
To answer this shortage of accommodation there seem to have been three separate responses. One was the university itself embarking on a building programme of ‘student villages’. The second response was that of investors buying up more large properties in the town for student lodgings. Third, local housing associations got in on the act – using public money, of course.
But now I hear that the bubble has burst, leaving the university with under-occupied ‘student villages’ that make 1960s East German architecture look attractive; private investors with Houses of Multiple Occupation suffering a dearth of multiple occupants; and overstretched housing associations . . . for example, the word on the street is that Tai Cantref is already docked up Shit Creek with its crew roistering in local taverns.
What had once been attractive and easy-going Aberystwyth University, three years by the seaside for an undemanding 2:2, started slipping down the league tables a few years ago. In July 2014 the decline was being reported in the Times Higher Education Supplement and by October even the students were getting worried. The continuing decline was reported in May 2015. Inevitably, this resulted in a drop in the numbers of students applying to Aber’ – at the same time as there was more accommodation for them than ever. What to do?
I suggest one doesn’t need to be a soothsayer to predict that with so many properties now available in a Welsh seaside town, properties almost all of which are designed to house single people, it’s only a matter of time before the problems start arriving from over the border. (Thank God there’s still a railway line from Birmingham to Aberystwyth.) I’m thinking now of the drug addicts and the petty criminals, and of course those recently released from prison, because some of the bigger properties in the town will be ideal as ‘halfway houses’ and bail hostels. (See ‘Tragedy in Pontypridd’ below.)
All this results from Wales having a higher education sector that is too big, a higher education sector that has been encouraged to grow irresponsibly, with no reference to the effects of this unwarranted growth on host communities. While the universities willingly played along, adopting a ‘stack ’em high’ philosophy dictated by business models and profit margins that inevitably resulted in falling standards. Leaving Aberystwyth caught in a vicious circle, a refuge for third-rate academics and students who can’t gain admission elsewhere, with this inevitably deterring those who can read walls.
And now there may be a heavy price to pay. Which would be sad, because like most people, I’m very fond of Aberystwyth, I’ve had some good times there, drunk and sober. But if Aber’ is on its way to becoming the Rhyl of Cardigan Bay, in order to protect the investments of local big shots and housing associations, who will dare challenge this development?
A LETTER FROM CEREDIGION
It’s been a while since this blog visited Cardigan Castle, but Lady Tucker and friends have been busy, and the results will take the project even further from the trust’s stated objectives of preserving the place “for the benefit of the people of Cardigan and the nation”.
The main contractors, Andrew Scott Ltd, have long since departed with their loot, leaving a very long snagging list of botched jobs behind them. A professional painter and decorator who visited recently commented that it was hard to believe from the state of some of the paint and plasterwork that the site had been handed over little more than six months ago.
But the departure of Andrew Scott has not meant that building work has ceased. Tucked away behind the main house and a small cottage is an outbuilding which was renovated by Andrew Scott Ltd to serve as a garage for guests staying in the 5 star self-catering East Wing. This is now being converted into accommodation for disabled visitors, and when it is finished early next year, it will join the three B&B rooms above the usually empty restaurant, the East Wing (sleeps six) and the Gardener’s Cottage (sleeps two).
And there are more exciting developments on the drawing board.
The old stable block which was restored from its ruined state at huge expense to serve educational purposes has been ear-marked by Lady Tucker for conversion into yet more tourist accommodation. This will not come cheap, and expect building work to continue well into 2017.
Also offering exciting potential for reconversion into tourist accommodation is a small house over on the eastern fringe of the castle complex.
Converting these buildings will mean ejecting the current occupants, including a popular cynghanedd class, and the removal of the only locally based groups still using the site to be re-housed well away from the castle by mid-2016.
No longer will well-heeled paying guests have to face the awful prospect of mingling with scruffy locals speaking gibberish, and the Cadwgan Trust can get down to the serious business of marketing the place as luxury tourist accommodation and a venue for weddings and corporate jollies. Or what we locals call a posh hotel.
Paving the way for this is a Wedding Fayre on 6 December, a time of the year when all but the most self-obsessed brides and their mothers will have other things on their mind.
The cultural bit will be confined to a few events (Gilbert and Sullivan, Shakespeare, etc.) in the summer, while as a sideline, non-resident visitors willing to part with a fiver will be allowed in to gawp at the large expanse of lawn and spend a few minutes in the couple of rooms containing exhibitions of old tat. “Look Jeremy, a smashed up old 1940s typewriter which once belonged to the old girl who used to live here!”
After an injection of £12 million plus, including all the funds raised locally and countless thousands of hours of unpaid voluntary work, the people of Cardigan will find that just a year after opening, the castle will to all intents and purposes have reverted to being a private fiefdom, this time run by Lady T and her friends from Aberporth.
Other recent developments include a parting of ways with Equinox, the Cardiff-based firm which tried to steer the castle through the PR catastrophes which dominated much of 2015.
PR is now being handled in-house by Sue Lewis whose portfolio of responsibilities also includes “facilities”.
When not working for Cadwgan, Sue moonlights for the dire Cambrian News, which also employs her hubby to report on local news.
Not long after it ran its notorious “Incomers are Nazis says Plaid candidate” headline, the Cambrian News was at it again with a piece which suggested that Hefin Wyn, the respected local author, journalist and prominent critic of the Cadwgan Trust, had run a campaign of harassment and “virtual persecution” against Glen Johnson, who has resigned from Cadwgan’s board and various committees more often than most of us have had hot dinners.
It subsequently turned out that the newspaper had published these very serious accusations, including a claim that Mr Johnson was having to resign to protect his family, without actually checking the facts or asking the castle’s history man for evidence to back up his claims.
The paper has refused to disclose who wrote the offending article or to hand over to IPSO, the press complaints body, what it says are e-mails citing persecution and harassment it received from Glen Johnson some weeks later.
Whoever wrote the offending article, Sue has clearly been reading a copy of “Teach Yourself PR”, including Lesson One: The Importance of Creating a Narrative because it is now being put about that she feels threatened in Cardigan, and is reluctant even to drive in from Aberporth on her own.
The narrative is that critics of Cadwgan Trust are a bunch of dangerous bigots and fanatics who, we are asked to believe, are lurking behind every lamp post and municipal litter bin between Pendre and Pwllhai in this small market town.
If it’s not the wicked Hefin Wyn and the snipers Cyfeillion Rhys ap Gruffydd have posted above Siop y Cardi, it’s the stiletto-wielding assassins of Cymdeithas y Chwiorydd and the suicide bombers of Merched y Wawr.
We’ll probably be able to read all about it soon in “Wales’ biggest selling weekly newspaper”.
TRAGEDY IN PONTYPRIDD
Some of you will have read accounts from the trial of two men recently convicted of murder in Pontypridd. One of the killers, and the victim, were residents at the Morning Star Inn, on Llantrisant Road. (The second killer was said to be of no fixed abode, but I suspect he too has a connection with the Morning Star.) As you might expect, I got to wondering about the Morning Star, and it’s quite a story.
The Morning Star was, until closed after the murder on February 28th, run as both a pub and a bail hostel or halfway house for released criminals. Owned and / or run by “former Egyptian police officer Saad Taha”. Here’s a report from July 2013 of a public meeting organised so that various authorities and local politicians could hear locals voice their concerns about the Morning Star. They relate things they have witnessed first-hand only to be met with a wall of denials and evasions.
According to DePlod despite reports of knife-carrying, discarded needles and bad behaviour in and around the Morning Star “there is little evidence this came directly from the Morning Star”. Of course not, it was pure coincidence. The incredulity increased when I read that Taha wants us to believe that even though these ex-cons are living above a pub, they are not allowed to drink in the pub! I battled through this storm of bullshit and made further enquiries.
In July 2007 there was a planning application (07/1389/10) for a “raised patio / bar extension – beer garden”, and in March 2008 (08/0393/10) for a “rear balcony”. The first application was submitted in the name of a Mr D Watkins and the second in the name of Saad Taha, so is it reasonable to assume that the Morning Star was still being run as a pub in 2007 but the premises changed hands some time in late 2008 or early 2009 and was then run as both a pub and a halfway house? Both applications were withdrawn.
Next, on September 20th 2011, Taha made an application (11/1140/10) for “Conversion of existing bar areas into bedrooms (Change of use).- amended plan received 25/11/11 – reduction in total number of bedrooms from 17 to 16 – amended location plan received on 26/01/12.” With the first floor already being used to house ex-convicts it appears Taha now sought to convert the ground floor (pub) area and even the basement (cellar). This plan was very wisely turned down by RCT council.
But then, on December 14th, 2012, another application (12/1293/09) was lodged, “Application for a Lawful Development Certificate for an Existing use as a public house and hostel.” Which I take to mean that Taha was now asking for retrospective planning consent for a building already being used – without permission – as a hostel. Planning permission was refused.
I find it significant, and rather confusing, that in his rejected planning applications of September 2011 and December 2012 Taha is asking for a “change of use”. Also confusing, is that the earlier of those applications states that there are already 16 bedrooms at the Morning Star, yet according to the WalesOnline report of the July 2013 public meeting the place only has only “seven beds”. Which is right?
So here’s the question. Seeing as retrospective planning permission for a change of use to a hostel was refused in 2011 and 2012, why was the Morning Star allowed to operate as a hostel? Everybody in the area knew what the building was being used for, including the police and the council, so was it somehow allowed to operate as a hostel without the required planning permissions? If not, then perhaps someone at RCT council can direct me to the approval for the Morning Star to be used as a halfway house for criminals.
Another teaser is, who owns the Morning Star? Having checked on the Land Registry website using the correct post code I can find nothing under Morning Star or 59 Llantrisant Road. So we can’t be sure if Taha actually owns the property (as he claims) or if he’s merely an agent for someone else. Presumably Rhondda Cynon Taf council knows who owns this place, and if it is Saad Taha, why doesn’t he register his ownership with the Land Registry? He’s had long enough.
There’s something odd about the Morning Star saga. Not least, how does a former Egyptian copper end up running a halfway house in Ponty? And what checks were done into his background? Where do his ‘clients’ come from? And who supplies them?
Anyway, undeterred by the minor inconvenience of a man being beaten to death on the premises, and before those charged with the murder had been tried, Saad Taha was again thinking of profiting from the Morning Star when, on August 26th this year, he submitted a planning application (15/1170/10) that reads, “Proposed change of use from existing public house and bedrooms to 6 no. self contained flats”. Wording that raises yet more questions.
For example, why does it describe a home for ex-cons as “bedrooms”? Or is this more evidence that no permission was ever granted for the property to be used as a hostel? Though a bigger worry for the local residents should be, who is going to live in these flats? Given the record of Saad Taha, Rhondda Cynon Taf council, and the pooh-pooh police, locals have every reason to be concerned.
I betook myself to Aberystwyth yesterday, accompannied by the wife and a couple of grandchildren (in case the old car needed a push). ‘Callous bastard’, I hear you cry . . . so, anyway, I went for a coffee before wandering about the old town, seeing what had changed since my last visit.
Quite a bit, as it happened. Inhabitants of Aber’, or regular visitors, will know that the council has been working around the front of the railway station for twelve years or more (well, it seems that long), laying out bus bays and new pavements. Walking from the Mill Street car park (soon to be lost under Marks & Spencers and Tesco), I turned the corner by the station to be greeted by a veritable minefield of drunk traps. Just look! the picture (click to enlarge) shows a short stretch of pavement with at least a dozen obstacles over which, or even into which, an unwary imbiber might fall. All this in a university town!
I tell you, if I was an ambulance-chasing lawyer or some other variety of shyster I would be hanging about this area of a Friday or Saturday night just waiting for the inevitable tumble, followed by the yell of shock and then the drawn-out moan of agony, whereupon I would leap from the shadows and present my card, for there’s a fortune to be made here! And with an ‘assistant’, giving gentle ‘nudges’ . . .
On a lighter note, but staying with the topic of the immoderate consumption of alcohol, I am delighted to report that the shelter on the promenade, so badly damaged in the January storms, has been restored. Over the years, this noble and welcoming structure has provided a roof under which many a weary bon viveur has rested his head for the night, me included.
Last year I wrote a post called Neighbours From Hell, which was well received and is still getting lots of visits. (You’ll see it featured in the sidebar.) One of those I wrote about was Leanne Meredith, and her collection of aggressive dogs. So aggressive that a one-tonne bull these dogs attacked had to be put down. The latest news is that Ms Meredith, originally of Wimbledon, has done a runner, yet, since the attack, one of her dogs, an American bulldog, has been kept in “official kennels” – where the little darling has run up a bill of £24,000, which we shall pay! (Click on cutting to enlarge.)
Straying not far from the subject of English undesirables in Wales I am indebted to the ever-reliable BD for this tale of windfarm bribery and the privatised probation service.
As you may be aware, Pen y Cymoedd is the massive windfarm on the western side of the Heads of the Valleys. (Click on image to enlarge.) This grant-guzzling monstrosity and eyesore is being built by Swedish company Vattenfall which, as is the way in such ventures, is bribing the local communities with their own money. Among those applying for a slice of this faux largesse is the Wales Community Rehabilitation Company Ltd. As BD says, when he first saw the name he assumed it was a group to help seriously deprived communities in the area blighted by these monsters, villages such as Glyncorrwg and Blaenllechau; but no, it has little to do with such communities, and perhaps not a lot to do with Wales.
The one-page website tells us that the Wales Community Rehabilitation Company is a successor to the Wales Probation Trust and is a privatised Third Sector subsidiary of the Englandandwales Ministry of Justice. It is a private limited company, Incorporated on December 4, 2013 (Company Number: 08802571), and it clearly hopes to be funded by generosity from sources such as Vattenfall plus, we can be sure, the ‘Welsh’ Government. Welcome to the privatised probation service.
BD tells me that the directors are David Rees Evans, a retired banker, living in Colwyn Bay, who is on the North Wales Probation Circuit; retired group captain Neil Trevor Bale, who owns Cyfie Farm guesthouse on Efyrnwy, and is chairman of the Tourism Partnership of Mid Wales; Clare Elizabeth Roach, previously the HR manager at the Royal Voluntary Service, after a stint in HR with South Wales Police; Bernadette Elizabeth Ann Rijnenberg, who was also director of Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Support Services Limited; and Andrew James Skene Emmett, who resigned from the The Humberside, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company Limited, because ‘he moved to London’.
So we appear to have yet another ‘Welsh’ organisation that is mainly English in its composition. Given its business, and the colonial relationship between Wales and England, I believe we can confidently predict that many of its clients will have no previous connection with Wales. In which case, and yet again, ‘Welsh’ money, or money promised to ‘Welsh’ causes, will be used in the service of England.
But isn’t it a strange name for a service looking after ex-cons and offenders? You can understand why BD initially thought it was in the business of reinvigorating run-down communities. One to watch, I think.
Finally, how could I do an update post without a mention of ‘Bishop’ Nathan Lee Gill MEP!
It seems that I misunderstood the info I received about Gill’s Humvee with the big screen in the back. (Misunderstandings are almost inevitable when trying to communicate by text messages.) I assumed it was a big television screen inside the vehicle when, in reality, it was a 6ft x 5ft LCD advertising screen affixed to the rear. As shown in the picture (click to enlarge). This link will take you to some other pictures, including some of the man himself. You’ll also see that Humview Ltd, Gill’s short-lived company, seems to have been based in Pensans, Kernow. Which is very interesting, for it might answer a question that’s been puzzling me about Gill’s brother-in-law, Brian Lynn Quilter of Lledr House, Dolwyddelan.
The thing is, I have this e-mail (click to enlarge), sent from email@example.com, which can only be from Quilter. It seems to have been sent to either the London Gazette (which announces company liquidations) or the Official Receiver, possibly both. Quilter is American, married to Gill’s part-time cop sister. My guess is that he came over some twelve years ago. But the point is that, being married into Gill’s family, he would of course know Anglesey, possibly other parts of the north, and obviously the old Gill stamping ground of Hull and the adjacent area of Yorkshire. But Plymouth is quite a way from both, so how did Quilter get himself into business down there? (The business being the migrant housing racket.)
Well, given that we know now Gill was operating in Cornwall, then Plymouth’s not far away, just over the Tamar; and in many ways the ‘capital’ of Cornwall in much the same way that Liverpool is / was ‘the capital of north Wales’. Which then raises the obvious question, why was Gill himself in Cornwall? Was he running migrant housing scams down there, in Cornwall and south west England, as he was in Hull?
Returning to the e-mail, it’s dated March 15, 2010, so in its chronological sequence it comes just before the second (and final) Notification of Strike-off Action against Quilter Properties Ltd appeared in the London Gazette on April 23, 2010. So it could be part of a tidying-up exercise, even a confession – for Quilter is almost certainly talking in the e-mail of undeclared, (cash-in-hand) income – but it also raises one final question.
Given what we know about how HMRC has operated in recent years, and also given that HMRC was interested in Gill and his business associates, was a deal struck, in which Gill and Quilter paid off a nominal amount in order to get HMRC off their backs?
History has always been a passion of mine, and one era that fascinates me more than most is the so-called ‘Dark Ages’, that period covering the departure of the Romans and the German incursions. In the traditional interpretation of this period there is deliberate confusion about just who was living in England when the Anglo-Saxons arrived and, perhaps more importantly, what happened to them.
These elusive people are variously called ‘Celts’, ‘Britons’, ‘Romano-Britons’, ‘sub-Roman Britons’ or ‘Brythons’; the language they spoke can be ‘Celtic’, ‘Brythonic’ or ‘Brittonic’. They are never called what they really were – Welsh. (Obviously, this is not what they called themselves, which would have been something like Cumbrogi – from which Cumberland derives – developing into Cymry and thence Cymru.) To the German invaders our ancestors were waelisc; i.e, strangers . . . in their own country. In truth, the language they spoke was a form of early Welsh and would be understood by speakers of modern Welsh; but it must never be called Welsh, even though Anglo-Saxon, unintelligible to speakers of modern English, is now called ‘Early English’. This obfuscation explains the average English person’s sequential understanding of the period as: 1/ Celtic savages daubed in woad, 2/ Romans come and civilise Britain, 3/ Romans leave, 4/ Anglo-Saxons arrive. A seamless, and bloodless, transition from Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England.
There were almost certainly German warriors in Britain during the time of the empire, for hiring mercenaries, auxiliaries or foedorati was an accepted way of augmenting the regular army, and in the empire’s later years a majority of Roman forces may have consisted of Germans. With the withdrawal of the last Roman outposts (c. AD 410) Britain came under attack from the Irish and the Picts; the former sailing up the Severn Sea as far as the prosperous Cotswolds, and the latter raiding down the east coast as far as London. Undefended, and lacking any experience in tackling seaborne raids, the leaders of the Romano-Welsh followed the imperial example of recruiting mercenaries.
This arrangement held until the German mercenaries got greedy and, using the traditional pretext that they were underpaid, rebelled against their Romano-Welsh paymasters. This First Saxon Revolt of 442 did not start well for the Germans and could have resulted in their total defeat had they not received reinforcements from their homelands. This marked the start of the mass migrations that were to turn the Romano-Welsh lowlands into England. The next few decades saw intermittent warfare before the English suffered a crushing defeat at Mons Badonicus / Mount Badon (attributed to ‘Arthur’) some time around 518 resulting in a period of ‘containment’ and, according to Gildas, relative prosperity. But internal strife, plus two visitations of ‘Yellow Plague’, greatly weakened the Welsh and prompted the Second Saxon Revolt of the mid-sixth century, which largely swept away what remained of Romano-Welsh Britain.
WHERE DID ALL THE WELSH GO?
To answer that question let us remember that the centuries of European expansion and colonisation were often justified by arguing that the conquered territory was ‘backward’, or by claiming that ‘civilisation’, Christianity, even cricket, were being taken to benighted savages. But the Anglo-Saxon takeover of England always presented a somewhat different problem. This was because the fertile lowlands the invaders coveted were the most Romanised parts of the island, inhabited by a sophisticated and Christian population. Something else was needed.
For while butchering and enslaving the original inhabitants of Britain didn’t bother the Anglo-Saxons of the time, it did cause their descendants and apologists a bit of a headache. How to justify it? Answer: Right of Conquest, enshrined in international law until fairly recently. This sees sturdy, ale-swigging blonds initially defending a degenerate population that had lost the will to live once their Roman protectors left. Then, after being short-changed by these ingrates, our heroes take over the whole country. (Which was largely empty anyway.) The kind of propaganda found here, from which the panel above is taken. A good clean fight after which the defeated Welsh trooped off to Wales, Cornwall, Cumbria, Brittany and Galicia
This version, told by the English to themselves and the wider world, would have been uncontested if we Welsh had all been killed off, or assimilated, but we weren’t, and the alternative version was kept alive in Welsh folk memory, to regularly surface for a wider audience. Such as when Henry Tudor marched into England in 1485 to take the throne of England. Harri Tudur (as he was known to us) was accompanied by thousands of Welsh soldiers, many of whom saw the venture as a crusade to avenge the Night of the Long Knives (Brad y Cyllyll Hirion) and other massacres, and to reconquer England. The memory of this massacre of three hundred unarmed Romano-Welsh elders at a peace conference with the Germans was still remembered in the nineteenth century, and inspired the term Brad y Llyfrau Gleision (Treachery of the Blue Books) to describe the defamation of a whole culture. One outcome of the Blue Books was of course the imposition of an English educational system on Wales, one that had no intention of teaching Welsh children their own history.
So what did happen to the Welsh of lowland Britain? The truth is, as Gildas and other sources attest, a combination of genocide, expulsion / migration, and enslavement. (The real history that Time Team and other Anglo-Saxon propaganda glosses over or ignores completely.) In the video, Dr. Mark Thomas of University College London, goes as far as suggesting that the Welsh remaining in what had become England were kept as slaves and subject to a controlled breeding programme, which might explain the lack of Welsh DNA in the English population. (Perhaps even a form of apartheid.) Not a pretty picture, is it? Small wonder it’s been necessary to draw a veil over this chapter of English history. More than a mere chapter, the very genesis of England.
ENGLAND LOST, WALES THREATENED
The intervening centuries saw a struggle to avoid being completely over-run and wiped out by the English. Constant wars and further incidents of duplicity such as Cilmeri brought us to the glorious national rising of Owain Glyndwr (1400 – 1412). After that war thousands of Welsh fighting men left (many with their families) to join the armies of France, England and other countries. At the battle of Agincourt in 1415 there may have been more Welsh on the French side than on the English, and God knows there were enough fighting with Henry V to provide Shakespeare with material. As late as the 1630s the great English writer John Milton (Paradise Lost) could describe the Welsh as “An old, and haughty nation proud in arms”. The English still hated and despised us; partly because we were truculent, stroppy buggers, and partly because, by our very existence, we kept reminding them of how they’d stolen England from us. (For as someone once said, “You always hate those you have wronged”.)
Yet by the eighteenth century Wales had been pacified. We were still unmistakably Welsh, with virtually all of us speaking the language, but something had changed. The old fighting spirit had gone, we now seemed resigned to being second-class citizens in an exploitive and suffocating Union; more concerned with salvation than with Y Tiroedd Coll (The Lost Lands); happy to serve a new wave of Germans occupying ‘the throne of London’. The harsh conditions brought by industrialisation, and rural unrest, saw a brief revival of the old stroppiness, but we were no longer Welsh, we had become ‘labour’, and the enemy was not England, but ‘capital’. For those who still cared, the struggle now was to avoid the complete loss of our identity by pathetically trying to prove to our masters that a Welsh-speaking population could be utterly and unquestioningly loyal . . . not like those horrid Irish (Catholics). The English pretended to accept this while plotting to totally destroy Welsh culture and identity. (For our benefit, of course.) On the national stage, the domination of the chapels in the nineteenth century was succeeded in the twentieth century by that of the Labour Party, with neither having much interest in defending Welsh identity, and promoting Welsh interests, unless it could serve narrow party political interest.
THE ENEMY WITHIN
Today the English come not to split our children’s skulls and rape our women but with the modern equivalents of beads and bibles. In one town there is a story being played out that encapsulates modern Wales. Supermarket chain Tesco wants to build a new hyper-super-mega-store in Aberystwyth, next door to it will be Marks and Spencer. The citizens of Aber’ pack the chapels and churches to thank God for this munificence. The local councillors, freemasons and other forms of pond life calculate their back-handers. There’s just one problem . . . the car park site allocated isn’t quite big enough, nearby houses will need to be demolished. The owners of these houses have been bribed or intimidated into selling, but one refuses. Fifty-nine-year-old Enid Jones has, with great dignity, maintained that she likes living in her house, and wants to stay.
For this unconscionable impertinence she has been vilified by shits in suits, while in the town’s lodges fearful incantations are heard, and the local business community throws the killer dart by accusing her of that crime against which there is no defence – standing in the way of progress! Since when did building yet another fucking supermarket equate with human ‘progress’? Anyone wanting to understand the change that has taken place in the relationship between the Welsh and the English over 1,600 years could do a lot worse than consider the case of Enid Jones. For it tells us that the English have won a great victory by making large numbers of Welsh think like them, by evaluating things through an English-benefit prism. To the point where Welsh people take the side of a massive English company interested in Wales solely for profit. A company that short-changes Welsh farmers and producers, and that – given recent experience – will bring in English staff to its Aber’ store, while almost certainly putting Welsh shops out of business. But Tesco must be supported, for it is the bringer of Progress – hallelujah! – and to facilitate this incalculable benefit to the citizenry of Aber’ a Welshwoman must lose her home.
Due to the ascendancy of these ‘English-thinkers’ who fester and slither among us we face a struggle now to avoid being completely over-run. This could be Dorset or Lincolnshire in the mid-sixth century; the objective has remained constant, only the methodology has changed. In large parts of Wales we are again becoming waelisc, strangers in our own land. Today they can just walk in and dispossess us with their money, and their laws. Their royals and their aristocrats can claim what lies beneath our feet, above our heads, even the Welsh sea! They come with smiles, and lies about loving Wales, wanting to do the best for us . . . yet it’s always them that benefit.
The nation that once covered this land from Cornwall to the Clyde is now reduced to second-class status, and is slowly losing even its remaining pockets of territory. Unless we start fighting colonialism, and its English-thinking supporters among us, it will soon all be over, for this time there is nowhere else to go.
Last night’s Week In Week Out on BBC 1 Wales, presented by Tim Rogers, dealt with long term problems posed by erosion or sea encroachment around our coasts, and came with the stark warning that some communities will have to be abandonded, largely because the cost involved in holding back the sea greatly outweighs the value of what is being protected. (Here is a link to the BBC iPlayer version of the programme.)
One of the communities visited was Fairbourne, which is, like most of the others consigned to ‘managed retreat’, a somewhat artificial settlement, built on land reclaimed for the purposes of tourism and retirement. The Fairbourne Wikipedia page says it all: the area was previously known as Morfa Henddol (morfa = fen or sea marsh) and the outcrop on which today stands the Fairbourne Hotel was known as Ynysfaig (ynys = island). Clearly, our ancestors knew this land alongside the Mawddach estuary for what it was. (And will soon be again.)
Also investigated was that sinkhole for Welsh public funding, Rhyl. There we saw a couple who, to judge by the accents, came from the Birmingham conurbation, had been flooded out of their bungalow and were now living in a trailer home. Tim Rogers asked if anything had been mentioned about flooding when they purchased their property. “No, nothing”, was the reply. Which made me think to myself, ‘If I am a shifty developer or estate agent, selling properties I know are vulnerable to flooding – and almost always to people who don’t know the area – am I going to tell these prospective buyers that their dream home might one day be under six feet of water?’ Of course not. This is clearly a case of caveat emptor.
Down here, on our stretch of the coast, Tywyn’s new sea defences worked excellently . . . though there are some in Tywyn that will never admit this as they harbour an irrational hatred for Gwynedd council and all its works, because it’s a) too Welsh and b) run by the wrong party. They would rather gripe and snipe at everything the council does, however beneficial.
Speaking of gripers and snipers, I hear that part of Aberdyfi golf course has joined Neptune’s realm. Sad though this news may be, there can be no justification for spending Welsh public money to preserve what is a private and exclusive asset. Either the club itself pays for new sea defences or else Nature must be allowed to take its course (‘course’ – geddit!), leaving the Ukipistas to find another rendezvous. Further south, Borth and Aberystwyth also featured in Tim Rogers’ investigation. Now, obviously, Aberystwyth must be defended, but how strong is the case for Borth? It certainly seems that land just north of Borth – curiously enough, another golf course! – is to be surrendered.
Though the bigger picture here, especially when we remember the Towyn floods of 1990 and similar events, is that for a century and more we have allowed, even encouraged, the building of new properties on inadequately defended coastal plains and salt marsh, land on which building should never have been allowed. So why did this happen? The fundamental cause is tourism. Since the coming of the railways over 160 years ago English people have visited coastal Wales for their holidays, and this led to the growth of resorts where little or nothing had existed before the arrival of the iron horse. Many of those tourists wished to settle permanently, perhaps retire to, where they had enjoyed their holidays, so new homes were built for them . . . with the inevitable consequences.
If I owned a home in an area being ‘surrendered’ to the sea, I think I would be asking a few questions. Principally, ‘Why was planning permission granted for my property and others when the risk of flooding must have been known?’ Then, perhaps, ‘Do I have a justifiable claim for negligence or culpability against the body that granted planning permission’? (With this of course extending, particularly in the case of local authorities, to successor bodies.) For no matter what we may think of communities like Rhyl, Towyn and Fairbourne, the people suffering from flooding in such places are innocent victims and have, to all intents and purposes, been conned into buying the properties under threat.
So, in the hope of avoiding any repetition of such miseries, can the puppet show down Cardiff docks, and our local authorities, confirm that no more building will take place in areas that might in future be susceptible to coastal flooding or erosion? (This must also apply to trailer parks and other developments.) More, will these bodies also confirm that any outstanding planning approvals for dwellings in such areas will be revoked? And will the ‘Welsh’ Government also promise us that there will henceforth be a binding national presumption against building any more communities like Towyn and Fairbourne?
Oh, yes, something else that would be very welcome would be a promise from the Planning Inspectorate that in future it will not – in order to follow its over-arching policy of attracting English settlers to Wales – overrule planning bodies that turn down applications for housing in flood-prone areas.
UPDATE 12.03.14: I am indebted to the person who sent me a copy of this 1868 watercolour claiming to be a view across the Mawddach from Barmouth, showing where Fairbourne would eventually be built. You will note that there is nothing there apart from what looks like a temporary structure, perhaps a fisherman’s hut. Suggesting that the locals had better sense than to try to build anything permanent there. (Click to enlarge.)