Tourism or Survival; Wales Must Choose

My intention was to start winding down this blog, spend more time with my wife, grand-children, books, Malbec . . . but things keep cropping up. That said, it’s very unlikely I shall undertake major new investigations. Diolch yn fawr.

I had planned a Miscellany this week, but then realised that all but one of the items was on tourism. So I dropped that one item – about a bunch of good-lifers pretending to be local and demanding funding so they can live on Gower – and I’ve gone for a selection of pieces on tourism.

FERODO / ‘AWEL Y FENAI’

It seems like a different world when a small town like Caernarfon could have a factory employing over 1,000 people, but it wasn’t so long ago. And there were other employers in our smaller towns.

In the south west there were big creameries making use of the locally-produced milk. These creameries closed and nowadays that milk is shipped over the border, providing thousands of jobs in England.

As an example of colonialist exploitation it’s on a par with Cuban tobacco leaf being shipped ‘home’ to Spain to be made into ‘Cuban’ cigars.

But I digress.

After a change of ownership and name, labour disputes, and other problems, the old Ferodo factory eventually closed for good some twenty years ago.

The Ferodo plant in its hey-day. Click to open in separate tab.

New plans for the site were announced just over 2 years ago, and you can catch up with my article here (scroll down) before pushing on to get up to speed with the latest news.

A number of sources have kept me updated, so let’s see what they have to report.

And where better to begin than by looking at the planning application, which is for:

 'Development of a holiday and leisure park to include 173 holiday lodges; 51 new-build holiday apartments; change of use of building to 4 holiday apartments; a leisure hub building; re-configuration and renovation of industrial units; provision of a private water treatment plant; and, associated car parking, landscaping, access and internal access roads.'

We can also see that the plan covers not only the old Ferodo site but also Plas Brereton. And if that sounds familiar, then it’s probably because Paul and Rowena Williams of Plas Glynllifon fame were talking of buying the place.

Go on, you know you want to – take a trip down Memory Lane.

Just over a week ago the developer, Mr Peter Brendan Gerrard O’Dowd, was promising untold benefits to the area from his Gwel y Fenai project. But planners seemed unconvinced, on a number of issues, including the impact on the Welsh language.

Speaking for Mr O’Dowd, agent Rhys Davies, of Cadnant Planning, promised the site would have bilingual signage. Wow!

Though, in fairness, planners had many more reservations about this project than just language impact. Which explains why it was rejected by councillors on Monday.

Though you’ll see from the report that a number of councillors spoke up in support of the project, or else urged planners to continue discussions with Mr O’Dowd. I fear that some councillors in Gwynedd have reached a point where they genuinely believe that low pay, low skill, tourism jobs are the best our people can – or should – aspire to.

I hope I’m wrong.

Another source, who worked at Ferodo, reminds me that one reason the site has lain empty for so long is the asbestos. Either still in situ, or else in the sealed tip on site. Though this source sees no real problem with building on adequately sealed asbestos tips:

'With a cover of several feet depth of inert material and soil, mobile homes or lodges could safely stand on top of the tip as no noxious gases would be generated by the buried material.'

This source’s concerns focus on where the money for the investment is coming from. So let’s give this some thought.

O’Dowd is a property speculator. If we look at his Maybrook company we see assets of over £11m pounds. Which looks fine. But most of the £11m is accounted for by property he’s bought with loans. The rest could be explained by overvaluing that property.

The 11 loans taken out before December 2017 have all been repaid. Most of these loans were with banks you and I would recognise. Since then, there have been 7 further loans, but none after October 2018. And these loans are with less recognisable institutions.

The two most recent loans were taken out with Together Commercial Finance of Manchester, who got in so deep and lost so much with Paul and Rowena Williams. You may remember that Together also funded the purchase of Llangefni Shire Hall.

In fact, Together has appeared on this blog a number of times, invariably associated with rather iffy companies and individuals. It’s a lender of last resort, where you go when banks turn you down.

In fact, Together may be worthy of investigation itself.

The suggestion is that Mr O’Dowd is over-reaching himself with this £70m+ project, because it’s impossible to see where the money will come from.

To progress this project, Bryn Coch Ltd was formed. As far as I can see, all the shares are owned by O’Dowd’s other company, Maybrook Investments Ltd. Bryn Coch’s only asset appears to be the Ferodo site, for which it paid 195,000 + VAT.

(But not all the site is owned by Bryn Coch Ltd. Go to the plan on the title document I’ve just linked to and you’ll see that part of the site is covered by title number WA965076. Here is the relevant title document.)

Click to open in separate tab

Yet in the latest accounts, Mr O’Dowd values that land at £5.4m. And it might be worth that, with planning permission. But it doesn’t have planning permission, and without it that land is worth no more than the £195,000 + VAT that was paid for it.

Maybe less.

I suspect Mr O’Dowd may not be alone in this venture. There may be associates yet to be identified. Until we know the full story, planning permission should be rejected. And even if the project does become more transparent, the planners’ objections remain valid.

And those objections will not be overcome by the magnanimous gesture of bilingual signs in a town where 85% of the population speaks Welsh.

Before moving on, I just want to touch on Mr O’Dowd’s new companies, and his other holdings in Gwynedd.

Maybrook Investments Ltd has two holdings on Penamser Road in Porthmadog. (The Pwllheli road.) Title numbers CYM135945, CYM255694. One is the old Gelert outdoor clothing unit, the other, nearby land.

Then, through new company, Lendline (NW) Ltd, Peter O’Dowd owns Parciau Farm – or part of it – which lies just across the A487 from the old Ferodo site. Lendline is owned by Maybrook Investments.

Finally, moving to Bangor, we find that another new company, Maybrook Investments (Parc Menai) Ltd, owns land either side of Penrhos Road, close by the A487, and not far from the A55 Expressway.

Land in two parcels: one to the south west of Graig House, Capel y Graig, title number WA533768; and the other to the west of Nant y Mount, Vaynol Park, title number CYM71442.

I can’t help wondering what has attracted Peter O’Dowd to Gwynedd. And why he’s bought the land he’s bought. Does he know something we don’t?

Or someone?

CARRY ON GLAMPING

There was a Twitter dispute last week with the owners of a new glamping venture near Pwllheli. I got roped in and found myself blocked by the proprietors of Brook Cottage Shepherd Huts.

As you might have guessed, the spat was over that toe-curlingly twee English name.

Also, that the venture got a £50,000 loan from the Development Bank of Wales. I mean, Wales doesn’t already have enough glamping sites? Those involved couldn’t have raised the money they needed from Barclays or some other bank?

The two behind this exciting venture are Jonathan Gooders and Mark Barrow, who were previously in the fine arts business according to this piece from NorthWalesLive. Their ignorance of Wales would seem to be exposed by their belief that Welsh shepherds lived in glamping sheds.

Click to open in separate tab

The company involved in this exciting venture at Y Ffor is Brook Cottage Holidays Ltd, formed just over a year ago. The two directors and shareholders are, as we would expect, Gooders and Barrow. On the Certificate of Incorporation both describe themselves defiantly as ‘English’.

I mention this because most people use ‘British’. I would obviously describe myself as ‘Welsh’, but it’s often the Ukip types who go with ‘English’.

But this is not their first company.

Let’s go back to what I wrote earlier, and the quote in NorthWalesLive, that said:

'Jonathan Gooders and Mark Barrow both have a background in fine art and wanted to put this and a passion for nature into redeveloping land near their new home at Y Ffor, near Pwllheli.'

But that’s not the full story. There are other recent companies that have nothing to do with ‘fine art’.

Certainly, Gooders and Barrow ran a company called Framers (London) Ltd, and Barrow may even have had a small gallery. Though Mark Barrow Fine Art (formerly Modern British Artists) seems to have folded. Certainly, the Twitter account hasn’t been used for a few years.

What really interests me is that Jonathan Gooders has been involved in a number of companies that have nothing to do with fine art, and all of which were dissolved around the time they moved to Wales. Three on the same day!

Barrow was also involved in at least one. Here they are:

Doesn’t inspire confidence does it?

This glittering business record might explain why Jonathan Gooders and Mark Barrow couldn’t get a loan from a ‘High Street’ bank. (Remember them?) It should also have been the reason why the Development Bank of Wales turned them down.

So I just hope that the £50,000 of our money is safe. But even if it is, don’t expect it to create any jobs.

But rest easy – for they have a wealth of experience in tourism and glamping.

TOURISM MAKING LIFE DIFFICULT FOR LOCALS

Now it’s time to move south, to Carmarthenshire, land of my great-grandfathers. And to be precise, to Cydweli (Kidwelly), which lies between the county’s two metropolises of Carmarthen and Llanelli.

An interesting town in many ways. Let me explain.

Something I’ve noticed over the past 50 years or so is that in rural areas the Labour Party is now almost entirely dependent for members and active supporters on people who’ve moved in. Invariably from England.

An example would be the we-know-best harridans trying to take over Knighton in Powys and dictate to everyone else.

Which might make Cydweli the most westerly community in Wales where the Labour Party is still native-run, just. But even here, in recent years the thinning ranks have been swelled by an influx of Guardian-reading know-alls who feel Cydweli can’t manage without their input.

Back to the narrative.

Earlier, when discussing plans for the old Ferodo site in Caernarfon, I suggested that some councillors may have given up on their communities seeing any jobs better than those provided by tourism. And that’s what might have happened in Cydweli.

For the Labour gang controlling Kidwelly Community Hub CIC has been handed £270,000 by the ‘Welsh Government’ for the ‘Black Cat Tourism Strategy’.

This seeks to ‘grow the visitor economy’ – at any price.

The no-expense-spared launch of Kidwelly’s Black Cat tourism strategy. Click to open in separate tab

The Black Cat project lead is Suki Baynton, who recently arrived from the Cynon Valley, where I’m told she was Contaminated Land Officer for Rhondda Cynon Taf council. She was certainly Property Manager for Ashfield Solutions for a while.

We see Suki in the above picture, on the right, in the red coat.

Suki has also launched her own company, Room Publishing Ltd. The website tells me it’s a load of New Age bollocks; but then, I’m a cynical old bastard who grew up in the real world.

Back to Cydweli, and the growing problems being experienced by locals as the county council and others seek to ‘grow the visitor economy’. (Why not just be honest and say, ‘We want lots more tourists’?)

For, clearly, tourists visiting the holiday homes and the Airbnb rents in this rather cramped old town are going to cause parking and other problems. Sure enough, this is what’s happening, and it’s pissing off the locals.

As my source puts it – ‘This is what happens when a Plaid Cymru council (Carmarthenshire) prioritises tourism and starts closing Welsh medium schools in surrounding villages.’

To help you make sense of what else he has to say I suggest you open this Google map of the town. Now read on . . .

'THE CASTLE AREA

There’s a cluster of holiday rentals inside the town walls of Bailey Street and Castle Street and Cadw have installed a barrier stopping parking to the little car park next to the castle. 
This has resulted in lots of tourist parking on New Street, the main through road. Residents, when they arrive home from work, are finding the free parking outside their homes occupied by visitors (sometimes with trailers of kayaks and jet-skis). So residents have been parking of the pavements and double yellows causing obstruction or getting parking tickets.

GLANYRAFON

There is a free car park at Glanyrafon (the overflow) which has been used by residents for many years. Now there is a plan to build a new grant funded museum next to it, on the nature reserve. This is the ‘History Shed’ relocated from Laugharne, a kind of WW2 Spitfires and gas masks hobby attraction. 
The adjacent car park, which has been free to residents, will now be paid parking, reserved for visitors. Residents of Bridge Street and New Street will lose their free parking.

PARC PENDRE

Carmarthenshire Country Council intends to close two schools. Ysgol Gymraeg Gwenllian in Station Road within the town and also Ysgol Gymraeg Mynyddygarreg in the nearby village (where children from Trimsaran also attend). It is to be replaced by a new consolidated school at Parc Pendre within the town behind the Coop. 
It’s anticipated there will be parking chaos due to the school run. Parents dropping off the kids to attend school arriving by car from further up the Gwendraeth valleys. This was anticipated in the plans and is to be mitigated with ‘enhanced parking controls.’ 
This involves new double yellows in Parc Pendre and a residential parking scheme in surrounding streets. Residents will be charged £30pa for a permit.'

Without recourse to a crystal ball, tea leaves, or seaweed (great-aunt Fastidia’s favourite), I can confidently predict Cydweli’s future . . . properties will be bought up by ‘investors’, coming from that enchanted land, ‘Away’, at prices few locals can afford.

This will result in the town losing its Welsh identity, the age profile will change for the worse, the rugby club will close, one or two pubs, and, as I can testify from my area, there’ll be no need for the new school – because there’ll be so few kids living locally.

And all this will have been achieved by ‘growing the visitor economy’!

Jobs! Did I mention jobs? No, because there won’t be any, this is ‘Welsh’ tourism.

UPDATE 26.11.2021: My source has now heard from Carmarthenshire County Council Highways Officer that –

All permanent residents in Cydweli will be charged £30 per household for a parking permit. All properties will be eligible to apply for a permit to park, even those with existing off-street parking and all properties run as holiday homes, self-catering lets, AirB&B will all be able to apply for a business permit for their guests. HMRC documents such as a tax code in England will be acceptable documentation for a permit.

BEWARE OF SMOKESCREENS AND VIRTUE SIGNALLING

Not long ago, in a wonderful example of those who are unaffected by the decisions they take affecting the lives of Welsh people, the ‘progressive’ consensus in Corruption Bay – i.e. Labour and Plaid Cymru – abolished Right to Buy.

In the village where I live most of the council houses had been bought by their Welsh tenants. Without the option of RtB most of them had little hope of buying a property in their own community. And it’s the same in other villages in the area. With Aberdyfi being the stand-out example.

The reason for that is outsiders snapping up properties; some for holiday homes, others because people want to move here permanently. With many more of the latter than the former.

Yet a bunch of virtue signallers see nothing wrong in depriving Welsh working class people of their only hope of owning a property in their home community. Perhaps they believe the lower orders must be cared for, and dictated to, as if they were children, by those who have sipped at the fount of socialist knowledge.

There were so many other options the leftists could have adopted that would not have disadvantaged our people, but they weren’t prepared to consider them.

And now those ‘progressives’ are in some kind of informal coalition down in the swamp. Which is more nonsense; for despite periodic bouts of foot-stamping from Plaid Cymru they’ve always been in alliance. Nobody was ever fooled.

One of the problems this repulsive mob of mediocrities pledges to confront is that of Welsh people being forced out of their communities by rising house prices. Now I’m a firm believer that to confront and deal with any issue one must first understand it.

Unfortunately, there are those among us, supported by influences external to Wales, who wish to misinterpret the crisis in our rural and coastal areas.

Click to open in separate tab

Canary is a left wing English publication, fighting what can no longer be called class war because the working class has been alienated by the modern left’s obsessions with gender, race and climate.

It’s no longer even ideological. It’s a kind of cult-like belief in certain absurdities, as we saw when Undod (mentioned in the panel above) and its allies sought to take over Yes Cymru earlier this year.

The left wants to view the crisis in rural and coastal Wales as some fault of the capitalist system; as part of a bigger, UK-wide, ‘housing crisis’. Without ever addressing the influx of good-lifers, retirees and the rest.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Jennie Bibbings works for Shelter Cymru. This is one of the forty-odd ‘homelessness’ outfits funded with our money by the so-called ‘Welsh Government’. Done for no better reason than to employ otherwise unemployable Labour-supporting graduates and drop-outs from our oversized universities.

Click to open in separate tab.

If Jennie Bibbings genuinely believes that our rural and coastal areas would still have a housing problem without ‘2nd homers/saes’, then she’s a fool. But she doesn’t believe that. She’s merely spouting the leftist line.

Which believes that only nationalists care about the destruction of Welsh communities. And because ‘All nationalism is evil’ the only acceptable response is to either ignore such concerns entirely or else subsume them into something bigger that can more comfortably be supported.

So I urge you to be on your guard for attempts to cloud the issue and misrepresent the crisis facing us. These attempts will come from the socialist consensus in Corruption Bay and its ideological soul-mates elsewhere in Wales, and outside of Wales.

‘TOURISM, TOURISM, WHAT BULLSHIT IS SPOUTED IN THY NAME’

Some forty years ago, not long after the start of the Meibion Glyndŵr campaign, I was watching a television programme in which the late Prys Edwards, then head of the Wales Tourist Board, was being interviewed and the subject of holiday homes came up.

Edwards seemed almost offended and asked, ‘You surely aren’t suggesting that holiday homes have anything to do with tourism?’ The interviewer let him get away with it and the discussion moved on.

Prys Edwards. Click to open in separate tab

I use that example because it’s symptomatic of attitudes in Wales, the dissociative thinking that results in us being unable to honestly identify the problems facing us, and, as a result, solving them.

Despite what Prys Edwards wanted us to believe, holiday homes are an inevitable consequence of tourism. The clue is in the name.

I have yet to meet anyone who has bought a holiday home in an area with which they did not already have some familiarity from having taken holidays there. Have you?

And yet, as I’ve already said, I suspect that holiday homes will be used as a distraction from the bigger problem to which I have alluded. Which would be a terrible mistake, and a betrayal of our people.

For the problem of locals being priced out of the communities in which they were born and raised, and the anglicising of those communities, can not be resolved until we accept that permanent in-migration is a bigger factor than holiday homes.

This article in the Guardian last week, focusing on Llandudoch, was headlined, ‘Cultural genocide by bank transfer’. The words were those of veteran language campaigner Ffred Ffrancis.

Who also said, ‘ . . . the problem was being turbo-charged by the “flight” from cities caused by Covid’. A reference to people buying properties in Wales in order to work from ‘home’.

And he’s right. But the problem won’t go away with Covid-19.

We, as a nation, and more especially, Welsh speaking communities, are facing an existential threat to our existence. And it all stems from tourism.

Whether it’s the mass tourism that destroyed the Welshness of Abergele and Borth, or the more up-market tourism that is making us strangers from Rhossilli to Rhosneigr.

We are past the stage where consultations and working groups serve any useful purpose – these are just delaying tactics employed by a Vichy administration under orders from its masters in London. We need action. And we know what that action must be.

The ‘Welsh Government’ must introduce legislation that limits who can buy domestic property in Wales.

There can be no more words. No more dithering. No more obfuscation. No more passing the buck. Either the ‘Welsh Government’ acts, and acts quickly, or there’s a growing risk that others will.

Faced with cultural genocide, many will argue that any action will be justified.

♦ END ♦

 




Afan Valley Adventure Resort – here we go again!

My intention was to start winding down this blog, spend more time with my wife, grand-children, books, Malbec . . . but things keep cropping up. That said, it’s very unlikely I shall undertake major new investigations. Diolch yn fawr.

In keeping with the promise made above, this is an update to a story I was reporting on a few years back rather than a new investigation. I’m returning to it now because there have been significant developments.

MEMORY LANE

The plan to build a big adventure park in the Afan Valley, behind Port Talbot, complete with a hotel and lodges, offering ski slopes and cycle routes, was the brainchild of self-made con man Gavin Lee Woodhouse.

At one point, maggot-munching Bore Grylls was on board, but his enthusiasm cooled, perhaps when he realised the kind of  ‘businessman’ he’d got himself involved with.

But the ‘Welsh Government’ believed every word from Woodhouse, and in addition to offering him a £500,000 grant for his Caer Rhun hotel near Llanrwst, our tribunes were ready to throw more money at him in the Afan Valley.

Click to open in separate tab

Woodhouse’s empire came crashing down when investors in his properties – some of which were never built – persuaded the media to take an interest. Now, I believe, it’s in the hands of the Serious Fraud Office.

Woodhouse’s umbrella company was Northern Powerhouse Developments Ltd, but the company set up for the Afan Valley extravaganza was the imaginatively named Afan Valley Ltd.

If you click on the ‘Charges’ tab for Afan Valley you’ll see that there are two outstanding charges. One in the name of Clive Mishon, the other 360 Mi Ltd, a company owned by Mishon that is now in liquidation.

I’ve never been entirely sure where or how Mishon fits into the picture, but he was certainly on the ground before Woodhouse. We know that because in May 2013 he was a founding director of short-lived Afan Solar Ltd. Next, perhaps after learning the sun doesn’t shine all the time in Wales, he joined Afan Energy Ltd in April 2014.

Both are long since dissolved. Afan Energy, in which Mishon was a shareholder, was written off with debts of £596,391.

Though still in existence is Marcol Industrial (Afan Energy) LLP.

Let’s remind ourselves there are three land titles making up the area involved. All mentioned in the Administrator’s progress report for Afan Valley Ltd of August 20.

The first, WA519567, was bought by Afan Valley Ltd with a loan from Clive Mishon. CYM471819 was bought in the same manner. CYM60212 is owned by Clive Mishon.

The Administrator’s report suggests that Clive Mishon is an unsecured creditor and will get the money he loaned when the land is sold.

We must assume the land has been sold because of the press release put out last week by Neath Port Talbot Borough Council telling the world that the project was back on track under new management.

Though Mishon is still involved, perhaps because the project can’t proceed without the land he owns. Besides which, Mishon has associates, involved with companies registered in places that enjoy more sunshine than Wales.

NEW FACES, OLD FACES, MASKS AND DISGUISES

Having read the press release you’ll know that those who’ve taken over are said to be the Salamanca Group Ltd and Wildfox Resorts Afan Valley Ltd. Let’s start with Wildfox, where the two directors are Martin James Bellamy and Benjamin Daniel Lloyd.

The initial share issue was for 101 shares. One hundred held by Wildfox Resorts Group Ltd, formed March 16, 2021 (as Kikai Group Holdings Ltd), the other by Clive Mishon.

All 100 shares in Wildfox Resorts Group Ltd are held by Lloyd and significant control is exercised by his company, Caer Capital Ltd. Caer Capital was formed September 15.

Lloyd lives in Wales but uses as an address, 21 Ganton Street, Soho, London W1F 9BN.

Lloyd has been involved with a number of property and buy-to-rent companies since 2016, but it all looks small scale compared to what’s planned for the Afan Valley.

The main vehicle for Lloyd’s ambitions seem to be Project Three Developments Ltd, where he’s in partnership with Gareth Vaughan Morgan and Benjamin Peter Hugh Wells.

This company claims ‘tangible assets’ of some four million pounds, almost certainly property bought with loans from the Development Bank of Wales.

The most recent company is Wells Lloyd Ltd, formed as recently as June this year. Has this new company been cobbled together to cash in on the Afan Valley bonanza?

Strengthening the local connection is another Lloyd company, Kikai RGI Ltd, where the other director is Lewis Ashleigh Peach, who gives a Caerffili address. Most of the shares (70%) are held by Wildfox Resorts Group Ltd, with Peach holding the remainder through his Arete Group Holdings Ltd. Arete was formed March 16, 2021.

But is Lloyd really the man behind the revived Afan Valley project? He’s certainly not mentioned in the press release from Neath Port Talbot council.

Yet ownership of Wildfox Resorts Afan Valley Ltd, the company mentioned in the NPT press release, seems to trace back through Wildfox Resorts Group Ltd and Caer Capital Ltd to Benjamin Daniel Lloyd.

To give you some idea of the size of the project, here’s the plan submitted by Gavin Woodhouse’s Afan Valley Ltd with the planning application.

Click to open in separate tab

Now let’s turn to the Bellamy-Salamanca angle.

We find a host of Salamanca companies, all based at 3 Burlington Gardens in London’s Mayfair. The link between them is Martin James Bellamy.

An interesting name I keep seeing in connection with Salamanca is Lord David Triesman. A very wealthy man.

Another name shared by a number of companies is Rocksteady.

Where Lloyd crops up again as a director of Rocksteady Resorts Group Ltd of 21 Ganton Street, Soho. This company was formed on March 17, 2021, which is appropriate as another of the directors is Irishman Paul Christopher Baker. The third director is Martin James Bellamy. All shares are held by Rocksteady Group Ltd, formed March 16, 2021.

Another Rocksteady company was Rocksteady Resorts Ltd, launched March 11, 2020. Also interesting because the two directors were Baker and Peter Macandless Mundell Moore.

You see Moore in the group photo above. He was the expert brought in by Gavin Woodhouse to give his project credibility. Moore is invariably referred to in media reports as ‘the man who brought Center Parcs to the UK’.

Moore left Rocksteady Resorts March 9, this year, and the company was dissolved July 6.

The three directors at Rocksteady Group Ltd are Bellamy, Baker and Lloyd. The 200 shares are split equally between Set in Stone Holdings Ltd and CLLP Ltd. Both give London addresses.

One of the four CLLP directors is Hossam AlSaady, of Saudi Arabia(?). The others are Lloyd, Bellamy, and Anthony John Rowland. AlSaady runs Above Wealth LLP with Rowland. A company that helps the über rich find a home for their money.

Until 3 April, 2021, Set in Stone was using as its address, The White House, St. Mary’s Well, Bay Road, Swanbridge, Penarth CF64 5UJ. It files as a dormant company, showing just a single £1 share, presumably held by Paul Baker who was the only director until 17 March, 2021, when he was joined by Laura Lynn Baker, an American resident in Wales.

The shares in CLLP Ltd are held by MJB Capital (Lancelot Place) Ltd, 100 B shares; and Lancelot Developments Ltd, 325 A shares. All shares in MJB (Lancelot Place ) Ltd are held by MJB Capital Ltd. Lancelot Developments is controlled by Dr Chander Kanta Sabharwal and Dr Narinder Nath Sabharwal.

At MJB Capital, serving as directors, we find Bellamy and Ms Darina Kogan, a US lawyer now resident in England. Though she is Russian by birth.

This very recent item from the Daily Telegraph tells us that Mrs Bellamy – as we must now call her – is the daughter of Russian oligarch Valery Kogan.

So, I would guess that Martin Bellamy is, as reports tell, the driving force behind the revived Afan Valley project. Lloyd, Baker, et al make up the supporting cast.

Martin Bellamy

If nothing else, Bellamy knows billionaires who could easily finance the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. Among them, his business partner, and his father-in-law.

We are talking serious money here, and individuals with very powerful friends and allies, up to and including Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

SKATING ON THIN ICE

But there are other companies in the shadows. One being Afan Valley Resort Ltd, formed March 19, 2021. The two directors are Baker and Bellamy. The shares are all held by Rocksteady Resorts Group Ltd. The address is 21 Ganton Street, Soho.

There’s also Afan Valley Resort Management Ltd, Incorporated March 23, 2021. The two directors are, again, Baker and Bellamy. The single share is owned by Afan Valley Resort Ltd. Also using the Ganton Street address.

Another company bringing together Bellamy and Lloyd, and another company formed in March of this year, is Kogan Bellamy Lloyd Ltd.

It might be worth having a look at a couple of other companies Baker has been involved in, interesting for the American involvement, though also a bit worrying.

First, there’s E-Ventus Energy Ltd, with its registered address at the White House in Penarth. The other directors in this company were fellow Irishman John Connolly, who was resident in the USA, and US citizen John Spence, also resident in the USA.

The filed documents show an interesting story. The directors folded the company in February 2018, perhaps in an attempt to escape their debts. The creditors appealed to the High Court and the company was restored to the register. You don’t often see this kind of document; it’s worth reading.

The accounts for E-Ventus Energy are long overdue at Companies House. I wonder how much they owe?

Another strange company Baker was involved with was Deeside Hockey Ltd. The address given was 3rd Floor, 5 Temple Square, Temple Street, Liverpool, L2 5RH, but we can be fairly certain that the name referred to Deeside in Flintshire. In fact, there is a Deeside Dragons Ice Hockey Club playing in Queensferry.

Deeside Hockey was Incorporated August 5, 2015, first gazetted November 1, 2016, and finally dissolved January 17, 2017.

There were three directors at the start; Baker – resident in Wales – plus two resident in the USA, Wayne Gary James Scholes, and Trevor Damon Suelze. Baker pulled out September 14, 2015 and was replaced by American Collin Zito.

All the shares in Deeside Hockey Ltd were held by Red Hockey Ltd, since renamed Telford Ice Sports Ltd. And what a story we have here!

Launched in August, 2013 the first director was Scholes. Suelze joined in October. Baker joined in February, 2015. All using the Liverpool address.

Other directors came and went, and shares were issued, but this company was soon in trouble and eventually, after a lengthy process, it was dissolved in June this year.

The liquidator’s reports refer to ‘a number of questionable transactions’, and the company owed creditors almost half a million pounds.

In a Companies House Return of February 2015 we are told that all 1000 shares in (then) Red Hockey Ltd were owned by Really Epic Dog Ltd, operating out of the same Liverpool address with Scholes, Suelze, and Zito, as directors.

This company has creditors to whom it owes £4.9m. Most of this is explained by (allegedly?) transferring money between related companies run by the same directors.

At the same address were also Really Epic Dog Holdings Ltd, Really Epic Dog Publishing Ltd, and Gods knows how many other companies with no visible means of support.

So who are these Americans or US residents with whom Baker is associated? (For Suelze may be Canadian, and Scholes British.)

From someone else who was briefly a director of Red Hockey Ltd, South African resident Servaas Hendrik Theron, we have an address: General Counsel, 5225 Wiley Post Way, Suite 150, Salt Lake City, Utah 84116.

Googling that address turned up Red Touch Media and Wayne Scholes. There’s even a Wikipedia entry. Collin Zito is Chief Operations Officer at Red Touch.

Red Touch Media is now Liverpool Digital Media Ltd. The latest accounts show a company heavily in debt.

TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF IT

We would appear to have a number of potential sources for the money to re-launch and complete the Afan Valley Adventure Resort.

Martin Bellamy has his business partner Lord Triesman, and his father-in-law Valery Kogan. Either of them could finance this project from their small change. But if one of them was funding this project why do we see such a supporting cast?

And why so many Afan Valley companies?

And let’s not forget the Saudi link provided by Hossam AlSaady. Or if not a link to Saudi Arabia, then to one or more partners of his Above Wealth LLP. One of which is Swiss fund managers Gottex.

Then, we have the intriguing connection, via Liverpool, with the USA and, more specifically, the state of Utah.

What are we to make of Scholes, Suelze, and Zito, and their involvement in Deeside Hockey, the liquidator’s reference to ‘questionable transactions’, the unpaid creditors, and the labyrinth of linked companies all owing each other money?

Given their forays into the leisure business I would be disappointed to learn that these people are in any way involved at Afan Valley.

The connection between them and the resurrected Afan Valley venture is of course the Irishman, Paul Christopher Baker.

Baker is very much a player now at Afan Valley.

We find him at Afan Valley Resort Ltd with Martin Bellamy. The duo are together again at Afan Valley Resort Management Ltd. The duet becomes a threesome when Lloyd joins them at Rocksteady Resorts Group Ltd. The three then do an encore at Rocksteady Group Ltd.

All four companies formed 16 – 23 March, 2021.

And let’s not forget dissolved Rocksteady Resorts Ltd, where we would have found Baker and Peter Moore. Formed in March 2020 and put down a year later, with the name carried on by others.

Though I was struck by one very curious Companies House filing for this company, which I reproduce below.

Click to open in separate tab

Was Paul Baker formerly known as Paul Morris, and did he change his name? Or did whoever registered the company with Companies House not know Baker’s name?

Whatever the answer, the name given on the company’s Certificate of Incorporation is definitely Paul Christopher Morris.

Baker’s association with the Utah Scousers and their Deeside Hockey, plus his role with E-Ventus, the company the High Court restored, might suggest he has a somewhat ‘cavalier’ attitude to business.

But what about the boys from round by ‘ere, like?

Well, Benjamin Lloyd’s Wildfox Resorts Afan Valley Ltd may be the real deal and his route to fame and fortune. Or it may be just a distraction.

His mate, Lewis Peach, is the other director of Kikai RGI Ltd. (Another company formed in March, 2021.) But a few years ago Peach was running a gym in Caerffili.

In the Caerphilly Business Forum Awards for 2017 we read: ‘Entrepreneur of the Year – sponsored by Coleg y Cymoedd: Lewis Peach – Peak Performance Fitness Solutions.’ (Did you know we have no word in Welsh for the English term entrepreneur?)

But Lewis is a Renaissance Man, cos when he’s not pumping iron we find him at Pure Structured Finance. This company was formed in December 2019, and according to Companies House its address is opposite McDonald’s in Llanishen. Yet the website I just linked to says it operates out of 3 Burlington Gardens, London, W1S 3EP.

And if that address sounds familiar then that’s because it’s where we find Martin Bellamy’s Salamanca empire.

Wheels within wheels. So many connections. Pathways and dead-ends. No wonder old Jac is getting quite dizzy – and alcohol plays no part. Honest!

A FEW QUESTIONS WITH WHICH TO CONCLUDE

These questions are addressed to Neath Port Talbot Borough Council and the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ on behalf of those still interested in how Wales is mis-ruled.

  • Do you know who is really behind this revived project, and where the money is coming from?
  • Why do you think this project needs so many companies?
  • How would NPT Council and the ‘Welsh Government’ feel about the project funding coming from Russia or Saudi Arabia?
  • There are persons with questionable business records linked with the project. What are their roles?
  • Will those now behind the project follow the discredited Gavin Woodhouse model of selling shares in the lodges and the hotel rooms?
  • Have those behind the project requested grants from the ‘Welsh Government’, or loans from the Development Bank of Wales?
  • How much public money will be spent on infrastructure – roads, etc – for the Afan Valley Adventure Resort?
  • What measures will NPT Council and the ‘Welsh Government’ put in place to ensure that contracts are placed with local firms and the better jobs allocated to local people?
  • Given that the Afan Valley Adventure Resort will mean tens of thousands more cars travelling from England into Wales, and back, every year, how does this square with the ‘Welsh Government’s ambition for Wales to single-handedly save the planet?
  • Will there be an extra charge for chalets and hotel rooms offering uninterrupted views of the surrounding wind turbines?

Labour politicians in Neath Port Talbot and Corruption Bay may be desperate to claim more ‘investment’, but rest assured, boys and girls, I shall be keeping a jaundiced eye on the Afan Valley Adventure Resort.

Because I’m sure there’ll be more to tell you in the months ahead.

UPDATE 20.10.2021: The Western Mail published an article this morning that was clearly designed to boost the project and make it clear that those now involved had no connection with the misdeeds of Gavin Lee Woodhouse.

It further informed us that the funding is coming from ‘Octopus Real Estate’. But I doubt it. For this is a one-woman company formed in April to buy a property in Wiltshire.

Presumably it refers to one of these pension fund Limited Partnerships, Octopus Commercial Real Estate Debt Fund II and Octopus Commercial Real Estate Debt Fund III.

But which one?

♦ end ♦

 




Housing in Wales

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

The title tells you what this week’s article is about. I’m going to look at how the picture has changed in the past few years.

THE BIG PICTURE

Obviously, there are different types of housing, from mansions like Jac o’ the North Towers to more modest owner-occupied properties; then we have social rent properties, and properties rented from private landlords.

So let’s start by looking at how types of tenure have changed over the past two decades. (The year up to March 31, 2001 is the earliest I can find on the StatsWales website.)

The table I’ve drawn up is fairly self-explanatory. ‘Registered Social Landlord’ (RSL) is of course the official term for housing associations.

Click to enlarge

The headline figure is that there are 163,067 more dwellings or housing units in 2020 than there were in 2001. Though in the same period the population rose from 2,910,232 to 3,152,879, while the average household size fell from 2.36 to 2.26.

In fact, if we multiply the total number of housing units by the average household size we arrive at a figure of 3,248,901.42. Almost a hundred thousand more than the population estimate. But of course calculations are complicated by people living in care homes, prisons and other institutions. And then there are holiday homes. And properties that have just been abandoned, where it’s often difficult to track the owner.

So, all things considered – and without taking my socks off to do some really serious figuring! – we have roughly the same availability of housing in relation to demand as we had twenty years ago. Maybe things are worse.

Something else we can extract from the table is that in 2001 19% of Welsh properties were social rents, whereas the figure today is just 16%.

But perhaps the biggest change has been the doubling in the percentage of properties now rented from private landlords.

If current trends continue then very soon more people, more families, will rent from private landlords than from councils and housing associations combined. This of course is what the Conservatives want, but why is it happening in ‘progressive’ Wales?

SOCIAL HOUSING

In 2001 we had 242,853 units of social housing. By 2020 this had fallen to 229,902, a decrease of 12,951. Found in this table.

Partly explained by 34,829 units being sold in this period under the Right to Buy legislation introduced in 1980 by the first Thatcher government, with this later supplemented by Right to Acquire.

Though offset by the building of 21,878 social rented housing units in the same period. Just over 1,000 a year.

Right to Acquire is Englandandwales legislation introduced by the Blair government and in operation from 18 January, 2005. Explained more fully here.

Click to enlarge

At this point I should tell you that not all sales of social housing are accounted for by Right to Buy and Right to Acquire because this table tells us there have also been sales of “non-social housing”. Though I don’t understand why the figure for this category is only shown from 2013 – 2014. Though there’s certainly been a steady increase since then.

Building just over one thousand social housing units a year must be considered a failure after two decades of socialist administrations in Cardiff Bay. Especially when we remember that in 1979 – 1980 (immediately before Right to Buy was introduced) Welsh local authorities built 3,322 new council homes. (RSLs built a further 377.)

And a thousand a year looks even less impressive when we remember that in the period of devolution a couple of billion pounds in capital grant funding has been given to an ever-expanding galaxy of housing associations.

In the past five years alone, £574 million pounds of Social Housing Grant (SHG) has been paid to housing associations. Wales & West, Labour’s favourite, has seen £61m of it.

SHG is not the only capital grant paid. There’s also the Housing Finance Grant.

I’ve drawn up a table for SHG payments you can view by clicking here. It’s quite a big table, so please have patience.

(I should add that while the bottom line is correct I can’t vouch for every figure in every column. I may have made a mistake or two in transcribing them. So here are the figures I received.)

While the amount paid in SHG from 2015 – 2016 to 2019 – 2020 was 20% more than for the previous five years the stock of social rented housing increased in the same period by less than 2%.

We know that housing association executives like to pay themselves big salaries, and drive fancy company cars . . . shiny new offices are a must . . . and how can they miss out on all the conferences and other jollies, but these could never account for the increasing gulf between funding received and social housing built.

Something else must be going on.

If nothing else, Wales is following England in providing less social rented housing. So much for Rhodri Morgan’s, “clear red water”. So much for, “Welsh solutions for Welsh problems”.

Click to enlarge

The Tories came to power in 2010, and that’s when the decline started. Clearly, the Labour management team in Corruption Bay is following Conservative directives when it comes to social rented housing.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

If we take the period 2014 – 2015 to 2019 – 2020 we see that it covers important changes in the way RSLs are regulated, and also how they operate.

I’m sure most people didn’t notice, but in the past five years Welsh housing associations were originally private bodies, were then made public, before being privatised again.

It was the Office for National Statistics that decided they should be public bodies due to the amount of public funding they were receiving. Plus the political involvement. But making them public bodies transferred their debts to the public ledger and so the parliaments in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff quickly privatised them again.

It’s explained clearly and succinctly in the article below from Inside Housing, just click on it to make it readable. (Here’s a link to the original article.)

I bet you’re thinking . . . ‘If housing associations are now private companies, why are they still getting lashings of public funding?’ Funding that, as we’ve seen, has greatly increased since they were ‘re-privatised’!

The answer is that they’ve branched out into building private housing.

To such an extent that, in addition to the public funding, our housing associations are also taking out private loans with various financial institutions.

Here’s a report from May of United Welsh of Caerphilly, which has just 6,000 properties, borrowing £50m from Scottish Widows.

In July we learnt Coastal Housing Group of Swansea had entered into a £250m ‘refinancing’ deal with Aviva Investors.

In August, Cadwyn Housing Association of Cardiff did a deal with Westbourne Capital Partners of Chicago.

And other housing associations have done similar deals with organisations much sharper than them in the ways of the financial world. I do hope they’ve read the small print.

Though I suppose the only real collateral housing associations have is their housing stock. If they default, does this mean that Welsh social housing stock gets taken over by lenders? Or will the ‘Welsh Government’ step in with yet more money?

Talking of the ‘Welsh Government’, if RSLs need money for investment, why can’t they go to the Development Bank of Wales (DBW), which is already lending to other builders, many from over the border?

So let’s recap. Housing associations, now private bodies, still receive increasing amounts of public funding. Yet they also enter into arrangements with financial institutions around the world. And let’s not forget that the other major source of income – perhaps the major source – is rents from the housing stock they own. Most of which came free as stock transfers from local authorities.

Another noteworthy feature in this period is that most if not all of our housing associations have set up subsidiary companies, or companies that are not subsidiaries but still part of the group.

SUBSIDIARIES, PARTNERS, PRIVATE HOUSING

An example would be the relationship between Ateb (formerly Pembrokeshire Housing Association) and Mill Bay Homes Ltd (MBH). The latter, despite being a separate company, is a “wholly controlled subsidiary company of Ateb Group Ltd”.

The arrangement is that MBH builds and sells market properties and the profits go to parent company Ateb to build social housing or ‘affordable homes’. Which might be fine if Mill Bay Homes had its own money . . . but it hasn’t, it relies on loans from Ateb.

Which means that the ‘Welsh Government’ funds a RSL to build social housing but the money in fact goes to a subsidiary to build open market homes (that most locals may not be able to afford) with a fraction of the original money returning to the parent company.

What is the point of such a system?

While Mill Bay Homes is a company registered with Companies House the Ateb Group is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority.

As we’ve seen with other housing associations, the Ateb Group has also borrowed money recently. Last month from the Principality Building Society. Back in July it was a loan of £18m from bLEND Funding PLC.

Officially, a cash security trust deed.

Click to enlarge

Eighteen bloody million! How much does a relatively small, rural housing association need? It’s already getting money from the ‘Welsh Government’, and seems to have stopped providing social rented housing.

A visit to the Ateb Group website turns up what you see below. Quite clearly, Ateb is now a private house builder with social rented accommodation an afterthought.

Click to enlarge

Click on ‘homes for sale’ and you of course get taken to the Mill Bay Homes website.

And there seem to be some rum doings between the two.

I am indebted to Wynne Jones in Cardigan for these documents from the Land Registry website (from which I have redacted a few names in the second).

A property on this development in Cilgerran (Ceredigion) was built by MBH, with money borrowed from Ateb, then sold to Ateb for £164,950 in October 2019; the following month Ateb sold a 125-year lease on the property for £57,733.

What business model is this?

Mill Bay Homes makes no secret of the fact that it’s punting for retirees and ‘investors’. The latter category will include Buy-to-Rent landlords, and whaddya know – one of the new Cilgerran properties is already being advertised for rent.

Plot 3 at Maes Rheithordy, Cilgerran, is being rented for £670 per calendar month through Jac y Do Letting of Blaenporth.

A similar arrangement to that between Ateb and Mill Bay Homes exists in Gwynedd between Adra (formerly Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd), which took over Gwynedd council’s housing stock some ten years ago, and its subsidiary, Medra Cyf.

A few days ago Adra put out this puff about building 1,200 new homes across ‘North Wales’. The “housing crisis” referred to is perhaps the lack of housing for commuters in the A55 corridor.

Click to enlarge

The subsidiary that will be doing much of the building is Medra . . . with a loan from Adra.

This loan between a Welsh RSL and its subsidiary was arranged by London law firm Trowers & Hamlins. I’ve seen that name in other loans I’ve looked at. Are there no lawyers in Wales?

Of course there are, so who’s directing them to that company?

Also worth highlighting from recent years, in addition to the proliferation of subsidiaries, is the strange partnerships we see being forged.

For an example of this we stay in the north, with Cartrefi Conwy, based in Abergele.

I’ve written about this lot a few times. Below you’ll read what I had to say earlier this year, in Housing Associations, a broken model. The Byzantine network of ‘partners’ also throws up a mystery investor.

“Cartrefi Conwy set up a subsidiary in 2015 called Creating Enterprise CIC (Community Interest Company). Then, in May 2018, Creating Enterprise went into partnership with Brenig Developments Ltd to form Calon Homes. (Assets at 31 May 2019 £37,853.)

From the Creating Enterprise CIC accounts for y/e 31 March 2019. Click to enlarge

As I wrote back in November: “There is a charge against Calon Homes LLP held by Creating Enterprise CIC, which in turn has a charge held by Cartrefi Conwy. Which means that, ultimately, housing association Cartrefi Conwy is in partnership with private company Brenig Developments.”

When we look at the directors for Brenig Developments Ltd we find Mark Timothy Parry and Howard Rhys Vaughan. Both are also directors of Brenig Homes Ltd.”

Another horse out of the Brenig stable is Brenig Construction Ltd. Just another local building firm, run by local people . . . so impeccably local in fact that it could have come from League of Gentlemen.

But then, in December last year, a new director joined, a man who might have been taking his life in his hands if he’d turned up in the Royston Vasey shop.

I’m referring now to Yin Han, a Chinese businessman, presumably bringing a lot of yuan. For when I say Chinese businessman I do not mean that he hails from Hong Kong or Taiwan. Yin Han is a resident and citizen of the People’s Republic of China.

How did Yin Han and Brenig Construction find each other? What do we know about him? I guarantee he did not get involved with Brenig Construction without permission from back home. And that means the Communist Party.

These subsidiaries and partners, together with the loans and investment, are needed to build private housing for sale on the open market.

But housing associations are now private entities, so why do they need subsidiaries and partners to build open market housing? Surely they could do it in their own names?

Of course they could, but that would make it too obvious and probably jeopardise the public funding. So we have this charade of public money for social housing being given to RSLs and then filtered through intermediaries to build private housing.

And the ‘Welsh Government’ is a willing party to this deception.

‘AFFORDABLE HOUSING’

As a student of history, I’ve always loved Palmerston’s quote: “Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business – the Prince Consort, who is dead – a German professor, who has gone mad – and I, who have forgotten all about it.”

It comes to mind when I see the term ‘affordable housing’. Because there’s a great deal of confusion as to what it means.

It’s important to get a definition because it’s what RSLs now claim to be building, and what the so-called ‘Welsh Government’ is funding.

Is the ‘Welsh Government’ really proud of these figures? And ‘Rent to own’ in fact offers people a share of a lease! Click to enlarge

When I contacted the ‘Welsh Government’ I was referred to a publication wherein was found . . .

“The concept of affordability is generally defined as the ability of households or potential households to purchase or rent property that satisfies the needs of the household without subsidy (further guidance is provided in the Local  Housing Market Assessment Guide) 7 This could be based on an assessment of the ratio of household income or earnings to the price of property to buy or rent available in the open market in the required local housing market area.”

Which is interesting, and for two reasons.

If the concept of affordability is based on what local people on local wages can afford, then why is ‘affordable housing’ not reserved for those same local people? I ask because all the term means in practice is that a few properties in a development are labelled ‘affordable’ – but still put on the open market.

And if a small number of properties in a development are classed as ‘affordable’ then it must follow that the majority of the properties are regarded as unaffordable to most locals. So why are we building so many properties – with public funding! – beyond the reach of most local buyers?

The woolly term ‘affordable housing’ is just a fig leaf for the ‘Welsh Government’ and RSLs to disguise the fact that very little social housing is being delivered.

We are encouraged to believe that ‘affordable housing’ is for local people, or that it means social rented properties. Wrong.

CONCLUSION

This system, as I’ve argued before, is broken. It is broken because it consumes vast amounts of Welsh public funding for little or no Welsh public benefit.

Another cause for concern is that just as many third sector bodies are agencies of the Labour Party a similar picture emerges with housing associations.

In fact, housing associations and third sector bodies operate hand in glove, with the former housing the disruptive ‘clients’ of the latter, many of whom have been shipped into Wales. It’s collaboration like this that contributes to the problems we’ve looked at in Tyisha, Llanelli.

‘Welsh’ Labour’s little empire; stuffed with cronies and others dependent on political patronage and public handouts.

Take Wales & West, which I’ve referred to as Labour’s favourite. The CEO is Anne Hinchey, whose hubby Graham is a Labour Councillor in Cardiff. This explains why Wales & West has pulled down £100m in Social Housing Grant alone in the past decade.

And yet, let us remember that the reason the Office for National Statistics decided to put housing associations into the public sector was because there was so much governmental control!

As the June 2018 article from Inside Housing I reproduced above put it,

“In a letter to the Welsh Government sent yesterday, the ONS left open the possibility to reclassify individual associations as public should the level of state control increase.”

A strong case could be made for reclassifying a number of Welsh housing associations. Certainly Wales & West.

Where do we go from here?

I suggest that it starts with making it clear we do not want housing associations to build properties for sale to Home Counties retirees in Pembrokeshire, or to Manchester commuters in Denbighshire.

The sole duty of Welsh housing associations must be to deliver homes to Welsh people at sales prices or rents WE can afford.

If they are unable or unwilling to fulfil that role then I believe we should let our local councils provide social rented housing. Ensure they are well enough funded to provide decent accommodation to any and all local people wanting it. And make strong local connections the over-riding consideration in allocating those properties.

Then cut all funding to housing associations, which are, after all, private companies. Let them borrow from private lenders – as they are already doing – and cease being a burden on the public purse.

Whatever is decided, the present system is broken. Changes must be made. Even if you think this doesn’t affect you, just think what we could do with the money saved!

♦ end ♦

 

 




Development Bank of Wales

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 post began life as another Miscellany, a gathering of tit-bits. But one of the component pieces grew to the point where it just took over.

DEVELOPMENT BANK OF WALES

As the name suggests, the Development Bank of Wales exists to help Welsh businesses. Which is as it should be, though I’ve reported on a few cases over the years where loans should never have been made.

But there you go. Officialdom.

I support the DBW funding Welsh companies to set up, to grow, and to employ more people, thereby contributing to local communities; even to the extent of taking the odd punt on an indigenous entrepreneur thinking outside the box.

But I do not support handing over Property Development Loans to house builders. Because if the projects are viable then loans should be easy to come by from banks and other institutions.

I’m not sure this is a clever advert. Some might read it as suggesting that if you’re well-connected in Cardiff, like former Blues captain, Xavier Rush, then you’re more likely to get a loan. Click to enlarge

Which is why I was annoyed to read the headline ‘£5.6m Property Boom for Mid and West Wales’ in Business News Wales last Friday. (Thanks for the tip, ‘D’.) And even more annoyed after reading the article.

It referred to two specific developments. To wit: Hayward Homes has been given £3m to build houses at Tycroes, Ammanford, with prices starting at £269,950; while Sotero Ltd has secured “an initial £1.3m” to start on ‘Drovers Meadow’, Bronllys, Brecon, where prices will start at £350,000.

Naturally, I wanted to know more about these companies. Here’s what I found . . .

HAYWOOD HOMES

COUNTRY LIFE

Before tucking into the main course here’s a starter. Or maybe an introductory digression. Up to you.

The head honcho at these Haywood companies is the eponymous Michael Robert Haywood. One of his close sidekicks is Anthony Grahame Scutt, who has a place outside Pennal, near Machynlleth. Perhaps a holiday home.

Scutt has been involved in seven companies that supposedly organise country fairs, game fairs and the like. All were set up in 2015 and all were dissolved 2017/18, Companies House not burdened with anything more than accounts for dormant companies.

Michael Robert Haywood was involved in most of them.

First there’s the Great British Falconry Fair Ltd. Which looks fine until you learn that there is no Great British Falconry Fair, only a British Falconry Fair.

Similarly, we find Great British Game Fair Ltd but does it have any connection – beyond a similar name – with the real deal in the form of the Game Fair?

Then there’s the Midland Game Fair, the Lowther Show, the Kelmarsh Country Show, and the Highclere Country Show, all of which exist, but the Scutt companies using those names don’t seem to be involved with them.

A name used by Haywood and Scutt for one of their companies was the Sussex Country Show, which doesn’t seem to exist in any form.

One show website provided the name Countryman Fairs Ltd, a company with no assets other than its share issue. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it too was destined for receivership until someone had second thoughts in November last year.

In addition, there is Countryman Business Ltd, also in liquidation. Among the directors are Haywood, Scutt, and American Ian Francis Harford, whose companies all seem to have a ‘country sports’ theme.

To complete the picture – possibly – we’ll look at CFL (2015) Ltd. This company was known as Countryman Fairs Ltd until 2015, when it changed its name to make way for the new Countryman Fairs Ltd, which you’ve just read about.

There is the usual dramatis personae and it should go without saying that CFL (2015) is in liquidation.

Another Countryman Fairs director, who pops up in many of the companies with which Haywood and Scutt have been involved is Michael Paul Bailey, who has been involved with over eighty companies.

Bailey recently took over Scutt Management Services Ltd, where Anthony Grahame Scutt had been a director from its Incorporation in 2001. Scutt resigned on 1 June 2020, but came back a week later. His and his wife’s shares were transferred to Bailey 17 June.

At the risk of sounding uncharitable, something’s not right here. The way these companies set up and then collapse looks very similar to the operations of the ‘unorthodox’ businessmen you so often read about on this site. 

TYCROES

But let us leave the waxed jackets and the gun dogs to return to Haywood’s building companies, and his Tycroes venture.

An artist’s impression of life in suburban Ammanford, where everyone has a new Merc parked in the drive. Click to enlarge

While there is quite a network of Haywood companies the one receiving the DBW loans is Haywood Homes (Wales) GL Ltd, with its address in Halesowen which, if you check a map – and despite what Alwyn Thomas of DBW says – is not ‘local’ to any part of Wales. The other Haywood companies are also based in England.

The land in question, just east of Tycroes, is a couple of miles from Pont Abraham and the M4. Which is the reason these houses are being built where they’re being built. For they’re commuter properties.

The land has been in Haywood’s possession for some time; the title document says it was bought in April 2004 from Newland Homes of Gloucestershire. Part of the site has already been developed, and the DBW money funds the next phase, Llys Tirnant.

Llys Tirnant. Click to enlarge

Of itself, there’s not a lot to be said against this project . . . except that, yet again, we have a company from outside of Wales making money from Wales. Money that goes back over the border.

That’s bad enough, but when the Development Bank of Wales funds such companies, then the system is broke. Or maybe it’s exposed for what it is.

The loans from the DBW were delivered 5/6 November last year. Starting on 5 November Haywood Homes (Wales) GL Ltd paid off three loans with Lloyds Bank, money borrowed for earlier phases at Tycroes and also for land it owns at Drefach, just outside Llanelli, which is also within easy reach of Pont Abraham. Where I’m sure the company plans to build more commuter properties . . . that it will ask the DBW to fund.

How much more land has Haywood got banked?

There’s certainly the land to the north of Alma Street in Llanarth, Ceredigion, owned by Haywood Homes (Llanarth) Ltd, bought with a loan from the National Westminster Bank. And let’s not forget Principality Ventures Ltd, with four outstanding charges covering yet more land at Tycroes, plus land at Cross Hands.

That they find these plots suggests to me that although Haywood, Scutt, Bailey and the rest are based in England, they have good contacts in Wales. I wonder who or what those contacts might be?

If I was involved with the DBW, or if I was a politician, I would also be asking the directors of Haywood Homes (Wales) GL Ltd about their huntin’, fishin’, shootin’ creations.

UPDATE 07.07.2020: The land in Llanarth was sold in April 2013 for £160,000. Haywood Homes (Llanarth) Ltd went into voluntary liquidation in 2014 without repaying National Westminster Bank the money owed. The money received for the land did not appear in the company’s final accounts. Where did it go?

The four directors were Michael Robert Haywood and his wife, Anthony Grahame Scutt and his wife.

SOTERO LTD, BRONLLYS

The company that has been given £1.3m to start with (more to follow), is run by Spanish national Sonia Mancisidor, from her palatial offices at 111/112 Bute Street, in Cardiff.

Which is where we also find Elgoibar Ltd, the company that took out loans to buy the Bute Street property. Loans from two companies: M5 Associates, and Amicus Finance PLC . . . which is in administration.

The impressive Bute Street offices of Sonia Mancisidor’s property empire. Click to enlarge

The land at Bronllys was bought through Sotero Ltd with loans from M5 Associates Ltd and FundingSecure Ltd. The latter has also gone belly-up.

Though not before Sonia Mancisidor repaid the FundingSecure loan on 5 April 2019, soon after the first loan was received from the Development Bank of Wales.

Judging by the companies she’s previously borrowed from it would appear that Sonia Mancisidor does not use regular banks. Or maybe regular banks say ‘No’. Which would then explain her flirting with some very iffy lenders.

The surviving lender (for now), M5 Associates Ltd, is based in Newport, and run by Peter Leslie Jeffreys and David William Mark Painter.

Sonia Mancisidor has other property companies to her name, all of which have been formed in the past three or four years.

The Business News Wales report that started this investigation says, “With prices starting at £350,000, Drovers Meadow is the latest project for family-owned development business Sotero.” 

But Sonia Mancisidor is the sole director of her companies, so where’s the ‘family’?

Sotero’s only asset is the land it owns at Bronllys. Land bought with loans from two lenders, one of which is in liquidation. The title document suggests that the vendor was a Heulwen Ann Davies.

Sonia Mancisidor is quoted saying: “Drover’s Meadow is a really special development in the picturesque village of Bronllys that is attracting the interest of local families and those wishing to relocate to this beautiful part of Wales.”

With prices starting at £350,000 there’ll be more in the second category than in the first. Many, many more.

Two questions kept bubbling up in the old Jac noggin as I looked into this. The first was, ‘How did Sonia Mancisidor get to know about this land in Bronllys?’ The second, ‘For someone with no experience of building anything to suddenly jump in the deep end with £350,000 plus homes is odd – is someone else involved?’

Maybe Sonia Mancisidor has made connections in Cardiff.

If not, then someone should ask buy-to-let landlord Sonia Mancisidor from whence came the inspiration to build £350k+ houses in Powys. I’m certainly wondering.

THOUGHTS

By lending money to companies to build houses the Development Bank of Wales is behaving like the institutions we used to call High Street Banks. That is surely not the DBW’s raison d’être.

From studying Haywood Homes and Sotero, the system seems to work like this. Companies borrow money to buy land in Wales, then go to the Development Bank of Wales to help them out with more money, which is used to pay off the original loan and finance the building of the houses!

Then you return to ‘Go’ and start all over again!

Is this really how the Development Bank of Wales is supposed to operate?

If speculative building companies need money then they should go to the banks. And if the banks think they’re not a good investment then the DBW shouldn’t lend them money either.

From the DBW website. Click to enlarge

Now listen, Alwyn, I’m sure you’re a tidy boy and I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you, but . . .

You say, “Local developers like Haywood Homes and Sotero have a big social and economic impact; bringing much needed homes, jobs and supply opportunities to local communities.”

To begin with, we’ve established that these companies are not by any stretch of the imagination ‘local’ to the contracts you’re funding. The jobs created will be in the construction phase only. As for supply chains, there’s no guarantee that an English company will use Welsh suppliers; and as for Señorita Mancisidor, I’m not sure where she’ll find a supply chain.

Staying with Sonia Mancisidor, the very expensive homes she (or someone) will be building at Bronllys are obviously targeting English buyers – she says so herself. Is making Bronllys less Welsh the big “social impact” you refer to, Alwyn?

Wales is a small, poor country with a larger and richer neighbour. An unequal relationship that inevitably results in Wales losing out. This has been the case for a thousand years or more.

Yes, Wales has an economy . . . but there’s little about it that’s genuinely Welsh; whether it’s the house-building we’ve just looked at, or tourism, the retail sector, the media, finance, etc., etc.

Devolution has only made things worse, because it has given us organisations like the DBW that pretend to serve Welsh interests but in reality only perpetuate the colonial system. Yet too many of us fall for this simply because these bodies have ‘Wales’ or ‘Welsh’ in the name.

Just about the only sector of Welsh life still largely in Welsh hands is agriculture . . . and that explains why the colonial management class down the Bay has declared war on farming.

The Development Bank of Wales is one of those organisations we are expected to support and defend because it has ‘Wales’ in the name, yet in reality the DBW is just another agent of the colonial system.

♦ end ♦

 




Miscellany 06.06.2020

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

After the Jake Berry saga it’s time to move on, though we stay on Ynys Môn for the first couple of pieces, before pushing on, even visiting the city of my dreams.

This is another ‘biggie’ but as usual with this format it’s broken down into digestible portions. So there’s no need to rush, you can take your time. Enjoy!

YNYS MÔN

As we used to hear in the old black and white movies, ‘Dead men tell no tales’. Maybe not, but on Ynys Môn dead men do put in planning applications.

In the previous post, Jake Berry MP, Part 4, I mentioned a property that had swum into view in the course of my investigations into Berry’s little empire. This property may have nothing to do with him, but it became interesting in its own right when I realised that a planning application was submitted in August 2019 – by a man who died early in 2017.

Let me explain, for those who may be unfamiliar with the planning system, that you don’t need to own a property to submit a planning application. A builder, an architect, a relative, even a prospective buyer, can submit a planning application, but this must be done with the consent of the owner. Which presupposes that the owner has not departed for the celestial realm.

Now in this case on Ynys Môn the owner was long dead, and those submitting the planning application knew he was dead. We know they knew because they’d put his name on the planning application with ‘(Deceased)’ alongside it!

Click to enlarge

Which is difficult to explain; the Will was a straightforward transfer, so why didn’t the person who’d inherited the property put her name on the planning application?

Another curious feature – though it obviously links – is that the Land Registry title document still shows the late Mr Cuddy as the owner. Which might explain why, after putting out a tweet asking why the council had accepted this application from a dead man, I got a Twitter response from the Land Registry.

The LR reminded those in the thread that there is no legal obligation for anyone to update a title document. Which is unfortunately correct. But I believe we are all entitled to know the ownership of property. And money being laundered through property transactions is another reason for making immediate re-registration mandatory.

Does the so-called ‘Welsh Government’ have the power to legislate in this area? And if so, does it have the balls to do what needs to be done?

On the planning matter, I cannot believe that a dead man can be named as the applicant on a planning application. Which calls into question why Cyngor Sir Ynys Môn accepted that planning application.

Again, if this is legal, it should not be. And if the ‘Welsh Government’ can legislate to outlaw the absurdity of dead men making planning applications, then it should do so. Pronto.

Land Registry documents not updated after three years and planning applications in the name of a dead man suggest something is not quite right.

YNYS MÔN 2

I don’t want to paint Ynys Môn as Wales’ Sicily, but strange things do seem to happen there. One I dealt with fairly recently was the sale of the Shire Hall in Llangefni to Tristan Scott Haynes.

Last year I wrote Not another one! about the sale, and there was a January follow-up in Wales, colonialism and corruption (scroll down to ‘Llangefni Shire Hall’).

To put it mildly, Haynes has a ‘colourful’ past, but the county council saw no problem in selling him their old Shire Hall. And the sale was completed 22 August 2019 with money Haynes had borrowed from Together Commercial Finance Ltd.

Click to enlarge

The caption tells that Haynes is managing director of Chief Properties Ltd and he also runs a “successful haulage firm”.

Chief Properties was set up in August 2018 for the purpose of buying a property like the Shire Hall. The accounts tell us that the company has fixed assets of £201,942 (the Shire Hall) but is in debt to the tune of £12,460.

As for the “successful haulage firm”, well the next meeting of shareholders will be delighted to learn that Falcon Transportation Ltd‘s total net assets come to £21,282. Roughly what they were the year previously. A truck?

Go back to the caption under the photograph and you’ll read, (Haynes) had never been to Anglesey before identifying Shire Hall as a possible location”. Which suggests that he found it online. And that any building, anywhere, might have done.

But for what purpose?

As far as I’m aware no work has been done on the Shire Hall, certainly no planning permission has been applied for, so why did Haynes borrow money to buy a building that he seems to have lost interest in?

And having bought it, why is Haynes so reluctant to inform the Land Registry? For the title document says that the council still owns the Shire Hall. So why doesn’t the council contact Haynes and ask him to update the LR document?

And if the county council has washed its hands of the Shire Hall don’t the burghers of Llangefni worry about the fate of one of their town’s prime assets?

RHODRI MORGAN AND THE WDA 

It’s generally agreed that despite certain failings the Welsh Development Agency was doing a good job in attracting inward investment, and to this day many people still don’t understand why it was done away with.

A comment to the previous post seemed to provide an answer:

“If any target should be in your sites (sic) in terms of Wales’s failing economy, it should be the former First Minister ‘Saint’ Rhodri Morgan. It was he, in a temper tantrum, midway through a phone call with the CEO of the Welsh Development Agency, threw his toys out of the pram when his instruction that the WDA should spend a chunk of it’s budget in a constituency of Cardiff where a certain Mrs Morgan was sitting MP. The CEO politely advised that this request could prove difficult because Cardiff was not in an EU Assisted Area . . . A person present . . . related that the First Minister threw his phone across the room. When he had calmed down (10 minutes later) he rang the CEO back and said that he was scrapping the WDA and bringing it’s functions under Assembly control. The CEO replied ‘Congratulations First Minster, you have just ruined the economy of Wales’ . . . In the 1980’s, 1990’s and into the 2000’s Wales, largely but not exclusively, due to WDA activities, secured 22% of all inward investment into the UK, an incredible achievement . . .  Sadly, the Assembly, with it’s suspicion and dislike of any ‘specialisms’ and groaning under the dead hand of so many ‘Sir Humphreys’ presided over the rapid decline of inward investment so that today, it stands at 2% of the UK figure. When the WDA was scrapped, Development Agencies in other countries were delighted . . . I was present at the party held by the Scottish Development Agency to celebrate the demise of it’s principal competitor for inward investment. English Estates, the Development Agency for England, was equally delighted for the same reason. That’s the real story of Wales’s decline as an economic force . . . It will be a huge challenge to reverse this decline, but with the right approach, and a massive change of attitude in Cardiff Bay it conceivably could be achieved.”

Click to enlarge

This contribution was reinforced in an e-mail from another source which, after a few tweaks, I’m allowed to publish as you see below. This source was also close to the action at the time in question.

“I don’t know (the writer of the comment), but the account with regard to Graham Hawker (CEO) telling Rhodri Morgan he’s screwed the Welsh economy is correct. 

While there is much talked about the WDA and it’s dealings in its early to mid years, in its later life it was an organisation of people (predominantly Welsh people) who actually gave a fuck about trying to lift the prosperity of the country. To this day, I am convinced that the termination of the WDA was done out of both jealousy by Welsh Gov and also a disregard by WDA to service the needs and wants of Ministers as they became more and more demanding for information from the organisation. It was not designed to service Welsh Government. It was designed to deliver economic development to external customers and it did it well. 

To be fair to Hawker, he had instigated a re-organisation programme that would have addressed some of the issues, but Morgan had made his decision for the bonfire of the quangos. Hawker had resigned in front of Senedd committee. He made Morgan look stupid, who then asked him publicly to reconsider his resignation. He didn’t and he left.  

Following Hawker, Gareth Hall was installed as Welsh Gov’s puppet CEO. Rhodri Morgan stated publicly that WDA staff would not see any change in the transition to Welsh Gov. That was total bollocks. There was a culture of cleansing any entrepreneurial spirit and drive in the organisation and a clear move from answering to the WDA board to Ministers. Hall was very close to Marc Clement of Swansea Uni fame. The WDA was being steered by Andrew Davies as Econ Dev Minister at the time, again with close links to Swansea. Make of that what you will. 

It is clear that the politicisation of economic development has killed off any hope of raising Wales’s GDP above 75% of the UK average. We are still below it and I blame total and utter mismanagement of EU funds coupled with what you write about regularly – pushing funding to the third sector ‘economy’, crap pet projects (Cardiff Airport) and shysters. 

Welsh Gov is a broken organisation. It cannot deliver economic development, full stop. 

The wind up of the WDA is a case study of how to destroy exemplar economic development practice and then replacing it with fantasy policies of inclusion, sustainable development, socialist ideologies and then paying those organisations who advocate such tripe to turn up in the Senedd committees to back you up.” 

Most students of Welsh politics know that Rhodri Morgan was the kind of man Doctor Johnson would have described as ‘clubbable’; a man who could be relied on for the witty quip or the diverting anecdote, but hard work was not really his bag.

The manner of the WDA’s demise tells us a lot about Rhodri Morgan and the Labour Party. Both quite happy to destroy what they cannot control however damaging such a course of action might be for Wales.

The incident also exposes the damning contradiction of ‘Welsh’ Labour – forever banging on about employment, blaming ‘London’ or the Tories for Wales not having enough decent jobs, but the beast itself is ideologically and temperamentally opposed to the business and commerce that would provide good jobs because it cannot control them.

‘Keep Wales poor, keep Wales dependent, keep Wales voting Labour’?

The first source reminds us that with the WDA gone Wales’ share of the UK’s inward investment fell from 22% to 2%. While the second source tells that the loss of the WDA saw the rise of the third sector, which is under the control of the Labour Party because the ‘Welsh Government’ controls the purse funding.

To the point where, in the parallel dimension that is Wales, third sector bosses receive awards for achievements in business.

Port Talbot and Afan Women’s Aid is a well-funded third sector body where – as with all third sector bodies – most of the money goes on salaries. Yet in Wales the third sector is regarded as ‘business’. Click to enlarge.

From 2007 until 2011 Labour was in coalition with Plaid Cymru, but Plaid made no attempt to bring back the WDA, for Plaid Cymru is another party made up of social workers, academics and others who think making profits and creating jobs is dirty.

‘Filthy capitalism, innit!’

Much better to live on hand-outs from England. Then enjoy the power of patronage that goes with distributing someone else’s money without the bother of creating it. That is, without the hard work involved organising a national economy.

Which is exactly how the Labour Party views devolution.

And explains why the cycle of decline will continue after next May’s election when Labour will fall short of a majority and need another coalition with Plaid Cymru to stay in power. Plaid Cymru will jump at the opportunity.

And Wales will continue to decline . . . with regular ‘dead cat on the table’ episodes of virtue signalling.

BRIGHTON GREENS DISCOVER GOWER

In my younger days I spent a lot of time on Gower. Oh yes. An aunt and uncle had a house above Port Eynon when such properties could be bought cheaply because most tourists came from within a radius of 40 or 50 miles. They came for a day trip or a holiday, but few of them thought of moving there permanently.

It was on their doorstep, they could visit whenever they liked.

School holidays spent crabbing at Port Eynon were succeeded by teenage years fishing just about everywhere for bass, with Worm’s Head a favourite spot.

Click to enlarge

In the twenty-first century it was inevitable I suppose that Gower would attract the eco-colonists, those who want to ‘live off the land’ . . . usually someone else’s land, often thanks to big dollops of public funding, and invariably by ignoring planning regulations.

And lo! it has come to pass.

To read the WalesOnline report from which the above image is taken just click here.

The Furzehill project is the brainchild of the Ecological Land Cooperative of Brighton. That is Brighton on the south coast of England. What attracts them to Wales is the One Planet lunacy, which proclaims that in order to reduce Wales’ carbon footprint people must be attracted to Wales to farm virgin land, burn wood, drive vehicles, and generally impose themselves on what were often pristine landscapes.

This is virtue signalling, big time, introduced when Jane Davidson was Minister for the Environment, Sustainability and Housing from 2007 to 2011. This may also have been the period when the ‘Welsh Government’s ‘All Farmers are Bastards’ strategy was formulated. (Was ‘Game Show Gary’ [ahem] ‘advising’ Davidson?)

Nominally, Davidson was AM for Pontypridd, but she didn’t give a toss about Ponty. She was in Corruption Bay to promote her environmentalist friends’ agenda. The rest of the Labour Party could see the advantage in this because it gave scope for virtue signalling on a global stage while putting the boot into rural electorates that refuse to vote Labour.

Davidson went on to become an academic (of sorts) and an even more outspoken advocate for eco-invaders like herself.

Here’s Davidson’s book on her work in government that culminated in One Planet Developments (OPD) and Future Generations legislation. Which have done nothing for us Welsh (it wasn’t intended to) but has achieved brownie points for a party and a system that, while running Wales into the ground, gets plaudits from people like Nikhil Seth who know sod all about Wales.

Click to enlarge

Furzehill is important, and should be watched, for the following reason.

Up until now OPDs have argued that they improve marginal land or even bring life back to abandoned farms. But Gower is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AOUB). The first area given AOUB status in the whole of this island.

I expect Swansea council to refuse planning permission for these ‘hobbit houses’. If that happens, then there will almost certainly be an appeal to the ‘Welsh Government’. And if those clowns allow the Furzehill project to proceed then National Parks will be the next target for the eco-colonists.

Which makes this application the thin end of the wedge. So watch it carefully. Click here for the council planning portal and enter 2020/0744/FUL into the Search box.

THE LABOUR COUNCILLOR WHO DESTROYED YMCA WALES

For those unfamiliar with the area, the Llansamlet ward is on the east side of Swansea, above Bonymaen and east of Morriston, straddling the M4. At its edge, Birchgrove runs into Skewen merging Swansea with Neath.

It was an area where the Welsh language was still strong when I was a boy, and Swansea’s first Plaid Cymru councillor was elected by Llansamlet’s voters in the youthful form of my old mate Dr John Ball.

Click to enlarge

Since then, it’s been pretty much downhill. The ward has been represented by a  succession of Old Labour time-servers, enlivened recently by a few exotic imports.

I’m thinking now of Robert (‘call me Bob’) Clay, privately-educated former MP for Sunderland North and his Austrian-born wife Uta. Both moved on in 2017 and I’m told that these devout Marxists now live in a very agreeable detached property in rural Carmarthenshire.

Llansamlet returned another four Labour councillors at the 2017 elections, among them Maureen ‘Mo’ Sykes, of whom I have written before. To remind you . . . Mo Sykes was CEO of YMCA Wales yet under her ‘leadership’ things went to hell. To the extent that YMCA Wales ceased to exist.

The organisation leaked money, she herself left under a big cloud in July 2014, YMCA Wales went into administration in September, the jewel in the crown – Newgale Outdoor Education Centre in Pembrokeshire – was flogged off for £507,000 in June 2015, and the abandoned branches of YMCA Wales were told to affiliate to YMCA England.

Click to enlarge

They were welcomed with open arms by YMCA England for adopting the ‘national brand’.

‘Our Welsh cousins’ Urgh. Click to enlarge

So in the age of devolution we took another step backward. The ‘Welsh Government’, which had funded Mo Sykes and should have been asking what the fuck had gone wrong, showed no interest. After buying a nice detached house on a quiet street in Clydach (for a surprisingly low price) Sykes was handed a safe seat for the 2017 city council elections.

All this is covered in YMCA England(andwales) with links to previous articles.

And now, if my sources are correct, she’s going home to the Six Counties after living off the public purse for years and doing her bit to integrate Wales into England.

If so, good riddance.

LEENA SARAH FARHAT

Soon after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis Nation.Cymru insulted us with an article by Leena Sarah Farhat telling us that Wales was full of racist cops. I made a comment, suggesting she apologise to our police, but my comment was removed. Bizarrely, left up were comments from an unhinged wokie (not from Muskogee) attacking me in very personal terms!

This moron seemed to think I’d deleted my comment, and even when told he’d taken a wrong turn he kept marching purposefully into the bog. I’ve had dealings with him before, and he’s typical of his kind. Because I’d called him ‘little boy’ or something he tried to brand me a paedophile by suggesting I thought I was dealing with a child!

No, ‘Alan’, I’m know exactly what I’m dealing with, son. A twat.

Click to enlarge

It got so fractious on the state-subsidised mouthpiece for Plaid Cymru run by the saintly Ifan Morgan Jones that he had to pull all the comments. Something he had to do again on Friday when reporting that Martin Shipton, Chief Correspondent of the Western Mail, had lost his judging job at the Book of the Year Awards, run by Literature Wales, after being targeted by the wokies. (Tell me about it!)

(And if you want a definition of colonial establishment, look no further than Literature Wales.)

But I digress. Who is Leena Sarah Farhat?

From what I could gather, she works at Aberystwyth University. She is also Diversity Officer for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, and their candidate for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr. I’m sure she knows Castell Newydd Emlyn and Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn like the back of her delicate hand.

Anyway, later that evening I had one of the strange e-mails I get quite regularly. What I’m describing is the internet age’s equivalent of some bloke emerging out the shadows, collar pulled up and hat pulled down, looking furtively around before handing me the slip of paper that will unravel the mystery.

Or maybe I watch too much film noir.

The terse message contained a link, which I was loath to open in case it contained a virus. But I took a chance and the link took me here. To begin with, I wasn’t sure where I’d landed (I feared it might be one of those pornographical sites I’ve read about), but as I took it in I realised it was some kind of social media platform with people asking Leena Sarah Farhat questions.

Some of her answers were quite strange, others disturbing. Here’s a selection.

Click to enlarge

Make of it what you will, but here’s my interpretation. Here we have another ‘progressive’ party desperate to be seen to be ‘inclusive’ recruiting someone on whom they haven’t done enough checks, and who turns out to be, if not anti-Semitic, then certainly tacking towards that port of call.

With Plaid Cymru it was Sahar Al-Faifi, with Labour . . . well, take your pick, and now, not to be left out, the Lib Dems will incur the wrath of the Board of Deputies. Good.

ONLY HERE FOR THE MONEY?

An e-mail I receive daily (but often don’t have time to read properly) comes from Business News Wales, which last Wednesday carried tidings of a £750,000 investment by the Development Bank of Wales and others in Agxio Ltd.

Click to enlarge

Both the headline and the opening paragraph report that Agxio is based in Aberystwyth. Yet according to Companies House Axgio’s address is actually in leafy Dorking, in Surrey.

What’s more, Agxio is a one-man band, and that one man is Dr Stephen Christie. To read Dr Christie’s Linkedin bio he’s been there, done that, and got the T-shirt. It’s only a matter of time before that photo on his mantelpiece of great-uncle Hamish in his pith helmet makes way for a Nobel Prize.

From Linkedin we learn that since 2011 Christie has been CEO of Neural Insights Ltd, another company based in Dorking. His wife is the only other director. The latest accounts show a company where liabilities exceed assets, though the figures are small. The accounts are ‘filleted’.

Then there’s his chairmanship of MemberMatch Ltd, which helps golfists find playing partners. But he doesn’t seem to have ever been a director, let alone chairman. The latest unaudited financial statement reveals another company in the red.

Dr Christie’s only other extant company, formed in August 2018, is Inbotiqa Ltd. This has Net Liabilities of £107,131 for 2019; which was, admittedly, a big improvement on 2018. The accounts are unaudited.

Something that struck me about Inbotiqa was the massive share issue. Hundreds of thousands of shares.

And it looks similar with Agxio, which is getting funding from the Development Bank of Wales. Dr Currie seems to have spent a great deal of his time figuring out the share issues, just check the filing history.

Don’t get me wrong, Dr Stephen Christie might be a very clever bloke, but his greatest talent may be issuing and selling shares rather than producing anything, or creating jobs.

Furthermore, his ‘presence’ in Aberystwyth may be no more than a letter-box, and so I question whether Agxio should be receiving a penny of Welsh public funding.

INDEPENDENCE PUSH LEAVES PLAID CYMRU BEHIND

The latest poll findings from Professor Roger Awan-Scully for ITV Wales and Cardiff University are intriguing.

To begin with, Coronavirus seems to have impacted on the Conservative vote as if the party’s voters had been confined to care homes; down 11 percentage points from the April poll to 35% for Westminster elections. Labour is up 4 to 39% and Plaid Cymru also up 4 to 15%.

For Welsh Parliament elections, the figures are (constituency first, list second):

Click to enlarge

Those figures were fairly predictable. Of more interest were the responses when people were asked questions such as: “If there was a referendum tomorrow on Wales becoming an independent country and this was the question, how would you vote? Should Wales be an independent country?”

In answer, 25% said Yes, but 54% said No. When asked whether the Assembly should be abolished, 25% said Yes, 48% said No.

To the multi-option constitutional question the responses were:

Click to enlarge

As you’re probably aware, a great deal has been made of a figure of 33% in favour of independence. This figure is only arrived at when respondents are given the stark choice between doing away with devolution or going for independence. When the returns were:

Click to enlarge

Certainly, these findings are generally encouraging. But there’s a long way to go. What I extrapolate from these polls is the following:

  • Devolution is increasingly discredited. After more than two decades of failure it is under pressure from both those who want independence and those who want integration with England. (Which is what abolishing the Senedd would amount to.)
  • Plaid Cymru is making little progress despite the increase in numbers prepared to consider independence. There is clearly scope for other parties, especially if those parties are more focused on Wales and Welsh issues.
  • No account is taken in these polls of how events in Scotland could impact on Wales. I believe that Scotland becoming independent would greatly increase the numbers in Wales choosing independence.

There’s a lot to play for in next year’s elections. And beyond.

FACEBOOK

As you may know, following a complaint by Jake Berry, the MP for Rossendale and Darwen, currently building a property empire on Ynys Môn, Facebook took down the links I’d posted to the articles about him on this blog.

Well now I’m locked out of my Facebook account altogether, yet it appears to still be open to others. There seems to be no appeal process so is there any way I can just close my Facebook page?

All help gratefully received.

♦ end ♦





Miscellany 05.08.2019

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

RHIGOS VIEWPOINT/CRAIG Y LLYN CAR PARK

In the previous post, Family silver, I wondered what exactly is planned for the Rhigos area with the arrival of Zip World. A question worth asking after ZW recently took on Greg Evans, a man whose background is in the storage of nuclear waste and offshore wind turbines.

And not just him, for another recent recruit was Giles Alexander Thorley . . . the CEO of the Development Bank of Wales.

I concluded that whatever is planned for Rhigos goes way beyond zip wires.

Suspicions raised by the curious tale of the sale – or non-sale – of the Rhigos Viewpoint, overlooking the area in which Zip World claims it will be operating. Picking up from where we left off in my previous post, here’s an update.

Rhigos Viewpoint looking towards (right centre) Craig y Llyn, a jumping off point for one of the zip wires. Image courtesy of Google. Click to enlarge.

First, a good source, familiar with the workings of the ‘Welsh Government’, suggested that the area was put up for sale to comply with the requirement to advertise public land . . . before claiming there was ‘no interest’ and then handing it over to a favoured party, in this case, probably Zip World.

Going through the motions like that makes sense.

But then, on Friday, someone else got in touch to say that he had seen the advertisement – and made an enquiry. So now it gets interesting.

The reply he received from Natural Resources Wales said, rather curtly: “Thank you for your enquiry. I can advise that Craig y Llyn Carpark (sic) is not for sale.”

So my source wrote back asking why it had appeared on the register of public property for sale. Here’s the second answer he received:

“Please accept my apologies for this area of land appearing on the gov.uk site.

Back in 2014, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) considered selling this area of land along with a number of other sites and they were added to the government register as potential surplus sites that other public bodies could express an interest in before being offered on the open-market.

However, after further consideration NRW decided to retain the land. Unfortunately the government register was not updated. I confirm that NRW currently has no plans to sell this land and the record has now been updated to reflect that the site is to be retained.”

First, note that the link provided by NRW is to a UK Government portal rather than to any specific site for sale of public assets, for which there’s a link in my sidebar.

Then the NRW response says that the land was put up for sale in 2014 so that other ” . . . public bodies could express a interest . . . before being offered on the open-market (sic)”. Clearly suggesting that the Rhigos Viewpoint was advertised internally and then withdrawn without appearing on the public/open market register.

Craig y Llyn and Llyn Fawr from the Rhigos Viewpoint. Click to enlarge

In which case, how did my source – and others – see it on the open register? And why does the register give the date 27/06/2019?

This response from Natural Resources Wales bears the hallmark of someone told to tell porkies but not understanding the full story and only making things worse.

‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . .’.

A DOSE OF REALITY

Last Monday saw the release of a new Welsh Political Barometer/YouGov poll which makes for interesting reading for people like me, but depressing reading for many others.

Here are the findings of the poll. The figures in brackets represent the changes from previous WPB/YouGov poll conducted before the EU elections in May.

All parties seemed to take hope from the results except for Labour, obviously. (And perhaps the Greens, but who gives a toss about them.). Though what do the figures really tell us?

For the first time ever, Plaid Cymru leads in the constituency vote for the Assembly . . . without any gain in support! Also, in the regional vote, gaining just one percentage point. For Westminster elections, and despite going up by two points, Plaid Cymru is now in fifth place.

Plaid Cymru spokespersons can crow all they like, but it can’t hide the fact that with the Labour vote in free-fall Plaid Cymru is not gaining by that much. This is worth saying because the assumption always was that as Labour’s century of dominance started coming to an end its ‘socialist’ voters would transfer to Plaid Cymru.

With PM Boris Johnson heading for a No Deal Brexit, the Labour Party in London and Cardiff ‘led’ by men who seem to be more shadow than substance, Welsh voters still find a Liberal Democrat Party led by a woman nobody’s heard of and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party more attractive than Plaid Cymru.

Why is Plaid Cymru so woefully unable to carpe the old diem? For a number of surveys tell of increased support for independence, so why isn’t this reflected in backing for Plaid Cymru?

I don’t understand it. I mean, a party so concerned with transgender ishoos, and then – when it’s not smooching Labour and Deryn – outing misogynists, homophobes and fascists (apparently I’m all three – and more!); surely such a party, especially with its promise to remedy these ills by delivering a Marxist-Leninist-woke-feminist republic, should be at least 20 points ahead in the polls.

I shall have to take me up unto an high place and ponder this conundrum . . . if I can find any space on the moral high ground.

GWYNEDD PLANNERS

You may recall that I have written a few times about how easy it is to run rings around Gwynedd’s planners.

One notable case was Plas Pistyll (of blesséd memory) where, over time, holiday-only replacements for trailer homes metamorphosed – by incremental changes to the original planning permission – into luxury year-round dwellings. And nobody in the planning department noticed!

Click to enlarge

Give yourself a treat and read all about it in Wilmslow-sur-Mer.

Another Gwynedd planning disaster was that at Bryn Llys, Nebo, where a bunch of crooks from over the border bought a traditional Welsh dwelling, extended it, extended it again without planning permission, got retrospective planning permission, exceeded that, ended up with an extension three times the size of the original house, then demolished the original building, and put the ‘extension’ on the market for £850,000.

To help you grasp the full horror of this case, here’s a photograph I received recently showing the original Bryn Llys and outbuildings overshadowed by the vile ‘extension’.

Click to enlarge

While this saga unfolded neighbours and others kept Gwynedd planners informed and asked for action to be taken. Nothing was done.

Now I hear that Gwynedd’s planners may finally be stirring, with a “pre-trial hearing” of some kind scheduled for 6 September.

But don’t hold your breath, for my belief is that this case has gone too far. There is no way that Cyngor Gwynedd will insist on the demolition of a property up for sale with a price tag of £850,000.

The crook who seems to own the property is Jonathan James Duggan (aka Ripley) of West Yorkshire, who lives on the site, with his large family, in a shed he has been ordered to demolish. One way he and his father (currently in prison) make their money is by ordering expensive goods and equipment, not paying for them, then selling on those goods.

This probably explains how Duggan found the money to build Bryn Llys Newydd, for when he appeared in court on a criminal damage charge in September 2016 he claimed to be surviving on state benefits.

He has as one of his sidekicks a would-be rocker and English supremacist from the Bristol area by the name of Shane Baker. There are others in the gang.

In addition to laughing at Cyngor Gwynedd this crew has also intimidated and terrorised neighbours, and caused great damage by trying to steal land, often in attempts to improve the access to Bryn Llys. Done to facilitate whatever plans may be in the pipeline, because there’s quite a bit more land. Glamping and even zip wires have been mooted by Duggan.

Despite the wealth of information and witness testimony North Wales Police seems uninterested in Duggan and his gang at Bryn Llys. Yes, there was a police raid in April last year, but that wasn’t GogPlod.

I look at cases like Bryn Llys (and God knows, I’ve looked at plenty!) where decent people have their lives fucked over by scumbags like this and I think to myself: ‘There’s no point in appealing to any authority because ultimately all authority in Wales answers to London.’ 

Maybe we need something more. Some organisation beleaguered Welsh communities could turn to to run bastards like these out of Wales.

UPDATE 09.08.2019: I have been informed that a new company was formed on 27 June named Bryn Llys Ltd, which you’ll see is in the business of ‘Holiday centres and villages’. The secretary, sole director, and holder of all the shares, is Andrew Battye of Huddersfield, long suspected of being the money behind Bryn Llys.

Maybe the question now should be, where does the money come from? Battye was in business with Duggan Jnr in a company called Bridge Glazing Systems Ltd, which went out of business after a few years and without filing any accounts.

Let us hope that both Cyngor Gwynedd and North Wales Police do their jobs, because what has already been built at Bryn Llys, and what might be planned for Bryn Llys (and perhaps elsewhere), will be funded from criminal activity, and is almost certainly a form of money laundering.

IS THE RIGHT BEING MOBILISED?

There was a rally in Swansea on Saturday ahead of the Swans’ opening match of the season against Hull City. (Won 2 – 1, seeing as you asked.) Or maybe it was two rallies, I’m not sure. Because the WalesOnline report mentioned both the Never Surrender Veterans Group and Million Veteran(s) March.

The first of which ” . . . is a group largely made up of ex-veterans who support servicemen and women”. I’ve never heard of this group so I tried to find out more.

All I could find was a mixed martial arts group in Kansas and another US group helping disabled veterans have specially adapted transport. The Welsh group has a closed Facebook page created four months ago, and that seems to be it.

The Million Veteran March also appears to draw its inspiration from the USA and seems to take its name from another US organisation. Though the name also crops up in recent UK news reports. With quite extensive coverage on a site new to me called Unity News Network.

The organisers and the WO report made great play of the number of bikers attending. To judge by the photographs most if not all of them belong to the Valley Commandos. This club started out as a Cardiff City supporters group so I don’t understand how they’ve drifted into right wing Unionist politics.

Because make no mistake about it, Soldier F, is now a rallying cry, not just for supportive veterans, but also for the usual suspects on the far right. And they were also there on Saturday, Swansea’s gang of Rangers supporters and ‘Loyalists’.

As Fred Astaire sang, ‘There may be trouble ahead . . . ‘ because there could be problems, maybe civil unrest, in the coming year no matter which way things pan out with Brexit. Was what we saw in Swansea on Saturday – with a rally in Brecon to follow – a glimpse of things to come?

The UK leaves the EU on October 31; after which Scotland will be threatening to secede, more and more Welsh people will be questioning the English connection, and God only knows what will be happening over the water.

In a shit-storm like that, overseen by politicians following those titans of statecraft, Micawber and Trump, blind and unquestioning British patriotism will be demanded of us all. Or else!

CLARIFICATION: Let me make clear that this is not a criticism of service personnel past or present voicing sincerely-held concerns or remembering fallen comrades. This is a warning against hangers-on, the far right, Walter Mitty types and unscrupulous politicians.

A MESSAGE FROM UNCLE JAC

Strangely enough, there were no representatives in Swansea of the very vocal element on the fringes of Plaid Cymru that targets ‘fascists’.

No, it wasn’t really surprising because the truth is they only use the ‘fascist!’ smear against those who challenge Plaid Cymru, and more especially the party’s extreme left wing fringe. I’m talking now of Plaid Ifanc, Undod, Undeb Plaid Cymru and a few individuals.

(Defending Neil McEvoy, criticising Deryn, attacking Labour, questioning the role of the third sector, asking who was involved in the Carl Sargeant affair, etc . . . these and other crimes also incur the wrath of those I’m talking about.)

There’s no question that these left wing extremists – no more than a few dozen in total – are trying to influence if not direct the growing independence movement. It became apparent – not long after YesCymru first appeared – with this piece from ‘Sawel ap Harri’ entitled The Marxist case for Welsh independence.

That gem appeared on Nation.Cymru which has more recently given space to a number of similar pieces. We were blest with two on the first day of this month. One was, The independence movement must embody the principles of the nation we want to live in, by Plaid Ifanc; and the other, Why the lack of diversity in the independence movement is a problem, by Leia Fee.

The second of those is a real hoot about ‘intersectionality’, ‘under-represented demographics’ and other terms I’m sure you use every day. Basically, it argued for breaking down the population of Wales into lots of different and competing groups.

The comments to that piece made it clear that most people thought Leia Fee was talking bollocks, and dangerous bollocks at that, at a time when we should all be promoting unity in the push for independence.

Though perhaps the best response came on Twitter.

Click to enlarge

But the idiocies come thick and fast, as does the hypocrisy. I’ve recently written about the attacks on me from young Aled Gwyn Williams of Maesteg (and his dog, Teifi). Aled wants the world to know that I’m an absolute brute, guilty of all manner of heinous crimes, including misogyny.

I’m sure my laughter could be heard miles away when someone sent me this recent tweet by Aled Gwyn Williams. (If Teifi’s ears pricked up, son, it was because he heard me.)

I understand some people are looking for examples of misogyny, I submit this example for consideration. Click to enlarge

The left is playing a dangerous and divisive game, perhaps egged on by someone whose absence from the independence marches in Cardiff and Caernarfon has not gone unnoticed.

Calling me a misogynist, or Ein Gwlad ‘fascistic’, and then trying to cause divisions in the independence movement by demanding that everyone be labelled, while insisting they’ll only accept independence on their terms, can only damage what should be a broad-based and inclusive national movement.

Some will dismiss such behaviour as juvenile, others find it suspicious. Worryingly, too many who should know better defend or support it. Either way, this behaviour is serving something other than the cause of Welsh independence.

♦ end ♦

 

Family silver

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

In this post I want to pull together a number of threads without, I hope, complicating the story too much.

TOWER COLLIERY

Let’s start by going back to this post I wrote last December and scroll down to the section headed ‘The left betrays Wales, again’. What I tried to explain was the recent history of the Tower Colliery site since deep mining finished in January 2008.

I wrote that the closure was followed by a short period of opencast mining, to extract some six million tons of anthracite coal. This began in May 2012 and ended in March 2017, when new environment regulations meant that Aberthaw power station could no longer take Tower’s coal.

From what I can make out, this opencast operation was a partnership between the original Tower Colliery Ltd (Incorporated 28.11.1994), Tower Regeneration Ltd (Inc 20.08.2009), and a company from north east England called Hargreaves Services Plc As explained here.

The open cast site seems to be owned by Tower Regeneration with a loan from Forward Sound Ltd, a company linked to Hargreaves.

Tower Colliery Ltd is ultimately owned by Goitre Tower Anthracite Ltd. The 488 Goitre shareholders are I assume former miners and the relatives of former miners. With the maximum individual holding apparently limited to 8,260 of the 2,164,075 shares.

With open cast mining finished, what is to become of this high and windy, but scenically attractive, area?

The answer would appear to be . . . zip wires!

‘TOP O’ THE WORLD, MAM’

The title of this section is taken from that great film noir, White Heat, and the line spoken by Cody Jarrett, played by James Cagney, before the gas tank on which he’s standing explodes. (Obviously, in the movie, Jarrett says ‘Ma’, not ‘Mam’.)

I use it because Rhigos can give that top of the world feeling. And that’s where we are, on the A4061 that makes its way from the A465 Heads of the Valleys road down into the Rhondda. On the map below you’ll see, marked with a red cross, the Rhigos Viewpoint, a large lay-by giving superb views over the surrounding country.

Image courtesy of Google Earth. Click to enlarge.

Not only that, but in bad weather the Rhigos Viewpoint serves as a temporary depot for Rhondda Cynon Taf gritting lorries, allowing them to travel in both directions and avoid the climb up from their regular depots in the valley below.

Why then was the Viewpoint recently put up for sale?

Click to enlarge

We see that the online sale document is dated 27 June and Lesley Griffiths’ letter to Lee Waters AM is dated 16 July. Between these dates concerned locals noticed the sale, someone living in Llanelli contacted his AM, Lee Waters, who wrote to Ken ‘Flint Ring’ Skates; the civil servants in Cardiff or wherever realised they’d been rumbled, pulled the advert, and Lesley Griffiths replied to Lee Waters denying any sale.

A little episode that does not reflect well on those who manage Wales for their bosses in London. Lesley Griffiths in particular is getting a bit of a reputation for being averse to the truth.

Returning to Rhigos . . . If we look at this image of the viewpoint and lay-by we see, centre right, Craig y Llyn, the jumping-off point for one of the three planned zip wires.

Image Courtesy of Google. Click to enlarge.

Maybe the real question is, if the Rhigos Viewpoint is to be included in the Zip World project, why was it advertised for sale clearly hoping nobody would notice? Was the plan for it to be bought by some intermediary who would then profit from selling it on to Zip World?

But that suggestion hints at corruption – naughty boy, Jac! – and this is Wales, where corruption is unknown.

There is no question in my mind that the sale of the Rhigos Viewpoint links with the promised arrival of Zip World.

And while the plans shown in the WalesOnline report for the car park, toilets and office accommodation clearly refer to the property owned by Tower Colliery (scroll down to the plan), I believe the Zip World project goes way beyond what is owned by the former miners and their families.

UPDATE 02.08.2019: A message reaches me saying that the advertisement was no ‘mistake’ but was in fact the ‘Welsh Government’ covering its arse by meeting its legal requirements. The land can now be handed over – to Zip World? – and the WG can say, ‘We advertised it, but no one was interested’.

ZIP WORLD

As we know, this is the company that runs zip wires at Penrhyn near Bethesda, and Betws-y-Coed, with underground trampolines at Blaenau Ffestiniog.

There were big changes in Zip World companies towards the end of last year affecting Zip World Ltd, Zip World Fforest Ltd, and Zip World Group Holdings Ltd. What is termed “a management buy-out” took place which means that the parent company is now ZWPV Ltd (Inc 24.10.2018).

But it’s not that straightforward, for at the foot of the final page of the most recent accounts we read that, “Due to the shareholdings in place at ZWPV Limited, the directors consider Sean Taylor to be the ultimate controlling partner”. That is, Sean Wallace Taylor.

Click to enlarge

So, if not a one-man band, then the Zip World companies would certainly appear to be under the control of a single individual. And it gets a little more complicated when we look at this new parent company, ZWPV Ltd.

There are six other directors, who all give as their address, ‘Zip World Base Camp, Denbigh Street, Llanrwst, Wales, LL26 0LL’. But for head honcho Taylor, the address given is, ‘8th Floor, One Central Square, Cardiff, United Kingdom, CF10 1FS’.

And among the directors giving the Llanrwst address is Giles Alexander Thorley, who joined the company 21 February 2019. This is odd, because Thorley is CEO of the Development Bank of Wales. So either he’s moonlighting or else he’s there in an official capacity. I hope it’s the latter, which probably means Thorley’s there representing the ‘Welsh Government’.

But let’s return to Taylor’s Cardiff address. Seeing as parent company ZWPV has its address in Llanrwst like everything else and everybody else, why would Taylor’s individual address be in Cardiff?

Or to put it another way, who else might we find on the 8th Floor at One Central Square to explain Taylor using it as his address? Well, the whole floor is the domain of solicitors Blake Morgan, a company that of course has many clients, including the ‘Welsh Government’ and its various agencies.

Which makes a certain sense, and other pieces are falling into place as I write this to support that presumption.

Before moving on to consider what might really be happening up at Rhigos I want to go back to ZWPV. (What does the ‘PV’ stand for?) It was Incorporated 24 October 2018 with Sean Taylor holding the only share. On St David’s Day there was an allotment of over 14 million shares, including 92,500 preference shares.

While under ‘Filing history’, for 12 March, you’ll see ‘Resolutions’, an arrangement entered into with LDC Parallel (Nominees) Ltd, designed to raise money through selling those 92,500 preference shares.

Companies using the term ‘Nominees’ have, or find, investors who remain anonymous.

So if I’m following this thread properly: the main Zip World companies are now huddled under the umbrella of ZWPV Ltd controlled by Sean Wallace Taylor who, through an agreement with LDC Parallel (Nominees) Ltd, is looking to sell shares to investors who will remain anonymous.

Click to enlarge

There are a number of other companies bearing the ‘LDC Parallel’ name, numbered I to VIII, with all but the last of them based in Aberdeen.

Finally, we learnt earlier this month of another interesting figure who has joined the Zip World board. This being Greg Evans, who, as this blurb tells us, is . . .

“A former US Navy Petty Officer and Centrica Energy Director of Nuclear and Renewables, he is recognised as a thorough leader in safety leadership in both nuclear and renewable power generation.

His work in renewables saw him leading major infrastructure project (sic), including the design, development and commissioning phases of the £1.2 billion Lincs Wind Farm.”

Intriguing. Though like me, I’m sure you’re wondering why a man with a background in nuclear and renewable energy has joined a tourist operation like Zip World.

I think the answer lies in: ” . . . to strengthen the management team and take the business to the next level”. With the emphasis on ‘next level’. Which might be another way of saying diversification.

One disturbing possibility pulls together Evans’ background in the nuclear industry and the fact that Zip World uses quarries and mines. Could this be about the storage of nuclear waste?

HOW MIGHT IT ALL FIT TOGETHER?

OK, so what’s the big picture?

A company that has been well favoured by the ‘Welsh Government’ in its northern ventures has decided to move south. Details were announced in February this year and probably accounts for the reorganisation in the Zip World group.

Also, in October last year, both Zip World Ltd and Zip World Fforest Ltd cleared charges with Finance Wales Investments (10) Ltd. Seeing as Giles Alexander Thorley, CEO of the Development Bank of Wales, is also a director of FWI (10) Ltd, maybe these charges had to be cleared before he could join the revamped set-up in February this year.

Though note also the involvement of Blake Morgan.

Click to enlarge

Let’s take another look at the layout of the land at Rhigos. It will help explain what I believe is planned.

The picture below is taken from the Viewpoint looking looking west. It shows the ridge of Craig y Llyn, from where one of the zip wires will start, and below it lies the lake to which the name refers, Llyn Fawr. (There’s a Llyn Fach further over.)

You’ll notice that one side of the lake is straight, and that’s because it’s a reservoir, as is Llyn Fach, they both supplied Tower Colliery.

Click to enlarge

It’s time now to introduce someone you’re probably familiar with. Someone else who can be found on the eighth floor with Blake Morgan.

I’m referring to Shire Oak International Ltd (SHI). And whaddya know – one of the two directors of SHI is Mark Shorrock, who was of course the mastermind behind the proposed Swansea tidal lagoon, rejected by the UK government last June.

So is he involved at Rhigos, has Sharrock’s gaze been distracted from Mumbles? Of course, sharing the Cardiff address with Sean Taylor of Zip World could be pure coincidence, but I think not.

For while we all associate Mark Shorrock with tidal lagoons, he is a man with fingers in many pies. There’s quarries, for a start, such as Dean Quarry in Cornwall, from where he hoped to get the stone for the Swansea lagoon wall.

Another ‘pie’ is renewable energy; solar, wind and pumped storage. And companies such as Shire Oak Pumped Storage (Llanddulas) Ltd, which was struck off in April. This is a fate that befalls many of Shorrock’s companies. The boy’s had some bad luck.

Which may be why the ‘Welsh Government’, in the form of Carwyn Jones (remember him?), promised to chip in with £200m when the UK government shafted his plans for Swansea Bay.

Not only that, but he got quite comfy down in the City of my Dreams, and was well regarded by Swansea University. Where the Uni had the third floor of the Civic Centre on Oystermouth Road all to themselves, for their Centre for Regional Innovation, under recently departed Marc Clement.

A local source tells me that at one time there were no fewer than seven Shorrock companies on the third floor. Though getting information on them from either the council or the university proved futile, they always had an excuse.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR RHIGOS?

Whether Shorrock has teamed up with Zip World or not at Rhigos I’m certain that the ‘Welsh Government’ is involved because, through Natural Resources Wales, it owns so much of the land up there; including the two lakes, the escarpment and the forests.

But even if Shorrock is not involved, if his being at the same Cardiff address as Sean Wallace Taylor is pure coincidence, then whatever is planned for Rhigos still goes way beyond zip wires.

The clues are there:

  • There’s the reorganisation of the Zip World group towards the end of last year.
  • Then the new company linked up with LDC Parallel (Nominees) Ltd to find secret investors.
  • We have the CEO of the Development Bank of Wales becoming a director of the new Zip World parent company. (To look after ‘Welsh Government’ interests, in the form of land and assets to be handed over?)
  • Then there’s the curious aborted sale of a prime piece of property in the form of the Rhigos Viewpoint that saw a ‘Welsh Government’ Minister misleading us.
  • Finally, a new director joins Zip World very recently who has no experience in tourism, but whose field of expertise is nuclear and renewable energy.

To understand what I think is happening at Rhigos you have to remember that the ‘Welsh Government’ has massive assets in publicly-owned land, much of it held by Natural Resources Wales, which of course took over Forestry Commission land. Forestry managed by NRW accounts for 6% of the total area of Wales.

There is pressure from various quarters to ‘monetise’ these assets, and if that can be done behind a green smokescreen then so much the better. We see it all over Wales in forests where thousands of trees have been felled to make way for wind turbines and the roads serving them. More damage is done in building, transporting and erecting wind turbines than they ever recoup in their short working lives.

From Natural Resources Wales website. Click to enlarge

The high ground at Rhigos provides the perfect opportunity to ‘monetise’ some NRW assets. There may indeed be zip wires, but they won’t come alone. There will be cabins, maybe a hotel and other facilities, perhaps wind turbines and some scheme involving Llyn Fawr and Llyn Fach. Perhaps even the storage of nuclear waste.

With the package dressed up as an ‘adventure resort’ such as Gavin Woodhouse promised for the nearby Afan Valley. For, remember, with the M4 and the Heads of the Valleys road providing access, plus almost two million people within 40 miles of Rhigos, there is a much bigger customer potential than for any venture in the north.

Whatever is planned for Rhigos, the ‘Welsh Government’ should pause and ask itself what it’s getting involved in, and with whom. For example, is there any concern over ZWPV’s anonymous backers?

If Shorrock’s involved, then is he being thrown a bone for losing out on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon? And if so, do we owe him anything?

And if we’re going to give honesty a romp in the summer sunshine, then maybe we can also have explained to us the relationship between the ‘Welsh Government’ and its assorted agencies on the one hand, and certain favoured Cardiff legal firms and people like Sean Wallace Taylor and Mark Christopher Shorrock on the other?

How do it all fit together, innit?

To conclude; my reading of the Rhigos situation is that deals are being struck in the background, with our assets; and this will result in some people making a lot of money, yet once again, we, the Welsh people, will lose out.

But this is unavoidable in a colonialist environment when the local political class can be dictated to by their colonial masters and also wound around the fingers of the money men.

An independent Wales run by such people – or those hoping to replace them – would see us receiving food parcels from Venezuela. And they’d probably celebrate such shows of ‘solidarity’.

♦ end ♦