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.

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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:

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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 ♦