Miscellany 28.10.2019

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

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

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

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

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

SUMMIT TO SEA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRAKES OFF AT THE FERODO SITE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ELLERGREEN HYDRO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

♦ end ♦

 

Summit to Sea: a guest post by Jon Coles

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 is by Jon Coles, the Herald‘s Chief Writer, who has written about farming and rural affairs every week since the papers’ launch.

A CONTROVERSIAL project in Mid Wales faces opposition from local farmers and lost the support of a key local partner.

Summit to Sea’s website says: “The project will bring together one continuous, nature-rich area, stretching from the Pumlumon massif – the highest area in mid-Wales – down through wooded valleys to the Dyfi Estuary and out into Cardigan Bay. Within five years it will comprise at least 10,000 hectares of land and 28,400 hectares of sea.”

Pumlumon. Click to enlarge

The project is seen as a pilot for similar projects being eyed in rural areas of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire and partly reflects the Welsh Government’s controversial plans for favouring nebulous ‘public goods’ over food production.

‘NO TO REWILDING’

Drive towards Machynlleth from Talybont and signs in the roadside verges show opposition to the project growing the further north you go. Most say: ‘No to Rewilding’. There are few signs of any overt support.

A meeting of 150 local farmers in Talybont earlier this year rejected the project.
Just outside Machynlleth a particularly large sign rejecting rewilding underlines the farmers’ opposition.

Machynlleth. Click to enlarge

Once a market town for the livestock and wool trade, Machynlleth is now a prosperous exclave of bohemian incomers and boutique shopping in mid-Wales. The town’s centre supports a large Aga showroom, an old-fashioned cobbler making hand-made shoes, a variety of artisanal boutiques, antique shops, and no banks.

It is there that the ideas underpinning rewilding in the UK were, if not born, then first brought to the wider public’s attention.

George Monbiot is a trenchant critic of modern farming and has opined at length on what he claims is the adverse impact of sheep farming on the Welsh upland landscape. Mr Monbiot formerly resided near Machynlleth before returning to live in his native Oxfordshire some years ago.

Machynlleth, looking down Maengwyn Street to the A487 and the clock tower. Click to enlarge

In his book Feral, a seminal text for the rewilding movement in the UK, George Monbiot says: “Rewilding, to me, is about resisting the urge to control nature and allowing it to find its own way.”

Rewilding Britain is the principal partner for the Summit to Sea project.
The chief executive of Rewilding Britain is Rebecca Wrigley. Ms Wrigley is the partner of journalist and author George Monbiot.

The application for grant support for Summit to the Sea has a return address which is the couple’s home in Oxford.

REWILDING

To its critics, rewilding is a fad supported by metropolitan eco-warriors with nothing better to do with their time than dream of romantic rural idylls that never existed. Its supporters regard it as a means of restoring diversity and improving natural habitats.

Rewilding is so divisive a topic that even those sympathetic to its aims express caution about where it might lead and where the quest for creating an ‘authentic’ habitat stops.

A rewilding exercise in the Netherlands, at Oostvaardersplassen near Amsterdam, was so badly misjudged and went so catastrophically wrong that 3,000 horses, deer and cattle did not survive the winter of 2017. Starving animals were shot by Dutch officials to ease overpopulation and prevent the destruction of the forested habitats on which many of the species depend.

Oostvaardersplassen. Click to enlarge

Some argue that rewilding is the creation of ecosystems where human influences and control over vast areas of land are removed, and species such as large predators create self-regulating environments devoid of human interactions.

Others argue that rewilding is merely a new and exciting approach to conservation.
Rural Wales is, however, a working environment. Its landscape is intimately entwined with humans’ interactions with it, as users and exploiters of the land and conservers of it. While reintroducing apex predators like wolves and lynx is unlikely, significant concern exists that ‘rewilders’ oppose farming as being itself ‘a bad thing’.

SUMMIT TO SEA ‘NOT ABOUT REWILDING’

In spite of Rewilding Britain’s status as the Summit to Sea project’s lead partner, a spokesperson for the latter denied that the project’s primary purpose was rewilding.
They told us: “Summit to Sea was never meant to be a large-scale rewilding project, but instead is a wider initiative to bring positive change to both Mid Wales’ environment and economy. Exactly how the project looks will be shaped entirely by the community.

“Over the coming weeks, a recently appointed Community Engagement Officer will host one-to-one meetings and drop-in sessions with those who’d like to be involved to hear their visions for the area’s future. This could involve anything from working with communities to develop nature-based businesses that are socially and economically beneficial, to working with farmers to develop ideas for land management”.

However, the project has caused alarm that ‘rewilding’ is the first step towards the outside appropriation of Welsh land to rid the area of farming and create a playground for English and urban visitors.

Speaking in 2018, Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) President Glyn Roberts said: “A key driving force behind such pressures and policies is the belief that farming is somehow inherently bad, with negative messages drip-fed through the media by charities until they are accepted as universal truths – often conveniently drawing attention away from disastrous policies advocated by charities and introduced by successive Governments.”

LACK OF LOCAL ENGAGEMENT

Criticism that Summit to Sea has failed to reach out to local farmers and engage with local culture sensitively reached a head towards the end of the summer. Ecodyfi, a not for profit Development Trust which aims to deliver sustainable community regeneration in the Dyfi Valley, withdrew its support from Summit to Sea earlier this year.

Speaking to the media in September, Ecodyfi manager Andy Rowland said: “We have increasingly been disturbed by the change of attitude to the project in the farming-connected community on which we largely depend.

“The project reflects the partners’ focus on the environment and pays much less attention to the cultural/linguistic/social and economic aspects of sustainable development, which are fundamental to the whole community.

“We feel that in present circumstances Ecodyfi can best help the creation of a more resilient and sustainable future by being outside the project rather than by staying within it.”

Nick Fenwick, FUW. Click to enlarge

Responding, Nick Fenwick, Head of Policy at the FUW said: “We welcome the fact that Ecodyfi has recognised the damage done to their relationship with the local community through their involvement with Rewilding Britain.

“Their acknowledgement that the project does not pay sufficient attention to the ‘cultural, linguistic, social and economic aspects of sustainable development which are fundamental to the whole community’ is also welcome.”

FARMERS ‘MISUNDERSTAND’ PROJECT

Speaking at the time of Ecodyfi’s announcement, the Chief Executive of Summit to Sea said farmers had ‘misunderstood’ the scheme.

Melanie Newton also told the BBC: “It’s not about rewilding, it’s actually about looking at landscape sustainability and how that sits with traditional farming practices and how they can all support each other – they can sit side by side.”

Melanie Newton, Summit to Sea CEO. Click to enlarge

We asked Summit to Sea whether it thought to say that farmers misunderstood the project insulted the intelligence of those upon whose support it relied to deliver its scheme.

A spokesperson told us: “There has been a lot of information in circulation during the last year or so, some of which has been false or misconstrued. We also recognise that in some cases, communication on our part hasn’t been as clear as we would have liked.

“Feedback from community members so far has been vital in terms of how the project is shaped and adapted, and we are now working hard to strengthen our lines of communication with local people so that we can continue to develop a project which benefits both wildlife and people.”

Nick Fenwick of the FUW was not mollified by that explanation. He told us: “Farmers have certainly not ‘misunderstood’ the project: Far from it, they have recognised it for what it truly is, and know perfectly well that the claim that ‘It’s not about rewilding’ is laughable.

“The project is instigated and run by Rewilding Britain, an organisation which advocates the rewilding of a quarter of Great Britain. Their website acknowledges that the organisation was inspired by George Monbiot’s book ‘Feral’, which advocates the replacement of traditional farming with wilding in the very area selected for the Summit to Sea project.”

LOCAL SUPPORT?

We finally asked Summit to Sea to identify substantial locally-based or Welsh-based farming groups which supports its objectives.

Summit to Sea referred to the eight project partners engaged in the project and responded: “There are eight project partners who are keen to meet with groups including FUW and NFU Cymru to discuss how all organisations can move forward together to help create an environmental and economically prosperous future for everyone.”

Those partners, apart from Rewilding Britain, are Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust (MWT), PLAS Marine Special Area of Conservation, RSPB, Coetir Anian (a style of the Wales Wild Land Foundation CIO, which promotes rewilding), Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and WWF.

♦ end ♦

Jac chips in . . . An excellent piece by Jon Coles (I would expect no less) that exposes the many contradictions, and worse, in this project.

I became aware of Summit to Sea last year and it featured in The Green Menace (28 August). I wrote, “One shadowy re-wilding project about which I and others are having difficulty getting information is ‘Summit to Shore’”. A later piece was The Welsh Clearances in October, with a further mention here at the end of that month.

I may have got the name wrong to begin with, but this was not surprising seeing as there was so little information in the public domain, and no local consultations. Or let me qualify that by saying that no contact had been made with those whose land was being eyed up for takeover.

Gradually, more information seeped out, but it wasn’t encouraging. Just listen to Natalie Buttriss, the Director of Wales for the Woodland Trust, a partner in the Summit to Sea rewilding project, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Farming Today’ programme last October.

When dealing with surly natives Ms Buttriss clearly favours the, ‘You can like it or lump it’ approach.

And yet, despite being furtive wee creatures in the area affected, those behind Summit to Sea are not shy of publicity. Below we see Buttriss presenting a petition (for more trees) to London’s management team in Corruption Bay, represented by Plasmarl boy, Mike Hedges AM.

Let me think . . . did the ‘Welsh Government’ agree to a photo-op for the petitions against the ‘Ring of Steel’, or the ‘Prince of Wales’ Bridge, both of which gained a hell of a lot more signatures? Click to enlarge

Monbiot and his friends know little about the land they want to seize, but they know how to get things done. For Labour’s buffoons down Cardiff docks are like putty in the hands of members of the English middle classes.

After suitable kneading, the men (and women) of clay promised to withdraw funding from farmers after Brexit with the intention of thereby making land available for Monbiot and his gang.

Summit to Sea reminds us how vulnerable Cardiff Bay is to pressure from special interest groups, usually from outside of Wales and often acting against the Welsh national interest.

This colonialist variant of devolution is why we have a third sector profiting from the deprivation and hopelessness it encourages, and why the ‘Welsh Government’ refuses to consider a register of lobbyists.

Let’s end back in Holland, at Oostvaardersplassen. (And try saying that after a bottle of Malbec!) As the Guardian put it: “For protesters, Oostvaardersplassen is a secretive experiment devised by distrusted elites”.

Just add ‘alien’ and it applies perfectly to Summit to Sea. But why stop there! Wales itself is run by ‘distrusted alien elites’. Thank God more of you are waking up to that fact.

 

The Welsh Clearances

It’s generally agreed that Welsh farming is in for a hard time after Brexit, though there seems to be some confusion as to why this should be so. So let me explain. It has nothing to do with Brexit itself, or the EU, it’s merely certain elements in the ruling apparatus using Brexit as an excuse to undermine Welsh farming.

First, understand that Wales is managed by a Labour Party in Cardiff that is hostile to the farming industry, and at best ambivalent towards rural areas in general. The only element of the Labour Party that gives much thought to the countryside is that represented by Jane Davidson, Minister for Sustainability and Rural Development in the Labour-Plaid Cymru management team 2007 – 2011.

Davidson now lives on a smallholding in the south west and is Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for External Stakeholder Development and Engagement and Director of INSPIRE at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Her engagement with rural Wales extends no further than making it more attractive to good-lifers like herself.

These good-lifers, conservationists and others, have always had powerful friends, but Brexit is encouraging those friends to be bolder.

For as the Daily Post put it in a recent article: “Brexit is seen by many conservationists as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to boost wildlife habitats using cash currently allocated to farming and food production”.

But how would this be done, what are the nuts and bolts?

THE DEFRA EMPIRE

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is essentially an England-only agency, but as the GOV.UK website tells us, “Although Defra only works directly in England, it works closely with the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and generally leads on negotiations in the EU and internationally.”

So how ‘closely’ might Defra be working with the administration in Wales?

From information received it seems to me that the influence of Defra in Wales goes well beyond working closely with the ‘Welsh’ Government. Let’s look at a few individuals prominent in the running of Welsh agriculture and food production.

And let’s start with Andrew Slade. I was hoping to get information from the ‘Welsh’ Government’s own website, but it came up blank.

Fortunately, I was able to find something on WalesOnline which tells us that Andrew Slade came to Wales in 2013 as Director General for Agriculture, Food and Marine. In November 2017 he was promoted to Director General, Economy, Skills and Natural Resources.

Soon after arriving he was busy taking EU money off farmers and transferring it to ‘Rural Development Projects’. Or to put it another way, taking money from Welsh farmers to give to a rag-bag of hippies, good-lifers and other non-indigenous grant-grabbers.

Here, in January 2014, we see him sitting alongside Alun Davies, then Minister for Natural Resources and Food, making sure Davies doesn’t fluff the lines that have been written for him. I wrote about it here.

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In this video from February 2018 we see Slade addressing some NFU gathering. He says that following his elevation he has been succeeded in his old job by Tim Render. So who’s he? Well, this video from 2016 tells us that Render was then Deputy Director at the Great British Food Unit of Defra.

Render did indeed take up a new post with the ‘Welsh’ Government in January 2018, but if his Linkedin profile is to be believed then he commutes to Cardiff from London.

It would appear that the top jobs in Welsh agriculture and food are reserved for Defra men. And I have no doubt that they are in Wales implementing Defra policy, which will not serve Welsh interests. And while there may have been the charade of a recruitment process, they were not recruited by Carwyn and his gang, they were put in place by London.

There are a couple of others worth mentioning in this context. First up is Andy Fraser, who is something of a Renaissance Man, being both Head of Fisheries and Head of Tax Strategy. So if a way can be found to make fish pay tax we could be rolling in it.

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It should go without saying that Andy also has a Defra background. Which probably explains why his former employer, and of course the former employer of Andrew Slade and Tim Render, was able to acquire the food hall at the Royal Welsh Show for its Rule Britannia extravaganza in July.

Another I’m told might be worth watching is Keith Smyton, who came from the Six Counties and is now Head of the Food Division. The accent confirms he is an Ulsterman, and I’d bet on him being from the sash and bowler tradition, and therefore as determined to stick union jacks on everything as the others we’ve met.

UPDATE 22.10.2018: Another to add is Peter McDonald, who since June 2017 has been Deputy Director – Land, Nature & Forestry / Land Management Reform Unit (with the element following the forward slash added in January).  But you’ll see on his Linkedin profile that he is also Deputy Director, Energy, Environment and Transport Tax at the Treasury. In fact his background is with the Treasury.

He’s obviously a money man, and I’m told his sympathies lie with conservationists and re-wilders, not farmers.

Put together it makes a nonsense of the idea that agriculture is a devolved matter. And it’s the same across the senior ranks of the civil service in Wales. Which is as it should be, for it’s a colonial civil service.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again – Wales is run by civil servants answering to London and pursuing a BritNat agenda at the expense of Wales. The politicians in Cardiff docks are no more than collaborators, helping disguise where power really lies. 

SUMMIT TO SEA

I’ve also mentioned this project before, in the Green Menace. Now they’ve started recruiting staff. Here’s an advert from the Guardian, and here’s another from the Rewilding Britain site.

Did you spot the difference? The Guardian advert reads, “Ability to communicate in Welsh is highly desirable”. On the Rewilding Britain site (more likely to be read by potential applicants), it asks only for, “Good understanding of and demonstrable enthusiasm for the local Welsh culture and language”.

I think we can take it as read that the successful applicant will not be Welsh speaking, or even Welsh. (Though I couldn’t help wondering what might qualify as “demonstrable enthusiasm”. What a strange term!)

Natalie Buttriss, new Director of Wales at the Woodland Trust, presenting a petition for more trees to a member of England’s Cardiff Bay management team. How many signatures were collected against the Flint Sphincter and Geiger Bay? Did those petitions get this kind of reception?

The Rewilding Britain website tells us that its partner in Summit to Sea is The Woodland Trust. And it was Natalie Buttriss, the Trust’s Director of Wales, who spoke about the project on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Farming Today’ programme last Wednesday.

 

“Farming is subsidised” . . . says a woman whose own project has just been given £3.4m of someone else’s money! And, then, chillingly, she adds, “The policy landscape is changing”, before making it clear that her project enjoys the full support of the Cardiff management team.

Natalie Buttriss’s contempt for farmers came through strongly. Her memsahib attitude could be paraphrased: ‘The farmers will not see a penny of our funding . . . we have the whip hand . . . we’ve got political backing . . . there is nothing the farmers can do to stop us . . . we’ll squeeze them out . . . ‘

For a woman representing a project that claims it wants to work with landowners and farmers I suggest that the arrogant Natalie Buttriss has, with that interview, seriously damaged the chances of co-operation.

The area involved is huge. On the coast it runs from Aberdyfi to Aberystwyth, and then inland, following the A44 up to Llangurig (though deviating south to Cwmystwth) and then on to Llanidloes, after which it’s the minor road up to Llanbrynmair, and Glantwymyn, before heading down the Dyfi valley to Aberdyfi.

In all, 10,000 hectares of land and 28,400 hectares of sea, according to the Summit to Sea page on the Rewilding Britain website. But the very poor map used on the site seems to suggest the figures may be the other way around, unless the blue (Project area) line has not been extended into Cardigan Bay.

click to enlarge

Clearly, this not uninhabited territory that the re-wilders can just take over, so how will they co-exist with farmers and others? Well, if we go back to the revelatory Radio 4 interview given by Ms Buttriss it would appear that those living there now can either like it or lump it.

One thing I predict with certainty, Natalie Buttriss and her gang, and lots of others like them, are queuing up, confident that a great deal of Welsh land will become available in the coming years as farmers are forced out of business.

It’s spelled out in this Daily Post article. Where Plaid Cymru AM Siân Gwenllian is quoted as saying:

“Many farmers will be denied the necessary support due to the new eligibility criteria, meaning they will lose out on help which has served as a backbone to the viability of their business. The proposed payment regime will have two elements – one offering 40% investment grants, the other paying for ‘Public Goods’ such as habitat management and tree planting.

Unlike the EU , which is beefing up its Active Farmer rule to ensure money stays in rural areas, Wales is proposing an ‘open to all’ policy in which applicants could include banks and pension funds, 

The EU, as in Scotland and Northern Ireland, is also ring-fencing farm funding to safeguard against economic instability following Brexit, she added. The Welsh Government is going in precisely the opposite direction – destabilising one of our key industries,”

You have to ask yourself why the “Welsh Government” (sic) is going in “precisely the opposite direction” to the EU, Scotland and Northern Ireland? This is clearly ‘the changing policy landscape’ referred to by Natalie Buttriss of the Woodland Trust in her radio interview. And it’s what makes Wales so attractive to her and other parasites.

UPDATE 07.11.2018: There was an excellent piece in yesterday’s Llais y Sais by Farmers Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts. While today the ‘re-wilders’ have responded in a more conciliatory tone than that adopted in the past by the likes of George Monbiot and Natalie Buttriss.

Could it be that the ‘environmentalists’ have belatedly realised that they were coming across as the arrogant colonialists they are?

Summit to Sea is a project hatched up by rootless yet well connected schemers to displace Welsh farmers from the land their families may have farmed for centuries. It’s old-fashioned colonialism and dispossession repackaged as ‘conservation’ for a twenty-first century audience.

And Summit to Sea is just the start. The beginning of the Welsh Clearances.

♦ end ♦