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 is a subject I’ve tackled before; I’m returning to it because the problem seems to be spreading, yea! even unto the city of my dreams.
This is another ‘biggie’ but, as usual, broken down into easily-digestible chunks. Enjoy!
For those new to the subject, One Planet Developments were introduced and encouraged by the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition management team (2007 – 2011), at the instigation of – among others – Jane Davidson, who served in that team as the Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing.
The issue being addressed was, we were told, how Wales could play its part in saving the planet. Yet this excuse was – as we political commentators are wont to put it – bollocks. The lie is exposed by the claim that OPDs will reduce Wales’ carbon footprint – by attracting more people into the country.
For Wales is the only country on Earth to allow OPDs. No one else has been so stupid.
The true motivation was that Davidson’s ‘alternative’ friends wanted smallholdings in Wales but didn’t want to pay commercial property prices. Enacting legislation –TAN 6 strengthened with the Well-being of Future Generations Act – allowed hippies to settle just about anywhere by claiming OPD status, then demanding – and getting! – planning permission for structures that no one else would be allowed to build.
This meant they could set up a smallholding on a shoestring.
Her work done in Corruption Bay, Davidson moved on after the 2011 election to take advantage of the group-think she had helped engender. A post was created for her at UWTSD Lampeter with the Institute of Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness (INSPIRE), a department that began life with her arrival in January 2012.
Perhaps in the hope of disguising the relationship between the Labour Party and higher education, and to give her some academic credibility, Davidson is billed as ‘Dr Jane Davidson’, but her doctorate is purely honorary, and from another Labour-linked institution in Pontypridd.
Predictably, ‘Dr’ Davidson lives on a smallholding of her own.
The majority of OPDs are to be found in Pembrokeshire and west Carmarthenshire, but as I’ve suggested, they’re creeping east.
Earlier this month a planning application was submitted to Carmarthenshire County Council for a OPD at Llansteffan. To be exact, in ‘Pentowyn farm yard’. Here’s the full planning application.
Pentowyn farm is located across the Tâf estuary from Dylan Thomas’s boathouse at Laugharne. Nice.
Note that the work on this OPD started on 1 May last year, so it’s taken over a year for what is now the retrospective planning application to be submitted. Which is how OPDs operate, knowing that no matter what the local planning authority might say, the ‘Welsh Government’ or the Planning Inspectorate will always grant planning consent.
To help you follow the tale, here’s the plan submitted with the planning application. It shows a long, thin section of land to the east and north east of the farm buildings, with a more compact area to the south and south west, on the other side of the road. The planned buildings are located on this second area.
A number of things struck me about this application. First, the agent is Tao Wimbush; and if that name rings a bell, then it’s because he is a hetman in the Lammas commune not far away, up towards Crymych.
I’d always assumed that these enviro-colons were vegans, or at least, vegetarians – so why is there a ‘butchers unit’ and a ‘mobile refrigeration unit’ at this OPD? But then, Wimbush is only the agent, the adviser.
The applicants are Mark and Ann Oriel, and even though their company name as given on the planning application is ‘Lammas Earth Centre’, and their address that for the Lammas commune, I suspect the Oriels live in Bancyfelin, and Mark runs a slap, rub and squeeze outlet in nearby Sanclêr. (No, not that kind of establishment.)
Which might suggest he too lacks the necessary background in the butchering of livestock and the preparing of meat for sale. So why the ‘butchers unit’? (I wish to God people would use apostrophes.)
Certainly, the Oriels own the land to the east of the farmhouse, the land edged in red on the Land Registry title document plan (scroll down). But the land to the south of the farmhouse, where the shack and the butcher’s building will be located, is not on that title document. So who owns that land?
When I tried to get the document from the Land Registry I drew a blank. The land is either not registered or not yet re-registered.
If you go back to the planning application (20) you’ll read, ‘A butchers unit for processing meat grown on the farm’. I’m not sure that the Oriels have enough land to graze many animals so this must refer to other land.
When asked if neighbours or the local community have been consulted about the proposed development (23) the applicant answers, ‘I have discussed the proposal with my direct neighbours’. So who are the ‘direct neighbours’?
The farm buildings and the land down as far as the road are owned by a woman living in Sketty, Swansea. Shown here edged in red on the Land Registry title plan. I suspect they (or some of them) have been converted into holiday cottages.
The land across the road to the south east, adjoining the land for which planning permission is sought, is owned a local farming family. Are they the ‘direct neighbours’?
The more I think about this, the weirder it seems. We have a hippy asking for planning permission for a sports therapist to have a OPD complete with what reads like a mini abattoir. And we don’t know who owns the land on which the new buildings are to go.
Is someone using the near-certainly of planning permission being granted for an OPD to get consent for something that might otherwise be difficult to get past the planners and other authorities?
If so, then this is a dangerous development, and might signal that OPDs are now being used in a way that I’m sure was not intended by the buffoons who agreed to this idiocy back in the days of the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition.
ANOTHER STRANGE ONE
Someone has also directed me to a property being advertised by Rees Richards, a long-established firm of estate agents in Swansea and the surrounding area. The company was advertising a property with ‘Potential for ‘One Planet’ development (subject to planning)’.
As we know, planning is never a problem for OPDs, so we can take that for granted.
Of course, if someone wanted to repair and renovate the old house then they wouldn’t need planning permission for an OPD. But that house needs a lot of work, and it would cost a lot of money.
So I assume that the house and the outbuildings are not the big selling point.
Certainly, Cwm-Garenig is a bit off the beaten track, and there’s no mains electricity, so that might attract potential OPD dwellers. But it’s still only 19 acres, and the area round about has been mined for centuries.
I’d hate to switch on the Evening News to hear that, ‘Police and rescue teams are still searching for survivors after a yurt-full of tofu tasters disappeared today down the old Number 9 shaft . . . ‘.
Wouldn’t that just be too, too awful!
It seems to me that Rees Richards is selling 19 acres of land, some of it possibly unstable. Not only that, but we have a Swansea-based estate agency cottoning on to the possibility of bumping up the price of low value land by adding the magic letters ‘OPD’.
Clearly, this is no longer a rural thing, as you’ll learn from reading on.
If estate agents and others have latched on to the fact that OPDs are a sure-fire way of getting planning permission for dwellings in open country (and maybe not just open country), then who knows where it might lead?
It certainly leads us to Swansea.
BRIGHTON COMES TO GOWER
I introduced this
scam scheme to you in Miscellany 06.06.2020, just scroll down to the section ‘Brighton Greens discover Gower’. It’s called the Furzehill Project. Here’s the link to the article from which the image below is taken.
The Brighton gang goes by the name of the Ecological Land Cooperative (ELC) and want two smallholdings on an 18 acre site it bought in December 2017. These smallholdings will be of 5.5 acres each because the rest of the land is already being used by the ELC’s local partner, Cae Tân CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).
Though there are very few locals involved with Cae Tân and so it’s questionable how well it’s supported by the wider community.
The leading light in Cae Tân would appear to be Anthony ‘Ant’ Flanagan, who has set up a string of companies, none of which seem able to survive without public largesse, and at least one of which has entered into a disastrous partnership.
It may be worth listing these companies, seeing where their money comes from, and checking on their fates. (CIC means Community Interest Company.)
- CORDELIA COMMUNITY ENERGY CIC. Formed 15 June 2015; 5 loans taken out 2017, three with Finance Wales, all still outstanding; 4 new directors appointed February 2017; either merges with or is taken over September 2017 by YnNi Teg Cyf.
- KILLAN SOLAR CIC. Formed June 2015; 3 loans taken out 2016/17 all with Finance Wales, still outstanding; April 2017, registers with FCA as Community Benefit Society Gower Regeneration Ltd.
- WOLFIE COMMUNITY ENERGY CIC. Formed June 2015; Dissolved December 2017.
- HERMIA COMMUNITY ENERGY CIC. Formed June 2015, but Flanagan joined by others and address moved from Gower to London; in the red.
- MARBLE COMMUNITY ENERGY CIC. Formed June 2015; Flanagan sole director; Dissolved December 2017.
- MARIANA COMMUNITY ENERGY COMPANY. Formed June 2015; Flanagan sole director; Dissolved December 2017.
- SHUFFLES COMMUNITY ENERGY CIC. Formed June 2015; Dissolved December 2016; Flanagan’s co-director was John Christopher Whiten.
- BABS COMMUNITY ENERGY CIC. Formed June 2015; directors Flanagan and Whiten; Dissolved January 2018.
- CLEOPATRA COMMUNITY ENERGY CIC. Formed June 2015; directors Flanagan and Whiten; Dissolved December 2016.
- PEASBLOSSOM COMMUNITY ENERGY CIC. Formed June 2015; directors Flanagan and Whiten; Dissolved December 2016.
- HERMIONE COMMUNITY ENERGY CIC. Formed June 2015; directors Flanagan and Whiten; Dissolved December 2016.
- MIRANDA COMMUNITY ENERGY CIC. Formed June 2015; Flanagan sole director; Dissolved January 2018.
- CAE TÂN COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE LTD. Formed April 2015; 8 directors (one or two may even be Welsh); latest accounts show Total Net Assets of £5,918.
- GOWER POWER CO-OP CIC. Formed June 2013; 5 directors including Flanagan and Whiten; net assets £21,956.
- COIGACH COMMUNITY CIC (originally Willowcroft W. Community Energy CIC). Formed June 2015; address moved from Parkmill to Manchester July 2016, when Flanagan ceased to be a director; net assets £10. (‘Coigach’ is a Scottish Gaelic name.)
I suspect that the inspiration for all these start-ups in June 2015 were the municipal energy companies in England, such as Bristol Energy. But Bristol Energy is docked in Shit Creek. The council is hoping to find a buyer.
Others are Robin Hood Energy in – where else? – Nottingham, which lost £23m last year; and Victory Energy in Portsmouth, which in May had its licence revoked by Ofgen.
So why did Gower Power enter into a deal with Bristol Energy in January?
These council-owned energy companies end up costing council taxpayers a hell of a lot of money. We know that Swansea council has been very generous to Ant Flanagan, so how indebted are my fellow-Jacks as a result of this generosity?
Ant Flanagan and his playmates are responsible for the arrival in Wales of the Ecological Land Cooperative of Brighton, who want the smallholdings at Ilston.
A point I made about the planning application in the earlier piece was that letters of support for Furzehill were coming in from all over England but there were few letters from locals. Well that’s changed. And the locals haven’t held back in their criticisms.
If we click on the ‘Comments’ tab, then from local residents we read:
‘This is nothing more than a vanity project from a group of opportunists who are hell bent on claiming community grant subsidies and then feeding that funding through its various other side projects . . . ‘.
‘ . . . In the meantime small farmers trying to scratch a living from the earth are being displaced by larger cooperatives, being unable to compete with grant led, subsidised or community funded groups.’
A third says, referring to OPD legislation:
‘The Ecological Land Coop, an organisation based in South England, would not be likely to be investing money in land in Wales if this planning law applied equally to England.’
This writer continues:
‘As a former organic market gardener, serving people in and around Swansea by growing and selling through a veg box scheme between 1994 and 2018, I no longer even try to compete with these market rigging opportunists.’
While a another objector has this to say:
‘I object about this proposal on two grounds
That this a means of laundering and misappropriating WG and any LA grant funds, rather than a being of benefit for local produce growers/vendors, many of which are being put out of business because of the practices unscrupulous organisation.
There were other objections along similar lines. Arguing that these people are exploiting OPD legislation, they’re only here because of easy access to public funding, which then helps them under-cut genuinely local growers and companies. Some objectors make specific claims of dishonesty.
How the hell did we get to a situation where we are funding interlopers to put local people out of business?
Because . . .
Wales is a land of make-believe, especially when socialists are in charge, and image is more important than reality. Being seen to do the right thing has become more important than actually doing the right thing . . . and far, far easier.
Which is how we end up with One Planet Developments, and the mantra that Wales can show everyone how to save the planet. Idiocies that are welcomed in the Guardian, cheered by superannuated hippies in California, and will have Eco-capitalists from Sweden to Australia rubbing their hands with glee as they think about how many bird-slicing, flood-causing wind turbines they can erect on our hills . . .
There are no material benefits for us Welsh from OPDs, and wind turbines, and saving the planet, yet we are lectured that it’s done for some greater good, and for generations to come. Intangible and unquantifiable benefits that may never materialise. But then, virtue signalling is so much easier than coming up with a serious economic strategy for Wales that might create business opportunities, careers and jobs.
When you think about it, the message being put out today by the ‘progressive’ parties in the Senedd is not a lot different to that preached in earlier times by clerics in the pay of landowners and industrialists. It runs, ‘There’s nothing for you in this life, but if you’re virtuous and obedient then your reward is in heaven’.
Those clergymen were serving someone else’s interests, not the interests of those to whom they preached. And it’s the same with the ‘Welsh Government’ today.
In the companies listed for ‘Ant’ Flanagan you may have noticed Killan Solar CIC, which converted in 2017 into Community Benefit Society Gower Regeneration Ltd.
Anthony Flanagan appears to be still in charge, but with other directors on board, prominent among them, Roy Kenneth Church. The Church family has for many years run the Gower Heritage Centre at Parkmill, which seems to be the base for most of the Flanagan Companies.
Roy Kenneth Church is also a director of Swansea Bay Community Energy Ltd, which has now been deregistered and for which documents are no longer available on the FCA website. Yet another ‘Energy’ company, and given the name, this one suggests ambition on the scale of the municipal failures we looked at earlier.
Though on the FCA document Church is also listed as a director of Swansea Bay Community Energy Two Ltd, for which I can find nothing. Did a ‘phoenix’ company rise from the ashes of Swansea Bay Community Energy Ltd?
Church is also one of the two directors of Tourism Swansea Bay Ltd which, despite the grand title, is a shoestring outfit based, again, in Parkmill. But at a different address to the Gower Heritage Centre.
Then there’s Gower Power Solar Ltd, where we find Church, Flanagan and John Christopher Whiten. The only documents filed, in October 2017, tell of a dormant company. Possibly linked with Gower Power Co-op CIC, where we find Flanagan and Whiten among the directors.
But back to Killan Solar CIC which metamorphosed into Gower Regeneration Ltd.
The name ‘Killan’ refers to a couple of farms which give their name to a road in Dunvant, on the western outskirts of Swansea. We need to focus on the land to the right of the land outlined in red on this plan of Killan-fach farm, Land Registry title number WA289902.
The land we’re looking at is covered by title number WA289901.
There we find a solar complex owned by Gower Regeneration Ltd, with Roy Kenneth Church and Ant Flanagan as directors. The money to build the complex came in the form of three loans from Finance Wales Investments. All three loans remain outstanding.
So, in a sense, you and I own those solar panels because like most things we look at in this piece – they were paid for with public money that has yet to be repaid.
A request for pre-planning application guidance has been made to Swansea council for this land. Land that seems to be owned by Dunvant SBG Ltd. The only director of which is Roy Kenneth Church.
Dunvant SBG was formed in 2001 and the five outstanding charges go back almost as far. Roy Kenneth Church was a director from 24 December 2001 until 1 October 2009, and then rejoined in September 2019, probably following the death of his father.
The plan being hatched, it seems, is to build an ‘Eco village’ of 12 ‘farmlets’. Yes, ‘farmlets’. What a twee word, I wonder what idiot thought that up? I ask because even though the land seems to be owned by Roy Kenneth Church the pre-application submission came from Gerald Blain associates of Whitland.
‘Farmlets’ of 2 acres or less. Not much bigger than decent-sized allotments. What the hell is going on? (Here’s a link to the council website.)
Equally perplexing is why Church couldn’t find an architect in Swansea, which might have spared him a trip to Whitland. But wait! Whitland . . . now who do we know in that area? Why, Tao Wimbush’s postal address is Whitland. And having a background in architecture himself I’m sure he knows Gerald Blain and his mate Mark Sanders.
Gerald Blain Associates seems to be another shoestring outfit. The latest accounts at Companies House show total assets of £49. Confirmed by Company Check. Why would Church rush down west to hire this lot?
I say Church, but the applicant for these ‘farmlets’ is named as a Captain Steve Croaker. But I cannot find a Captain Steve Croaker. Who is he? Does he even exist?
UPDATE 01.07.2020: ‘Captain Croaker’ has been identified. He is Steven William Crocker of Cefn Gwlad Solutions Ltd, though I’m assured he has other strings to his bow. A Swansea man with strong links to Roy Kenneth Church and Parkmill.
What we have is an area on the edge of Swansea where development is not permitted because it would result in Dunvant, a part of the city, merging with the village of Three Crosses, viewed as Gower. But OPD promises a way around this problem.
Because anyone who could get planning permission for substantial properties sitting in an acre or more of land, with Gower on the doorstep, could rake it in.
Gerald Blain mentions OPD more than once in his submission. He makes a big play on how difficult it is for young people to get into farming. Which may be true, but this is not farming. You won’t see any of the old Gower families on these ‘farmlets’.
For they are intended for the friends of Tao Wimbush, and the land-grabbers from Brighton. Using OPD almost as blackmail – “If you don’t give us planning permission we’ll scream ‘OPD’ and our friends in Corruption Bay will give us what we want”.
The council clearly sees what’s behind this plan – expensive dwellings in the green belt with planning permission obtained by subterfuge. This extract from the council’s response to Gerald Blain makes that clear.
It seems very unlikely that the council will look favourably on this project when it’s discussed at 2pm today (Monday). It may be possible to follow proceedings by installing this Microsoft app.
But what happens if the mysterious Cap’n Croaker appeals to the so-called ‘Welsh Government’? Will those clowns allow it?
The problems with OPD go beyond what I’ve listed here.
For example, a lady in Powys writes to me regularly with tales of a family that thinks OPD status gives them carte blanche to erect other buildings, to dump vehicles, etc. The parents and adult children who live on this OPD cause havoc on a narrow access track.
It seems they’re now looking for someone to sell what little they produce in the way of vegetables because they’re too busy themselves at the jobs that take them away every day from the ‘OPD’!
One Planet Developments should be self-sufficient agricultural smallholdings, not a little place in the country from which you commute to your job.
The supine behaviour of Powys County Council towards this OPD encourages others to behave in a similar fashion.
As might be expected, Powys County Council’s refusal to act, and local AS’s and MP’s unwillingness to get involved, not only encourages mess like you see in the picture, it drives out decent residents and it deters investors.
I shall return to problems in Powys in more detail at a later date.
Information comes in from various sources about OPD problems in other areas.
For example, a reliable source who has provided information before writes:
‘What I can tell you briefly is that the most, if not all, of the plots at Tir y Gafel are no longer Lammas as such but are freehold properties that can be brought and sold without restrictions.
This is a game changer.’
This source also advises that the hub, central to the Lammas community, and built with funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change in London, has been abandoned because it is structurally unsound.
Furthermore, it is now surrounded by freeholders unwilling to take responsibility for what was intended to be a shared, community building. Presumably it will now be allowed to fall down.
Another source directed to me to certain Facebook postings. Here’s one from David Thorpe of Cynefin Community Land Trust.
What’s being promoted here is a new village, a new English village in Wales. And note how this new village will be tagged onto ‘an existing settlement’, just like the ‘farmlets’ in Dunvant. OPDs were not supposed to be new suburbs.
Thorpe is a patron of the One Planet Council . . . along with Jane Davidson.
Here’s another contribution from Thorpe.
Andrew Slade? Does that name ring a bell? It should. Slade is one of the English civil servants who run the ‘Welsh Government’. He it was who took EU money off our farmers (Pillar 1) and transferred it to ‘Rural Development Projects’ (Pillar 2).
He’s worked with ‘Game Show Gary’ Haggaty, who’s rogering Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs.
Together they’re all working to get Welsh farming families off their land – so they can be replaced by OPDs, and ‘rewilders’, and Mongolian yak herders . . . any bugger will do, just as long as they’re not Welsh.
This is naked racism. This is ethnic cleansing. Yet this is what One Planet Developments have become.
♦ end ♦