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
While you’re recovering from Christmas, getting your breath back for further excesses at New Year, just take time to read this little piece.
BRYN BLAEN WIND FARM
Just over a year ago, I wrote Corruption in the wind?, which was primarily about the Hendy wind farm, but I also mentioned the linked Bryn Blaen installation. And it’s Bryn Blaen I’m concentrating on here.
The six turbines of the Bryn Blaen wind farm lie to the north of Llangurig, the village you pass by if travelling north-south on the A470, and through which you pass if leaving the A470 to take the A44 down to Aberystwyth.
Bryn Blaen wind farm is owned – in the first instance – by Bryn Blaen Wind Farm Ltd, which was Incorporated May 18, 2011, though the company was originally known as Development Securities (No 74) Ltd. The project was funded with five loans from Close Leasing Ltd, a Manchester finance company that seems to have a keen interest in renewables.
Hendy wind farm not far away is owned – ditto – by Hendy Wind Farm Ltd, which was also Incorporated May 18, 2011, this time as Development Securities (No 71) Ltd. Thus far there is just one charge with Close Leasing Ltd.
The immediate parent company in each case is DS Renewables LLP, which is in turn owned by U and I Group PLC. The U and I Group is a property company focused on London, Manchester and Dublin, but its portfolio extends beyond these cities and is not restricted to commercial and residential property.
Like most of its ilk the U and I Group pretends to be something better than just a property speculator. This clip from the 2019 accounts says it all.
Bryn Blaen appears on page 26, where we also find mention of Hendy and Rhoscrowther wind farms. The figures on the left are the ‘Previous target’ column while those on the right are ‘Realised gains/losses’.
We see that Hendy and Rhoscrowther have realised nothing; this is due to Hendy still being under construction, while Rhoscrowther was denied planning permission for a third time in April 2018 and appears to be dead in the water.
Bryn Blaen on the other hand has made a return of £4.7m, quite remarkable seeing as its turbines have never turned. This was being reported in January 2019 and little has changed, though I should report that some turbines have shaken the dust off recently . . . almost certainly powered by diesel generators, and done for the benefit of an increasingly sceptical local audience.
The reason Bryn Blaen is not generating electricity is hinted at in the image above, where it mentions ” . . . increased costs in connecting to the grid”. This alludes to a major problem. To wit, there isn’t the capacity on the existing local infrastructure to carry anything generated by Bryn Blaen.
Though a closer look at page 7 of the accounts (shown below) tells us that Bryn Blaen Wind Farm’s true assets are in fact just £2,076. The thirty-three million figure is made up of debts, and page 15 explains that these are £21,410,000 in bank loans and £12,934,555 owed to U and I Group PLC.
(Wow! If debts can be counted as assets then Jac is rolling in it!)
All of which means that Bryn Blaen wind farm is just a pachyderm of a very pale hue, desecrating the Welsh countryside for no discernible benefit to anyone. And yet . . .
On page 9, paragraph 2.2, of the Bryn Blaen Wind Farm Ltd accounts we read the passage below. The implication is that the debts (certainly the bank loans) will be repaid when Bryn Blaen is disposed of at the end of February 2020.
Which suggests that someone is going to buy a wind farm that cannot export any electricity it might generate . . . which is why it has generated nothing in the two years of its existence!
This episode raises a number of questions:
Why did the Planning Inspectorate overrule Powys County Council to give planning permission in August 2016 to a project that the most cursory investigation would have revealed was utterly useless?
Are there other examples like Bryn Blaen?
Turbines that have generated nothing for six months can be demolished, so will Lesley Griffiths now do as protesters request and have the Bryn Blaen turbines demolished at developers’ expense?
The U and I Group plans to re-submit a planning application for Rhoscrowther wind farm on Milford Haven Waterway; can we therefore assume that Lesley Griffiths will be instructed to approve this application?
The scandal of Bryn Blaen should be a matter of national concern, so don’t just leave it to the locals – you write to Lesley Griffiths, and to your local AM, asking what the hell has happened. Insist on Bryn Blaen being demolished. And demand more stringent checks on local grid capacity and other issues before planning permission is granted for any future wind farms.
For those who may not be familiar with this document, it is the supreme planning guidance for Wales to which plans such as councils’ Local Development Plans (LDPs) and all sub-national strategies must conform. I wrote about it in August.
The NDF is big on renewable energy, as the map below shows. What isn’t given over to wind and solar ‘farms’ is largely accounted for by urban areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the proposed ‘National Forest’, and the vast area north of Aberystwyth promised to the Summit to Sea ‘rewilders’.
But I can’t help wondering what’s planned for that area between the A5 and the A458, east of Dolgellau.
Though I suppose the really big question is – who is going to benefit from this National Development Framework?
The individual beneficiaries will be landowners (often absentee), property developers like the U and I Group, and other English ‘investors’. Proving yet again that wind power is more about cashing in on the subsidies than with replacing fossil fuels.
But over and above the individual beneficiaries the National Development Framework is for the benefit of England.
Wind and solar farms won’t provide jobs for Welsh people. And we already produce far more electricity than we consume; yet as with water, we are not allowed to make a profit from what we export. (Though ‘our’ water and electricity can be sold back to us at over-the-odds prices.)
The National Development Framework allows Wales to be exploited as never before, but rather than standing up for Wales our current crop of politicians will rhapsodise over it.
Labour, Plaid Cymru and Lib Dems will bleat about Wales ‘making its contribution’ to ‘saving the planet’, etc., when, in reality, they’ll be turning our beautiful homeland into an al fresco power station. What isn’t covered by wind and solar farms will be retirement and recreation areas for England. Zimmer frames and zip wires.
Tory and Brexit parties will of course support anything that makes money for their pals in the financial sector . . . no matter how shady the deal, no matter how heavy the price Wales has to pay.
The Union with England has never worked to Wales’ advantage, but then, that was never the intention. Yet devolution, we were told, would provide ‘Welsh answers for Welsh problems’; but as Bryn Blaen, the National Development Framework, and countless other examples make clear, devolution is just a pitifully transparent veneer of ‘Welshness’ for continuing exploitation.
If we are to survive and progress as a nation it can only be done by prioritising our interests and focusing on independence without any distractions or self-imposed divisions. So let’s continue building momentum in 2020 on the broadest possible front.
Since November last year Powys residents have been living an Alice in Wonderland adventure, though now we have perhaps moved on from Lewis Carroll to Franz Kafka.
To set the scene: planning regulations require construction in accordance with the permission granted. That means one should develop according to approved plans, within the red line boundary and abide by any conditions attached to the permission. If this is not followed development is unlawful and potentially the developer could lose their permission. At Hendy wind farm the developer also needs separate common land permissions for his access across Llandegley Rhos to the wind farm site. A planning authority can enforce against a breach of planning conditions, but only if it is expedient to do so. (Expedient: adjective meaning, “convenient and practical although possibly improper or immoral”.) That is in the real world; here we are in Powys, in Wales.
The developer is chasing a subsidy deadline of 31st January which apparently allows only one turbine erected out of seven to commission but it does not have to have a grid connection. So why bother with the niceties of regulations when pound signs beckon? Publicly Njord Energy Ltd or Hendy Wind Farm Ltd, anyway, Steven Radford, maintains he is not being unlawful and he’s a responsible developer and that those nasty local residents are victimising him.
Before the last of the discharge of conditions applications was submitted the developer had made a construction compound outside of the red line boundary. The public complained to Powys Development Management.
Next an access track appeared, still outside of the permitted development. The public complained to Powys Development Management and pointed out how their own department had relentlessly pursued enforcement of an adjacent landowner for over five years, even taking him to court. We received an email from the planning officer, it was fine, the developer had told them this was permitted development so Powys could not enforce, although a breach of conditions case was opened.
The developer “re-stoned” the track across the common. It rained and it rained but turbine foundation works progressed apace. The public complained to Powys Development Management. The public complained to Natural Resources Wales. Lots of round straw bales appeared in ditches and streams to catch sediment. Sheep on the common land could not believe their luck, graziers are not allowed to feed them on the common. Meanwhile the track across the common, widened by heavy use of lorries, turned to mud. A culvert collapsed. Natural Resources Wales made the developer repair it.
Meanwhile, Powys had sought counsel’s advice which is: there needs to be evidence of environmental harm otherwise it is not expedient to enforce.
Concrete pouring was imminent. The concrete would be irreversible damage to land at the headwaters of a river that is part of the River Wye SAC. Brecon and Radnor CPRW decided to apply for an injunction. A temporary injunction was granted until a court hearing three days later. The developer sent a letter to court stating that they believed that they had done nothing unlawful. The development was predicated on the subsidies and if they failed to commission by the deadline, they would have to apply for bigger wind turbines. Also, concrete pour must be completed by 4th January to allow for erection and commissioning of the wind turbine.
At the court hearing Justice Garnham agreed that concreting the foundation was irreversible nevertheless he asked what the cut-off date for concrete pour would be to get subsidy. Then, with miraculous timing, an email from NRW was sent to court stating the concrete pour would be okay as long as it followed the methodology submitted. That was the end of any injunction.
Concrete pour day, the 3rd of January, arrived and Powys residents turned out to meet and greet the mixer lorries whilst exercising their Open Access rights on the common track. The police and extra security drafted in to deal with the rabble found them a real handful. For goodness sake, they also exercised their right to use the bridleway which crosses the track on the common.
It all got a bit boisterous and a tragedy was narrowly averted when one lady ended up on the ground and if she had not been quick would have gone under the wheels of a lorry. The video, which was uploaded to YouTube, shows the lorry slowing then speeding away, yet Steven Radford when recently challenged by the local AM, Kirsty Williams, claimed the lorry stopped. Should’ve gone to Specsavers. This riotous assembly caused such a delay that a second meet and greet the mixer lorries had to take place on 8th January. Luckily, because NRW had okayed the concrete pour it was still not expedient to enforce.
What of Hendy Wind Farm’s letter to court stating that concreting must be completed by 4th January in order to allow the “cure” before erection and commissioning of the lonely wind turbine? Was that an honest misunderstanding of civil engineering technicalities?
After all that excitement a few days of gentle activity around the turbine base getting it all landscaped and ready for the turbine components lulled us all before the surprise appearance of abnormal load access plan “version 4” on 17th January. Why wait for daylight to arrive when you can work in the dark beside the A44? By the end of day hedges had been removed, trees felled, soil moved and a new track onto the common was almost made. Extraordinary that this just happened to be the same day as planning officers were at the monthly planning meeting. Please, do not be worried about these latest works because a workman on site told a community councillor it can be put back when they have finished.
Having made a site visit planning officers are pondering the expediency of enforcement for this new access because it has no planning permission, but if they can hang it out just a little longer the abnormal loads, temporary traffic restrictions for which seem to have been expedited, will be here after which it would not be expedient to enforce because all the damage has already been done.
Anyway, why use enforcement when they can just ask the developer to apply for retrospective planning permission to rectify all the misdemeanours. It will then be expedient to approve any application because the council is too poor to go around the merry go round again.
You may be wondering where are the politicians and press in all of this? UK newspapers are apparently not interested in the scam a FTSE listed company is pulling, enabled by an extraordinarily lax accreditation loophole. The local press has kept the story alive and BBC Wales have done a couple of short news items including one about Bryn Blaen wind farm not producing any electricity since it was finished in early February 2018. Ofgem claims this wind farm is not accredited but they do have submissions for electricity export for Feb and March 2018. Has Bryn Blaen registered for accreditation but not yet received that in full because of grid connection problems? But they must have had a grid connection at the time of commissioning or else how did they manage to submit output for two months? Anyway, news is, there is a flurry of activity on the wind farm. Will it really be operational by 31st January as promised? There is that all important date again.
Labour politicians in the “Welsh Government” are all hiding behind Brecon and Radnor CPRW’s S288 challenge to Lesley Griffiths decision to approve the wind farm. Can they really not differentiate between a challenge to the permission and questions from local residents about lawful procedure of enforcement?
Previously Lesley Griffiths, Labour, could not say anything but Julie James, Labour, Minister for Housing and Local Government now has planning in her remit but cannot say anything. Did our new FM spot a conflict of interest in the fact that under Carwyn Jones the Minister for Energy also had the power to decide energy projects? Eluned Morgan, Labour, one of our regional AMs is of course now a minister so cannot say anything. Joyce Watson, Labour, a regional AM has remained eerily silent. Kirsty Williams, Lib, Minister for Education and Brecon and Radnor AM, can and has supported local residents. Neil Hamilton, UKIP, regional AM has been supportive but encountered the same Alice in Wonderland experience.
Our local politicians, not to be outdone, have also entered the rabbit hole. The leader of PCC, Rosemarie Harris, keeps quoting “expediency” whilst at the same time has asked WG for more money to help finance the monitoring of the fiasco they themselves have facilitated.
The local County Councillor, in whose ward the wind farm sits, was sponsored to become a CC by a landowner with an interest in the wind farm. Before being elected as a county councillor in 2017 he was not a politician but has had a meteoric rise to Cabinet being the portfolio holder for Economy and Planning. Under which conflict of interest have his occasional visits to the wind farm site been made?
What of the contractors, Jones Bros of Ruthin? A visit to their website does not enlighten on the Hendy or Bryn Blaen projects yet they tell us all about other wind farm projects they have been involved in. Why would a high profile contractor knowingly work on an unlawful development?
Then there are those stalwart Guardians of the Common; local residents out there in all weathers and sometimes in the dark. At first the protests were amicable then Dyfed Powys Police turned up saying that they were in possession of a sworn affidavit from the landowner of the common. Since then their attitude changed. A quick trip to Carmarthen headquarters the same day failed to locate the affidavit. An FOI submitted on 12th December to see the affidavit has resulted in a reply on 14th January to say they need more time to decide if they are even prepared to confirm or deny that the alleged affidavit actually exists. Some locals have already seen it!
As they say, follow the money.
♦ end ♦
Jac adds: I can understand perfectly the involvement of developers and investors in onshore wind turbines – money in the form of subsidies from the UK government.
I also understand the motivation of the UK government in giving such subsidies. On the one hand it’s a bit of ‘greenwash’ to keep environmentalists happy, and on the other hand it puts a lot of money the way of important people like David Cameron’s father-in-law, the Duke of Beaufort, FTSE-listed companies, etc.
But what I cannot understand is why any body or individual claiming to be serving Welsh interests would help these parasites desecrate our country. Lesley Griffiths, in allowing the Hendy scam to proceed, argued that it was ‘in the national interest’. But how does Wales benefit?
So obvious is the scam that – as we see with Bryn Blaen – it doesn’t matter whether the turbines turn or not, the subsidies keep rolling in! So we are paying for turbines that aren’t even generating anything!
And on the subject of paying . . . I assume the developers are paying for the heavies they’ve brought in to rough up old dears, but who’s paying for the police? I guess it’s us, again.
So let’s recap: The ‘Welsh Government’ is encouraging the desecration of our country with wind turbines that produce negligible amounts of electricity – sometimes none at all – and we have to pay for it, not only in the damage caused by thousands of tons of concrete, and access roads driven across pristine landscapes, but also in the deaths of birds and bats (when the turbines turn). Yet this is all justified in the name of ‘environmentalism’!
As if that wasn’t bad enough, we have to pay for the subsidies through our electricity bills and now we also have to pay for Welsh police to ensure that this con can be perpetrated.
One great irony is that the Labour Party has always been luke-warm to wind energy (certainly the more ‘traditional’ elements in the party), yet here it is bending over backwards to force these monstrosities on us. Somebody is obviously applying pressure on the management team down Cardiff docks.
Though one party that has had a decades-long love affair with these monsters is Plaid Cymru. It would be nice to report that the scales have finally fallen from their eyes and from now on Plaid will prioritise Welsh interests.
As you can see, this is another big one. But it’s made up of five separate reports: Hendy wind farm, recent events in Swansea and Llanelli which may – or may not – be linked, the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, the redevelopment of the Tower opencast site, and finally, the leadership election in a non-existent political party.
So you can either make yourself a panad, settle down and go through the lot in one go. Alternatively, you can take them one at a time. The choice is yours.
Unless something big crops up this might be my last posting until 2019. If that’s how it turns out, then . . .
HENDY WIND FARM: WHO GAVE THE WORD? WHEN? WHY?
A few weeks ago, in Corruption in the Wind, I looked at three wind farms: Bryn Blaen, near Llangurig; Rhoscrowther, near Milford Haven; and Hendy, near Crossgates. All being promoted by the same property company.
Hendy wind farm merits another visit.
You’ll recall that Hendy was refused planning permission by Powys County Council and this decision was upheld by a planning inspector in May this year. But then, in late October, Lesley Griffiths, Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Secretary for the management team in Cardiff docks, said that she would over-rule the planning inspector’s decision and allow Hendy to proceed.
In the earlier piece I argued that what triggered the change of heart over Hendy was the High Court decision in September to finally put a stop to the Rhoscrowther project on the Milford Haven Waterway.
Prior to that High Court decision the developers had Bryn Blaen in the bag, were hopeful of getting Rhoscrowther, and were probably resigned to writing off Hendy, taking the view that two out of three ain’t that bad. But once Rhoscrowther was lost they were down to one out of three – they had to have Hendy.
Here’s the sequence of events leading to where we are at present.
25.10.2018 Lesley Griffiths gives approval in letter to developer’s agents. (Though in that letter it was amusing to read, under ‘Timings & Plans’, “The development shall begin not later than five years from the date of this decision”.)
The Construction Environmental Management Plan we encountered in the bullet points above should have been produced before work started, but in the case of Hendy it’s dated November 19, six weeks after on-site work started.
The more I think about it, the more I believe there’s only one way to explain the panicky happenings at Hendy.
The decision to allow the Hendy wind farm was taken in London after approaches by the developers following the Rhoscrowther decision. (For despite the Planning Inspectorate having a desk in Cardiff it answers to the Department for Communities and Local Government in London.)
A political decision taken in London was passed to the Planning Inspectorate and only belatedly relayed to Lesley Griffiths when someone remembered about devolution. (Further proof that what masquerades as the ‘Welsh Government’ is just London’s management team in Wales.)
Worth mentioning may be that the landowner at Hendy is Sir Robert John Green-Price 5th Bt. It’s reasonable to assume that Sandhurst-educated Sir Robert has influential friends. It’s equally reasonable to assume that the developers, Marcus Owen Shepherd, Matthew Simon Weiner and Richard Upton, also ‘know people’.
Last week the developers were pile-driving at the source of the Edw, a Special Area of Conservation. All being done in the name of ‘conservation’ and ‘the environment’. The Edw runs south to join the Wye at Aberedw.
Where, last Sunday, a day after the Cilmeri commemoration, people remembered a hero who may have been betrayed. How fitting that they should gather at Aberedw, by a river being polluted by modern invaders assisted by today’s traitors.
Yet it had a great deal of backing from people who pointed out that the electricity generated by the Swansea lagoon, a relatively small prototype, was bound to be expensive, but the possibilities of tidal power are immense and larger lagoons would be cheaper all round. For one thing tides, unlike wind, are entirely predictable and therefore reliable.
Not far away from the proposed tidal lagoon we saw one of the more extravagant schemes mooted in recent years in the £225m Wellness Village in Llanelli’s Delta swamp, being promoted chiefly by Carmarthenshire chief executive Mark James and Swansea academic Marc Clement, the latter a Turk by birth.
This project was to be part-funded from the £1.3bn Swansea Bay city deal.
Clement and a few other senior academics in Swansea, including the vice-chancellor, were recently suspended and it was generally agreed that this was somehow connected with the Wellness Village, certainly Clement was connected. Though no Llanelli connection could be established for vice-chancellor Richard B Davies or the other two, unnamed, persons who were suspended.
But why should the London government suddenly be so concerned about doings in south west Wales?
I’ve been giving this matter some thought, and here’s what I think.
Just a few miles from Swansea Bay lies Mynydd y Gwair, on the northern outskirts of the city. This was an area of wild and unspoilt upland . . . until fat grants were introduced for wind turbines.
Then the owner of Mynydd y Gwair, the Beaufort Estate (Prop. Duke of Beaufort), decided it could make millions by covering this beautiful area with ugly, useless, bird-killing wind turbines. This is the same Beaufort Estate that ten years ago charged the city council £280,000 to put a footbridge over the Tawe near the Liberty Stadium.
Beaufort and his ilk are descended from medieval robber barons, and they still know how to extract money from the rest of us.
It’s the same across this island. In Scotland the descendants of the Parcel of Rogues and assorted foreign landowners are minting it with wind turbines; while in England it’s a similar story, with former PM David Cameron’s father-in-law among those raking it in.
And linked with them are the property men and experts who will do all the dirty work, and reap their own rewards, those we see behind the Hendy wind farm.
‘But, Jac, what about the suspensions at Swansea University and the Wellness Village?’
The Wellness Village was up Shit Creek anyway, no private money was going to appear. It has simply been written off early before any more public money is wasted. As for the suspensions, the Wellness Village might have been a useful distraction.
Put the Wellness Village to one side and remember that the university is also heavily involved with Tidal Lagoon Mk II. It was the university that commissioned the recent report – on behalf of the Swansea Bay City Region – into reviving the barrage project.
Then look at the plan. Swansea University’s new Bay Campus is at the eastern landfall of the proposed lagoon. Students would have fought to get into a university with its own private beach which also overlooked a ground-breaking tidal lagoon offering many recreational facilities.
But as I say, a revived Swansea tidal lagoon might be bad news for those behind Hendy wind farm, and for Lord Beaufort, also for the repackaged Parcel of Rogues, and of course for Sam Cam’s daddy.
We may need to look no further to explain the UK government’s decision to ‘review’ the Swansea Bay city deal.
BODNANT WELSH FOOD CENTRE
Another recent business failure was the collapse of the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre in Dyffryn Conwy. Though it now looks as though it has been saved by local teacake tycoon Richard Reynolds (who I’m sure is no relation to Rikki Reynolds of Weep for Wales notoriety).
In all the excitement too many have neglected to ask the basic questions about Bodnant, such as: Who’s calling the shots? Why was a grant of £6.5m made? Should that money have been allocated? Was the money used well? Why did Bodnant Food Centre collapse? What happens now?
The first thing to explain – and this is fundamental to understanding the bigger picture – is that the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, opened in 2012 by Charles Windsor, is part of the Bodnant Estate, run by The Hon Michael Duncan McLaren QC, educated at Eton and Cambridge.
Michael McLaren’s father was the third Baron Aberconway, but this son has not succeeded to the title because he’s trumped by an older half-brother, Henry Charles McLaren, from his father’s first marriage (though there may be a dispute over entitlement).
You won’t find Bodnant Welsh Food Centre on the Companies House website because it trades as Furnace Farm Ltd, and this company was Incorporated with Companies House 20 October 2005. Furnace Farm is where we find the venture that received the £6.5m grant, but this is little more than a fancy shop selling overpriced food.
For as a source put it to me: “Dry home cured bacon for sale at £23/kg, yet both butchers at Llanrwst, some four miles away, were selling at £7.55/kg! Both butchers from known local sources!!”
Maybe at this point I should explain that despite not having succeeded to the title, Michael McLaren owns the whole shooting match, for in this document (page 5), the financial statement for year ending 31.01.2013, we read, “The company (Furnace Farm Ltd) entered into transactions with the Bodnant Estate which is owned by The Hon Michael McLaren”.
In addition to the Bodnant Estate and the Welsh Food Centre we have of course the well-known Bodnant Garden, owned by the National Trust but run by Michael McLaren as if he owns it. Then there’s Bodnant Garden Nursery Ltd, a private company with directors Michael McLaren, his wife Caroline, his mother, Lady Aberconwy, and Brian Eric Alcock.
The McLarens have three children: Angus John Melville, Iona Ann Mariel and Hamish Charles Duncan. Nice to see our Welsh aristocracy keeping with those names that resonate through our history.
So how did Alcock, with his IKEA-rivalling career in furniture, get involved with Michael McLaren in Bodnant Garden Nursery Ltd?
The other company in the family group is Bodnant Joinery Ltd, directors Michael and Caroline McLaren.
Giving us a number of interlinked enterprises on the Bodnant Estate, and all of them controlled by The Hon Michael McLaren QC. Invariably, with such an arrangement, there will be trading and lending between the different entities.
For example, that document I linked to earlier tells us that by January 2013 Furnace Farm Ltd owed Michael McLaren £4,969,122. By 31.01.2014 it’s up to £5,997,109. On 31.01.2015 it’s down a little to £5,862,901. A year later there is no specific mention of McLaren but the amount owed to all creditors has increased from £6,804,203 in 2015 to £7,921,963. By 2017 the figure is up to £8,981,591.
In that final financial statement we are also told that Furnace Farm Ltd lost before tax £1,497,444, up from £1,088,324 the previous year.
Just as well the company had a grant of £6.5m.
The problem with assessing how the grant was spent is that Furnace Farm Ltd is much more than just The Welsh Food Centre. For it also includes accommodation, at the farmhouse. In fact, the Estate offers plenty of accommodation.
To complicate the picture further, when I went to the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) website I could find nothing for either Furnace Farm Ltd or Bodnant Welsh Food Centre.
So eventually I telephoned WEFO, and I was surprised to learn that the name of the project was in fact the Centre of Excellence for Welsh Food, a name I have not seen used.(But I am only too familiar with this practice for making it difficult to make enquiries.) Here are the details.
So the question becomes – on what was the £6,444,107 spent? And after going back to WEFO I was told that, “Furnace Farm Ltd received funding of £237,032 from the Processing and Marketing Grant scheme . . . enabled the company to erect a new bespoke building complex . . . “.
So that’s £6,681,139, and counting?
The document I’ve linked to reads: “Centre of Excellence for Welsh Food The adaptation of abandoned farm buildings for economic use . . . 5 minutes from the A55 . . . private investor is providing 50% of the costs . . . project aims to create a retail outlet for local products, catering facilities for innovation with local food and a culinary school.”
The mention of “abandoned farm buildings” being adapted “for economic use” may refer to the farmhouse I mentioned earlier, now being used as a holiday let, rather than having anything to do with food excellence.
The latest update tells us that the new owner of the food centre, who plans to re-open on February 1st, and is said to be leasing the buildings from the McLarens, told the Daily Post: “It (Bodnant Welsh Food Centre) has been poorly run and we want to bring it back to what it was . . . with genuine authentic local produce in the shop . . . We can’t get away with charging a premium for something you can pick up in the supermarket.”
How very true. But then, if civil servants and/or politicians want to give someone millions of pounds to spend on property he already owns, then whether a retail outlet succeeds or not may be of little consequence in the bigger scheme of things.
The big question for me is: Why did anyone think it was a good use of EU funding to give millions of pounds to a wealthy aristocrat to open a London-prices shop in the Conwy Valley, especially as such funding was not supposed to be given for retail purposes?
And what guarantees do we have that such ‘misjudgements’ will never occur again?
THE LEFT BETRAYS WALES, AGAIN
This is another little tale that gets rather complicated, so let me set the scene with some background information. (Sorry, no music.)
You’ll recall that in December 1994, under threat of closure, Tower Colliery at Hirwaun was bought out by its miners under the leadership of Tyrone O’Sullivan. This made them mine-owners but paradoxically they also became deities in the socialist pantheon.
Tower Colliery was worked until it became uneconomic and closed in January 2008. What is less well known is that following the closure there was a period of opencast mining in the area.
Opencast mining began in May 2012, and if it hasn’t already ended, it is scheduled to end this month.
At its birth, Tower Newco Ltd had a single director named on the Certificate of Incorporation, a Kevin Dougan, of Durham. He was soon joined by others including O’Sullivan and also by Ian Anthony Charles Parkin, another businessman from north east England.
Almost immediately it was set up Tower Regeneration Ltd took out a loan with Forward Sound Ltd, of Durham, a company that had been set up less than a year before Tower Regeneration. In fact, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Forward Sound was set up specifically to capitalise on the Tower opencast project.
Why the strong Durham connection? Well, on a practical level it was a coal-mining area, but on the emotional plane Durham to the bruvvers means the annual Miners’ Gala; it conjures up images of comradely solidarity, fluttering banners and fiery speeches.
On 1 December 2017 the ubiquitous Dougan ceased to be a director at Hargreaves Services, Tower Regeneration, and Forward Sound, but rejoined Tower Regeneration the very next day . . . though Companies House wasn’t notified until 27 April this year!
So from the outset, the Tower opencast and regeneration project has been funded and controlled by English interests. And now they’re lining up to get their hands on the money available for ‘restoration’ work. And we are talking many millions of pounds here.
And as might be expected, the English Labour Party in Wales is eager to play its allotted role in short-changing Wales, again.
It seems that the prettying up is to be done by The Land Restoration Trust, which is both a charity (No 1138337) and a company, though for some reason, on its website it’s called The Land Trust. Its headquarters are in Warrington and it specialises in “open space for community benefit”, much of that open space seems to be reclaimed industrial land, especially in former coalfields.
The Land Restoration Trust was set up by the Coalfields and Joint Ventures Division of the now defunct English Partnerships, “the national regeneration agency for England”, which was succeeded in December 2008 by the Homes and Communities Agency, since re-named Homes England.
Clearly the Land Restoration Trust is an England-only body. Though the website has pages for Scotland and Wales both read: “We currently do not manage any sites in (Scotland/Wales) although we are working hard to do so. If you would like discuss any potential opportunities please contact our Business Development team.”
Despite having no sites in Wales Alison Whitehead, described as ‘Development Manager’, enjoys visiting sites in Wales! But then, Alison, as her Linkedin profile tells us, was ‘Development Manager for North of England and North Wales’.
And below you’ll see what Howells put out on Facebook the following day. Note that she mentions “ownership and management options”. In fact, it had already been decided behind the scenes, and years ago, making the Senedd reception no more than a PR exercise.
Vikki Howells is involved for no better reason than she’s the local AM, having been elected in 2016 because she was the donkey with the red rosette. Does she really understand what’s gone on at Tower and who owns what?
Though if Ms Howells was so keen to inform the Cynon Valley public then she should have explained why her administration has abrogated its responsibilities and rolled back devolution. And also explained why the profits from developing this local site will be leaving Wales.
The Tower opencast operation didn’t last for much more than six years, it employed few, and when repayment of loans, leasing and hiring are taken into account, it wasn’t that profitable, certainly not for Tower. The big beneficiary appears to have been Hargreaves Surface Mining Ltd, renamed Hargreaves Land Ltd in June 2018.
(It should go without saying that Kevin James Stewart Dougan ceased to be a director of Hargreaves Land on 1 December 2017. What is the significance of that date?)
Hargreaves Surface Mining was set up in October 2011, just before opencast mining began at Tower. The timing is no coincidence. Hargreaves Surface Mining Ltd joined a host of new companies that had been created in north east England to make big bucks out of a mining operation in Wales.
An operation that put little money into the local economy but enriched strangers. It also served the purpose of being the necessary precursor to the second stage of the project that will inherit a large tract of land together with millions of pounds to landscape and redevelop it.
Vikki Howells seems to envision the development at Tower linking with the Rhondda Tunnel . . . owned by Highways England!
Or maybe it’ll be more wind turbines, for while they generate little or no electricity they certainly produce massive incomes for those who operate them, and the landowners involved.
It’s difficult to believe that all this is happening after twenty years of devolution. But as I’ve argued many times, devolution is a sham, a façade; and behind that façade Wales is being ripped off and inexorably assimilated into England.
This assimilation along with the exploitation we see at Hendy and Mynydd y Gwair, Bodnant and Tower, is being facilitated by socialists, and the Labour Party, doing what they always do – selling Wales down the river.
GREEN PARTY OF ENGLANDANDWALES
Earlier this year members of the self-styled ‘Wales Green Party’ voted against becoming a Wales Green Party, choosing to remain part of the Green Party of Englandandwales and calling themselves The Green Party in Wales. Whereupon the party ‘leader’ defected to Plaid Cymru.
The confusion that resulted may be reflected in the fact that the party website seems to have been abandoned, with nothing posted since 10 July.
Yet despite all the recent tribulations this Green Party of England in Wales is currently holding a leadership election. Yes, that’s a leadership contest to a non-existent party! Among those standing is Anthony Slaughter.
So who is he? Well, it should go without saying that he’s not Welsh. He lives in Penarth and seems to have a high regard for himself, adopting that tone of moral and intellectual superiority that so endears the Greens to me.
And he spreads his talents wide, for when he’s not saving the planet he’s up in London demanding something called A People’s Vote, supporting the Stansted 15, and arguing for 20 mph speed limits. Sainthood can’t be far away.
But being a Green he’s probably a practising pagan. (Or am I thinking, vegan?)
Obviously there’s no such thing as the Wales Green Party, but then, there’s no such thing as the Welsh Labour Party either, it’s just a label, there’s nothing registered with the Electoral Commission.
So maybe the Greens take their lead from the Labour Party, because they often seem close, almost as if the Greens are the idealistic younger relative indulged by the more staid Labour Party.
And the closeness isn’t confined to the Greens, it seems to extend to the environmentalist movement as a whole, maybe it’s something to do with the self-absorbed regarding themselves as ‘progressive’
This perhaps explains why public money was recently spent on foot massage by the Future Generations Commissioner, that very close friend of the late Carl Sargeant.
But it’s not just Labour that likes to cwtch up to those who think that the examples of Hendy and Mynydd y Gwair should be replicated on every pristine landscape in Wales. Who believe that carving up the countryside to lay thousands of tons of concrete is good environmental practice.
I mentioned that Slaughter, the would-be leader of the non-existent party, lives in Penarth. Where I’m told certain Plaidistas – the names Clubb and Wilton were mentioned – have been keen to do electoral deals with these Wales-rejecting colonialists.
But then, nothing surprises me any more, whether it’s the Greens, Plaid Cymru, or the Labour Party. They all pursue their own agendas, driven by narrow ideology and trapped within dogmas, rather than pragmatically promoting what’s best for the Welsh people.
That’s why they’ve failed us, and that’s why time is running out for all of them.
I’m only just getting over the shock, that’s why it’s taken me so long to write about it.
Naturally, I got to wondering who Shane Baker is, and why my elegant prose might have annoyed him. And so I went a-Googling. The first thing I learnt, from his Twitter account, is that he is a “Film and TV extra”.
His Facebook page header leaves you in no doubt as to his political sentiments and loyalties which, when added to the recent retweets of support for Tommy Robinson, suggest an English nationalist of the far right, or barging towards that destination.
The same source provided photos of Shane Baker at work. It seems he likes to dress in leather and romp around with men similarly attired. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m sure it’s been legalised.
In fact, it seems to be strictly crowd scenes for Shane Baker. You can almost hear his agent advising him,‘Shane, baby, ya gotta face that would look just great at the back of a crowd!’.
He should have listened to his agent, but no, for in addition to fancying himself as a medieval mobster, Shane is a vocalist of the Rock ‘n’ Roll genre, with a band called Kabinrock, based in Bath. I’m sure you’ve heard of them, they’ve played all the big venues – Twerton Liberal Club, St Margaret’s Hall (Bradford on Avon), Frys Club (Keynsham).
Here’s a video of Shane performing at a wedding (36 views after 6 years) After watching it you’ll realise why his best option is to lose himself in a crowd.
But enough of his showbiz career, the real question is, why did this latter-day John Bull recently move from his belovéd England to a Welsh-speaking locality? Why did he walk away from both Kabinrock and his other career as a glowering peasant?
Is this yet another example of white flight? Or is it that perverse imperial impulse that propels some English people into Wales despite them being hostile towards just about every manifestation of Welshness?
Or might there be some other reason?
Answers on a post card please. First correct answer pulled from the sack next Friday will receive a video of Shane and Kabinrock performing live at a Tommy Robinson is Innocent (of everything) concert at Scrotum Parva village hall. (Not to be confused with Scrotum Magna.)
‘(SWIVEL) EYES RIGHT!’
I have been informed of a new BritNat political party that might interest Shane Baker, that bargain basement Baldrick. It’s called the Democrats & Veterans Party.
Though it’s an odd combination, democrats and veterans. And looking at the qualifications demanded, I’m patriotic, I hate the EU, I’m a tidy bloke, and while I don’t ‘love’ our armed forces I have no real problem in that direction.
The problem arises with, “Those that hate this nation or want to split our nation up need not apply”. Because here the DVP believes there is a British nation and confuses this mythic nation with the multi-national UK state. I do not want to split up my Welsh nation but I do want to split up the UK.
Terminology aside, it’s strange how veterans are used to make a claim on our emotions by the extreme right and the UK state, yet that state almost completely ignores veterans once they’ve served their purpose, leaving them to be politically exploited by the far right.
The relationship is almost symbiotic.
Shades of 1920s Germany. With the difference being that a bankrupt Germany lacked the resources to adequately care for millions of WWI veterans, whereas the UK state is more than capable of discharging its duties to a few thousand desperately needing help.
Anyway, a dickey-bird tells me that Wales is fortunate in having a co-ordinator of its very own for this new party, a Stan Robinson, though that name does not yet appear on the DVP website.
I suspect it’s this guy, who certainly fits the bill, having served in the Royal Observer Corps, after which he worked for the Ministry of Defence, and he’s been a poppy seller since 1985. He now claims to be ‘Chairman of the Family Housing Trust’, but Googling that name only brings up Family Housing Association (Wales) Ltd. Based, as is Robinson, in Swansea.
Robinson doesn’t appear among the trustees or the management of FHA, making me suspect that he’s claiming to be a consultant. I guess it would be the same with the NHS.
This is his Facebook page, where we learn he’s “English to the core”. His counterpart in Scotland, Ian Pritchard, has no stronger connection with Braveheart and the Bruce than that, “he has been living in Scotland for more than 20 years”. Reminding us – as if we need reminding – that these proliferating BritNat parties are fundamentally about England, with just a Celtic tinge.
With Robinson being based in Swansea it’s no surprise to learn that a branch was formed in the city in April under the leadership of one Stephen ‘Reeco’ Rees. (Don’t be fooled by the flag, it’s not the one they really care about.) Though Robinson doesn’t appear to be in the photograph, maybe he hadn’t joined at that stage.
Rees has been involved in the ‘Exploit-veterans-to-promote-the-BritNat- agenda’ for some time, having previously being involved with an outfit called SA1ute (geddit!). In fairness, ‘Reeco’ also rescues old dames with heating problems, (though some of the comments suggest a different narrative).
In the picture accompanying the article about the freezing old woman you’ll see Carl Vickers. His attempt at crowd-funding on behalf of SA1ute should be used to explain how not to go about it.
One who enlisted early in the DVP was James Cole. You may remember the name from an earlier incarnation as a Ukip spokesman. Here he is in a video from 2013 warning that the Welsh will be a minority in their own country “within the next fifteen to twenty years” due to immigration . . . but he’s not talking about English immigration.
Cole reminds us that the picture on the far right is almost a mirror image of the far left, not only in being detached from reality, but also with the constant movement of individuals between groups, and with these groups and parties breaking up and new ones forming all the time.
If the Democrats & Veterans Party is genuine, then rather than attacking the EU, immigrants, Islam, or the SNP, they will target the UK state and the British Crown, both of which are directly culpable for the condition of the ex-service personnel the DVP claims to care so much about.
Failure to do this just makes them right wing extremists exploiting desperate people.
To end on a lighter note, the fuhrer leader of the Democrats & Veterans Party is lantern-jawed John Rees-Evans, who was Ukip candidate for Cardiff South and Penarth in 2015.
After coming fourth in one of the many recent Ukip leadership contests Rees-Evans went off to form a new party called Affinity, which presumably morphed into the DVP.
Make Britain great again, and safe from gay donkeys – vote DVP!
LAMMAS: TROUBLE IN A FEUDAL PARADISE?
Others living in a world of their own are the hippy aristocracy of Lammas, of whom I have writ more than once. Now news reaches me that all may not be well in this settlement ruled by King Tau-Paul Wimbush and his Queen Hoppi.
To understand the ‘thinking’ behind Lammas and similar projects you must have some understanding of the collective stupidity and gullibility of Labour and Plaid Cymru politicians. For Lammas links with the promotion of One Planet projects which wants us to believe that Wales will reduce her carbon footprint by attracting into the country more wood-burning hippies.
The One Planet bollocks is yet more ‘Welsh’ legislation that is of no benefit whatsoever to Wales or the Welsh, but obviously of benefit to England and sections of the English people. But as I never tire of reminding you, this is how colonialism operates.
My sources tell me worrying tales from Lammas.
The first centres on the 999-year lease under which the peasantry live. (It must be a very healthy lifestyle.) Most wish to be freehold, perhaps in order to sell; others simply want to be independent of the Wimbush monarchy – so these putative republicans have had their water cut off, or life is made difficult for them in other ways.
Among those suffering in this way, I hear, is a Welshman from my neck of the woods, perhaps the only Welshman at Lammas, his Finnish wife and their trilingual children. I feel he should be supported.
Similar things happen to anyone foolish enough to ask to see what it’s claimed are the secret accounts of the company running the show, Lammas Low Impact Initiatives Ltd.
This document I dug out – which might have been superseded – names three individuals as founding members of the company: Paul Wimbush (inevitably), Dr Larch Maxey and Dr Mark Edwards Dyson. Who are these other two?
And if you doubted that the Wimbush dynasty are in it for the money, then there’s King Tau-Paul’s £70 an hour planning consultancy. While Queen Hoppi has her own skin care brand. Other money-making schemes include bed and breakfast, with Tau-Paul also selling plots of land at Lammas and elsewhere, which means acting as an unregistered estate agent.
Then there are the courses, extending to, as one source put it, ” . . . witchcraft and fanny worship courses . . .”
I assure you, in the many articles I’ve written about Lammas I have never mentioned ‘fanny worship courses’. And I have no idea what they involve. I was tempted to ask, but thought better of it.
A course you’ve missed, run by Queen Hoppi herself, was, ‘Upcycle Waistcoats with Wenchwear’. ‘Wenchwear’! If I used the term ‘wench’ the assorted loonies of the left who follow this blog would call me a patriarchal, misogynistic, transphobic, etc., etc., bastard. (Which they do anyway. Bless!)
No, this is no rural idyll of hippies growing organic vegetables and selling them at a street market, this is unadulterated greed.
More mundane concerns are whether the water quality is up to standard, and whether planning permission is being adhered to with new buildings.
On the matter of water quality, it is the responsibility of the county council – in this case, Pembrokeshire – to test the water annually. For some reason Pembrokeshire County Council stopped checking, but resumed doing so this year, after an enquiry from a concerned member of the public.
The suspicion is that that’s exactly what it will be – King Tau-Paul and Queen Hoppi’s palace. But it may be easier to crowd-fund a communal building.
But then, lack of water testing, departure from planning consent, is par for the course that has seen officialdom at all levels bend over backwards to help Paul and Hoppi Wimbush prosper in their feudal demesne.
Above you see a recent picture from a Lammas Facebook page showing planning inspector Andrew Poulter, and his wife, paying a visit just a week or so ago. This is the man who gave Lammas planning permission, and, no, he hasn’t retired, he’s still a planning inspector . . . and might therefore be called on to adjudicate on some future Lammas application.
Isn’t it all so ineffably bourgeois, so frightfully cosy? So . . . Acacia Avenue goes rustic. With nothing to tell you that this is happening in Wales.
UPDATE 29.11.2018:I put out a tweet a few days ago which got an answer from Planning Inspectorate. But Poulter’s Linkedin profile suggests he now works for the ‘Welsh Government’, from where I have heard nothing.
GONE WITH THE WIND
A couple of weeks ago, in Corruption in the Wind?, I looked at three wind farm developments: Bryn Blaen, near Llangurig; Rhoscrowther, near Milford Haven; and Hendy, near Llandrindod. Here are some updates.
First, I’m told that despite having been completed almost a year ago, not a blade has turned at Bryn Blaen. It seems there were problems when attempts were made – involving considerable traffic disruption – to connect the site to the Bryn Titli development just down the A470. Did it blow a fuse?
This source told me, “The Hendy bunch of crooks are already sneakily getting large machinery onto the proposed site, illegally using access points to and onto the Common land there.”
Perhaps these are some of the ‘allegations’ the developers refer to in the article below, from Saturday’s Llais y Sais.
Bottom line: The developers know they can get away with anything because Powys County Council is afraid to act, and that’s because the developers have political support at a higher level.
The priority at Hendy now is to get the turbines hooked up to the grid so they can start raking in the money. Whether the damn things generate any electricity is a matter of no importance to anyone involved in this scam.
What a system!
BIKE PARK WALES
I’ve written before about this venture near Merthyr, which has seen a large tract of publicly-owned land leased to a company called Bike Park Wales, which then threatens locals with on-the-spot fines for ‘trespassing’.
When this was queried, the first response, either from the departed CEO of Natural Resources Wales, or a ‘Welsh Government’ minister, stated that there were no public rights of way on the land leased to Bike Park Wales.
The kindest thing to say is that this was a mistake. The new CEO of Natural Resources Wales has conceded that public rights of way are involved. So my source has now asked his AM to:
(a) Request Welsh Ministers, as landowner, to write to BPW to immediately remove the £50 fine threat from their terms and conditions.
(b) Request the local authority to erect signage “Llwybr Cyhoeddus/Public Footpath” from start and end points of this public right of way within the lease footprint.
(c) Remind BPW that a temporary closure order need be obtained from the local authority, should this be required for future corporate events using this public right of way.
(d) Not to enter into any further lease arrangements that prevent unfettered public access to the estate owned by the Welsh Government anywhere else in Wales.
Natural Resources Wales has in recent years been out of control, so God only knows how many other such arrangements this dysfunctional body has entered into with our assets.
A lifetime ago I spent some happy years at Coleg Harlech, and so I repeat verbatim the sad message I received last week.
“Jac, I don’t know if you’re aware that the college buildings have recently been put up for sale by Adult Learning Wales. It’s a sad end for the college that for many was the gateway to a better life.
I was a student there between 1984 and 86, and gained an awful lot form my experience. I believe the fundamental ‘last straw’ was the change in government thinking on HE and the rise of FE university access courses that were deemed to offer the same the CH offered. The truth of course is something different.
I know that the college was ‘re-branded’ from HE to FE, though of course the academic standard at CH was always, in the two year Diploma days at least a demanding second year undergraduate standard. That of course changed in the mid 90s, and CH soldiered on, until the merger in 2001 with WEA (N) when things started to unravel badly.
The rest is history, but it puzzles me why nothing was done by those in Cardiff Bay about the colleges plight. It was a unique Welsh institution, which although internationalist in outlook, was at its core essentials an institution with its focus very much on Wales. indeed, the course of study I followed there was entirely focused on Wales.
To be quite honest, I’m just gob-smacked that the financial and managerial incompetence of Coleg Harlech WEA (N) went unchallenged.
And recently we read of another case of apparent incompetence and mismanagement at Theatr Ardudwy, where there was a hole in the roof that compromised health and safety with a repair bill of £150k – a hole like that doesn’t appear overnight, and it would have been known about prior to the installation of state of the art digital projection and sound equipment.
In neglecting to mend the hole in the roof put not only the audiences in danger, but also an investment that, if used properly, could have generated much needed income for a badly needed community and regional resource.
I don’t suspect corruption in either the case of the college, or the theatre, but it’s hard to avoid thinking that there was an amazing level of incompetence at play or a suspicion that all this might have been planned, as over time the college was stripping itself of the very assets it needed to survive as a viable entity.
I don’t know if you would be interested in doing what you do best and dig up the dirty on all the tribulations affecting the college. It’s almost tragic that we, as a nation, are losing what was a very special national institution, and I think it’s a story that should be told.”
There was indeed something uniquely Welsh about Coleg Harlech, so is there anyone out there who can fill in the details?
CAROLYN HARRIS MP AND SOUTH WALES POLICE
Carolyn Harris is the Labour MP for Swansea East, who has been involved in the worthy cause of reducing the damage done by Fixed Odd Betting Terminals, for which I congratulate her.
But like all of us – even me! – she is not without fault.
Many of you will be aware of the saga involving the assault on co-worker Jenny Lee Clarke for being a lesbian, widely reported in the London prints. Almost certainly in retaliation for this embarrassment Harris, by now an MP, accused the assault victim of theft.
This was resolved in a court case in July when Ms Clarke was found not guilty of the alleged theft and Harris, now shadow spokesperson on equalities, came under fire for her homophobia.
Throughout this saga Ms Clarke has been trying to get South Wales Police to charge Carolyn Harris with assault. The response has been prevarication and obstruction. Insult was added to injury when, on Friday, November 16, BBC News reported that the assault allegation against Carolyn Harris had been ‘dropped’.
When Ms Clarke complained to the BBC she was told that this was what the police had told them . . . but of course the police denied this.
As I’ve explained to Jenny, the police have lost one case when she was acquitted of theft, which means that to charge Carolyn Harris with assault, and risk getting a conviction, would further expose the cock-up they’ve made of the whole affair. A cock-up exemplified by somehow ‘losing’ the only eye witness statement to the assault.
I find it so sad that I have to write in such a vein. People might think I’m a cynical old bastard, and that would never do. Would it?
Unless I receive earth-shattering intelligence that I must immediately impart to an unsuspecting world the next post will be Weep for Wales 11.
So if anyone has more news on Paul and Rowena Williams – get in touch!
People contact me regularly asking, ‘Why don’t you write about wind energy, Jac, and about saving the planet, because we’re all doomed, doomed!’ To which I usually respond, ‘Sod off.’ But one recent request to look into wind energy was different, and after an hour or so of digging I realised I just had to write about it.
Essentially, this is the story of three, linked, wind farms, but it’s also a reminder of how easy it is for political decisions in Wales to be controlled by those who care nothing for us or our country. Those I’m talking of see Wales as an exploitable resource, while we can be brushed aside with, ‘What’s it gotta do with you, Taff?’
Few things remind us more forcefully of this state of affairs than decisions concerning ‘the environment’.
Whether it’s allowing hippies to set up camp anywhere they like under the One Planet nonsense, encouraging ‘re-wilders’ to force out Welsh farmers and take over vast swathes of our country, or allowing ugly wind turbines to produce their piddling amounts of electricity . . . but lots of money for those involved.
THREE WIND FARMS
Let’s start with Bryn Blaen wind farm near Llangurig, the village situated where the north-south A470 meets the A44 running down to Aberystwyth. Bryn Blaen was refused planning permission by Powys County Council, but the Planning Inspectorate overturned that decision in August 2016 and allowed the project to go ahead.
So on this one, the developers got their way.
Next stop is Rhoscrowther, near Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. This was turned down by Pembrokeshire County Council in 2015, the appeal by the developers was rejected by the Planning Inspectorate, but then a High Court judge said that it must be reviewed by a different planning inspector. It was, and in April this year she upheld the decision to refuse planning permission.
In point 2 of the letter mention is made of the Developments of National Significance legislation under which the ‘Welsh Ministers’ have authority to rule on electricity generation projects with a maximum installed capacity between 10mw and 50mw. The three projects we’re looking at range from 12.5mw to 17.5mw.
Though according to the capture below from the ‘Welsh Government’s website the decision should be made by the Planning Inspectorate, which is what happened initially with Hendy, before Lesley Griffiths intervened.
So who’s promoting these schemes, who are ‘the developers’ I’ve referred to?
A director of all three companies is Steven John Radford who seems to take another slice of the Welsh wind farm cake through his consultancy, Njord Energy Ltd, which sounds comfortingly Scandinavian. (Though he obviously farmed out some work to Cunnane Town Planning of London and Manchester.)
In September Radford branched out again with Bute Energy Ltd, joining six days after its two founding directors. Bute Energy is in the electricity business, the production, transmission, distribution and trade of electricity to be exact. Will this be electricity generated in Wales?
Also involved somewhere in these projects has been Viento Environmental Ltd, of Shrewsbury, yet another consultancy, this one run by Fran Iribar, whose Linkedin profile mentions the three wind farm sites we’re dealing with here plus a number of others in Wales.
Have you noticed yet? Three projects in Wales – no Welsh involvement whatsoever!
What a system! You don’t need to be a nationalist to see how wrong this is. It’s basic economics.
We often come across shape-shifting and Lazarus-like resurrections on this blog. Think Paul and Rowena Williams, of Weep for Wales fame, with their Rural Retreats & Leisure Ltd and Rural Retreats & Leisure UK Ltd (which even confused an Employment Tribunal!); and recently, in Wilmslow-sur-Mer, we sobbed for Natural Retreats UK Ltd . . . only for it to be brought back to us by resurrectionists from ‘Ol’ Virginny’, who just happen to be closely linked with those behind the expired company.
I’m sure you’re as shocked as I was to learn that there might be something underhand, dishonest even, about tax havens and offshore hideaways. Whatever next!
Not only that, but U and I’s Welsh assets are already sold or up for sale. The panel below comes from the latest accounts (for y/e 28.02.2018) of the group received by Companies House 01.08.2018. It suggests that the Bryn Blaen wind farm has either been sold or is about to be sold, giving the group a profit of £6 – 8 million.
Perhaps more significantly, U and I is also confident of raising £10 -12 million from Hendy and Rhoscrowther. We now know that Hendy seems to be in the bag, but are they still holding out hopes for Rhoscrowther? Either way, how could they be so confident months ago? Did they know something we didn’t or was it just blind optimism linked to share prices?
Back in 2017, on April 27 to be exact, there was a curious scene played out at a meeting of Powys County Council’s planning committee. At a point in the meeting after the committee had refused planning permission for Hendy and was about to discuss further conditions for Bryn Blaen, a woman who had been sitting with the developers tried to hand a note to one of the committee members.
The woman had to be forcefully ushered away. She was recognised as a lobbyist, working for Invicta Public Affairs, a company based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The company is run by Mark Cummings, who boasts, “We specialise in advising private businesses how best to promote their commercial interests by overcoming barriers to enterprise caused by the UK national and devolved policy and regulatory framework.”
Cummings seems to operate in Wales through Invicta Public Affairs (Wales) Ltd, which has never been anything more than a name, with a Newcastle address, but clearly it has employees in Wales. So who was the mystery woman?
It was Anna McMorrin, who had been recruited by Invicta in October 2016 for no reason other than she was a Labour Party insider, having joined the party when she was a student, and as a result of her subsequent career she knew exactly who to approach to get things done.
As her Wikipedia entry tells us, “After graduating, McMorrin worked in public relations and communications. After working as a part-time communications officer for the Labour Party between 1996-1997, she worked for public affairs consultancy Hill and Knowlton. In 2006, McMorrin became Campaigns and Communications Director for Friends of the Earth Cymru. In 2008, she joined the Welsh Government as an appointed Specialist Advisor, working with Ministers including Jane Hutt AM, John Griffiths AM and Alun Davies AM.”
While she was working for Alun Davies they began an affair which resulted in both leaving their long-term partners. They now live together.
In the general election of June 2017 Anna McMorrin was elected Labour MP for Cardiff North.
U and I and/or Development Securities planned three wind farms of a size so that even if the local planning committees voted against them then their bacon could be saved by the Planning Inspectorate or, as a last resort, the ‘Welsh Government’.
To help them carry through this plan they employed Mark Cummings, useful for his expertise in dealing with devolved administrations. Cummings then needed someone who was a Labour insider, so he recruited Anna McMorrin.
No doubt, the developers had hoped to get planning permission for all three developments, netting them as much as £20 million. Being more realistic, they were probably prepared to settle for two out of three. But the High Court going against them on Rhoscrowther in September meant they were left with just Bryn Blaen, and so they were only going to make a small profit.
The High Court couldn’t be challenged over Rhoscrowther so pressure was applied to Lesley Griffiths to overturn the Hendy decision. And she came good.
Who applied the pressure to Lesley Griffiths? Well, Anna McMorrin fits the identikit picture issued.
Another reason I suspect Lesley Griffiths hadn’t planned on making the Hendy intervention is because the Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Secretary couldn’t even come up with a plausible reason for her action.
We’ve just read that she argued the Hendy wind farm was in the ‘national interest’, but in point 4 of that letter to Aaron and Partners of Chester she also quoted from the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 which, ” . . . requires the Welsh Ministers, as a public body, to ensure the development and use of land contributes towards improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales”.
I have a question for you, Lesley Griffiths.
Will you please explain how Wales benefits from being exploited by London property developers and their assorted hangers-on all over England?
There is no Welsh benefit whatsoever from the Hendy wind farm, or the other two; Wales already produces more electricity than we need, so I can only assume that Lesley Griffiths is acting in the ‘national interest’ of some other country.
Which makes her clumsy and questionable behaviour another example of London’s management team in Cardiff making sure that Wales does what it’s supposed to do – serve the interests of England.
The truth is that Lesley Griffiths made an indefensible decision under undue and possibly illegal pressure. If I’m wrong, let her justify overturning the planning inspector’s decision on Hendy wind farm.
With her earlier support for those seeking to dispossess Welsh farmers, dealt with here in The Welsh Clearances, and now with this decision to further serve alien interests, Lesley Griffiths has, in just over a month, proven herself to be the enemy of Wales and its people.
There should be no way for this wretched and duplicitous woman to hold any position, even in a body as discredited as that which masquerades as the Government of Wales.
The Labour Party and its various appendages are a poison corrupting Welsh public and political life. There is no hope for honesty and openness, progress and prosperity, until this poison is drawn and Wales is made healthy.
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 19:50:I am indebted to Karen Roden for her comment to my Facebook page telling me that Lesley Griffiths did something very similar earlier in the year with her decision to over-rule a planning inspector who had supported Denbighshire County Council’s refusal of Pant y Maen wind farm on the Denbigh Moors.
This development was promoted by Pant y Maen Wind Ltd of Oxfordshire. Though this company seems to have been controlled by Brenig Wind Ltd, a company run by Chinese citizens giving an address in France. The accounts are overdue at Companies House and I suspect we shall hear no more of Brenig Wind.
Though victory was claimed by Natural Power, which has an office in Aberystwyth. Note that the report I’ve linked to thinks that Lesley Griffiths is part of the UK Government!
In April, soon after Lesley Griffiths gave consent for Pant y Maen wind farm, control passed via a couple of LLPs to Guy and Julia Hands, residents of Guernsey.
Once again, no Welsh involvement, and I guarantee that those I’ve mentioned don’t give a toss about the environment – it’s all about the money. So we despoil our country, inflate our electricity bills, to enrich bastards like these.
Is Lesley Griffiths too stupid to understand how she’s being used?