Gavin Lee Woodhouse, the ‘Wolf of Wharf Street’ – you were warned!

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 was supposed to be a ‘quickie’ while I await a promised guest post on developments among the wind farms of deepest Powys. But as the information mounted up . . .

Most of you will be aware by now that Gavin Lee Woodhouse, who has a number of business interests in Wales, came under critical scrutiny last week from ITV News and the Guardian. He did not emerge smelling of roses.

Eventually the ‘Welsh’ media caught up with the story, here’s the BBC’s version and here’s WalesOnline’s contribution. (Note the positive spin in the headline.)

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Now I don’t wish to be too critical, but Woodhouse has been a busy boy in Wales for a number of years, so it’s not unreasonable to have expected an investigation into his ‘innovative’ business practices to have been done on this side of the border.

Pity the country with a ‘media’ that is nothing but a relayer of press hand-outs, a conveyor of soporific ‘human interest’ stories, and a disseminator of its masters’ propaganda; leaving an ancient nation to scratch around for the truth.

Come scratch with Jac.

Perhaps the first time Gavin Lee Woodhouse swam into our collective consciousness was when, while negotiating to buy Plas Glynllifon, in Llandwrog, south of Caernarfon, he announced his intention to rename the old pile ‘Wynnborn’. This declaration met with the kind of response that might greet ‘Four Green Fields’ being sung at Ibrox.

Plas Glynllifon, image courtesy of North Wales Live. Click to enlarge

To familiarise you with what Woodhouse has been up to in Wales here are a few of my offerings: English Tourism in the Colony of Wales (18.04.2017); a brief mention in YMCA England(andwales) (23.04.2017); Bits & Pieces (27.04.2017); Colonial Investments (23.07.2017); Updates 12.12.2017; Weep for Wales (13.06.2018); Friends old & new (28.01.2019).

Now let’s get up to date with the boy’s adventures.

HOW IT WORKS

Woodhouse’s business model is, essentially, selling shares in property he owns, or plans to build. If it’s a hotel then you buy a room and then rent it to Woodhouse. If it’s a care home or a residential home, then it’s a similar system but with the guest obviously staying for longer.

The attraction of this system for Woodhouse is that he can buy a run-down hotel cheaply, maybe at auction, and then by selling off rooms individually he can quickly recoup what he paid, and more, from ‘investors’.

For investors, high returns are promised. There is often a guarantee that Woodhouse will buy back your room after a certain period at the price you paid for it, or more.

This is the model employed at his Neuadd Caer Rhun hotel in the Conwy Valley, for which he received a ‘Welsh Government’ grant of £500,000 less than two years ago.

Neuadd Caer Rhun. Image courtesy of North Wales Live. Click to enlarge.

It makes a certain sense, but as with buying a timeshare, a great deal depends on the honesty of the vendor. And this leads us on to the allegations made last week.

WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG, ALLEGEDLY

In a nutshell, Woodhouse has taken money from investors for projects that do not exist. Or to put it another way, projects that are promised but never materialise. With much of the money paid into these projects disappearing after being shuffled around in the network of companies Woodhouse controls.

Explained here in this excellent graphic from the Guardian.

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As we see, £5.6m of the £14.8m investors have paid into the three non-existent care homes and £8.2m from connected companies made its way to MBI Consulting (UK) Ltd. This gives a total of £13.8m going into a company now in administration.

According to Companies House Woodhouse ceased to be a director of MBI 31 January 2016, but another document lodged with Companies House and dated 21 July 2016 makes clear that Woodhouse remains the majority shareholder. A further document of 08.08.2018 confirms that Woodhouse is the person exercising ‘significant control’. (All CH documents can be tracked from here.)

From MBI Consulting (UK) Ltd £1.2m went as a loan to Woodhouse himself while the rest, £12.7m, appears to have slipped through the gaps in the floorboards.

(Though the figures used are probably the latest available at Companies House. By now, all of the investors’ money might have headed south.)

AFAN VALLEY ADVENTURE RESORT

Perhaps the first time most people in the south heard of Gavin Lee Woodhouse was when, in April 2017, news broke of a tourism venture in the Afan valley behind Port Talbot.

The WalesOnline article had lots of ‘artist’s impressions’ and a video of the ‘Affan’ valley in the company of Paul Gardiner, managing director of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy. For that piss-drinking exhibitionist has been involved from the start.

A third principal was soon roped in in the form of Peter Moore, ‘the man who brought Center Parcs to Britain’. Whether that is to be regarded as an achievement I leave to others to decide.

One thing of which there can be no doubt is the ‘Welsh Government’s enthusiastic support for the Afan valley venture. The photo below comes from the website of Woodhouse’s Northern Powerhouse Developments and it shows ‘Welsh Government’ representatives meeting Woodhouse and Moore on the site of the planned ‘resort’ in April 2017.

Hustlers meet their ‘marks’. Click to enlarge.

As I hinted earlier, one of the problems in trying to make sense of Woodhouse’s business dealings is the sheer number of companies involved. A maze set up to deter the casually curious and make things difficult even for serious investigators.

Undaunted, I did a wee bit more digging, but stopped short of getting obsessively forensic.

One curiosity I uncovered was two parcels of land that seem not to connect with the 327 acres handed over for his ‘resort’ by Natural Resources Wales (i.e. ‘Welsh Government’).

These can be found under the ‘Charges’ against Afan Valley Ltd. One is an elongated triangle of land alongside the A4107 heading east out of Cymmer, valued at £25,000. Of more interest will be the other land, Caerau Park, valued at 250,000.

Companies House tells us that Afan Valley Ltd was born in April 2016 as Caerau Parc Ltd – with Woodhouse as sole director – and it changed its name in February 2017. Which means it was set up over a year before the Afan valley project became known about.

It’s reasonable to assume therefore that Caerau Park Ltd was set up for a purpose other than the Afan Valley resort.

The sliver of roadside land at Cymmer is owned by Afan Valley Ltd, and the lender is 360 Mi Ltd. The larger plot, Caerau Park, is on the slopes of Mynydd Caerau, to the east of the village of the same name in the Llynfi valley.

Image courtesy of OS via Land Registry. Unfortunately there’s no title plan available at the LR. Click to enlarge.

The owner of Caerau Park, according to the Land Registry, is Ontaris Resources Inc of the British Virgin Islands; but Companies House tells us – with regard to the charge – that the ‘Persons entitled’ is Clive Mishon. Clive Mishon is also the sole director and shareholder of 360 Mi Ltd, Incorporated 5 September 2017.

So who is Clive Mishon, who appears to hold both charges against Afan Valley Ltd? There’s not a lot of information available for him, here’s one of the few pieces I found. All we can say with certainty is that he’s an investor. (But not the kind of ‘investor’ who’d buy a room from Woodhouse.)

Given that the Caerau Park land has been owned by Ontaris since 2008, and Woodhouse set up Caerau Park Ltd in April 2016 – with the charge covering the transfer of ownership not taken out until December 2017 – was Woodhouse initially working for or with Ontaris?

And was Caerau Park the original site for the ‘resort’? For Mynydd Caerau is now part of the Llynfi Renewable Energy Park (wind turbines) run by John Laing.

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Whatever the answer, by the early part of 2017 attention had obviously switched to the Afan valley. Borne out by Caerau Park Ltd becoming Afan Valley Ltd in February, with this followed by the public announcements involving the ‘Welsh Government’ just months later.

What explains this shift from the Llynfi valley to the Afan valley?

Perhaps the ‘Welsh Government’ can explain how the Afan Valley Adventure Resort first saw the light of day. For example, whose idea was it? Who made the first approach? Did the ‘Welsh Government’ entice Woodhouse from the Llynfi to the Afan?

And while they’re trawling through the files and the memory banks maybe someone can also explain why Caerau Park, ex-NCB land that passed to the ‘Welsh Government’ after devolution, was sold to a tax haven company in 2008.

Finally, maybe someone familiar with the upper reaches of the Afan and Llynfi valleys might have information I’ve missed, or information that is not in the public domain.

SCAMS AND FRAUDS?

Let’s return to Gavin Woodhouse’s business methods, which some might view as something similar to timeshare. And as we all know, timeshare was a largely unregulated sphere in foreign jurisdictions where perhaps the only way to avoid being fleeced was to rely on word of mouth recommendations from people you trusted.

Tangent alert! (As in, going off on one): A reason for timeshare being so risky was that a good slice of the business was in the hands of serious criminals, and used for money laundering. A few months ago, someone with experience in timeshare in the bad old days gave me this explanation.

“You see you could buy a week without anyone questioning anything and it was perfectly legal not to have to prove who you are – you just handed over what was then an average £25,000 for a week and signed a single sheet of paper. Now both these guys would have typically 120 units in a single development so they could handle £132 million through these units – that money was then cleaned in the system. Then every year you paid maintenance – another £600 or £3.2 million per site.

“Then the second spin would start in the auction and second hand market which was often when moms and pops took a hit. Even then none of it matters because under all these agreements if a site falls into a bad state then it goes back to the owners – who refurbish and start again. So it’s a perpetual sausage machine to clean money and they can call it what they want now i.e. points etc but its still the same thing.”

Worrying, isn’t it?

Now I’m not for one minute suggesting that Gavin Woodhouse is involved in that kind of thing, but selling individual rooms of hotels, and cabins at resorts, could be seen as a variation on a theme.

Because what’s to stop an unscrupulous operator selling the same room or cabin to any number of different people and then legging it with the money? Also, and unlike timeshare, there’s the advantage in this method that the investor doesn’t get to stay in his or her investment.

And when the property isn’t even off the drawing board – as with Woodhouse’s three care homes in north west England – then there’s no outlay whatsoever. All you do is sit there and let the money roll in!

Courtesy of the Guardian. Click to enlarge.

Even if we give Woodhouse the benefit of the doubt, and accept that he meant to deliver on his promises, the whole thing has still gone tits up for one reason or another.

But there’s a further worry with Woodhouse’s operations linked to the sudden and impressive increases in the valuations of his properties. As the Guardian put it . . .

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Now that is impressive.

Unfortunately, I could find nothing for the Fishguard Bay hotel on the Land Registry website, and even when I focused in on the LR map I got a ‘too many’ message. Which could mean that there are a number of titles on the site following the sale of the rooms.

But would this account for the massive increase in the claimed valuation of the hotel? I don’t think so, after all, it’s still the same building.

Suspicious increases in property values like this can often be explained by mortgage fraud, where a property’s valuation is increased in order to pull down more in mortgages and loans, which of course are then not repaid.

(Those who followed Woodhouse at Plas Glynllifon, Paul and Rowena Williams, were heavily involved in mortgage fraud, even ‘selling’ properties to themselves! Just type ‘Weep for Wales’ into the Search box on top of the sidebar to catch up with this gripping saga.)

But it doesn’t seem to matter, it’s almost as if this is not real money.

It’s the black economy and it still buys big houses and Range Rovers, it pays for private schooling, and contributes to consumer spending. The UK government and the police know about it but nobody’s going to interfere unless the media takes an interest.

Which is why things are now looking so bleak for the Wolf of Wharf Street.

HOW DID HE GET AWAY WITH IT FOR SO LONG?

I don’t want to say, ‘I told you so’ . . . but I told you so. And I know that plenty of people in Cardiff Bay read my blog . . . if only to mutter ‘bastard’ under their breath while reaching for the voodoo doll.

But even before he appeared on my radar there were doubts about Gavin Woodhouse and his business methods. Read this 2015 article from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Did no one in Cardiff Bay carry out the simplest checks before rolling out the red carpet for Woodhouse? And the red carpet was most certainly rolled out, not only in the Afan but also up north where, as we’ve seen, the boy wonder was given a £500,000 grant by the ‘Welsh Government’ for Neuadd Caer Rhun hotel.

Reproduced courtesy of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Click to enlarge.

Where, not only was Woodhouse selling rooms in the hotel, he also wanted to build cabins or lodges in the grounds which, again, were to be sold off to investors.

Has he received any other little ‘favours’ while he’s been in Wales? Because he certainly likes Wales: he has at least six hotels, then there’s the Afan Valley Adventure Resort (for now), land at Caerau . . .

Or is it just that Wales is an easy touch, and that’s why we see the Woodhouses, and the Williams, and all the other crooks and shysters moving into our country?

But of course, it’s not us, not you and me, who are fooled by these people – it’s those running Wales, those who claim to know better than us, they are the ones who keep making these mistakes. Over and over again.

Or are they ‘mistakes’. It’s worth asking because is anybody really this stupid, or this incompetent?

A PRICE TO PAY?

If I was an investor who had lost money in the Afan Valley Adventure Resort or any other Gavin Woodhouse enterprise (in Wales or in England) I would claim compensation from the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’.

I suggest this course of action because Woodhouse might have used the Caer Rhun grant, and the welcome he received in the southern hillsides, to establish his bona fides in order to gull investors.

But simply by being so accommodating towards Gavin Woodhouse, and giving him our money, the ‘Welsh Government’ was telling the world that here was a man to do business with.

Creditors seeking pecuniary redress should in the first instance contact: Ken Skates AM, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Infrastructure and Skills, Welsh Government, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NQ.

Or if you’re in the vicinity, then pop in. Tell him Jac sent you.

♦ end ♦

UPDATE 04.07.2019: It’s all fall down.

At a court hearing today three of Woodhouse’s companies, including Afan Valley Ltd, were placed instantly into interim administration. Judge Sally Barber said: “This appears to be a thoroughly dishonest business model and a shameful abuse of the privileges of limited liability trading. I am entirely satisfied by the evidence before me that this court must take immediate action.”

That’s telling him, Sal!

Weep for Wales

OUR STORY BEGINS IN PRESTEIGNE . . .

I am indebted to an anonymous source for the basis of the tale you’re about to read. I’ve contributed some supplementary digging and a number of interpretations. The original information I received was also sent to a couple of police forces, a number of media outlets, and other agencies, but I doubt if any will act on the information, so it’s up to Jac to extend his scrawny old neck, again.

Let the story begin in the pleasant little border town of Presteigne. To be even more specific, in the Radnorshire Arms Hotel, a half-timbered building dating back to the late 16th century.

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As told to me . . . this establishment was bought in 2006, or thereabouts, by a Paul Steven Williams for a price close to £400,000. It was then leased to a succession of tenants at an unreasonably high rent, with the predictable result that none of the tenants was able to make a go of it.

The last of these unfortunates seems to have been Gianni Roberto d’Aniello of Cora Berry Hotels Ltd. A company registered in January 2014 at the Radnorshire Arms, and put into the hands of Cardiff liquidators in November of that same year.

RESCUE!

But then! when all seemed lost, this by now neglected building was sold in August 2015 for the princely (and surprising) sum of £3,487,049 to Leisure and Development Ltd, a company with an address in nearby Knighton. A company Incorporated only a few months earlier on 19 January 2015.

And it wasn’t just the Radnorshire Arms that was bought by the new company, for in June and July 2015 Leisure and Development Ltd went on a spending spree and acquired seven properties, with another two added in February 2016, one of them the Beaufort Sports and Social Club in Ebbw Vale. (To see them all click on the ‘Charges’ tab of the Companies House entry I’ve just linked to.)

The founding directors of Leisure and Development Ltd were Paul Steven Williams and his wife Rowena Claire Williams. The charge referring to a loan from NatWest Bank suggests that the Radnorshire Arms had been transferred to Mrs Williams prior to the sale to Leisure and Development Ltd (see panel below).

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UPDATE 21:52: It may be worth spelling out that the Radnorshire Arms Hotel was sold by Rowena Claire Williams to Leisure and Development Ltd (Directors: Paul Steven Williams and Rowena Claire Williams) for at least twice what the property was worth. This is very odd; I mean, how can you ‘sell’ something to yourself?

Something else that struck me about Leisure and Development Ltd was the number of changes of address it saw in such a short time. Incorporated January 2015 with an address at the Knighton Hotel, Broad Street, Knighton; then in February 2016 to just over the border in Craven Arms; in February 2017 the company re-crossed the border from Craven Arms to Plas Glynllifon, Caernarfon; and finally, in April 2018, it moved back to Craven Arms.

There’ll be more on Plas Glynllifon and other properties in north Gwynedd later. They can’t be ignored because Plas Glynllifon Ltd now owns all the shares in Leisure and Development Ltd, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you who the directors are of Plas Glynllifon Ltd. Though they have ceased to be directors of Leisure and Development Ltd.

But the Williamses still own Leisure and Development Ltd through their ownership of Plas Glynllifon Ltd. It’s one way of operating – set up a company, then set up another company, resign from the first company but retain ownership through the second, then set up a third company, resign from the second, and so ad infinitum.

The person now nominally in charge of the Leisure and Development Ltd portfolio, named on the Companies House website as “person with significant control” from 30 April 2018, is Keith Harvey Partdridge. An interesting character, Partdridge, of whom more in a short while.

Though I suspect that spelling may be a recent affectation, if not a mis-spelling, because he has previously been known by the more usual spelling of Partridge. As in Museums (Norfolk) Ltd and Health Choice Hotels Ltd, both of which appear to be dormant.

Another example of Partridge’s business acumen, or perhaps his probity, may be found with Turnholly Ltd, owing some two hundred thousand pounds to various creditors.

SO WHO’S WHO AND HOW ARE THEY CONNECTED?

Well, we’ve met Paul Steven Williams and his wife Rowena Claire Williams, and I’ve also introduced their business partner Keith Harvey Partridge. And as I suggested, Partridge has a colourful past.

From 1992 to 1997 he owned the Midlands Motor Museum in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. But towards the end of 1999 he was jailed for stealing a Bentley Azure worth over a quarter of a million pounds. In March 2008 his home was up for sale with an asking price of £2,000,000.

But the Williamses are no paragons of good business practice either. Despite being repeatedly warned they carried on advertising the Radnorshire Arms as having AA and Visit Wales ratings, until they were eventually fined £1,250 with £4,250 costs.

(Incidentally, let me make it clear that despite the name the Williamses are not Welsh. They describe themselves as ‘English’ (not British) on documents submitted to Companies House, and I’m told that Paul Williams is a particularly unsavoury Kipper.)

Paul Steven Williams and Rowena Claire Williams. Credit: Wales News Service

In terms of companies, so far we’ve encountered Leisure and Development Ltd and Plas Glynllifon Ltd, plus some of Partridge’s solo ventures. Now it’s time to list a few others, without I hope causing too much confusion.

Paul and Rowena Williams were directors of Rural Retreats and Leisure UK Ltd, also listed among the directors was their company Leisure and Development Ltd (which bought the Radnorshire Arms Hotel). Rural Retreats and Leisure UK Ltd is now run by their associate Michael Adrian Jones, with his address given as Polvellan House in Cornwall.

On April 1 Jones – who owns all the shares since they were transferred to him from Leisure and Development Ltd – made an application for Rural Retreats and Leisure UK Ltd to be voluntarily struck off, but someone objected and the strike-off has been suspended.

I understand that Rowena Williams was outraged on finding that some scallywag had pinned the notification to the front door of the Radnorshire Arms.

A similarly named company is Rural Retreats and Development Ltd, of which Paul and Rowena Williams are both still directors. Former directors were Debra Yvonne Oswald, Paul Williams’ sister, and Polvellan Manor Ltd. There are a number of Charges against this company for loans and mortgages, including one against the Fronoleu Country Hotel at Tabor, just outside Dolgellau.

The mortgages, or more likely second mortgages, are with Together Commercial Finance Ltd, which seems to offer the commercial equivalent of pay day loans to those who find it difficult to raise money anywhere else.

click to enlarge

Turning to Partridge, since his release from prison he has formed a number of companies called Coast 2 Coast. There’s Coast 2 Coast Land Ltd, Coast 2 Coast Shores Ltd, Coast 2 Coast Developments Ltd, Coast 2 Coast Resorts Ltd, and Coast 2 Coast Care Ltd. The last of them is now dissolved but was formerly known as Coast 2 Coast Leisure, with Gwynedd directors following the change of name.

I find this last entry intriguing because it suggests an attempt by Partridge to break into the granny farming racket in Gwynedd.

WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT TOURISM?

I’ve already mentioned Plas Glynllifon, but the Williamses and/or Partridge also own Seiont Manor, Plas Brereton and Plas Tŷ Coch.

Plas Glynllifon has a chequered recent history. You may recall a few years ago someone trying to market it as ‘Wynnborn’. That previous owner was Gavin Lee Woodhouse, a spiv from Yorkshire. I wrote about Woodhouse in English Tourism in the Colony of Wales and Colonial Investments. (Paul and Rowena Williams also got a mention.)

After pissing people off in Caernarfon and beyond with his insulting ‘Wynnborn’ nonsense Woodhouse seems to have sold out to the Williamses and turned his gaze south. After linking up with Bore Grylls and then – to give the project some credibility – Peter Moore, former MD of Center Parcs, he unveiled the Afan Valley Adventure Resort.

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Quite an ambitious undertaking for a man who was then six million quid in debt, but the ‘Welsh’ Government gave the trio everything they wanted – land, planning permission, infrastructure, money, you name it.

It’s impossible to know what the future holds for the four properties around Caernarfon, we can only be guided by the record of those who now own these fine old buildings. And that record is not encouraging.

A FEW WORRYING FACTS

Since April 16 the Radnorshire Arms in Presteigne has been closed. On Monday 16 April staff were told by Paul Williams that Leisure and Development Ltd – comprising seven pubs, hotels, restaurants – had been sold to Coast 2 Coast and was being ‘re-branded’.

In other words, convicted thief Keith Harvey Partridge had somehow managed to raise“more than £10 million pounds” Williams claimed the deal was worth. Partridge whose companies are either in debt or mere shells.

On Sunday April 22 Partridge appeared in person at the Radnorshire Arms to tell staff that all the company’s establishments would be closed for 6 – 8 weeks for refurbishment. Staff were being laid off but could reapply for their jobs later. Over 70 staff were affected at the various locations.

Nothing has since been done to the Radnorshire Arms, and no planning application has been submitted. The building has instead been gutted and left to decay. There are broken windows and slates have fallen into the street. This, remember, is a 16th century, Grade II listed building.

In saying that the Radnorshire Arms has been “gutted”, what I mean is that it has been stripped of everything that can be sold off. The panel below is taken from the latest accounts for Leisure & Development Ltd submitted to Companies House at the end of April. Or rather, the unaudited financial statement.

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You’ll see that between 1 February 2017 and 31 January 2018 almost seven million pounds worth of plant and machinery plus fixtures and fittings somehow slipped off the balance sheet. Leaving the companies assets confined to freehold property, in other words, mere structures, decaying structures, all of them mortgaged and re-mortgaged, and perhaps overvalued.

Earlier I mentioned Polvellan Manor in West Looe, Cornwall, now owned by Polvellan Manor Ltd. On April 1 Paul and Rowena Williams transferred the 5000 shares they each owned to Keith Partdridge. They ceased to be directors on the same day, leaving Partdridge in sole control.

Polvellan Manor is another fine building that has been gutted and left to rot by Paul Williams, Rowena Williams, Keith Partridge and the rest of the gang. Cornwall Live featured Polvellan Manor in March this year, when it was listed among, “23 derelict buildings in Cornwall at risk of disappearing forever”.  

Paul Holden, chair of the Cornish Buildings Group, told the CL reporter, “We have applied unsuccessfully to get the building listed, the rejection notice said that much of the historic interior had been lost.” I wonder where the interior could have gone? Did it just walk out the door?

The Fronoleu Country Hotel, just outside Dolgellau, is now closed, just like Polvellan Manor and the Radnorshire Arms. So is the Beaufort Sports and Social Club in Ebbw Vale. I guarantee that most if not all of the properties owned by this gang are closed. What sort of business can this be?

And here’s a thought . . . has anyone from Cyngor Gwynedd or the ‘Welsh’ Government been inside Plas Glynllifon lately?

Another thought; by stripping and neglecting these buildings the gang is almost certainly breaking the conditions of the loans and mortgages, the conditions that insist these buildings be properly maintained and looked after. Intact.

And what do the insurers think of this behaviour?

UPDATE 14.06.2018: Here are the letters received by the staff at the Radnorshire Arms Hotel and the other establishments owned by Rural Retreats and Leisure Ltd. The first from Rowena Williams of RRL and the second from Keith Partridge of Coast 2 Coast. (Here in pdf format.)

click to enlarge

According to these letters the deal was done 1 February, so why did it take eight weeks to inform the staff?

Note how optimistic Rowena Williams sounds, “At the moment we do not have any more information that (sic) what we have shared with you except that they (Coast 2 Coast) want to move quickly in order to be open for the summer period”.

But the Williamses have been dealing with Partridge for years, and they knew exactly what the plan was.

And as for the “summer period”, well, it’s mid June, Whitsun has come and gone, and in the northern hemisphere it is now definitely summer . . . but the Radnorshire Arms Hotel and the other establishments remain firmly closed, with no sign of them opening any time soon.

How could anyone ever trust these people?

COUNT THE SPOONS!

You’ll have noticed that Paul and Rowena Williams and their sidekick Partridge buy property almost indiscriminately, and then they just strip them to the bare bones and let the buildings deteriorate.

This is because they have no interest in actually running hotels. The racket is to buy a property, with a loan or a mortgage; announce a big investment, lots of jobs; then strip the building of anything valuable; sell it on within the gang at an inflated price (or simply transfer it); dissolve indebted companies; pull down whatever grants are available, use these grants and new loans to service old loans; while paying yourself handsomely behind this fog of deceit.

With all the debts accrued, this is a house of cards. Collapse must surely be imminent.

Consequently, to have any dealings with these people would be foolish. To give them money would be insane. And yet, this is what I’m told has happened, and probably explains why they’ve moved their operations to Wales. For it’s claimed the gang has already received hundreds of thousands of pounds from the ‘Welsh’ Government, with more in the pipeline.

I have submitted a Freedom of Information request to Visit Wales, but I have already been told that the Radnorshire Arms received a grant of £370,000, plus a smaller grant; while the Knighton Hotel (formerly Norton Hotel) received an even larger grant.

God knows how much they’re getting, or anticipate getting, from their foray into Gwynedd.

In case anyone is in doubt, let me make it absolutely clear: These people are liars, chisellers, scammers, asset-strippers, con men, crooks; so cut off all public funding immediately and demand repayment of what they have already received; insist on a thorough inspection of the buildings they ‘own’; and then refer them to the police. 

Weep for Wales that we keep attracting people like these, scavengers drawn to a fallen beast. A once noble beast brought down by a colonial system that will always favour strangers, and exploitation; a system that will never encourage native initiative lest it gives us ideas about our place in the great scheme of things.

This system, and those who promote and operate it, must be swept away. Do that and I won’t have to write about Paul and Rowena Williams, Keith Partridge, Bore Grylls, Gavin Woodhouse and the occupying army of which they are just a small detachment.

♦ end ♦

 

Updates 12.12.2017

Tis the time of giving, and goodwill to all men – but not on this blog!

A few old favourites return and I take another look at scams with which we are familiar . . . all too familiar. It’s Deck the Halls indeed – with oodles of public funding. For this is Wales, and it’s always Christmas!

~~~

NEIGHBOURS

Following the previous post I wrote to Wrecsam planning department over the weekend, and was answered very promptly on Monday morning. I think I’m now a little nearer to understanding what’s been going on at 33 Grosvenor Road.

To recap: there are adjoining, semi-detached properties at 31 and 33 Grosvenor Road in Wrecsam town centre. The first is owned by the ever-expanding homelessness charity and third sector outfit the Wallich; the second by Bawso, a similar body dedicated to helping women from ethnic minorities.

Both properties have been substantially extended to the rear, as shown in the title plan to 31a (which I assume is the address of the extension).

click to enlarge, below

When I consulted the Wrexham County Borough Council website I only went back as far as 2006. Which meant that I did not find the planning permission granted in July 2002 to then owner Castlemead Homes for an extension to the rear for a “two and half storey rear extension comprising covered car parking area and additional office accommodation”. A completion certificate was issued 16 November 2004.

Which would appear to put Bawso on the right side of planning regulations . . . or maybe not.

Because, if you recall, when we looked at planning permissions granted to the Wallich property at 31 we found that there was an authorised change of use in 2008 to a House of Multiple Occupation, and later that year there was further permission for a “Change of use of upper floors from office accommodation to a hostel for homeless people”.

I guarantee that the Bawso property at 33 is used for a very similar purpose to the Wallich property, but no permission for change of use has ever been granted.

I have therefore suggested to the Planning Enforcement team at Wrexham County Borough Council that they might wish to make enquiries in order to establish whether Bawso at 33 Grosvenor Road has planning permission for the uses to which the building is being put.

To be continued . . .

UPDATE 14.12.2015: The Planning Enforcement team at WCBC inspected 33 Grosvenor Road and the response I got said:

“I have been to visit 33 Grosvenor Road.  They are not running a homeless shelter there, the business merely provides advice and assistance to their customers; there is no overnight accommodation at the building.” After querying the size of the building I was sent a plan. Just look at it!

Over three floors we find fourteen separate offices plus a conference room and a former drawing office. Does Bawso really need such a building? It was probably bought in a job lot with 31 from the previous owner. For remember, Bawso ‘paid’ £457,000 for this building in 2009, a building that, if it’s not used for accommodation, is clearly too big for Bawso’s needs.

So who gave Bawso the money to buy a building it doesn’t need, was it the ‘Welsh’ Government or the Home Office?’

UPDATE 02.01.2018: As I suspected, it was indeed our wonderful ‘Welsh’ Government that paid for this large building Bawso may not even need (for I’m told they’re certainly not using much of it). This capture is from the Accounts for year ending 31 March 2009.

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GARDEN PATHS

I may have mentioned that last month I submitted a FoI to the ‘Welsh’ Government asking how many homelessness organisations the WG funds and how much funding is involved. Here’s the response I received last Friday from a Carl Spiller of the Housing Policy Division.

To say I was disappointed with that response would be an understatement. Though I’m not surprised to read that there are 48 different organisations receiving funding to alleviate homelessness; no, what disappoints me is the funding quoted, which is an absurd underestimate.

Let us put this into perspective by referring back to the Wallich, an organisation based in Wales and dealing solely with homelessness. Here are the accounts for year ending 31 March 2017. Go to page 25 and you’ll see that the Wallich alone received almost seven million pounds from the ‘Welsh’ Government, yet the reply I got wants us to believe that funding for homelessness is never much more than eight million pounds a year – for 48 organisations!

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Clearly Mr Spiller has latched onto the Homelessness Prevention Grant Programme, perhaps because it helpfully uses the term ‘homelessness’ in its name. Yet there are many other funding streams for homelessness, not least the Supporting People Programme Grant from which the Wallich gained over six million pounds in the past year.

I don’t know whether Mr Spiller is confused, or whether he thinks my mother bred an idiot; but whichever it is I have written to him again asking for the right answer, which might indeed be 48 organisations, but I know damn well it involves more than one programme, with the amount of money running into hundreds of millions of pounds.

To be continued . . .

FARAWAY PLACES

Staying with the Wallich for a minute, something else that caught my eye in the 2017 Accounts was on page 31, in the section headed ’13 Investments’. Where we see this:

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Overseas Equities!!

Can anyone offer an explanation as to why an outfit like this, ministering to the homeless of Wales (and beyond), totally dependent on the public purse – plus the income derived from assets and investments paid for from the public purse – should have overseas equities?

What might these equities be? Dare we imagine this £938,478 (a mere £409,412 the year before) resting in some sun-blest tax haven?

When a third sector body reliant on public largesse has so much spare moolah then it’s reasonable to assume that it’s getting too much in the first place.

A LITTLE PLACE IN THE WEST

In this recent post there was a section headed ‘The “Bedsit Baron” of Pembroke Dock’ based on an article in the Pembrokeshire Herald about Cathal Eamonn McCosker. Well he’s made the news again.

There’s been a fire at one of his properties and someone has been badly burned.

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You’ll notice that there’s no mention of McCosker in the report, but there is a reference to E-Lettings being the owner of the property. This is the company set up by McCosker partly because local estate agents were loath to deal with him and partly because it maximised his profits.

Here’s another reference to E-Lettings from the same edition of the Pembrokeshire Herald, this time reporting a complaint made by E-Lettings against the councillor named in the account of the fire. The complainant is named as E-Lettings “proprietor, Miss Jill Evans”. I can only assume that Ms Evans works for McCosker, because there is no doubt about who owns E-Lettings.

McCosker is just another unscrupulous individual of the sort that has flocked to Wales since devolution turned on the tap of easy money.

It doesn’t really matter whether they speak Estuary English, attend conferences and lie to us about ‘helping people’, or whether they’re more honest about ripping off the public purse like McCosker . . . in many ways I’d prefer to deal with an unashamed rogue like McCosker than the hypocritical bastards I normally write about. You know where you are.

That said, McCosker’s reign of terror in Pembroke Dock must be brought to an end before someone dies, no matter how far up the political food chain the blame extends for corruptly funding his slum landlord empire.

To be continued . . .

THOMAS HARRY SHADY SCARROTT – SURELY NOT!

Someone else who has graced these pages in recent months is Tom Scarrott of Vale Holiday Parks Ltd. Read about him in The Caravanserai of Ceredigion. What a lad!

Our little contretemps started with a difference of opinion over the benefits of tourism. He of course wants us to believe that tourism provides lots of wonderful, full-time, well-paid jobs, it is – as the ‘Welsh’ Government would also have us believe – the economic salvation of rural Wales.

It soon became clear, even in a Twitter exchange, that Scarrott has a problem with the truth on all sorts of matters.

I was not surprised then to have a few people draw my attention to a wee piece that appeared in WalesOnline last week, headed The Welsh firms named and shamed for not paying the national minimum wage’. and to see Vale Holiday Parks appear.

So the man who claims his firm brings prosperity to Ceredigion can’t even pay the minimum wage. Like I say, he’s got a problem with the truth, that boy.

RESORTING WITH UNDESIRABLES

Staying with tourism we head from Ceredigion in a south-easterly direction towards the city of my dreams, before taking a slight detour to the Afan Valley. Of which I have writ before, first with English Tourism in the Colony of Wales, then with Colonial Investments.

This project was apparently dreamed up a Yorkshireman named Gavin Lee Woodhouse who pulled aboard that master of self-promotion, ‘Bear’ Grylls. For public consumption Woodhouse seems to have been replaced to some extent by Peter Moore, “the man who brought Center Parcs to the UK”, and Grylls is also less prominent now.

There was yet another piece extolling the benefits of this venture in yesterday’s Llais y Sais.

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Let me spell out what we’re dealing with here, why there is a valid comparison to be made with what Scarrott does at his Ocean Heights Leisure Park near Cei Newydd, and why they are so damaging to a country without independence and lacking politicians with the balls to impose certain conditions.

Both Ocean Heights and the planned ‘resort’ in the Afan valley are self-contained, by which I mean the intention is to get people to stay there and also make them spend as much of their money as possible on site, rather than have them wander abroad and spend some money in the Wales beyond their electric fences and guard dogs.

This inevitably means that most of the money earned will leave Wales. In Scarrott’s case we know that he banks in England, his auditors are in England – it’s almost as if he fears a coup! The company behind the Afan valley venture is of course an English company.

‘Oh, come on, Jac, you cynical old git, what about the jobs?’

Read the bit in the article where Moore says, “There will be in the region of 1,000, all-year-round, permanent, direct jobs, plus significant indirect employment, the majority of which will be relatively local”. Rarely does one encounter a single sentence containing so many weasel words. Treasure it!

We don’t have independence, but if we had politicians with balls they would insist that: 1/ All direct jobs go to locals. 2/ Indirect employment also goes to locals by using local contractors and suppliers. 3/ Profits will be re-invested in Wales.

But who have we had representing us – why! Ken Skates! The same Ken Skates who thought the Flint Ring was a wonderful idea. Now ably assisted by Dafydd Elis Thomas.

This is flim-flam all the way. In one quote Moore describes the Afan Valley as a rural area, but the truth is the resort will be 10 miles from Swansea city centre and less from Port Talbot steelworks. Rural, yes, but guests are not going to be kept awake by the howling of wolves.

But enough! feast your eyes on the artist’s impression here.

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Look at it! Bloody wonderful, innit . . . I mean, look at them, er, umbrellas, and that bridge – tidy bridge, that is. Makes ew proud to be Welsh, mun . . . not that there’ll be much about it that’s Welsh, apart from its location.

But then, that sums up tourism in Wales.

To be continued . . .

♦ end ♦

 

Colonial Investments

THE WOLF OF WHARF STREET

Back in April I wrote English Tourism in the Colony of Wales, which focused on Gavin Lee Woodhouse and ‘Bear’ Grylls, and their plans for the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. I wondered in that post why the ‘Welsh’ Government – even given its record of doing business with numerous crooks – was involved with an obvious spiv like Woodhouse.

Why is the ‘Welsh’ Government prepared to hand over a valuable piece of land in the Afan Valley to a man with a net worth of minus six million pounds? A man who starts and dissolves companies more often than some people change their socks. Over a hundred to date. And yet he seems to have been a late starter; for he’s 39 now but according to Company Check he didn’t start his first company until he was 34. What else do we know about him?

From Company Check

A company closely associated with Woodhouse is Properties of the World, run by Jean Ann Liggett, this company helps “property buyers make informed decisions on select UK properties, ensuring their purchases tick all the boxes”, as Liggett’s Linkedin profile tells us.

Ms Liggett is an American, whose family was involved in property back in Ohio. She herself has sold property in North Africa, and has worked for some interesting companies; among them Sunsplash Homes, which lasted for less than three years but “sold properties all over the world”.

Though the Linkedin profile tells us that since January 1985 she has also worked as a media planner for Ogilvy and Mather, a major US advertising agency, founded by Englishman David Mackenzie Ogilvy, regarded as the Father of Advertising. I say ‘English’, but Ogilvy and Mackenzie are of course Highland names, and that’s where his father came from.

During WWII Ogilvy worked for British Intelligence, hardly surprising because there’s no real difference between propaganda and advertising, both want you to buy their ‘product’. Which explains why, in the Britishness offensive we’re currently enduring, so many businesses – perhaps advised by companies like Ogilvy – cover their products in union jacks and other BritNat symbols.

In addition to helping Woodhouse make “informed decisions on select UK properties”, such as Plas Glynllifon, Liggett went into business with him, briefly. The company was MBI London NW8 Ltd, another of Woodhouse’s short-lived enterprises, lasting barely a year and doing nothing, or so it would appear.

But it’s Liggett’s other companies I want to concentrate on, because these throw up an interesting name. Let’s look first at Sunsplash Homes, the company selling property all over the world. If we look at the founding directors we see three names, among them, Barbara Z Kahan. Turning to Properties of the World, the only director other than Liggett was Barbara Kahan.

Kahan also cropped up when I recently delved into Carmarthenshire Council CEO Mark Vincent James’ property empire in Cardiff Bay. James is a director of Building and Estate Solutions Today Ltd and a co-director is Steven James Corner. Corner is also a director of Imaginative Property Group Ltd, and the other founding director was Barbara Kahan. So who is Barbara (Z) Kahan?

Kahan ‘lends’ her name to help form companies (and resigns the same day the company is Incorporated). Allegations have been made, in the Times and elsewhere, that she helps those who might have difficulty setting up a UK company – though God knows it’s easy enough! – form companies for nefarious purposes. In a nutshell, money laundering.

BEARING UP

My source suggests that the answer to why the ‘Welsh’ Government is involved with a chancer like Woodhouse at the Afan Valley Adventure Resort may lie with his partner, Grylls, who contributes the Bear Grylls Survival Academy to the package. He already has one such establishment on Llŷn.

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Grylls is a regular presence on the television screens of those who like to watch overpaid and well-connected self-publicists. Fortunately, I don’t watch any programmes on which he is likely to appear. But his background is interesting.

On his mother’s side, his roots are in Donaghadee in County Down, Northern Ireland, where he spent his early years. His maternal grandmother and maternal great-grandfather were both Ulster Unionist MPs. His father, Sir William Michael John Grylls MP, was caught up in the same cash-for-questions affair that netted our very own Neil Hamilton AM. (Christine Hamilton was Grylls’ secretary.)

Grylls Senior was very well connected, his father had been a brigadier in 15th/19th the King’s Royal Hussars, he himself served in the Royal Marines and belonged to the exclusive Royal Yacht Squadron. His son, Edward Michael ‘Bear’ Grylls, went to prep school and Eton, did a few years in the SAS, is now Chief Scout, a lieutenant commander in the Royal Naval Reserve, and holds the same honorary rank in the Royal Marines Reserve.

There can’t be many outside of the Sachsen-Coburg und Gothas who better represents the establishment and the Union. It can only be a matter of time before ‘Bear’ Grylls is knighted, ennobled, and finally made a saint. There’s no question that Grylls, with his ‘pull’, can get anything he wants out of the ‘Welsh’ Government.

AN INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY

It could be that Woodhouse has now served his purpose, or may have bitten off more than he can chew, for he appears to have been promoted sideways in favour of Peter Moore, former MD of Center Parcs. Moore coming on board suggests that Caerau Parc, the name that now seems to have been adopted for the venture, is a nod to his former employer rather than a show of respect for the Welsh language.

But whoever’s running the show, and whatever it’s called, this project will attract those looking to avoid taxes and other irritations by investing in UK property. These needn’t be tyrants from the -stans and their families, or Russian oligarchs, just well-to-do people, of the kind Liggett and Grylls have mixed with all their lives, seeking a little nest egg, as the Properties of the World website makes clear.

In addition, the Elite Investor Club website reminds potential investors that the lodges at Caerau Parc are free from stamp duty, and, “If you have a buy-to-let property that you are worried about after all the recent tax changes you may be able to part exchange it against a lodge at Afan Valley”. So it’s also seeking to attract the buy-to-let types?

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Though I’m not sure if those involved in this scam scheme realise that in April 2018 stamp duty will be replaced in Wales by the Land Transaction Tax, to be administered by the ‘Welsh’ Government. But then, they’ve probably had assurances from Cardiff Bay that nothing will change . . . it never does.

Because the term ‘holiday homes’ carries a lot of baggage in Wales this project had to be dressed up as something more than property investment, which is where ‘Bear’ Grylls comes into the picture.

We know that the London property market launders many billions of pounds, it’s only natural that those seeking a UK property investment, but who can’t afford London prices, will look elsewhere. With Ms Liggett’s contacts I’m sure we’ll see some interesting buyers turn up for the lodges at Caerau Parc.

In fact, the whole Caerau Parc project of 900 lodges could be a money-laundering operation in itself.

THE BIG LIE

Wales is under attack today as never before. Our country is slowly being dismembered and we Welsh replaced as its inhabitants. One of the principle engines of our destruction is tourism. Yet we are asked to welcome an ‘industry’ that ignores our identity, treats our homeland as a playground, and marginalises us by encouraging colonisation.

Caerau Parc is typical of ‘Welsh’ tourism. The land on which it stands is owned by the UK state and managed by its Cardiff branch office. Those seeking to make money from this venture – Woodhouse, Grylls, Moore – are all English, or in the case of Liggett, American. Those who’ll buy the lodge-investments will almost certainly come from outside of Wales. The top jobs, the permanent jobs, have already been allocated to English ex-military types and the well connected.

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So what will be left for us Welsh at Caerau Parc? Well, as usual, we’ll get the shitty jobs, the low paid jobs, the seasonal jobs; for this is how tourism in Wales operates. Wales in 2017 is treated little different to Africa or India a century ago. It seems that Wales exists for no other reason than to enrich our English masters.

Yet those apologists for colonialism in the so-called ‘Welsh Government’, jumped-up little shites like Ken Skates, tell us we should be ever so grateful for this! We should be thankful that rapacious bastards like Woodhouse and Grylls have come to gorge themselves on the carcass of Wales.

But then, we are lied to at every level, whether it’s the Westminster government, BBC Wales, Llais y Sais, or Carwyn Jones and his band of the hopeless. Welsh public life is thoroughly corrupt. The problems facing us are so entrenched, in both our national life and our collective psyche, that nothing will change by a different party running the Notional Assembly.

The current system is beyond tinkering with, it must be swept away entirely and a new Wales created in its place. Let’s start that revolution by rejecting Caerau Parc and all other forms of colonialist tourism. Let’s make it clear that we shall no longer accept it, nor shall we celebrate our subjection.

Woodhouse’s Northern Powerhouse website tells us, “Proposals will be available to view from 20th – 28th July at Cymmer Afan Community Library, Station Road, Cymmer, Port Talbot, NPT, SA13 3HR during normal opening hours”.

Why not pop along and tell them what you think of this project. There’s no need to be rude; ‘Fuck off, you exploitive, colonialist bastards!’ should suffice.

♦ end ♦