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
Let’s start by going back to this post I wrote last December and scroll down to the section headed ‘The left betrays Wales, again’. What I tried to explain was the recent history of the Tower Colliery site since deep mining finished in January 2008.
I wrote that the closure was followed by a short period of opencast mining, to extract some six million tons of anthracite coal. This began in May 2012 and ended in March 2017, when new environment regulations meant that Aberthaw power station could no longer take Tower’s coal.
From what I can make out, this opencast operation was a partnership between the original Tower Colliery Ltd (Incorporated 28.11.1994), Tower Regeneration Ltd (Inc 20.08.2009), and a company from north east England called Hargreaves Services Plc As explained here.
Tower Colliery Ltd is ultimately owned by Goitre Tower Anthracite Ltd. The 488 Goitre shareholders are I assume former miners and the relatives of former miners. With the maximum individual holding apparently limited to 8,260 of the 2,164,075 shares.
With open cast mining finished, what is to become of this high and windy, but scenically attractive, area?
The answer would appear to be . . . zip wires!
‘TOP O’ THE WORLD, MAM’
The title of this section is taken from that great film noir, White Heat, and the line spoken by Cody Jarrett, played by James Cagney, before the gas tank on which he’s standing explodes. (Obviously, in the movie, Jarrett says ‘Ma’, not ‘Mam’.)
I use it because Rhigos can give that top of the world feeling. And that’s where we are, on the A4061 that makes its way from the A465 Heads of the Valleys road down into the Rhondda. On the map below you’ll see, marked with a red cross, the Rhigos Viewpoint, a large lay-by giving superb views over the surrounding country.
Not only that, but in bad weather the Rhigos Viewpoint serves as a temporary depot for Rhondda Cynon Taf gritting lorries, allowing them to travel in both directions and avoid the climb up from their regular depots in the valley below.
Why then was the Viewpoint recently put up for sale?
We see that the online sale document is dated 27 June and Lesley Griffiths’ letter to Lee Waters AM is dated 16 July. Between these dates concerned locals noticed the sale, someone living in Llanelli contacted his AM, Lee Waters, who wrote to Ken ‘Flint Ring’ Skates; the civil servants in Cardiff or wherever realised they’d been rumbled, pulled the advert, and Lesley Griffiths replied to Lee Waters denying any sale.
A little episode that does not reflect well on those who manage Wales for their bosses in London. Lesley Griffiths in particular is getting a bit of a reputation for being averse to the truth.
Returning to Rhigos . . . If we look at this image of the viewpoint and lay-by we see, centre right, Craig y Llyn, the jumping-off point for one of the three planned zip wires.
Maybe the real question is, if the Rhigos Viewpoint is to be included in the Zip World project, why was it advertised for sale clearly hoping nobody would notice? Was the plan for it to be bought by some intermediary who would then profit from selling it on to Zip World?
But that suggestion hints at corruption – naughty boy, Jac! – and this is Wales, where corruption is unknown.
There is no question in my mind that the sale of the Rhigos Viewpoint links with the promised arrival of Zip World.
And while the plans shown in the WalesOnline report for the car park, toilets and office accommodation clearly refer to the property owned by Tower Colliery (scroll down to the plan), I believe the Zip World project goes way beyond what is owned by the former miners and their families.
UPDATE 02.08.2019: A message reaches me saying that the advertisement was no ‘mistake’ but was in fact the ‘Welsh Government’ covering its arse by meeting its legal requirements. The land can now be handed over – to Zip World? – and the WG can say, ‘We advertised it, but no one was interested’.
There were big changes in Zip World companies towards the end of last year affecting Zip World Ltd, Zip World Fforest Ltd, and Zip World Group Holdings Ltd. What is termed “a management buy-out” took place which means that the parent company is now ZWPV Ltd (Inc 24.10.2018).
But it’s not that straightforward, for at the foot of the final page of the most recent accounts we read that, “Due to the shareholdings in place at ZWPV Limited, the directors consider Sean Taylor to be the ultimate controlling partner”. That is, Sean Wallace Taylor.
So, if not a one-man band, then the Zip World companies would certainly appear to be under the control of a single individual. And it gets a little more complicated when we look at this new parent company, ZWPV Ltd.
There are six other directors, who all give as their address, ‘Zip World Base Camp, Denbigh Street, Llanrwst, Wales, LL26 0LL’. But for head honcho Taylor, the address given is, ‘8th Floor, One Central Square, Cardiff, United Kingdom, CF10 1FS’.
And among the directors giving the Llanrwst address is Giles Alexander Thorley, who joined the company 21 February 2019. This is odd, because Thorley is CEO of the Development Bank of Wales. So either he’s moonlighting or else he’s there in an official capacity. I hope it’s the latter, which probably means Thorley’s there representing the ‘Welsh Government’.
But let’s return to Taylor’s Cardiff address. Seeing as parent company ZWPV has its address in Llanrwst like everything else and everybody else, why would Taylor’s individual address be in Cardiff?
Or to put it another way, who else might we find on the 8th Floor at One Central Square to explain Taylor using it as his address? Well, the whole floor is the domain of solicitors Blake Morgan, a company that of course has many clients, including the ‘Welsh Government’ and its various agencies.
Which makes a certain sense, and other pieces are falling into place as I write this to support that presumption.
Before moving on to consider what might really be happening up at Rhigos I want to go back to ZWPV. (What does the ‘PV’ stand for?) It was Incorporated 24 October 2018 with Sean Taylor holding the only share. On St David’s Day there was an allotment of over 14 million shares, including 92,500 preference shares.
While under ‘Filing history’, for 12 March, you’ll see ‘Resolutions’, an arrangement entered into with LDC Parallel (Nominees) Ltd, designed to raise money through selling those 92,500 preference shares.
Companies using the term ‘Nominees’ have, or find, investors who remain anonymous.
So if I’m following this thread properly: the main Zip World companies are now huddled under the umbrella of ZWPV Ltd controlled by Sean Wallace Taylor who, through an agreement with LDC Parallel (Nominees) Ltd, is looking to sell shares to investors who will remain anonymous.
There are a number of other companies bearing the ‘LDC Parallel’ name, numbered I to VIII, with all but the last of them based in Aberdeen.
“A former US Navy Petty Officer and Centrica Energy Director of Nuclear and Renewables, he is recognised as a thorough leader in safety leadership in both nuclear and renewable power generation.
His work in renewables saw him leading major infrastructure project (sic), including the design, development and commissioning phases of the £1.2 billion Lincs Wind Farm.”
Intriguing. Though like me, I’m sure you’re wondering why a man with a background in nuclear and renewable energy has joined a tourist operation like Zip World.
I think the answer lies in: ” . . . to strengthen the management team and take the business to the next level”. With the emphasis on ‘next level’. Which might be another way of saying diversification.
One disturbing possibility pulls together Evans’ background in the nuclear industry and the fact that Zip World uses quarries and mines. Could this be about the storage of nuclear waste?
HOW MIGHT IT ALL FIT TOGETHER?
OK, so what’s the big picture?
A company that has been well favoured by the ‘Welsh Government’ in its northern ventures has decided to move south. Details were announced in February this year and probably accounts for the reorganisation in the Zip World group.
Also, in October last year, both Zip World Ltd and Zip World Fforest Ltd cleared charges with Finance Wales Investments (10) Ltd. Seeing as Giles Alexander Thorley, CEO of the Development Bank of Wales, is also a director of FWI (10) Ltd, maybe these charges had to be cleared before he could join the revamped set-up in February this year.
Though note also the involvement of Blake Morgan.
Let’s take another look at the layout of the land at Rhigos. It will help explain what I believe is planned.
The picture below is taken from the Viewpoint looking looking west. It shows the ridge of Craig y Llyn, from where one of the zip wires will start, and below it lies the lake to which the name refers, Llyn Fawr. (There’s a Llyn Fach further over.)
You’ll notice that one side of the lake is straight, and that’s because it’s a reservoir, as is Llyn Fach, they both supplied Tower Colliery.
It’s time now to introduce someone you’re probably familiar with. Someone else who can be found on the eighth floor with Blake Morgan.
I’m referring to Shire Oak International Ltd (SHI). And whaddya know – one of the two directors of SHI is Mark Shorrock, who was of course the mastermind behind the proposed Swansea tidal lagoon, rejected by the UK government last June.
So is he involved at Rhigos, has Sharrock’s gaze been distracted from Mumbles? Of course, sharing the Cardiff address with Sean Taylor of Zip World could be pure coincidence, but I think not.
For while we all associate Mark Shorrock with tidal lagoons, he is a man with fingers in many pies. There’s quarries, for a start, such as Dean Quarry in Cornwall, from where he hoped to get the stone for the Swansea lagoon wall.
Another ‘pie’ is renewable energy; solar, wind and pumped storage. And companies such as Shire Oak Pumped Storage (Llanddulas) Ltd, which was struck off in April. This is a fate that befalls many of Shorrock’s companies. The boy’s had some bad luck.
Which may be why the ‘Welsh Government’, in the form of Carwyn Jones (remember him?), promised to chip in with £200m when the UK government shafted his plans for Swansea Bay.
Not only that, but he got quite comfy down in the City of my Dreams, and was well regarded by Swansea University. Where the Uni had the third floor of the Civic Centre on Oystermouth Road all to themselves, for their Centre for Regional Innovation, under recently departed Marc Clement.
A local source tells me that at one time there were no fewer than seven Shorrock companies on the third floor. Though getting information on them from either the council or the university proved futile, they always had an excuse.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR RHIGOS?
Whether Shorrock has teamed up with Zip World or not at Rhigos I’m certain that the ‘Welsh Government’ is involved because, through Natural Resources Wales, it owns so much of the land up there; including the two lakes, the escarpment and the forests.
But even if Shorrock is not involved, if his being at the same Cardiff address as Sean Wallace Taylor is pure coincidence, then whatever is planned for Rhigos still goes way beyond zip wires.
The clues are there:
- There’s the reorganisation of the Zip World group towards the end of last year.
- Then the new company linked up with LDC Parallel (Nominees) Ltd to find secret investors.
- We have the CEO of the Development Bank of Wales becoming a director of the new Zip World parent company. (To look after ‘Welsh Government’ interests, in the form of land and assets to be handed over?)
- Then there’s the curious aborted sale of a prime piece of property in the form of the Rhigos Viewpoint that saw a ‘Welsh Government’ Minister misleading us.
- Finally, a new director joins Zip World very recently who has no experience in tourism, but whose field of expertise is nuclear and renewable energy.
To understand what I think is happening at Rhigos you have to remember that the ‘Welsh Government’ has massive assets in publicly-owned land, much of it held by Natural Resources Wales, which of course took over Forestry Commission land. Forestry managed by NRW accounts for 6% of the total area of Wales.
There is pressure from various quarters to ‘monetise’ these assets, and if that can be done behind a green smokescreen then so much the better. We see it all over Wales in forests where thousands of trees have been felled to make way for wind turbines and the roads serving them. More damage is done in building, transporting and erecting wind turbines than they ever recoup in their short working lives.
The high ground at Rhigos provides the perfect opportunity to ‘monetise’ some NRW assets. There may indeed be zip wires, but they won’t come alone. There will be cabins, maybe a hotel and other facilities, perhaps wind turbines and some scheme involving Llyn Fawr and Llyn Fach. Perhaps even the storage of nuclear waste.
With the package dressed up as an ‘adventure resort’ such as Gavin Woodhouse promised for the nearby Afan Valley. For, remember, with the M4 and the Heads of the Valleys road providing access, plus almost two million people within 40 miles of Rhigos, there is a much bigger customer potential than for any venture in the north.
Whatever is planned for Rhigos, the ‘Welsh Government’ should pause and ask itself what it’s getting involved in, and with whom. For example, is there any concern over ZWPV’s anonymous backers?
If Shorrock’s involved, then is he being thrown a bone for losing out on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon? And if so, do we owe him anything?
And if we’re going to give honesty a romp in the summer sunshine, then maybe we can also have explained to us the relationship between the ‘Welsh Government’ and its assorted agencies on the one hand, and certain favoured Cardiff legal firms and people like Sean Wallace Taylor and Mark Christopher Shorrock on the other?
How do it all fit together, innit?
To conclude; my reading of the Rhigos situation is that deals are being struck in the background, with our assets; and this will result in some people making a lot of money, yet once again, we, the Welsh people, will lose out.
But this is unavoidable in a colonialist environment when the local political class can be dictated to by their colonial masters and also wound around the fingers of the money men.
An independent Wales run by such people – or those hoping to replace them – would see us receiving food parcels from Venezuela. And they’d probably celebrate such shows of ‘solidarity’.
♦ end ♦