Tourism in Wales: problems, thoughts, suggestions

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

I’m taking a break from the con men, fraudsters and assorted crooks who figure regularly here. But I’m not moving far, because this week I’m focusing on tourism operators, politicians and others who themselves have but a nodding acquaintance with the truth.

THE STORM BREAKS

One of the benefits of coronavirus and lockdown was the absence of tourists, and the joyous consequences of that absence. Such as much less traffic on our rural roads, fewer call-outs for our emergency services, and in all manner of ways making rural and coastal areas of Wales more pleasant for those who live there all year round.

Making recent months seem even more of a lost golden age has been the irruption of noisy, stupid and irresponsible tourists since lockdown was eased by our self-styled ‘Welsh Government’, bowing to pressure from the Conservative and Unionist Party and tourism operators.

There has inevitably been a reaction from local people to the return of the tourists in what have been, literally, overwhelming numbers. What you see below was the scene two weeks ago near Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).

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Much of the anger this has generated is directed at motorists, with many photos in print and online of inconsiderately parked cars. Which allowed some to argue that all would be well if we had bigger car parks to accommodate all the vehicles. Or even park and ride schemes.

Both of which ignore the real problem – many areas get more cars than the local road system can handle, and more people than the environment can cope with. I shall return to the environmental angle later.

Let’s also remember that the problems caused by tourism go way beyond traffic issues.

RESPONSES

Here’s a two-page spread from last Wednesday’s Llais y Sais, in which we read Councillor Gareth Thomas, Cyngor Gwynedd’s Head of Economical Development, opine that, despite the recent problems, tourism, “provides high quality jobs for local people as well as supporting the county’s environment, language, culture and destinations”.

“Destinations”?

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I don’t know Gareth Thomas, he might be a great bloke, but anyone saying that tourism provides high quality jobs, and that it also supports the area’s environment, language and culture is talking absolute nonsense.

Yesterday’s Daily Post carried what might have been an attempt to retrieve the situation. (With first minister Drakeford not ruling out a tourism tax . . . sort of.) But did council leader Dyfrig Siencyn really say, as he is quoted: ” . . . our rural economy is totally dependent on the tourism industry”?

A fuller version of this article may have appeared in Llais y Sais, Read it here.

Perhaps hoping to establish its own credentials vis-à-vis tourism opposition group Llais Gwynedd also weighed in. For those unfamiliar with Llais Gwynedd (which has 6 councillors), it sees itself as perhaps more radical than Plaid Cymru, more rooted in the local communities of Gwynedd.

Its spokesman, Glyn Daniels, wants to charge hikers on Yr Wyddfa £1 per head. I don’t know Glyn Daniels either, but he’s also talking rubbish. At £1 per head the money raised wouldn’t be enough to cover the costs of collecting and processing it.

What’s more, it would not serve as a deterrent. And we need some kind of deterrent to reduce the numbers coming to areas like our national parks and other ‘honey pots’. To cover the costs mentioned, and put a decent amount into the communities affected, the charge would need to be a minimum of £10 a head.

In a Daily Post poll, more than 70% of respondents agreed there should be a charge.

Opposing Councillor Daniels’ suggestion to charge hikers was Brân Devey, of Ramblers Cymru, with a remark I found rather puzzling: “Local people will not go up Snowdon really in the summer, it is too busy”.

Is he saying we shouldn’t charge the people overcrowding Yr Wyddfa in summer because they’re not locals?

‘Ramblers Cymru’ is worth a little detour.

‘RAMBLERS CYMRU’?

You will remember that ‘Dr’ Jane Davidson, Minister for Hippies in the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition 2007 – 2011, and midwife of One Planet Developments, was also Welsh vice-president of The Ramblers before stepping down in 2007, and then, as grough tells us, she rejoined as president when she departed Corruption Bay in 2011.

But of course she shunned The Ramblers, and the ramblers, while she was a minister.

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For some reason this second stint with The Ramblers is not mentioned in Davidson’s Wikipedia entry. (By the time you read it the page might have been re-written, again.)

Though it’s difficult to make out if there really is a group called Ramblers Cymru or, as the grough article I just linked to puts it, Davidson became “president of the Ramblers in Wales”.

The website, https://www.ramblers.org.uk/wales, suggests another Englandandwales organisation, for when you click ‘Home’ on the Wales page you go back to the UK site.

Which is appropriate, for most of those working for Ramblers Cymru have moved here to do jobs that are clearly beyond the abilities of Welsh people. Mainly women of the type who have flooded into Wales since devolution to run the hundreds of third sector bodies that the ‘progressive’ parties feel we can’t do without.

One, Maria Hamlett, says: “My background includes working in numerous third sector organisations in key governance roles”. While Amanda Hill has: “15 years experience working for Worcestershire County Council”. Rebecca Brough: “I have a background in policy influencing work in the governmental, charity and statutory sectors”.

Important points there. For the staff at Ramblers Cymru don’t restrict themselves to scolding a wicked farmer for leaving Berwyn the bull on the footpath, they also seek to influence policy-makers. Just as Jane Davidson did, before, during, and after her stint as a minister.

The people I’m describing do not represent – nor do they seek to represent – our interests. If Welsh interests are served then it’s entirely accidental or tangential. ‘Ramblers Cymru’ and similar organisations seek to curate (love that word!) our homeland for the benefit of others like themselves.

We have far too many colonialist organisations like ‘Ramblers Cymru’.

Because it is what it is no one should be surprised to learn that – just like ‘rewilders’ – The Ramblers demand that the ‘Welsh Government’ forces farmers to do their bidding or have their funding withheld.

Dontcha just love the term, ‘our land’. Another example of, ‘What’s yours is ours’.

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The Ramblers merit this digression because they see Wales as an area for recreation. For them Wales is not a different country; where people witness their language and identity, the country itself, being destroyed by saturation tourism.

What should also make you angry is that these memsahibs, based on Cathedral Road (ideal for rambling), and others just like them, have more influence in Corruption Bay than we poor natives will ever have.

WHAT THE POLITICIANS SAY

That ‘our’ politicians go along with ‘Playground Wales’ is easily explained.

The Labour Party, which has managed Wales since 1999, is an urban party with little concern for rural areas. Labour has no coherent economic plan for the countryside so pretending there is a ‘strategy for tourism’ is a useful way of disguising this inadequacy.

The truth is that tourism is unregulated; it just ‘happens’, and things would carry on in much the same way if the ‘Welsh Government’ fell into a wormhole and reappeared in some distant galaxy. (Stop dreaming!) Making bodies like Visit Wales little more than bystanders, pretending they do something more than organise beanos where they hand out awards and grants.

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One of the few things to be said in its favour is that tourism reveals the inconsistency, if not the hypocrisy, of the Labour Party.

Wales must be covered in wind turbines to save the planet, says Labour. For the same reason, OPDs must be allowed to impose their carbon footprint on previously unused land. Yet when our environment is trashed by tourist hordes on a regular basis Labour politicians are blind to the environmental damage!

Another example of Labour’s hypocrisy might be promoting renewable energy, saving the planet, and worrying about the underprivileged . . . while giving millions of pounds to Aston Martin to build £200,000 cars doing 12 miles to the gallon.

The ‘Welsh Government’s declaration of a climate emergency is just bullshit to explain away Wales being lumbered with the wind turbines English communities refuse to accept, and having to accommodate Jane Davidson’s friends.

The Conservative and Unionist Party (plus the fringe BritNats) will support tourism because they will never object to anything that both anglicises Wales and keeps money flowing back to England from staycations in Wales.

Blind, unthinking loyalty to tourism probably explains the comment, quoted in the North Wales Pioneer, from Darren Millar, the MS for Clwyd West, addressing Glyn Daniels’ pound a head suggestion. In Millar’s view, “This is a bad idea. Every pound charged will be a pound less for people to spend in the local economy”.

If Darren Millar had thought before speaking he’d have realised that every pound charged would be guaranteed to stay in the locality, unlike money taken in other ways.

What’s more, those who drive to Yr Wyddfa – to park here, there and everywhere – are often day-trippers, from Greater Manchester, Merseyside and towns nearby. Some will arrive having filled the fuel tank before leaving England, bring a packed lunch, and go home without spending a penny!

For the environmental damage alone, these buggers should be charged £20 a head.

While Plaid Cymru . . . well, what can I say? Plaid Cymru nowadays doesn’t give much thought to Wales. They’re too busy facing up to the fascist hordes they see advancing, outing terfs on social media, and planning more dirty tricks against Neil McEvoy.

Though maybe it’s best they stay schtum, because when they do address the subject – as we’ve seen with Gareth Thomas – they only confirm that they’ve lost the plot.

Whenever a political party, or a politician, says, ‘Wales needs tourism’ they are either lying or exposing their ignorance. The truth is only arrived at by reversing the phrase to read, ‘Tourism needs Wales’.

To conclude this section on a more optimistic note, Wales has two new political parties – Gwlad and the WNP – who I’m sure will take a more analytical, and patriotic, approach to tourism.

I expect both to demand a form of tourism that works for Wales, and the Welsh. Rather than what we suffer at present – an alien enterprise with Welsh people nothing but helpless bystanders as their country is trashed.

MAKING TOURISM WORK FOR US

Let me set out my stall . . .

  • I want to see an industry offering visitors from all over the world quality tourism.
  • An industry that provides business opportunities and well-paid, permanent  jobs for Welsh people.
  • An industry that benefits Wales and her people without the cultural, social and environmental damage currently being inflicted by tourism.

Here are just a few suggestions for achieving these objectives:

1/ Tourism tax: A minimum charge of £2 per head per overnight stay, including those in self-catering accommodation. This to be collected by the owner of the property or site and paid to the local authority.

This money will used in the areas from which it is collected or on capital projects of more widespread benefit. Why not consult local people on how they’d like to see it spent?

Tourism tax is raised everywhere and it benefits local communities. I recall Silvio Berlusconi having to pay a local tourism tax in Sardinia when he docked his luxury yacht, the Bunga Bunga.

2/ Caravan sites: These is no place for these blots on the landscape in a country promoting quality tourism in a respected environment. They offer holidays on the cheap and the money they put into the local economy is overstated. Very few jobs are created and the major beneficiary is the site owner, often a foreign company.

Caravan sites should be phased out over a period of ten years with no replacement ‘vans, cabins or lodges permitted. Thousands of acres could be returned to agriculture or Nature by getting rid of them.

Farmers and others should be allowed small sites of perhaps no more than 50 units.

To maximise tourism income, business opportunities and jobs we should strive to have as many people as possible staying in serviced accommodation.

3/ Raising standards: In New Zealand – a country with which we often like to compare Wales – they have a School of Tourism, operating on eight campuses throughout the country, internationally respected and offering a wide range of courses.

In Wales, all we do is teach Siôn and Sioned elementary catering skills at the local sixth form college so they can work for Kevin from Stockport who owns the local hotel . . . since he bought it off Keith and Sharon from Coventry. Kevin, of course, will have had no training.

Or it might be Paul and Rowena Williams at Plas Glynllifon and Seiont Manor. Or their business partner, Myles Cunliffe. (‘Weep for Wales’ passim.) Or perhaps Siôn and Sioned can get a job at one of the hotels owned by Gavin Lee Woodhouse.

Or perhaps not, seeing as all the businesses owned by these crooks are closed and/or in the hands of receivers.

Which is why other countries insist on a proven level of proficiency, and background checks, before anyone is allowed to run a hotel. But here, money is all that matters. As long as you’ve got the dosh you can buy a five star hotel, and run it badly, thereby damaging the reputation of the locality, and Wales.

You can even buy a zoo without knowing anything about the care of animals!

4/ Permits: New Zealand provides another example worth following. (And NZ isn’t alone in this.) I’m referring now to limiting numbers visiting environmentally sensitive areas and issuing those visiting with permits.

If you live outside Wales and you want to go hiking in one of our national parks then you should pay £20 a year. For the three national parks you pay £50 a year. If the National Trust can charge us to visit sites in our own country, why can’t we do something similar and use the money for our benefit?

Again, the money raised would be used within the local area.

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5/ Airports: You don’t need to go as far as New Zealand to realise the value of a good airport. Scotland is a much nearer example. Overseas tourists, high-spending overseas tourists, fly directly to Glasgow and Edinburgh. They do so all year round.

All we have is Cardiff airport, kept afloat by public money and still losing out to Bristol. We obviously need a new, more accessible airport in the south. We also need one in the north. Why not revamp Llanbedr airfield? It would be better to have overseas tourists flying in than to have the place used – as at present – for testing inaccurate drones that will wipe out wedding parties in Afghanistan.

Well-heeled foreign tourists flying in also offer opportunities for taxi and car hire firms.

6/ Public Transport: Overseas and other tourists not wanting to drive will need public transport. An integrated public transport system is therefore essential. This would have to include a north-south rail link.

The ‘Welsh Government’ has prevaricated for years over re-opening the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line. That’s because doing so would offer no obvious benefits to Cardiff or to England.

Yet you’d think that an administration dedicated to saving the planet would prioritise public transport. But no, and this lack of commitment to public transport – apart from the Cardiff Metro (to benefit the Cardiff economy not the environment) – is yet another example of Labour’s hypocrisy.

7/ Funding: A major obstacle to Welsh people getting involved in tourism – other than as cooks and cleaners – is a lack of finance.

The ‘Welsh Government’ could divert a portion of the funding it squanders on third sector memsahibs into a pot accessible to young Welsh people who’ve been through school, got a few years practical experience under their belts, and now need funding to branch out on their own.

I appreciate that this is not how tourism is supposed to operate in a colonial context, but what the hell – let’s give it a try!

8/ Touring caravans and Camper-vans: I’m throwing this one in more as a traffic safety measure and a means of lowering blood pressure, but it’s definitely related to tourism.

No towed caravans or camper-vans should be allowed on any public highway between the hours of 6am and 10pm.

CONCLUSION

Tourism in Wales can be summed up as hundreds of thousands of people driving east to west along overcrowded roads, congregating in unsustainable numbers at certain points, staying in the cheapest possible accommodation (if they stay at all), and spending as little money as possible before driving home. Each wave succeeded by the next, and each wave contributing to erosion.

So, what do you think – should we continue to accept ‘Tourism at any cost’?

I say no. I say we reject the idea that Wales exists to provide cheap holidays for our neighbours. Wales should not provide anything to anyone on the cheap.

But the political will must be there to make the necessary changes.

If the political will is absent then we as a nation have every right to defend ourselves from this exploitation of our homeland, this assault on our very identity.

♦ end ♦

 




Coronavirus and Wales

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

Yes, I know I’d promised to write on a couple of other subjects, but this coronavirus pandemic has turned things upside down. It’s certainly impacting on the Jones household.

To begin with, my daily trips to Tywyn for a coffee and a read of the ‘paper are gone. This was often followed by sauntering up and down the High Street, doing a bit of shopping, maybe driving down to Aberdyfi to mooch around some more. But not now.

I’m stuck at home with my long-suffering wife. Fortunately, being a home carer, she’s out quite a lot. Another aid to me keeping cabin fever at bay is to stock up on the Malbec. I’ve found that caressing unopened bottles can have a soothing effect.

Self-isolation has also meant no grandchildren staying, which only adds to the sense of this being a different time. And it’s also quieter outside the house, fewer people about, less traffic. If it wasn’t for the internet it might be like an earlier epoch.

Though perhaps what I miss most is the football. I used to spend at least 25 hours a week watching football. Not just Welsh and English football; I’m just as happy watching La Vecchia Signora or the Jam Tarts. But coronavirus is global, which means there’s no football anywhere. Anywhere! (Yeah, I know, that’s what ‘pandemic’ means.)

So when I’m not online, or out taking my constitutional, listening to music, or up in the attic doing my Fast Eddie impersonations on the kids’ pool table, I’m dipping into my books. Hazlitt has always been a favourite. But when I reached for that little volume of essays the other day I found a page marked with the dust cover, so I opened it . . .

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Fortunately I don’t believe in such things. So for all the shysters out there, and the lying politicians – I plan on being around to write about you for some time yet.

THE STORY THUS FAR

The realisation that things were getting serious took a while to sink in, for just about everybody, with the Welsh Rugby Union taking longer than most to get the message.

The Six Nations game against Scotland, scheduled for March 14, was going ahead almost up until the last minute. This despite the other games in Round 5 – Italy v England and France v Ireland – having been called off, and with football and almost every other sport also put on hold around the world.

It wasn’t until the afternoon of Friday the 13th, with Scottish fans safely in Cardiff and spending their money, that the WRU decided to call the game off.

To understand this disregard for the nation’s health you must appreciate what motivates the Welsh Rugby Union, what it regards as important. Vying for top spot are sucking up to English royals, and making money. Everything else is secondary.

In defence of the WRU, no pressure was applied by the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’. As late as Thursday the 12th, Vaughan Gething, the woefully inadequate health minister, saw no need to call the game off. Though in fairness to Gething, this non-decision could itself have been due to pressure from the WRU.

(Things can often be ‘reciprocal’ in Cardiff.)

Gething last week warned that Wales can expect a “larger impact” from coronavirus because Wales’ population is “typically older, sicker and poorer”. After two decades of his party running things in Wales he felt no shame in such an admission!

Something that did go ahead in Cardiff that Saturday was a Stereophonics concert.

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All grist to the mill of cynics believing that too many ‘national’ bodies based in Cardiff bend over backwards to make sure Cardiff never loses out, even when we are threatened by the worst pandemic since ‘Spanish’ Flu a century ago.

In terms of leadership, things have not got any better.

The ‘Welsh Government’ gives its daily briefing and issues advice, which is usually repeating what has already been said in London. Much like the laws passed in Cardiff docks, which are basically the same laws as England with ‘(Wales)’ added.

Exposing a fundamental problem with devolution when it’s run by a timid and unambitious Unionist party stuffed with mediocrities.

Labour has never resolved the conundrum of wanting to make Welsh people feel devolution is relevant to them but not wanting to depart too far from the London line for fear of being branded ‘nationalist’, even when doing things differently would be best for Wales. And so we have a sham devolution that neither enthuses our people nor serves Welsh interests.

All of which makes a mockery of “Welsh solutions for Welsh problems”, which is how devolution was sold to us many years ago.

Yet there are times when ‘Welsh solutions’ are needed. Let’s cast our minds back to last weekend, just after ‘lockdown’ was announced, when workplaces and schools were closed, and people told to stay home. Yet we saw thousands upon thousands of people treat a national emergency as a national holiday and flock to Wales.

While I didn’t expect the ‘Welsh Government’ to close the border and lay minefields, I did think they could have been a little more decisive than they had been the previous weekend over the rugby international, but no; not even when the scale of the irruption had become obvious.

Below you’ll see a few examples of the ignorance and stupidity we were confronted with, and just a few of many instances of locals acting for themselves. (Some still had to do it yesterday.)

UPDATE: Here’s the response of a second home owner in Y Felinheli today. The slate sign reads ‘Port Dinorwic’, as that road runs down to the old harbour.

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These colonialist attitudes are the result of ‘selling’ our homeland for decades as nothing but another nation’s holiday destination. Encouraging the belief that Wales is some kind of Brigadoon that only comes alive when tourists visit.

This belief that Wales exists for no other reason than the enjoyment of tourists results in contempt for us, our history and our very identity.  

Out of curiosity, I went to the Visit Wales Twitter account, and what I found was revealing. Up until March 12, two days before the planned Wales v Scotland game and the Stereophonics concert, there is at least one ‘Come to Wales’ tweet per day.

There is then a gap of ten days in which Visit Wales did no more than retweet other organisations’ tweets about coronavirus and, significantly, compensation. Like a rabbit caught in the headlights Visit Wales didn’t seem to know how to react. March 22 was of course the Sunday, and by then it had become obvious even to Visit Wales that locals in tourism hot-spots were organising themselves against irresponsible tourism operators and individuals.

Only then did Visit Wales put out a tweet telling potential visitors to stay away. And this might have been motivated as much by worries about the damage being done to the reputation of the tourism industry as by concern for public health.

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If I carry on like this I’ll be accused of ‘politicising’ coronavirus. This was the accusation thrown at Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon when she recognised the threat and acted on coronavirus earlier than Westminster.

I accept that coronavirus knows no national boundaries, while on an island there must be some unity of purpose in the face of such a threat, but Wales still faces problems that will not be appreciated by those giving orders in London.

As we’ve seen, one such problem was holiday homes and tourism, and many thousands of people choosing to self-isolate in Wales. Which exposed another serious failing down in Cardiff.

The ‘Welsh Government’ (and this of course includes Visit Wales) refused to address this problem for far too long because politicians and civil servants in Cardiff have come to believe their own propaganda – Wales cannot survive without tourism, consequently nothing must be allowed to interfere with tourism. Not even a pandemic.

Political leadership has been noticeable by its absence. From London the advice has swung from “Nothing to get alarmed about – let’s all catch it!” (the ‘herd immunity’ approach), to “We’re all gonna die! – everybody stay home!” (lockdown).

While here in Wales, when not acting as an echo chamber, our politicians have been even less inspiring. Just read the article below from yesterday’s Llais y Sais. (Available here in pdf format.)

Did you ever read such waffle from a politician? Was Wales ever cursed with a more evasive and dishonest practitioner of even this disgraced profession? Did you ever see anyone more out of their depth?

Yet here’s the man leading the party and the administration that over the past twenty years has given billions of pounds to the crony-parasites of the third sector, where we find CEOs pulling down £100,000+ salaries – while our nurses don’t have Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

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(My wife, who every day visits sick and elderly people received her face mask on Friday.)

Political confusion reigns.

At London level we saw BoJo and the gang spurn the EU’s offer of ventilators; while in Cardiff, the ‘Welsh Government’ turned down an offer of 10,000, EU certified, Lloyds insured, testing kits of the kind used in South Korea.

This despite the World Health Organisation advising ‘testing, testing, and more testing’ as a way to avoid the spread of Covid-19. The only people being tested in Wales are those showing moderate to severe symptoms who might already have infected hundreds of others. Plus of course, politicians and their friends.

Carefully orchestrated communal clapping must not detract from these political failings. And when the coronavirus threat has passed we must remember how our politicians and their system failed us.

In the immediate future we must be on our guard against London using coronavirus to accrete more powers. For while devolution may not be worth defending, moving back to the status quo ante devolution must not be an option either, though it is being aired.

One airing came from a Welsh Labour MP during Scottish Questions last week, when Chris Elmore, the MP for Ogmore suggested that funding for Covid-19 should bypass the Scottish Government and go to local authorities. An interesting suggestion for a number of reasons.

The SNP of course forms the Scottish Government, but at council level we find a number of Unionist-run councils, often controlled by squalid coalitions held together by nothing more than a desire to keep the SNP out of power.

Such an arrangement as we find in the city of Aberdeen where, after the 2017 elections, the SNP was the largest party by some distance but is kept from power by an alliance of Conservatives, Labour and Independents. (Though the Labour councillors have been expelled from the ‘Scottish’ Labour Party for going into coalition with the Tories!)

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And while Elwood (or was he one of the Blues Brothers?) may be a nonentity in Wales, representing a rosette-on-a-donkey constituency, he certainly made the news in Scotland. And as the report I’ve linked to from the National puts it, “It was left to Alister Jack, the Tory Secretary of State for Scotland, to remind the Labour frontbencher of how devolution works.”

A Tory MP having to remind an MP of the party that introduced devolution how devolution works. Lord and Lady Kinnock must have been so proud.

Though if wanting to rip up the devolution settlement and insincerely argue that the common weal would be better served by handing money directly to local councils sounds familiar, then that might be because it’s the same thing we hear from the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party. Is Elton a supporter?

If we are to do away with devolution, and that is certainly what I want, then it must be done in order to move forward to independence, not backward to direct rule.

Westminster is letting us down, Cardiff Bay is clueless, the BBC is failing us, Wales is even losing out when it comes to online shopping for God’s sake!

Covid-19 is disrupting all our lives, and will end a few of them; but it has served the purpose of exposing as weak and malleable incompetents those buffoons down Cardiff docks who’ve lied to us for over twenty years about defending Wales.

Stand firm, stay healthy, and when this threat has passed, emerge from self-isolation determined to push on for independence!

♦ end ♦

With Covid-19 dominating the News, and politics in a state of suspended animation, the pandemic even affecting the crooks I so often write about, I may not be posting so frequently over the next few months unless something important happens.

Look after yourselves!

 

Ain’t no mountain high enough . . . to escape the ravages of saturation tourism

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

TURNING THE TAPS ON A BIT MORE

Wales has just experienced another Bank Holiday. Even so, I hadn’t intended writing anything relating to it until I read this piece on the BBC Wales website in which Elfyn Jones of the British Mountaineering Council argued for ‘investment’.

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According to Elfyn: “It’s great to see tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people enjoying the Welsh countryside – but how can we cope and deal with so many people? . . . Footpaths are being eroded, car parks are overflowing and we don’t have enough facilities for litter or toilets . . . “We need to invest in our infrastructure if we are to maintain this growth in people coming here . . . “It’s also absolute chaos for the locals trying to live amongst it.”

Elfyn sounds a bit confused. Is it really “great” to see hundreds of thousands of people swarming over the Welsh countryside, especially when so many are concentrated in certain locations?

Though in his favour, Elfyn Jones admits that footpaths are being eroded, that there are many other problems, yet rather than promote the obvious remedy – a reduction in tourist numbers – he insists we must accept and cater for the increase.

This is insane, especially as he admits that locals are suffering from the problems brought by the current numbers. For God’s sake, Elfyn, if your bathroom was flooded you wouldn’t turn the taps on a bit more, would you!

As we’ve seen, Elfyn Jones was speaking on behalf of the British Mountaineering Council, an organisation to be found nestling among the intimidating peaks of . . . West Didsbury, in Manchester.

Naturally, I went to the BMC website, and below you’ll a screen capture from that site. I was immediately struck by there being no mention of Scotland, where I’m told there are quite a few mountains.

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The absence of the Munros is due to the fact that the ‘British’ Mountaineering Council, like the Green Party, and the Planning Inspectorate, and countless other bodies we have to live with, covers only England and Wales.

Having established that the use of the term ‘Britain’ is misleading I was surprised to read elsewhere on the website that the BMC has a ‘National Council’. How can there be a National Council when there are two countries involved that do not together form a political unit?

Perhaps the answer is that there may be two countries making up the BMC but – with the exceptions of Elfyn Jones and chairman Gareth Pierce – the hierarchy and the membership comes from just one nation.

This is more than mere semantics, for it betrays the BMC as an Englandandwales body. Or to put it another way, English climbers and Welsh mountains. Just more ‘Playground Wales’.

No one should be surprised by this. Let’s not forget that the Plas y Brenin National Outdoor Centre at Capel Curig is owned by Sport England.

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The truth is that we already have too many visitors to Yr Wyddfa, Pen y Fan and other sites. Anyone arguing that bigger car parks and more toilets is the answer either doesn’t understand the problem or else is trying to avoid it.

And this problem I’m referring to is not confined to Wales, it is global: any place attracting large numbers of visitors will pay the price in noise, disruption, strain on local services, traffic gridlock, environmental degradation and cultural erosion.

Even Mount Everest is suffering.

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The ‘British’ Mountaineering Council reminds us of the colonial relationship between Wales and England and it also leads on to the wider problem, which is tourism in general, and tourism’s effects on Wales.

Last word: Maybe Elfyn Jones and Gareth Pierce should consider their positions as token Taffs in this English organisation. Why not form a Welsh mountaineering group? Why not reclaim Plas y Brenin? Also ‘Mount Snowdon’?

CUI BONO?

The subject I’m writing about is of course referred to by journalists and politicians as ‘Welsh tourism’. But to regard it as Welsh in any sense other than the locational would be a mistake.

The companies that own the major tourism enterprises in Wales are almost all owned by outsiders. The same applies to smaller businesses like hotels, pubs, restaurants and shops. This is especially so in those areas and communities that nowadays have no raison d’être other than ‘tourist destination’.

Think about that. You’ve lived in your town or village all your life, it’s where you ran around with your mates when you were young, you met a girl and got married, had children, but to some hack writing in a magazine nobody reads except in a dentist’s waiting room, the place you call home is just a tourist destination.

But it makes sense, because tourism seeks to lessen the claim of indigenes to a city, a region, or a country; and then, in the interests of those who pay hacks to write about ‘tourism destinations’, pretend these places ‘belong to everybody’, and exist solely ‘to be enjoyed’.

So if we Welsh don’t own the businesses making the money, what benefits do we see from tourism? Well of course there’s jobs.

The most recent figures available with StatsWales are for 2015 (don’t ask me why there are none more recent). And they claim that in that year tourism-related industries provided 131,300 jobs. Though I’ve always been concerned about that term ‘tourist-related’, suspecting that it’s somewhat ‘elastic’.

This elasticity might explain why ‘tourism-related industries’ provided 5,700 jobs in Rhondda Cynon Taf but only 4,600 in Denbighshire, despite the northern county having the coastal resorts of Rhyl and Prestatyn plus a number of inland hot spots, the most notable of which would probably be Llangollen, home to the International Musical Eisteddfod. (In which I competed one year.)

I’m not sure what fun spots lie hidden within the borders of Rhondda Cynon Taf to compete with Denbighshire’s attractions.

click to related

Maybe the job numbers for RCT are exaggerated, with ‘tourism-related’ giving the game away. Whatever the answer, jobs in tourism are nothing to brag about, tending to be low skill, low pay and seasonal.

Tourism certainly doesn’t provide the kind of employment that enables people to buy a home; certainly not in those areas where property prices are inflated by tourists buying holiday homes, and moving in, or retiring. No local employee in tourism could buy a home in Abersoch, Rhosneigr, Aberdyfi or ‘Sand Banks‘.

Moving on . . .

You’d think that so few positives would be reason enough to discourage saturation tourism, and the picture gets even bleaker when we consider the negatives. One of the downsides would be traffic congestion, resulting in many areas being so overwhelmed with tourists that the quality of life for locals is seriously impaired.

Another consequence of tourism is that many operators drop Welsh names in favour of English. There are so many examples that I can’t list them all, but Happy Donkey Hill is one I’ve written about, then there’s Stallion Valley, not forgetting Wynnborn, and more recently, Slate Mountain.

The ‘phlegm’ comments were eventually removed, but only after complaints. Either the site is not moderated, or else the moderator accepts borderline racism, as long as it’s anti-Welsh. Click to enlarge

This is a result of having an English tourism industry in Wales that – despite the desperate marketing of Visit Wales – wants its customers to think they’re in a part of England with nicer scenery, cleaner beaches, higher mountains, etc – so do away with names that when spoken sound as if someone is bringing up phlegm.

Another issue guaranteed to raise emotions is holiday homes. Though I recall (Ifan) Prys Edwards, when he was chairman of the old Wales Tourist Board, and probably during the Meibion Glyndŵr campaign, appearing on television and proclaiming that holiday homes had nothing to do with tourism!

I forget which programme it was, and I can’t recall the ‘interviewer’, but I remember being amazed, and angry, that Edwards was allowed to get away with such a statement. The ‘Welsh media’, eh!

About three years ago, Cyngor Gwynedd was considering raising council tax on holiday homes, leading to a debate in the Cambrian News. Some of the comments from the defenders of holiday homes, and tourism generally, were not only absurd, they were insulting.

Here’s a taste:

  • “Holiday homes put a lot of money into the local economy”. Response: More than would be put into the local economy if a holiday home was lived in 52 weeks of the year?
  • “I do worry about a return to the burning of holiday homes by Nationalist extremists”. Response: what special kind of idiot believes that tackling the issue of holiday homes, and reducing their numbers, would result in another arson campaign?
click to enlarge
  • (Increasing council tax on holiday homes) “borders on racism”. Response: There is no sensible or reasonable argument against holiday homes not paying extra council tax, and anyone who has to resort to ‘racism’ is only confirming that.
  • ” . . . coastal towns and villages came into being because of tourism in Victorian times”. Response: This is classic colonialism – ‘They had nothing before we arrived’. In fact, the population of Merioneth was higher in 1841, before the first train arrived, than in 2011, after almost a century and a half of tourism. It’s worth remembering that ‘resorts’ like Barmouth, Aberdyfi and Porthmadog were busy ports and shipbuilding centres in the 19th century.

The arsehole who contributed that last comment, Andrew Currie, lives just up the road from me. In addition to being an arrogant colonialist he’s also a Green. We don’t talk.

To conclude, ‘Welsh’ tourism was never intended to benefit Wales, or the Welsh. We suffer saturation tourism today for three reasons:

  • CULTURAL: Tourism Anglicises Wales, partly through the regular invasions, but more insidiously through the population movement it encourages. (Though I’m sure Prys Edwards would argue differently.)
  • ECONOMIC: Tourism serves England economically because money spent by English tourists in Wales will make its way back to England by one route or another. Unlike money spent abroad.
  • POLITICAL: Tourism encourages a dependency mindset by encouraging us to believe that we’d all starve without English tourists . . . who would still be welcome in an independent Wales that could legislate on numbers and keep the money they’d spend in the country.

THE ‘WELSH GOVERNMENT’

The attitude of the ‘Welsh Government’ is dictated by the tourism industry itself, and can be spelled out as, ‘There’s no such thing as too many tourists (go and wash your mouth out!)’. Wales would need to be gridlocked for a few days, with communities cut off and resorting to cannibalism before anyone in the tourist industry admitted, ‘Well, maybe we do need to manage things a bit better’.

If they won’t reduce numbers then the complacent clowns down Corruption Bay could introduce a tourism tax, so that money raised in the worst affected areas was used to compensate the indigenous population in some way. But no, they listen to the advice of those running the ‘Welsh’ tourism industry, greedy and insensitive bastards who should not be allowed within half a mile of a golden goose.

The sad fact is that the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ is more than happy to see scenes like this inflicted regularly on our precious and fragile landscape.

Yes, how frightfully British. Unfortunately it’s happening in Wales. Click to enlarge

And yet, these politicians I refer to recently made a climate emergency declaration. The same twats who – after promising they wouldn’t – gave over large areas on the outskirts of Cardiff to English house building companies, firms that will bank their profits and leave the mess behind for us sort out. Labour will also cave in and allow the redevelopment of the M4, because it’s what London wants, not what Wales needs.

Even before the climate emergency declaration the ‘Welsh’ Government introduced legislation like the One Planet con and The Well-being of Future Generation Act, all designed – we were told – to bring Wales into closer harmony with Nature and reduce our carbon footprint. But not if it means upsetting the strangers who exploit and despoil our country, who change our ancient names and regard us as some inferior species to be elbowed aside.

When it come to saving the planet, the ‘Welsh’ Labour Government says the right things but is betrayed time after time by its actions in some areas and its lack of action in others. But then, that’s the deceitful, gimmicky shites they are.

All piss and wind, and ever obedient to England’s wishes.

♦ END ♦

 

Friends old & new: Gavin ‘Wynnborn’ Woodhouse; James ‘Fforest’ Lynch; Shane Baker, ‘the bargain basement Baldrick of Nebo’ and Jonathan Duggan

It’s always nice to meet up with old friends, and here are updates on three characters I’ve written about before, though I suppose it’s stretching it a bit to call them friends. And it also gives me the opportunity to introduce a couple of new faces.

This trip down Memory Lane will take us from Cardigan to Caernarfon and from the Afan Valley up to the Conwy Valley. (But if you want to stop somewhere for a cup of tea and a Welsh cake, that’s OK with me.)

What they have in common is that they have come to live among us and milk the public purse invest in our lovely homeland. We shall meet grant-grabbers and outright crooks all adding to the woof and weave of contemporary Welsh life.

This is another big piece but you don’t have to be greedy because it’s broken up into three distinct parts topped and tailed with this introduction and the conclusion.

GAVIN ‘WYNNBORN’ WOODHOUSE

Gavin Lee Woodhouse first intruded into the collective Welsh consciousness when, through his company MBI Hotels Ltd, he bought Plas Glynllifon near Caernarfon and tried to re-brand it ‘Wynnborn’. (Plas Glynllifon has been spectacularly unlucky in its recent owners, with the latest being Paul and Rowena Williams. Though they might by now have sold out to Myles Cunliffe. Explained in Weep for Wales 11.)

I didn’t write about Woodhouse at the time, but my interest was aroused when I learnt that together with Bore Grylls he was planning a big development behind Port Talbot. I first wrote about it in English tourism in the colony of Wales in April 2017, and followed it up in July with Colonial investments.

As time went on I began to suspect that Woodhouse was being edged out of the project, or being asked to take a back seat, because the front man soon became Peter Moore, “the man who brought Center Parcs to the UK”.

Neuadd Caer Rhun, click to enlarge

Maybe it was realised that Woodhouse, with the ‘Wynnborn’ albatross around his neck, his ‘chequered’ business record, and his tendency to come across as a bit of a wide boy, might not be viewed as a suitable recipient of Welsh public funding.

But you can’t keep him down. Soon after walking away from ‘Wynnborn’ Woodhouse bought Caer Rhun Hall early in 2016. And he was rewarded last year with a £500,000 wodge from the ‘Welsh Government’. Though a number of people are asking how this was justified, seeing as Woodhouse doesn’t own the hotel in the conventional sense. Let me explain.

Instead of the hotel letting the rooms to short-stay guests the rooms are sold to investors. Here’s a promo from Select Portfolio, and here’s a notice from Thomas Investments of Chester telling us that the rooms are sold out.

This business model was looked at by West Wales News Review in October 2017, for Woodhouse – through a worryingly large portfolio of companies – owns a number of hotels in Wales from Tenby to Llandudno.

Talking of his portfolio, according to Companies House Woodhouse has been involved with 47 different companies, of which 45 are current; while Company Check tells us he’s held 77 directorships altogether.

Either way, I believe that no one starts and closes so many companies in just seven years unless it’s done to confuse people, and to hamper investigation.

Company Check summary. Click to enlarge

In order to maximise his profits Woodhouse also wants to put overpriced sheds in the Caer Rhun gardens and call them ‘villas’. Though locals can’t understand why these nine ‘villas’ are being advertised for sale – they may even have been sold ‘off plan’ – when planning permission was refused on the 11th of January.

And yet, due to the plethora of companies it’s difficult to know which company is involved in which project. To avoid too much confusion let’s just stick with Caer Rhun.

The Daily Post article tells us the hotel was bought by Northern Powerhouse Developments Ltd in 2016. Here’s the Companies House entry. And here’s the entry for Northern Powerhouse Developments Adventure Resorts Ltd, and Northern Powerhouse Developments Adventure Resorts Management Ltd, and Northern Powerhouse Developments (Holdings) Ltd, and Northern Powerhouse Developments Hotels Ltd, and Northern Powerhouse Developments Marketing Ltd.

But if we go to this page for Caer Rhun Hall we see it linked with ‘Whisper Hotels’. There is a website for Whisper, but nothing registered with Companies House, so presumably it’s a marketing name, in which case I would expect the website to give the name of the controlling company. Of course it doesn’t.

Maybe Caer Rhun is owned by Woodhouse’s Giant Hospitality Ltd (formerly MBI Hotels Ltd). A company with net liabilities of £265,135 and Woodhouse as sole director. I make this suggestion because until last month Giant Hospitality was based at Caer Rhun before moving to West Yorkshire.

Another point of interest is Woodhouse’s funding. For the many charges against his companies are not with banks that you would recognise . . . or come to that, with any bank.

Woodhouse’s money comes from interesting sources like Fiduciam Nominees Ltd, Assetz Capital Trust Company Ltd and Mysing Capital Ltd.

Fiduciam Nominees of London seems to have little in the way of money, but has 516,000 issued shares, while on its Companies House entry its business is described as “financial intermediation“. Its directors are French, Dutch, Belgian and New Zealand. So your guess is as good as mine as to where the money really comes from.

Turning to Manchester-based Assetz Capital Trust Company Ltd, the latest (unaudited) financial statement declares no assets whatsoever. But as I say, it’s a trust, one of the shadiest of all financial vehicles.

click to enlarge

Unusually, perhaps, Mysing Capital Ltd appears to be a thing of substance. It’s one of a stable of companies using the Mysing name based in Woodhouse’s home patch of West Yorkshire. The latest accounts give total net assets of almost £1.5m . . . that is if you believe ‘unaudited abridged accounts’, the kind of ‘You can trust us, Guv’ submissions favoured by so many of those we meet on this blog.

Gavin Lee Woodhouse is a spiv, a man prepared to cut corners; he’s borrowing money from companies that are nothing more than middle men for ‘investors’ – yet the ‘Welsh Government’ is more than happy to fund this man!

JAMES ‘FFOREST’ LYNCH

Now let’s go back a little further, to July 2015, and Cardigan Castle – Ready to Fall? This was the first in a series of articles on the £12m renovation of the castle, a project that failed to enthuse many locals, who felt that its significance in Welsh history was being downplayed in order to promote the castle as a conference centre, wedding venue, and glorified B & B.

It was further suspected that the wrong direction had been taken due to the project being controlled by four women who seemed impervious to criticism and deaf to advice. These were dealt with in Gang of Four + One. The leader of the group was unquestionably local matriarch Jann Tucker of Aberporth.

Tangentially I mentioned James Lynch, who is married to Tucker’s daughter, Siân. Satisfied that he had no part in what was happening at the castle I took him off the hook and let him swim away. But now people tell me that he has become something of a predator himself in the pond that is Aberteifi.

James Lynch with Lord Elis Thomas. Click to enlarge

For Lynch seems to be branching out hither and yon, being photographed in the company of peers of the realm, which means we can guarantee that grants will follow. These will be in addition to the considerable amounts of lucre he’s already received from our wonderful ‘Welsh Government’.

And in this recent spurt of expansionism Oor Jimmie has pissed off a great number of people. (Did I not mention that Lynch is one of our northern cousins?)

Before dealing with his current and proposed ventures – and almost as many companies as ‘Wynnborn’ Woodhouse – let us consider James Lynch’s business background. I warn you, this gets complicated; but as ever, Jac has tried to make things clearer. For I have drawn up a document listing all of Lynch’s companies . . . or at least, all those I can find.

Now I’d better explain the document so that you can make sense of it. It’s here in pdf format. Maybe it would be best for you to open it in another window for easy reference.

You’ll see that there are seven column headings. Most are self-explanatory, ‘Inc’d’ means Incorporated; that is, the date the company was formed. Each company name forms a link, click to open an entry with Companies House or Company Check.

The final column, ‘Financial Health’, also contains a number of links, usually where there are outstanding charges. Where you read ‘N/A’, this refers to companies that Lynch left before they went tits up, or they may still be trading. So neither blame nor credit can be apportioned.

You will also see that some entries are shaded in yellow and others in violet, so let me explain this shading.

I assume that Lynch met Ms Tucker when both were in London, where they married and begat four sons. While there Lynch joined a number of companies where the common denominator seems to have been Ellis Elias, who I originally assumed to be Welsh. But on noticing a mention of Golders Green and a loan from an Israeli bank, I now believe that Elias is Jewish. The companies run by Elias, and an assortment of others, are shaded in yellow. Lynch’s involvement with them seems to have ended in 2003.

The companies that are unshaded – or in white – are usually Lynch companies. As are those in violet, but with this important distinction. The companies in violet have all received loans / debentures from Finance Wales. (Finance Wales has been renamed Development Bank of Wales.) In fact, in some cases it could be this funding that is keeping the companies afloat. These loans / debentures were all signed off by Val Thomas and all delivered on 2 April 2015.

Take the ‘Welsh Government’s Finance Wales out of the equation and Jimmy’s business record is anything but inspiring. Most of his non-FW companies – those unshaded – are dissolved, some with outstanding debts.

Or else, as you see under the ‘Financial Health’ column, the situation is ‘Unknown’, because I can find nothing on the Companies House website and I’m not prepared to pay Company Check for documents that may reveal little.

Then look at the four ‘Loft’ companies Incorporated 26.05.1999 – how do we explain that? Is he trying to confuse people, just like Woodhouse?

Another company that caught my eye was Beachbay Ltd. What I find odd is that Jimbo already had a number of charges against this venture before Finance Wales got involved. What’s more, we’re dealing with a property in London, which Lynch was presumably buying through those mortgages and loans.

click to enlarge

My view is that Finance Wales should have rejected any application from Beachbay Ltd, a London-based company operating property in London. And even though the office address has now – belatedly – moved to Cardigan the business is still in London.

I’m sure someone will make an enquiry about this. It might even be me! (Done!)

But how do we explain Finance Wales’s generosity? Well, it occurs to me that in controlling the regeneration of the castle Jann Tucker would have made many useful contacts in Cardiff. And so I suspect she helped facilitate the largesse bestowed on James Lynch, especially as her daughter is a director of most of the companies involved.

But what’s Jimmie been up to of late? Well we saw the photograph above of him with a veteran revolutionary who’s been valiantly fighting the system from within for nigh on fifty years. And to his credit, El Dafydd has taken the fight into the enemy citadel, where many close their eyes to avoid witnessing the carnage.

(Though nowadays he seems to be little more than Kenny Skates’ gofer.)

That photograph suggests tourism. But rather than re-purposing the places of worship mentioned in that article I linked to, and this one, the issue causing concern for a number of people in the Cardigan area is glamping. For Jimmie wants to erect glamping pods . . . in fact, he has already put up some without planning permission.

click to enlarge

Though the situation now appears to have been ‘regularised’, with permission granted, but with a number of conditions. Planning enforcement officers are still investigating the ones put up without permission!

In the piece I linked to from December you’ll read “Mr Lynch said he now employed around 50 people, most of them local young people”. While in the headline you saw the name ‘Pizzatipi’, so let’s pull these threads together and see what we get.

Pizzatipi is a pretentious fast food joint and bar by the Teifi in the middle of the town run by Lynch’s sons . . . though it’s closed until Easter (suggesting locals don’t use it). Maybe somebody should have asked Lynch how many “local young people” are employed now, in December and January.

click to enlarge

For of course Lynch is a tourism operator, and he may indeed provide dozens of jobs for young people . . . in the summer. Some of these youngsters will be local, others will be on a working holiday. Few will be paid above the minimum wage.

The word on the street is that Lynch has now bought the local mart grounds. He has no interest in livestock so speculation is rife as to his plans for the site. There is also speculation about where he’s getting the money from.

Whatever the exact source I suspect it will have ‘Welsh Government’ stamped on it.

A suspicion heightened by this truly ludicrous Visit Wales publication that has Lynch listed among “Heroic trailblazers: real-life legends of Wales”. In truth, he is a man with a mountain of debts, a trail of failed companies . . . but an influential mother-in-law.

We are entitled to ask the ‘Welsh Government’ why it is putting so much of our money into Lynch’s companies, and the companies of others like him, to build up property portfolios for themselves, but to create only low wage, no skill, seasonal jobs.

Does anyone seriously believe that ventures like Pizzatipi (closed ’til Easter), glamping, and all the other nonsense we’ve looked at will give us a healthy, balanced economy that can provide well-paid jobs for our people, allowing them to remain in their communities and compete in their local property markets?

As ever, answers on a post card, please.

UPDATE 30.01.2019: I am indebted to a source for drawing to my attention yet another of James Lynch’s projects, this one is on the Cardigan quayside. It involves, “Refurbishment, extension and change of use of warehouse, to include mixed-use development comprising of events space (sui generis), enterprise zones providing mixed use at ground floor and hostel and spa treatment room at first floor (sui generis).”

All details may be obtained by visiting the council planning portal, and then scrolling down. In addition to just about everyone within earshot of the proposed ‘events space’ the town council is also objecting, and even Natural Resources Wales has “significant concerns”.

It seems Jimbo is trying to branch out in all directions at once. Maybe the word I’m looking for is ‘overreach’.

UPDATE 31.01.2019: Here’s a reminder from 2017 of how Lynch and too many others operate:

  1. Decide on a plan.
  2. Go through the motions of the planning process.
  3. Irrespective of how that works out push on with your plan.
  4. If planning permission refused, insist on retrospective permission.
  5. Count on council caving in on the grounds of being unable to justify spending public money in pursuing a legal case against you.
  6. You get what you want.

The only way to ensure that Lynch and others can’t get away with it is to make a few, well-publicised examples of pulling down anything put up without authorisation – and making the guilty party pay.

The message would soon sink in.

SHANE BAKER, ‘THE BARGAIN BASEMENT BALDRICK OF NEBO’ AND HIS FRIEND JONATHAN JAMES DUGGAN

We first encountered James Lynch in 2015 and Gavin Woodhouse in 2017, now we’re going to catch up with someone we met much more recently. I’m referring to Shane Baker, who topped the bill in Miscellany 25.11.2018. The first time he’s topped the bill since his gig at Twerton Liberal Club. (You missed it!)

Shane describes himself as a film extra and his social media output makes it clear that he sits on the political far right, where the sun always shines and the favourite mobile ring tone is God Save the Queen.

Shane Baker’s Facebook page, click to enlarge

It would be easy to laugh at Shane Baker, Tommy Robinson’s rocking acolyte, but he mixes with people who treat others with contempt, break the law without a second thought, and flout planning regulations with impunity.

How they met up remains a mystery but Baker seems to act as general fixer for Jonathan James Duggan, formerly of West Yorkshire. In fact, so close are they, that I hear Duggan sometimes uses Baker’s name. Why would he do that, boys and girls?

Perhaps because he’s a crook, and the son of a crook. For Jonathan James Duggan (aka Ripley) is the son of John/Jonathan Joseph Duggan. Duggan père was sent down in 2005 for six years, and described in this report as a “professional fraudster”.

Duggan senior made the news last year when he was arrested in Benllech, taken back to Yorkshire and banged up again.

After his father was imprisoned in 2005 young Duggan took over the family business of ordering goods, selling them off, not paying the original supplier, then liquidating the company involved.

By now, the Huddersfield area in which the Duggans had operated must have become unwelcoming because by 2012 or 2013 we find Duggan junior in Nebo. At Bryn Llys, an unprepossessing property . . . for which there were soon big plans.

These can be seen below. As might be expected, Duggan had no intention of keeping to the planning application that had been approved.

The new property that has been built is now advertised as Snowdon Summit View. When there are guests Duggan moves his wife Emma and seven children into a nearby shed . . . and I mean, shed, with no windows. I’m told the local fire service came to inspect it – and did no more than install fire alarms for free!

I’m also told that Duggan’s wife uses a number of names other than Duggan.

Fire alarms were not all Duggan got for free. For I’m also told that Nest Cymru installed 35 radiators and a biomass system in the new house. Though someone else tells me there’s an issue with water pressure that means the advertised baths and laundry facilities are very much luck of the draw.

Though it’s worth pointing out that Duggan doesn’t actually own Bryn Llys. It’s owned by an Andrew Battye of Huddersfield, a business partner of the Duggans. Not only that, but Battye also owns the land bought to increase the curtilage of Bryn Llys. In fact, according to Company Check, Battye himself is based at ‘Unit 1, Bryn Llys, Caernarfon, LL54 6EH’. Does the council know about this?

Whoever owns Bryn Llys we can be reasonably sure that it was bought, the curtilage doubled, and the house trebled in size, with money from criminal activities. Which might explain the police raid last April. This occurred not long after Duggan declared himself bankrupt 

To take you further in this story it’s best that you have an idea of the lie of the land. So I’ve put together a few maps that will help you locate Bryn Llys.

The map at the top shows the location of the village of Nebo, which is just off the A487 running from Porthmadog to Caernarfon. The map in the centre shows the village and the narrow roads running to and from it, with Bryn Llys the scorched earth in the centre. At the bottom you see a close-up of Bryn Llys.

It didn’t always look like this. But Duggan has cleared away hedges, walls and other features to leave a wasteland with – I’m told – topsoil buried under hardcore! Why would he do this?

Possibly because Duggan plans a large tourist attraction for Bryn Llys, with holiday accommodation. But as you can see on the map, there is only a narrow track from his property to Ffordd Cors y Llyn, the single-track road running into Nebo (and a dead-end in the other direction). This need for a wider access road explains why he has tried to steal land from neighbours, or to intimidate them into selling land.

This campaign involves threats, forged documents, claiming land that is not his, felling trees and knocking down walls. All because a great deal of money has been spent on a property that is very unlikely to receive planning permission for the kind of project Duggan has in mind, even from Gwynedd’s supine planning department.

There’s a lot more I could have written, but this is enough for now. As yet, I don’t think Jonathan James Duggan has received funding from the ‘Welsh Government’. But it’s only a matter of time.

Oh! before I forget, a mate of Duggan’s who is also interested in land outside of Nebo is Aaron Hill, who owns/owned the old courthouse in Caernarfon and who was – according to WalesOnline – victimised by “anti-English racists”. In reality, Cofis objected to him throwing his weight around.

The first reference I can find for Hill is this from October 2011, related to Plas Gwynfryn at Llanystumdwy, the home of Tory MP Ellis-Nanney. Hill is described as an “expert” on bringing derelict buildings back to life.

AARON HILL. Image Robert Parry-Jones, click to enlarge

In the same year he bought St David’s church in Picton Terrace, Carmarthen for £1 making lots of promises. This report from 2017 suggests his ‘expertise’ had deserted him for nothing was ever done to the building and Hill was off-loading it.

In July 2015 he formed a company called Capel Troedyrhiw Ltd, which had an address in Radyr, Cardiff before transferring to Caernarfon and folding. It never traded and was just a shell company.

I can’t find any other company that Hill has been associated with and so I wonder where his money comes from. All information gratefully received.

CONCLUSION

We have a ‘Welsh Government’ with no policy for rural areas beyond letting things happen; which means they have no alternative but to welcome and fund the kinds of spivs and crooks you’ve read about here – and then pretend it’s a ‘strategy’.

Because there is such a good welcome I suspect that much of what the ‘Welsh Government’ would have us believe is ‘investment’ is in fact money laundering. With tourism and the buying of hotels and isolated properties seen as an ideal conduit for dirty money.

This takes place to a backdrop of most locals unable to afford a home, and increasingly denied social housing by the practices of housing associations; and so they either leave or struggle on in communities becoming less familiar year on year. Ethnic cleansing the clever way.

Decent jobs are scarce and there is no investment in anything that will benefit Welsh people . . . yet there is unlimited funding for this invading horde of crooks and shysters who are clearly above the law and beyond any restraint.

I’m no longer sure that politics, or political change, will be enough to save Wales from the engineered extinction that is approaching. Maybe something else is needed.

♦ END ♦

Respecting Snowdon

RESPECT WANTED

Tourism is a subject I’ve written about more than once, and so I think my views are pretty well known. But in case anyone’s failed to get the message . . . tourism in Wales is exploitive, tasteless, disruptive, damaging to Welsh identity and culture, destructive of our physical environment, and far too little of the wealth it generates reaches Welsh people. Tourism in Wales is one of the more obvious manifestations of colonialism.

Which is why I was encouraged to read this morning about Eryri in future being treated with “respect”. Remarkably, this is the very word I have used in my previous criticisms of the damage being done to the area by crude and exploitive tourism.

The word was used by Helen Pye, the Snowdonia National Park’s former head warden for Snowdon who is now manager of the Snowdon Partnership, a group representing various interests that has produced a draft plan for the area which invites comments. It’s a fascinating document and I urge you all to read it, and to submit your comments before Friday’s deadline.

The document tells us, for example, that Snowdon is a “national asset” . . . without stating which nation is being referred to. But as it goes on to say, ” . . . the most visited mountain in the UK.” it’s reasonable to assume that we are here discussing the mythic UKish nation.

A remarkable, and worrying, statistic may be found on page 20, which tells us that between 2013 and 2015 the percentage of first-time hill walkers attempting Yr Wyddfa doubled from 10% to 20%. Which no doubt contributes to some of the more alarming statistics found elsewhere in the report.

Page 43 bears out my criticism of tourism providing low-wage and seasonal employment, and contributing little to the overall economy of an area, with: “Tourism to Yr Wyddfa is estimated to contribute £69m of economic benefit per annum. There are low rates of full-time employment and low median wages in the Park”.

Though my spirits were briefly raised when I read, on page 48,“Invasive species are being controlled”, under the “Where do we want to be by 2030?” heading . . . only to realise that the draft was not referring to tourists.

All in all, it’s a very disappointing and unambitious document, with ‘compromise’ written through it like ‘Tenby’ through a stick of rock. Hardly surprising when we look at some of the ‘partners’: Visit Betws-y-Coed, The Outdoor Partnership, The National Trust, Beddgelert Tourism Association, Snowdonia-Active, Visit Wales, Snowdon Mountain Railway.

All of which can be grouped under the ‘Playground Wales’ umbrella. Organisations which insist that attracting unsustainable numbers of tourists, and encouraging many to settle, has no damaging consequences for Welsh identity, social cohesion, and the natural environment.

Not a lot different to tobacco companies back in the ’60s and ’70s arguing that cigarettes were not harmful to health. If you have a vested interested in denying what it is becoming clear to everyone else then that’s what you do . . . and just hope you get away with it.

TREN BACH YR WYDDFA

After writing the name I got to wondering a bit more about the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which not only owns the train to the summit but also runs the cafe close by the summit.

Reading the website one of the first things that struck me about the early days of the railway was the almost total absence of Welsh involvement. This was all happening in spite of us, or over our heads. But then, that’s colonialism; a whole nation treated as if it has learning difficulties, unable to do anything for itself.

The section below is taken from the website’s History section.

From ‘History of the Snowdon Mountain Railway’

The initial excursion in 1896 of No 1 Ladas, owned by the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Ltd, was not a great success, for the train left the track. Fortunately there was just one fatality, Ellis Griffith Roberts of Llanberis.

This episode is so wonderfully emblematic of ‘Welsh’ tourism. Not only were those making the money English, even the driver of the derailed train, William Pickles, was brought in from Yorkshire (with his nephew to serve as fireman). And as is the case 120 years later, it’s the Welsh who suffer.

The company number quoted on the website is 00042476 which, when typed into the Companies House site, takes us here. We can see that this company is based in Liverpool, and has been dormant for many years. Not only that, but since 2001 the company has got by without auditors. (You’ll note that this decision was taken at a meeting in Ripon, North Yorkshire. Perhaps in deference to Will Pickles and his nephew.)

Which means that one of Wales’ major tourism enterprises is run by an unaudited, dormant company. So who owns this outfit? Well, the answer seems to be, according to this document, that the shares – all 1,803,690 (10p shares) – are owned by Heritage Great Britain PLC of the same Liverpool address.

Heritage Great Britain plc is a holding company and we are also told that, “The Group undertakes the operation of various landmark and other day visitor attractions situated in the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, North Wales, and holiday accommodation in Scotland through a joint venture”.

So who owns Heritage Great Britain plc? According to this document, as at 5 April 2016 all 5,213,371 £1 shares are held by Cherberry Ltd. Which is where the trail almost goes dead. Because if you type ‘Cherberry Ltd’ into the Companies House website you draw a blank . . . for Cherberry was registered in May 1996 in Jersey.

Naturally – you know me, nosey bastard! – I went to the website of the Jersey Financial Services Commission to see what I could learn about Cherberry Ltd . . . which was not a lot. Other than the fact that the trail goes on to Dukla Ltd of Gibraltar, as set out in this document. The Dukla Articles of Association are dated August 2015. Having paid out £4 for the Jersey documents I was in no mood to splash out more than thirty quid a time for the Gibraltar docs.

And even if I’d bought some Gibraltar documents then I might have found that they led on to the Caymans or the British Virgin Islands. Which raises a few questions.

Hafod Eryri. All the architectural charm of a public urinal from communist East Germany

First, the Snowdon Mountain Railway Ltd leases the cafe at the summit, Hafod Eryri, from the Snowdonia National Park. This ‘visitor centre’ opened 12 June 2009 and was built at considerable cost. Given who owns it it’s safe to assume that a great deal of public funding was involved. How do those funders – probably using your money and mine – feel about this publicly-funded asset now being leased to a company based God knows where?

Second, the Snowdonia Mountain Railway ferries a few hundred thousand people between Llanberis and the summit every year. In the event of an accident, how easy would it be to hold to account a company we’ve traced to Gibraltar, a company that through yet more changes of name and ownership may ultimately be located even further afield?

Are Cyngor Gwynedd and the ‘Welsh’ Government satisfied that adequate insurance is in place to cover all eventualities? Satisfied that culpability can be apportioned and justice satisfied when the guilty party or parties may be beyond UK jurisdiction?

~~~

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

The principal characters in the Snowdon Mountain Railway, in the forms of the three current directors are, Gary Johnson, Allan James Stuart Leech and Peter Miles Johnson-Treherne; the last of whom can be founded listed on other documents as Peter Treherne or Peter Johnson-Treherne.

The same three crop up running the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad and Hotels Company Ltd (where Gary Johnson now becomes Gary Andrew Johnson). You’ll remember that this is the name of the company for which the luckless William Pickles and his nephew worked back in 1896. (Though of course they were lucky compared to poor Ellis Griffith Roberts.) So what does this company do?

In a word, nothing, for it became dormant almost from the date of its Incorporation on 22 May 2013. And as we read in the Annual Report and Accounts dated 31 January 2014, “The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Heritage Great Britain plc which is registered in England and Wales. The ultimate parent company, Cherberry Ltd, is registered in Jersey . . . “. 

Something that puzzled me was, given the ages of the three I’ve named, and their relatively late entrances, who was running the show before they got involved? Part of the answer came from the former directors of the Snowdon Mountain Railway Ltd, for among them I found the information below.

Kevin Ronald Leech (born August 1943) is probably the father of current director Allan James Stuart Leech (born October 1972). Leech Senior’s Jersey address is the same address given for Cherberry Ltd.

UPDATE 04.07.2017: I am indebted to Simon Hillman for providing (in a comment below) more information on Kevin Leech. I suggest you read this Telegraph article from October 2002 and this Guardian piece from January 2014. This is the man who might still own the Snowdon Mountain Railway through a network of offshore companies, and the man to whom the Snowdonia National Park has leased Hafod Eryri. Cause for concern.

RESPECT HAS TO BE EARNED

The fundamental problem exposed here is one we find in other parts of Wales, and indeed, around the world. To wit: A beautiful area attracts tourists, the more tourists that come, the more degraded and less beautiful that area becomes. This combination of tourism and degradation is unavoidable.

Among those refusing to concede this universal truth we may find some denying that there is a limit to how many tourists an area can accommodate, especially when they don’t live in the area and run their businesses through offshore companies.

If Ms Pye and her Snowdon Partnership are serious about showing respect for Yr Wyddfa then the answer is simple: rather than searching for the alchemist’s stone of attracting a limitless number of tourists and expecting them to cause no harm, accept that the problem is too many tourists and start limiting the numbers.

By all means encourage responsible walkers to ascend the mountain, but for God’s sake don’t make it easy for every lazy bastard to get there on a bloody railway – and then encourage them to fill their fat faces in the cafe at the top!

So make a start by demolishing the pissoir at the peak, after all, this is owned by the Snowdonia National Park Authority and was paid for from the Welsh public purse. With the visitor centre gone there’ll be less incentive for the obese and the idle to get the train to the summit.

If money was found for the carbuncle now desecrating the skyline then money can be found to buy out the Snowdon Mountain Railway, by compulsory purchase if necessary. Once bought, the rolling stock can be flogged off and the tracks torn up to restore Yr Wyddfa to something approaching its natural state.

Anything less is simply tinkering with the problem; so if that’s what’s happening then don’t build people’s hopes up by using words like ‘respect’. Use the word that I fear already describes the Snowdon Partnership and its draft plan – fudge.

♦ end ♦

 

The Destructive Power of Tourism

A few days ago I was directed to a piece on the MailOnline website about Barcelona or, more specifically, tourism in Barcelona or, to be really, really specific, high volume and damaging tourism. The problem is that “uncontrolled tourism” is attracting too many low-spending tourists who are turning Barcelona into a ‘theme park’ and making locals feel like strangers in their own city. To give some idea of the perceived problem, in 1993 the city attracted 2.5 million visitors but by 2012 that figure had quadrupled to 10 million. Going to YouTube turned up other videos on a similar theme. One about the Lake District, this one about Snowdonia. And there are others.

Does all this sound familiar – hordes of cheapo tourists over-running a place and making the locals feel like strangers? Of course it does, because it’s what happens in Wales. Though the citizens of Barcelona should be thankful that their city isn’t being bought up by these visitors, looking for holiday homes, a lifestyle change, or somewhere to retire to. Nor is it destroying the Catalan language and identity. And I guarantee that most of the businesses taking the tourists’ money are run by natives of Barcelona. (Though the pickpockets mentioned almost certainly come from further east.)

Wales tourism stats
Click to Enlarge

The traditional reason that Wales is a low-spend destination for tourists is because tourism in Wales was developed for the convenience of England, not for the benefit of Wales. Which has meant that in practice, we – or those who run tourism here – target English tourists saving their major outlay for holidays abroad, encouraging them to use Wales for weekend breaks and secondary holidays. Then, because these English tourists don’t spend much, we must have them in damaging and unsustainable numbers. This recent news story even rejoiced in the fact that Wales is “affordable” / cheap, without apparently realising that ‘cheap’ is also a derogatory term.

Though the story in WalesOnline is rather confusing. It claims a record 9.93m tourists spending a record £1.7bn in 2013. Yet the figures on the ‘Welsh’ Government website, for 2012 (see panel), claim 10.45m tourists (from the UK and overseas) spending £2,44bn. Presumably the article refers only to tourists from within the UK, though this is not stated.

Numerate readers (of whom I have many) will have worked out that this means in 2012 UK visitors spent on average £165 (up to £171 in 2013), whereas overseas visitors spent on average £405. So why aren’t we doing more to attract overseas visitors, of whom we’d need fewer? Well, in addition to the explanation given above, tourism in Wales also has a political purpose, in that it anglicises Wales; partly by smothering areas in English tourists for months on end and partly by encouraging English tourists to make a permanent move to Wales. And don’t overlook the financial benefits . . . to England. Money spent in Wales by English tourists will eventually make its way back to London, unlike money spent abroad.

(The panel from the ‘Welsh’ Government website also quotes “around 100 million day visits” earning “over £3bn”. I have ignored these figures mainly because we are expected to believe that these are all day trips made from outside Wales; they are not. The most popular pay-to-enter ‘tourist attraction’ in Wales is Swansea Leisure Centre. Most visitors come from within a 15 mile radius. Your next shopping trip or day out in Wrecsam, Llandudno, Aberystwyth, Brecon or Carmarthen may count as a ‘day trip’. So you will understand why I treat such figures with caution, if not contempt. The (nicely rounded) figures for day trips get wild guesswork a bad name, but are, regrettably, what we expect with tourism ‘statistics’.)

The table I’ve compiled (and I hope it’s clear) gives some figures for the tourism industries in Ireland, Scotland and Wales for one year. (Click to enlarge.) The figures for Ireland and Scotland were fairly easy to come by, but not so with the figures for Wales. The ‘Welsh’ Government website is difficult to negotiate, full of guff and propaganda on tourism but low on facts. So I went to StatsWales, the ‘Welsh’ Government’s specialist group for statistics – actually part of an English government department – but the most recent figures available there are for 2010. (A regular failure with StatsWales.)

Tourism table
Click to Enlarge

A few observations from the table. As an example of how little Wales really earns from tourism note that visitors from the Six Counties to the Republic spent £225 per head, even though many would have been staying with friends and family, or making just a short trip (e.g. Derry to Donegal). Compare this to UK visitors to Wales, who spent just £165. UK visitors to Scotland spent £227 per head. In addition, Scotland made over one billion pounds more than Wales from overseas tourists. Spend per head can be equated with the profit margin, which means that when other considerations – cultural damage, traffic congestion, environmental degradation, etc  – are factored in to the equation then tourism in Wales is a loss-making, bargain basement business. To tourism what the Reliant Robin is to automotive technology. Nothing to be proud of.

Furthermore, reReliant Robinmember that Ireland and Scotland are some four times the size of Wales and both see a ‘spread’ of tourists across the land, whereas most of those who come to Wales head for the west and the north, and stick fairly close to the coast. This, inevitably, results in the kind of overcrowding and unsustainabilty being complained of in Barcelona.

Given the damning facts why is ‘Welsh’ tourism trumpeted as a great success story that cannot be improved on? Why are we constantly reminded that our rural and coastal areas were wastelands ere the arrival of English tourists, and without them to wastelands they will return? In a word, we’ve been brainwashed. We can either continue accepting this ludicrous – and, frankly, racist – propaganda or we can start arguing for a tourism industry for the twenty-first century rather than the nineteenth, one that serves Wales and Welsh people.

Fundamentally, and for benefits across the board, we need to attract more overseas visitors and fewer low-spend tourists from England. To do that we must ditch the defeatist argument that says Scotland and Ireland have a higher international profile. Because even though this may be true today, there are successful tourism destinations now that were unknown a few decades ago. It comes down to promotion, and priorities.

The first priority is for the soi-disant ‘Welsh’ Government to start living up to its name, by putting Welsh interests first. A phased move from caravans to serviced accommodation would be a start. Tourism taxes – especially at ‘hot spots’ – would be another step in the right direction. The second priority must be minimising the influence of the tourism operators who currently control long-term and strategic planning. Few of these are Welsh and consequently have little regard for the damage being inflicted. Too many are driven by self-interest and believe there can never be too many tourists. That’s the major problem with tourism – if you allow it to be run by such people then you end up with the problems of Barcelona, or Venice, or Prague, or Wales. Restraining influences are needed.

Fleece Jacket Fascists 2

Back at the beginning of August I wrote a piece called Fleece Jacket Fascists, in which I tried to expose those British or Englandandwales organisations that want Wales to be run in the interests of middle class English settlers and visitors. Those working for these fleece jacketorganisations can invariably be identified by their ‘uniform’ of the fleece jacket, hence the title. I am returning to the subject for two reasons.

First, one of the issues I dealt with in the earlier post, something that had resulted in a concerted attack by regiments of ‘fascists’, is back in the news. I’m referring now to the planned motor racing circuit in Ebbw Vale, a subject I dealt with in June, in this post. The developers are now promising that work will start on the project before Christmas. So who are these developers?

In recent media coverage they have been named as the Heads of the Valleys Development Company Ltd (HVDC), yet it’s difficult to get any further information. For example, I can find no website, nothing really except for snapshots on business information websites. Such as this. The HVDC has its registered office in Cambridgeshire, and appears to have no local directors. Though DueDil suggests that the HVDC is only a subsidiary of the (non-trading) Rassau Track and Leisure Company Ltd., registered at the same Cambridgeshire address. The RTL has a single director, Michael Anthony Carrick, who is also a director and the investment manager for the HVDC.

Despite these companies being little more than shells the enviro-fascists seem to have understood that public opinion was against them and have backed down. Even though one obstacle has been removed I doubt if this £280m project will come anywhere near realising that figure from private sources. Which means it will need a massive injection of public funding, possibly from the third round of EU Structural Funds (beginning next year). Despite that, I can see no grounds to object to such funding . . . as long as the project delivers the promised benefits for local people. That would be a far better way to spend EU funding than wasting it on the Poverty Promotion Sector that creates jobs for Labour cronies but never for those they are supposedly helping.

The second reasonVisit Wales canoeists for returning to the subject of the Fleece Jacket Fascists is that visitors to the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Visit Wales website were recently asked to complete a questionnaire on outdoor activity tourism. Excluded from the survey were road cycling, rambling, shooting, horse riding and angling. How do we explain the exclusion of the most popular outdoor activities? The answer almost certainly lies in the picture used on the Visit Wales website to advertise the survey. (Click to enlarge.) That’s right, it’s really just about canoeists, with this fact disguised by throwing in a few other outdoor activities.

We can safely assume that this survey first saw life with lobbying from Canoe Wales, which manages the National White Water Centre on Afon Tryweryn, near Bala. Don’t be fooled by ‘Wales’ in the title, or the location near Bala, these are English bodies; it is the English national centre. The clues are all over the website. Such as describing Bala as being in the “heart of Snowdonia”! There is no Welsh on the website. Note also the e-mail address for the Bala site, info@ukrafting.co.uk. So we are not just talking about aggressive and confrontational canoeists, we are also threatened with gangs of drunken middle managers hurling beer cans from rafts. Fundamentally, this is about the outdoor activity sector in Wales, which employs few if any Welsh, wanting to make yet more money out of our country by being allowed access to all Welsh waterways, where they will disturb Welsh anglers and do untold environmental damage.

That the Labour Party should support this move is no surprise, for Labour hates real country people. And as I pointed out in the original post, canoeists have always had friends in the Labour Party. Let me quote from that original post: “One (friend in high places) was Jane Davidson, Minister for Environment and Sustainability from 2007 to 2011. Among the policies Davidson wanted to introduce was that of opening all Welsh rivers, lakes and Conwywaterways to her canoeist friends. It is of course entirely coincidental that Jane Davidson is English, and went to a private school; as is the fact that upon leaving politics she became Director of the Wales Institute of Sustainability and a spokesperson for the Ramblers Association.”

More surprising is that Plaid Cymru is also said to support opening up Welsh waterways to arrogant and irresponsible English canoeists. The specific names mentioned to me as supporters of ‘open access’ were Leanne Wood, the party leader, and Rhodri Glyn Thomas, AM for Carmarthen East & Dinefrw. I e-mailed both. I had no reply from Leanne Wood, but Rhodri Glyn responded with, “I’m opposed to granting access without accepting responsibilities”. Which, I suppose, could mean anything, or nothing. Though I do hope he means that it’s the canoeists who have to accept responsibilities.

Unlike the situation in Scotland and England 80 per cent or more of angling rights on Welsh rivers are locally owned, by clubs, some of which are over 100 years old. Many of these clubs were formed by miners, quarrymen, steelworkers and others for whom angling provided fresh air and relaxation, and also put food on the table. Now the descendents of those men, the members of those clubs that have maintained our rivers, regularly restocking them with fish that provided not just pleasure for anglers but also prey for kingfisher, otter, and countless other species, are to be brushed aside by Welsh ‘socialists’ pandering to people who think ‘Wales’ is nothing more than their playground.

This is Wales in 2013. Fourteen years into ‘devolution’. It is the patriotic duty of every good Welshman and Welshwoman to oppose ‘open access’.

UPDATE 25.10.13: I have now received a response from Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru. I am glad to say that it is rather more helpful than the earlier response from Rhodri Glyn Thomas, mentioned in the post above. Also, rather more encouraging. Interestingly, Leanne Wood seems to confirm what I had been told – that the so-called ‘consultation process’ seemed designed to exclude those the ‘Welsh’ Government didn’t want to hear from, i.e. anglers and others likely to object to granting open access to visiting gangs of Hooray Henrys with paddles.

I shall maintain a watching brief.

Dear Royston, 

Thank you for your correspondence regarding access to waterways in proposed changes in legislation in Wales, and please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. Our Environment spokesperson Llyr Huws Gruffydd has already raised his concerns with the Minister on some of these issues.

It’s clear that not enough has been done to ensure that all the voices are heard as part of the pre-legislation process. For example, we have been contacted by numerous groups who were angry at not having been invited to attend consultation events held to discuss the proposed Recreation and Access Bill.

You may recall that the same Minister was responsible for the Marine Conservation Zone debacle when proposals for new highly protected areas were published with little prior engagement of key stakeholders. As a result there was a huge uproar and he was forced to scrap the proposals and start again. I very much hope this is not replicating that shambles.

It is my understanding that a Green Paper will be published by the Government sometime around late 2013/early 2014 outlining their intentions. Whilst this will offer a more formal means of responding to particular proposals I would suggest that you write to the Minister expressing your views now. It’s always better to try and influence the proposals sooner rather than later.

As you can imagine, we will be scrutinising this particular legislation very closely.

Kindest regards,

signature

 

 

Leanne Wood

Arweinydd Plaid Cymru ac Aelod Cynulliad Canol De Cymru

Leader of Plaid Cymru and South Wales Central Assembly Member