Regular readers will be familiar with the Weep for Wales series of posts which has proved to be so popular in many circles.
It all started in June last year, soon after I received reports on the behaviour of Paul and Rowena Williams, who had run the Knighton Hotel (Knighton) and the Radnorshire Arms in Presteigne. They owned other pubs and hotels over the border.
Both Powys establishments had closed following their alleged sale to convicted fraudster and acquaintance of the Williams couple, Keith Harvey Part(d)ridge, in February 2018. For by now the couple had moved up to Gwynedd, where they’d bought the imposing Plas Glynllifon.
The series continued with further reports and reached Weep for Wales 11 on December 3. In a couple of updates to that post I introduced Myles Andrew Cunliffe, who seemed to be taking over the Williams’ businesses in north Gwynedd.
I was preparing for Christmas when, on the 22nd or 23rd, I received a letter from a Chester solicitor demanding that I take down everything I had ever written about Paul and Rowena Williams. Here’s the letter and my response.
The arrogance of this letter was breathtaking – did they really think that after all the information people had given me, and after all the research I’d done, I would just throw my hands up and say, ‘Fair enough, I’ll scrub it all’.
My next mention of Plas Glynllifon and those associated with the old pile was in Weep for Wales 11a, of February 5. With Weep for Wales 12 coming out on March 18.
Then, on March 26, I received a letter from Myles Andrew Cunliffe, hand delivered after dark. Here’s the letter and the envelope.
That it was delivered by hand suggested this was a, ‘We know where you live’ kind of letter. I mean, seeing as Cunliffe had my address he could have put a stamp on the envelope and posted it.
The letter itself was a rambling attack on me and my “slanderous and dangerous blog”. Apparently I had attacked Cunliffe, threatened him, and put his family in danger. Absolute bollocks. I’d never even mentioned his family . . . unless he’s related to the Williams gang.
Uncertain of who or what I was dealing with, and how far Cunliffe and his associates might be prepared to go, I pulled Weep for Wales 12 together with Weep for Wales 11a and the updates to Weep for Wales 11.
Throughout the Weep for Wales saga I’d received strange and menacing comments to the blog. Towards the end of June these took a more sinister turn when I was told, “I know where you live expect a visit soon keep looking over your shoulder”. (Punctuation!)
This was reported to North Wales Police, who were given the background and context. I made it clear that I didn’t wish to make a case of it yet, but I wanted my concerns logged. Everything is now on record.
I have put back the updates for Weep for Wales 11, plus Weep for Wales 11a and Weep for Wales 12. I did this because I’m just too old and too pissed off to be threatened by shyster lawyers in border towns enjoying a parasitic relationship with my homeland and the ‘businessmen’ they represent.
That said, if anyone can prove that something I’ve written is incorrect then, fair enough, I’ll make the necessary changes. But anyone demanding that I take down everything I’ve ever written might as well enclose an application form to join the Labour Party.
Solicitor’s letter and application form will be treated equally.
As you’ll know, this blog has two main themes: the first is exposing the corrupt and incompetent politicians and others to be found in Cardiff Bay, county halls and other locations across the land; with the second being investigating the shysters who come to Wales to enrich themselves at our expense, be they the parasites of the poverty industry (third sector), or out-and-out crooks like the Williams gang.
These two strands should be separate, but no, for they have a symbiotic relationship.
‘Welsh’ Labour encourages the poverty industry in order to provide jobs for party cronies, the favour returned by the third sector painting a picture of poverty that can be blamed on ‘London’/Tories in order to keep people voting Labour.
The utter incompetence at all levels of officialdom in Wales and the inability to build up an economy results in magic bean salesmen flooding over the border to grab the grants and anything else that might be on offer – this to be dressed up by the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’ as ‘investment’, and jobs.
In the BBC report I’ve linked to about the Afan Valley Adventure Resort you’ll see that Woodhouse and his imaginative business methods were investigated earlier this year by ITV News and the Guardian. It had to be this way because the mainstream media in Wales either gave Woodhouse a free ride or else acted as cheerleader.
I don’t want to blow my own trumpet, but apart from this blog and Econews West Wales I don’t think any media platform or outlet in Wales questioned Woodhouse’s bona fides. That’s because, with a few exceptions, the ‘Welsh media’ operates in a colonialist fashion by relaying the London line while not stirring up the natives with too much bad news, relying on press releases from the likes of Woodhouse, Cunliffe and Paul Williams to pad out the business pages.
So it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that just before Paul and Rowena Williams washed up at Plas Glynllifon Woodhouse had been sniffing around, but pissed on his own chips when his company MBI Hotels announced that the place was to be renamed ‘Wynnborn’.
Very soon after this debacle Woodhouse resigned as a director of MBI Hotels, returning in March 2017 after the company had been renamed Giant Hospitality Ltd.
For like so many others I write about, Woodhouse is or has been involved with over a hundred companies, which keep changing their names.
And it’s made so much easier for them because Wales is so corrupt, because officialdom is so inept, because Wales has no functioning media, and no effective political opposition.
I believe Wales is in such a mess, with things about to get even worse, that somebody has to tell it like it is. That’s why I do what I do. And that’s why I shall now start work on Weep for Wales 13, which will be published next week.
It’s going to take a considerable amount of work because so much information has piled up in recent months. Anyone with information on any of the players can contact me at email@example.com.
Any lawyer considering getting in touch on behalf of any of the stars in this series really should think again. Anyone minded to issue threats can rest assured that they will be reported to North Wales Police.
PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
This was supposed to be a ‘quickie’ while I await a promised guest post on developments among the wind farms of deepest Powys. But as the information mounted up . . .
Most of you will be aware by now that Gavin Lee Woodhouse, who has a number of business interests in Wales, came under critical scrutiny last week from ITV News and the Guardian. He did not emerge smelling of roses.
Now I don’t wish to be too critical, but Woodhouse has been a busy boy in Wales for a number of years, so it’s not unreasonable to have expected an investigation into his ‘innovative’ business practices to have been done on this side of the border.
Pity the country with a ‘media’ that is nothing but a relayer of press hand-outs, a conveyor of soporific ‘human interest’ stories, and a disseminator of its masters’ propaganda; leaving an ancient nation to scratch around for the truth.
Come scratch with Jac.
Perhaps the first time Gavin Lee Woodhouse swam into our collective consciousness was when, while negotiating to buy Plas Glynllifon, in Llandwrog, south of Caernarfon, he announced his intention to rename the old pile ‘Wynnborn’. This declaration met with the kind of response that might greet ‘Four Green Fields’ being sung at Ibrox.
Now let’s get up to date with the boy’s adventures.
HOW IT WORKS
Woodhouse’s business model is, essentially, selling shares in property he owns, or plans to build. If it’s a hotel then you buy a room and then rent it to Woodhouse. If it’s a care home or a residential home, then it’s a similar system but with the guest obviously staying for longer.
The attraction of this system for Woodhouse is that he can buy a run-down hotel cheaply, maybe at auction, and then by selling off rooms individually he can quickly recoup what he paid, and more, from ‘investors’.
For investors, high returns are promised. There is often a guarantee that Woodhouse will buy back your room after a certain period at the price you paid for it, or more.
It makes a certain sense, but as with buying a timeshare, a great deal depends on the honesty of the vendor. And this leads us on to the allegations made last week.
WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG, ALLEGEDLY
In a nutshell, Woodhouse has taken money from investors for projects that do not exist. Or to put it another way, projects that are promised but never materialise. With much of the money paid into these projects disappearing after being shuffled around in the network of companies Woodhouse controls.
Explained here in this excellent graphic from the Guardian.
As we see, £5.6m of the £14.8m investors have paid into the three non-existent care homes and £8.2m from connected companies made its way to MBI Consulting (UK) Ltd. This gives a total of £13.8m going into a company now in administration.
According to Companies House Woodhouse ceased to be a director of MBI 31 January 2016, but another document lodged with Companies House and dated 21 July 2016 makes clear that Woodhouse remains the majority shareholder. A further document of 08.08.2018 confirms that Woodhouse is the person exercising ‘significant control’. (All CH documents can be tracked from here.)
From MBI Consulting (UK) Ltd £1.2m went as a loan to Woodhouse himself while the rest, £12.7m, appears to have slipped through the gaps in the floorboards.
(Though the figures used are probably the latest available at Companies House. By now, all of the investors’ money might have headed south.)
AFAN VALLEY ADVENTURE RESORT
Perhaps the first time most people in the south heard of Gavin Lee Woodhouse was when, in April 2017, news broke of a tourism venture in the Afan valley behind Port Talbot.
The WalesOnline article had lots of ‘artist’s impressions’ and a video of the ‘Affan’ valley in the company of Paul Gardiner, managing director of the Bear Grylls Survival Academy. For that piss-drinking exhibitionist has been involved from the start.
A third principal was soon roped in in the form of Peter Moore, ‘the man who brought Center Parcs to Britain’. Whether that is to be regarded as an achievement I leave to others to decide.
One thing of which there can be no doubt is the ‘Welsh Government’s enthusiastic support for the Afan valley venture. The photo below comes from the website of Woodhouse’s Northern Powerhouse Developments and it shows ‘Welsh Government’ representatives meeting Woodhouse and Moore on the site of the planned ‘resort’ in April 2017.
As I hinted earlier, one of the problems in trying to make sense of Woodhouse’s business dealings is the sheer number of companies involved. A maze set up to deter the casually curious and make things difficult even for serious investigators.
Undaunted, I did a wee bit more digging, but stopped short of getting obsessively forensic.
One curiosity I uncovered was two parcels of land that seem not to connect with the 327 acres handed over for his ‘resort’ by Natural Resources Wales (i.e. ‘Welsh Government’).
Companies House tells us that Afan Valley Ltd was born in April 2016 as Caerau Parc Ltd – with Woodhouse as sole director – and it changed its name in February 2017. Which means it was set up over a year before the Afan valley project became known about.
It’s reasonable to assume therefore that Caerau Park Ltd was set up for a purpose other than the Afan Valley resort.
The sliver of roadside land at Cymmer is owned by Afan Valley Ltd, and the lender is 360 Mi Ltd. The larger plot, Caerau Park, is on the slopes of Mynydd Caerau, to the east of the village of the same name in the Llynfi valley.
The owner of Caerau Park, according to the Land Registry, is Ontaris Resources Inc of the British Virgin Islands; but Companies House tells us – with regard to the charge – that the ‘Persons entitled’ is Clive Mishon. Clive Mishon is also the sole director and shareholder of 360 Mi Ltd, Incorporated 5 September 2017.
So who is Clive Mishon, who appears to hold both charges against Afan Valley Ltd? There’s not a lot of information available for him, here’s one of the few pieces I found. All we can say with certainty is that he’s an investor. (But not the kind of ‘investor’ who’d buy a room from Woodhouse.)
Given that the Caerau Park land has been owned by Ontaris since 2008, and Woodhouse set up Caerau Park Ltd in April 2016 – with the charge covering the transfer of ownership not taken out until December 2017 – was Woodhouse initially working for or with Ontaris?
And was Caerau Park the original site for the ‘resort’? For Mynydd Caerau is now part of the Llynfi Renewable Energy Park (wind turbines) run by John Laing.
Whatever the answer, by the early part of 2017 attention had obviously switched to the Afan valley. Borne out by Caerau Park Ltd becoming Afan Valley Ltd in February, with this followed by the public announcements involving the ‘Welsh Government’ just months later.
What explains this shift from the Llynfi valley to the Afan valley?
Perhaps the ‘Welsh Government’ can explain how the Afan Valley Adventure Resort first saw the light of day. For example, whose idea was it? Who made the first approach? Did the ‘Welsh Government’ entice Woodhouse from the Llynfi to the Afan?
And while they’re trawling through the files and the memory banks maybe someone can also explain why Caerau Park, ex-NCB land that passed to the ‘Welsh Government’ after devolution, was sold to a tax haven company in 2008.
Finally, maybe someone familiar with the upper reaches of the Afan and Llynfi valleys might have information I’ve missed, or information that is not in the public domain.
SCAMS AND FRAUDS?
Let’s return to Gavin Woodhouse’s business methods, which some might view as something similar to timeshare. And as we all know, timeshare was a largely unregulated sphere in foreign jurisdictions where perhaps the only way to avoid being fleeced was to rely on word of mouth recommendations from people you trusted.
Tangent alert! (As in, going off on one): A reason for timeshare being so risky was that a good slice of the business was in the hands of serious criminals, and used for money laundering. A few months ago, someone with experience in timeshare in the bad old days gave me this explanation.
“You see you could buy a week without anyone questioning anything and it was perfectly legal not to have to prove who you are – you just handed over what was then an average £25,000 for a week and signed a single sheet of paper. Now both these guys would have typically 120 units in a single development so they could handle £132 million through these units – that money was then cleaned in the system. Then every year you paid maintenance – another £600 or £3.2 million per site.
“Then the second spin would start in the auction and second hand market which was often when moms and pops took a hit. Even then none of it matters because under all these agreements if a site falls into a bad state then it goes back to the owners – who refurbish and start again. So it’s a perpetual sausage machine to clean money and they can call it what they want now i.e. points etc but its still the same thing.”
Worrying, isn’t it?
Now I’m not for one minute suggesting that Gavin Woodhouse is involved in that kind of thing, but selling individual rooms of hotels, and cabins at resorts, could be seen as a variation on a theme.
Because what’s to stop an unscrupulous operator selling the same room or cabin to any number of different people and then legging it with the money? Also, and unlike timeshare, there’s the advantage in this method that the investor doesn’t get to stay in his or her investment.
And when the property isn’t even off the drawing board – as with Woodhouse’s three care homes in north west England – then there’s no outlay whatsoever. All you do is sit there and let the money roll in!
Even if we give Woodhouse the benefit of the doubt, and accept that he meant to deliver on his promises, the whole thing has still gone tits up for one reason or another.
But there’s a further worry with Woodhouse’s operations linked to the sudden and impressive increases in the valuations of his properties. As the Guardian put it . . .
Now that is impressive.
Unfortunately, I could find nothing for the Fishguard Bay hotel on the Land Registry website, and even when I focused in on the LR map I got a ‘too many’ message. Which could mean that there are a number of titles on the site following the sale of the rooms.
But would this account for the massive increase in the claimed valuation of the hotel? I don’t think so, after all, it’s still the same building.
Suspicious increases in property values like this can often be explained by mortgage fraud, where a property’s valuation is increased in order to pull down more in mortgages and loans, which of course are then not repaid.
(Those who followed Woodhouse at Plas Glynllifon, Paul and Rowena Williams, were heavily involved in mortgage fraud, even ‘selling’ properties to themselves! Just type ‘Weep for Wales’ into the Search box on top of the sidebar to catch up with this gripping saga.)
But it doesn’t seem to matter, it’s almost as if this is not real money.
It’s the black economy and it still buys big houses and Range Rovers, it pays for private schooling, and contributes to consumer spending. The UK government and the police know about it but nobody’s going to interfere unless the media takes an interest.
Which is why things are now looking so bleak for the Wolf of Wharf Street.
HOW DID HE GET AWAY WITH IT FOR SO LONG?
I don’t want to say, ‘I told you so’ . . . but I told you so. And I know that plenty of people in Cardiff Bay read my blog . . . if only to mutter ‘bastard’ under their breath while reaching for the voodoo doll.
Where, not only was Woodhouse selling rooms in the hotel, he also wanted to build cabins or lodges in the grounds which, again, were to be sold off to investors.
Has he received any other little ‘favours’ while he’s been in Wales? Because he certainly likes Wales: he has at least six hotels, then there’s the Afan Valley Adventure Resort (for now), land at Caerau . . .
Or is it just that Wales is an easy touch, and that’s why we see the Woodhouses, and the Williams, and all the other crooks and shysters moving into our country?
But of course, it’s not us, not you and me, who are fooled by these people – it’s those running Wales, those who claim to know better than us, they are the ones who keep making these mistakes. Over and over again.
Or are they ‘mistakes’. It’s worth asking because is anybody really this stupid, or this incompetent?
A PRICE TO PAY?
If I was an investor who had lost money in the Afan Valley Adventure Resort or any other Gavin Woodhouse enterprise (in Wales or in England) I would claim compensation from the self-styled ‘Welsh Government’.
I suggest this course of action because Woodhouse might have used the Caer Rhun grant, and the welcome he received in the southern hillsides, to establish his bona fides in order to gull investors.
But simply by being so accommodating towards Gavin Woodhouse, and giving him our money, the ‘Welsh Government’ was telling the world that here was a man to do business with.
Creditors seeking pecuniary redress should in the first instance contact: Ken Skates AM, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Infrastructure and Skills, Welsh Government, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NQ.
Or if you’re in the vicinity, then pop in. Tell him Jac sent you.
♦ end ♦
UPDATE 04.07.2019: It’s all fall down.
At a court hearing today three of Woodhouse’s companies, including Afan Valley Ltd, were placed instantly into interim administration. Judge Sally Barber said: “This appears to be a thoroughly dishonest business model and a shameful abuse of the privileges of limited liability trading. I am entirely satisfied by the evidence before me that this court must take immediate action.”
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’.
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.
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’.
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.
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’?
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.
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.
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?
(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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Unusually, perhaps, Mysing Capital Ltdappears 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 to 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’.
Irrespective of how that works out push on with your plan.
If planning permission refused, insist on retrospective permission.
Count on council caving in on the grounds of being unable to justify spending public money in pursuing a legal case against you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the third instalment of my gripping narrative dealing with shysters, con men, crooks, liars, asset-strippers, and assorted low-lifes. To bring yourself up to speed I – and my agent – recommend that you read Weep for Wales and Weep for Wales 2 before proceeding.
As I mentioned in my previous posting, there were Open Days at Glynllifon on Sunday and Monday (the 24th and the 25th). And despite my absence it all went swimmingly . . . if we are to believe Rowena Williams and the hitherto unknown Land & Heritage Ltd, who seem to have had a big hand in arranging the event.
So now you’re asking, ‘Who are Land and Heritage Ltd?’ The answer is that it’s a new company, formed less than a year ago, and based in Cornwall, where Paul and Rowena Williams have enjoyed a number of triumphs. They may still have business interests down there, who knows with those two?
You will note that according to the panel above, from the Land & Heritage Facebook page, Team Williams showed people around the house with its impressive fixtures and fittings, while “Matt, Sarah and Dudley presented plans for future projects and developments”. The BBC was also in attendance.
‘Matt’ I assume to be Matt Jackson, director of Land & Heritage. I’m not sure yet who ‘Sarah’ is (but I know somebody’ll tell me). Of more interest though, is ‘Dudley, who I’m almost certain is Dudley James Cross, Regional Head of Building Consultancy at Lambert Smith Hampton. A company, you may remember from the previous instalment, mentioned in this report from the Daily Post of two years ago as the ‘agent’.
I suspect that LSH was involved in the liquidation of the company that previously owned Plas Glynllifon, or perhaps not involved in the liquidation itself, but with finding a new buyer while the liquidation was proceeding. As we’ve seen on his Linkedin profile, Cross has worked for LSH for 22 years, but that hasn’t stopped him branching out, because from 7 June 2016 until 1 February 2018 he was a director of Leisure and Development Ltd, the main vehicle for Paul and Rowena Williams’ property empire.
According to the documents filed with Companies House, Cross’ address is given as Plas Glynllifon, and his Country of residence as Wales; yet his Linkedin profile tells us that he lives in Northampton. Can’t both be right, can they?
Anyway, Cross ceased to be a director of Leisure and Development Ltd on 1 February, when the company and its assets – including the Radnorshire Arms Hotel in Presteigne – were allegedly taken over by convicted thief and fraudster Keith Harvey Partridge and Sukhbinder Singh Heer (of whom more later).
If Plas Glynllifon has really been bought by Paul and Rowena Williams, and everything’s tickety-boo, and with him no longer a director of Leisure and Development Ltd, why isn’t Cross back at his day job with Lambert Smith Hampton? Or does LSH still have some interest in Plas Glynllifon?
This may be a good point to give some information on the recent history of Plas Glynllifon.
On 7 November 2000 a company called Glynllifon Ltd was Incorporated with Companies House. Next, on 2 April 2003, this company bought Plas Glynllifon from Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor, with a mortgage from the NatWest Bank.
This company stayed afloat – with help from Cyngor Gwynedd and the Welsh Development Agency – until the AIB group called in a receiver 3 July 2013. Glynllifon Ltd finally slipped beneath the waves when it was dissolved 24 June 2017. By which time Plas Glynllifon had been bought by Paul and Rowena Williams.
Their company Plas Glynllifon Ltd bought the mansion on 19 April 2016 for £630,000. Though you might not know that from the title document, which simply refers to “land adjoining Glynllifon College”. To complicate matters there is no map available from the Land Registry.
But Cyngor Gwynedd assures me that Title No CYM127981 covers Plas Glynllifon.
Since the purchase of the mansion just over two years ago, Plas Glynllifon Ltd has taken out no less than six mortgages or loans with our old friends, the pay day lenders of the commercial property market, Together Commercial Finance Ltd. So maybe it’s time to take a closer look at this company.
Together Commercial Finance Ltd was until very recently known as the Lancashire Mortgage Corporation, part of Jerrold Holdings Ltd controlled by Henry Moser. Censured by the City watchdog in 2012 and with a host of complaints against it from customers – even a petition! – this group is the lender of last resort for those who cannot borrow from banks and more reputable lenders. Designed for people like Paul and Rowena Williams.
When I’ve got a few days to spare I might try to work out how much Paul and Rowena Williams owe to Together Commercial Finance Ltd. (I hope my calculator’s up to it!)
MEANWHILE, BACK IN POWYS
Despite the sunny weather enjoyed by all at Glynllifon clouds appeared on Rowena Williams’ Facebook page with voices from the recent past, reminders of the businesses they used to – perhaps still – own on both sides of the central border.
Oh! what a tangled web we weave . . .
Be that as it may, in the official, Williams, version, the properties owned by Leisure and Development Ltd have all passed to Keith Harvey Partridge and Sukhbinder Singh Heer. Now Partridge we know is a convicted thief who had to downsize following his spell in prison. But what of Heer?
At one time he seems to have been a high flier, a managing partner at accountancy firm RSM Robson Rhodes, but he left under a cloud in May 2006 and the once ambitious company he’d led was taken over by Grant Thornton in 2007. The Financial Times referred to Heer’s “sudden resignation”. (This may be the link, but there’s a paywall.)
So how has Heer kept lupus lupus from his portal since bankrupting RSM Robson Rhodes?
In 2011 he joined a firm based in Assembly Square, Cardiff. And although this report from WalesOnline mentions Heer’s association with RSM Robson Rhodes it neglects to tell us the circumstances of his departure. Which is no less than I would expect from a ‘news source’ that does little more than repeat press releases.
Later, with Sukhpal Kaur Heer, perhaps his wife, he formed SSH Associates Ltd. This company entered the ring 5 July 2013 and went down without landing a blow on 26 April 2016. Sukhpal Kaur Heer was involved with another firm that seemed to take a dive, H & H Ventures Ltd.
Another company of Sukhbinder Singh Heer’s that formed and dissolved without apparently doing any business was Premium Hotels Ltd; Incorporated 28 June 2013 and ‘dissolved via voluntary strike-off’ 31 May 2016. The other director of this spectacularly inert enterprise was Keith Harvey Partridge.
If nothing else, this tells us that Partridge and Heer have known each other since at least 2013. But when did Partridge drift into the joint consciousness of Paul and Rowena Williams?
If we are to believe Rowena Williams she met Partridge just once . . . perhaps when he skidded to a halt outside the Radnorshire Arms in answer to their ‘Property Empire for Sale!’ advert in Exchange and Mart.
But as I mentioned in the previous post, Partridge stayed a number of times at the Radnorshire Arms, and female staff there found him “unpleasant”. I have since learnt that he also stayed at Mortimers Cross Inn, Leominster, after Paul and Rowena Williams bought the place in October 2001. So Rowena Williams either suffers from amnesia or she’s a liar.
(I bet it took you a long time to work out which!)
On other fronts, local politicians have been involved. The Tory MP for Brecon and Radnor, Chris Davies, responded thus: “I have received a number of emails from constituents who are concerned about this and have asked me to find out more. To begin with I have written to the owners requesting an urgent meeting at both of the sites to be able to discuss what their plans are and to gain further information. Furthermore, I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance in the Welsh Government to request further information and I have submitted a Freedom of Information request to gain this information as well.”
The obvious question is – ‘Who does Chris Davies think owns the Radnorshire Arms?’ If he thinks it’s Team Williams then they’ll say, ‘We’ve sold it – nothing to do with us, guv.’ And if he’s written to Partridge then I suspect he’s got a long wait.
Local Lib Dem AM Kirsty Williams, answered with, “Obviously these allegations are hugely concerning. I just wanted to let you know that I have raised them with the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates AM, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM and the BCU Commander for Powys, Superintendent Jon Cummins.”
So there you are – Ken ‘Flint Ring’ Skates and Lord ‘Principality’ Thomas are on the case! What could possibly go wrong?
Stop laughing! It’s not nice to laugh.
We’ve assembled quite a cast here.
First, we have Paul and Rowena Williams, who buy properties, then sell them to themselves at greatly inflated prices. Which apparently is just fine, nothing wrong in this at all.
The funding for these purchases comes from a finance company with an appalling reputation and track record.
The Williams properties outside of north Gwynedd appear to have been sold to a company run by a convicted thief and con man and a man who single-handedly destroyed a thriving and ambitious accountancy firm before setting up what suspicious souls might view as shell companies.
These businessmen then leave the properties they ‘own’ – often listed buildings – empty and decaying. But not to worry, because word is that all the valuables have been removed.
Meanwhile, and having, allegedly, divested themselves of everything outside of the Caernarfon area Paul and Rowena Williams focus their attentions on the Glynllifon estate, now estimated to be a £20 million project. I shall repeat that for the hard of reading – the estimate for the Glynllifon project is twenty million pounds.
This estimate, remember, comes from people who are up to their eyes in debt, and they’re not in debt to your friendly High Street bank!
Talking of debt, why do all roads lead to Manchester, and the city’s property/financial sector? What are the connections?
Is Lambert Smith Hampton still involved with Plas Glynllifon or is Dudley Cross freelancing? Cross ceased to be a director of Leisure and Development Ltd on 1 February following the ‘takeover’ by Partridge and Heer, so if he is involved with Glynllifon shouldn’t he now be a director of Plas Glynllifon Ltd?
The pictures I’ve seen from the Open Days, pictures of four-poster beds, tasteless statues and Louis XIV pool tables, may have drawn ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the carefully primed crowd, but it could all be packed onto the backs of a few lorries one dark night. How much has been spent on Plas Glynllifon that cannot be removed?
A point may soon be reached when Paul and Rowena Williams go to Cyngor Gwynedd, the ‘Welsh’ Government, maybe a few other bodies, saying, ‘We’ve run out of money, you can’t leave this wonderful old building half finished now can you – so slip us a few mill’. If there’s resistance, then public opinion will be mobilised and pressure applied.
Given the disappointments of the past two decades, first with Glynllifon Ltd from 2001 to 2013, then the Wynnborn nonsense in 2015, they may be hoping there’s a desire in official quarters to just get the bloody place finished, and so money will be handed over.
I repeat my advice to Cyngor Gwynedd and the ‘Welsh’ Government: You are dealing with unscrupulous people – just check their records – so make it clear to them NOW that there will be no public funding to complete Plas Glynllifon.
Unless of course, such promises have already been made. In which case, we should indeed weep for Wales.
I am indebted to an anonymous source for the basis of the tale you’re about to read. I’ve contributed some supplementary digging and a number of interpretations. The original information I received was also sent to a couple of police forces, a number of media outlets, and other agencies, but I doubt if any will act on the information, so it’s up to Jac to extend his scrawny old neck, again.
Let the story begin in the pleasant little border town of Presteigne. To be even more specific, in the Radnorshire Arms Hotel, a half-timbered building dating back to the late 16th century.
As told to me . . . this establishment was bought in 2006, or thereabouts, by a Paul Steven Williams for a price close to £400,000. It was then leased to a succession of tenants at an unreasonably high rent, with the predictable result that none of the tenants was able to make a go of it.
The last of these unfortunates seems to have been Gianni Roberto d’Aniello of Cora Berry Hotels Ltd. A company registered in January 2014 at the Radnorshire Arms, and put into the hands of Cardiff liquidators in November of that same year.
But then! when all seemed lost, this by now neglected building was sold in August 2015 for the princely (and surprising) sum of £3,487,049 to Leisure and Development Ltd, a company with an address in nearby Knighton. A company Incorporated only a few months earlier on 19 January 2015.
The founding directors of Leisure and Development Ltd were Paul Steven Williams and his wife Rowena Claire Williams. The charge referring to a loan from NatWest Bank suggests that the Radnorshire Arms had been transferred to Mrs Williams prior to the sale to Leisure and Development Ltd (see panel below).
UPDATE 21:52: It may be worth spelling out that the Radnorshire Arms Hotel was sold by Rowena Claire Williams to Leisure and Development Ltd (Directors: Paul Steven Williams and Rowena Claire Williams) for at least twice what the property was worth. This is very odd; I mean, how can you ‘sell’ something to yourself?
Something else that struck me about Leisure and Development Ltd was the number of changes of address it saw in such a short time. Incorporated January 2015 with an address at the Knighton Hotel, Broad Street, Knighton; then in February 2016 to just over the border in Craven Arms; in February 2017 the company re-crossed the border from Craven Arms to Plas Glynllifon, Caernarfon; and finally, in April 2018, it moved back to Craven Arms.
There’ll be more on Plas Glynllifon and other properties in north Gwynedd later. They can’t be ignored because Plas Glynllifon Ltd now owns all the shares in Leisure and Development Ltd, and I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you who the directors are of Plas Glynllifon Ltd. Though they have ceased to be directors of Leisure and Development Ltd.
But the Williamses still own Leisure and Development Ltd through their ownership of Plas Glynllifon Ltd. It’s one way of operating – set up a company, then set up another company, resign from the first company but retain ownership through the second, then set up a third company, resign from the second, and so ad infinitum.
The person now nominally in charge of the Leisure and Development Ltd portfolio, named on the Companies House website as “person with significant control” from 30 April 2018, is Keith Harvey Partdridge. An interesting character, Partdridge, of whom more in a short while.
Though I suspect that spelling may be a recent affectation, if not a mis-spelling, because he has previously been known by the more usual spelling of Partridge. As in Museums (Norfolk) Ltd and Health Choice Hotels Ltd, both of which appear to be dormant.
Another example of Partridge’s business acumen, or perhaps his probity, may be found with Turnholly Ltd, owing some two hundred thousand pounds to various creditors.
SO WHO’S WHO AND HOW ARE THEY CONNECTED?
Well, we’ve met Paul Steven Williams and his wife Rowena Claire Williams, and I’ve also introduced their business partner Keith Harvey Partridge. And as I suggested, Partridge has a colourful past.
From 1992 to 1997 he owned the Midlands Motor Museum in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. But towards the end of 1999 he was jailed for stealing a Bentley Azure worth over a quarter of a million pounds. In March 2008 his home was up for sale with an asking price of £2,000,000.
But the Williamses are no paragons of good business practice either. Despite being repeatedly warned they carried on advertising the Radnorshire Arms as having AA and Visit Wales ratings, until they were eventually fined £1,250 with £4,250 costs.
(Incidentally, let me make it clear that despite the name the Williamses are not Welsh. They describe themselves as ‘English’ (not British) on documents submitted to Companies House, and I’m told that Paul Williams is a particularly unsavoury Kipper.)
In terms of companies, so far we’ve encountered Leisure and Development Ltd and Plas Glynllifon Ltd, plus some of Partridge’s solo ventures. Now it’s time to list a few others, without I hope causing too much confusion.
Paul and Rowena Williams were directors of Rural Retreats and Leisure UK Ltd, also listed among the directors was their company Leisure and Development Ltd (which bought the Radnorshire Arms Hotel). Rural Retreats and Leisure UK Ltd is now run by their associate Michael Adrian Jones, with his address given as Polvellan House in Cornwall.
On April 1 Jones – who owns all the shares since they were transferred to him from Leisure and Development Ltd – made an application for Rural Retreats and Leisure UK Ltd to be voluntarily struck off, but someone objected and the strike-off has been suspended.
I understand that Rowena Williams was outraged on finding that some scallywag had pinned the notification to the front door of the Radnorshire Arms.
A similarly named company is Rural Retreats and Development Ltd, of which Paul and Rowena Williams are both still directors. Former directors were Debra Yvonne Oswald, Paul Williams’ sister, and Polvellan Manor Ltd. There are a number of Charges against this company for loans and mortgages, including one against the Fronoleu Country Hotel at Tabor, just outside Dolgellau.
The mortgages, or more likely second mortgages, are with Together Commercial Finance Ltd, which seems to offer the commercial equivalent of pay day loans to those who find it difficult to raise money anywhere else.
After pissing people off in Caernarfon and beyond with his insulting ‘Wynnborn’ nonsense Woodhouse seems to have sold out to the Williamses and turned his gaze south. After linking up with Bore Grylls and then – to give the project some credibility – Peter Moore, former MD of Center Parcs, he unveiled the Afan Valley Adventure Resort.
Quite an ambitious undertaking for a man who was then six million quid in debt, but the ‘Welsh’ Government gave the trio everything they wanted – land, planning permission, infrastructure, money, you name it.
It’s impossible to know what the future holds for the four properties around Caernarfon, we can only be guided by the record of those who now own these fine old buildings. And that record is not encouraging.
A FEW WORRYING FACTS
Since April 16 the Radnorshire Arms in Presteigne has been closed. On Monday 16 April staff were told by Paul Williams that Leisure and Development Ltd – comprising seven pubs, hotels, restaurants – had been sold to Coast 2 Coast and was being ‘re-branded’.
In other words, convicted thief Keith Harvey Partridge had somehow managed to raise“more than £10 million pounds” Williams claimed the deal was worth. Partridge whose companies are either in debt or mere shells.
On Sunday April 22 Partridge appeared in person at the Radnorshire Arms to tell staff that all the company’s establishments would be closed for 6 – 8 weeks for refurbishment. Staff were being laid off but could reapply for their jobs later. Over 70 staff were affected at the various locations.
Nothing has since been done to the Radnorshire Arms, and no planning application has been submitted. The building has instead been gutted and left to decay. There are broken windows and slates have fallen into the street. This, remember, is a 16th century, Grade II listed building.
In saying that the Radnorshire Arms has been “gutted”, what I mean is that it has been stripped of everything that can be sold off. The panel below is taken from the latest accounts for Leisure & Development Ltd submitted to Companies House at the end of April. Or rather, the unaudited financial statement.
You’ll see that between 1 February 2017 and 31 January 2018 almost seven million pounds worth of plant and machinery plus fixtures and fittings somehow slipped off the balance sheet. Leaving the companies assets confined to freehold property, in other words, mere structures, decaying structures, all of them mortgaged and re-mortgaged, and perhaps overvalued.
Earlier I mentioned Polvellan Manor in West Looe, Cornwall, now owned by Polvellan Manor Ltd. On April 1 Paul and Rowena Williams transferred the 5000 shares they each owned to Keith Partdridge. They ceased to be directors on the same day, leaving Partdridge in sole control.
Paul Holden, chair of the Cornish Buildings Group, told the CL reporter, “We have applied unsuccessfully to get the building listed, the rejection notice said that much of the historic interior had been lost.” I wonder where the interior could have gone? Did it just walk out the door?
The Fronoleu Country Hotel, just outside Dolgellau, is now closed, just like Polvellan Manor and the Radnorshire Arms. So is the Beaufort Sports and Social Club in Ebbw Vale. I guarantee that most if not all of the properties owned by this gang are closed. What sort of business can this be?
And here’s a thought . . . has anyone from Cyngor Gwynedd or the ‘Welsh’ Government been inside Plas Glynllifon lately?
Another thought; by stripping and neglecting these buildings the gang is almost certainly breaking the conditions of the loans and mortgages, the conditions that insist these buildings be properly maintained and looked after. Intact.
And what do the insurers think of this behaviour?
UPDATE 14.06.2018: Here are the letters received by the staff at the Radnorshire Arms Hotel and the other establishments owned by Rural Retreats and Leisure Ltd. The first from Rowena Williams of RRL and the second from Keith Partridge of Coast 2 Coast. (Here in pdf format.)
According to these letters the deal was done 1 February, so why did it take eight weeks to inform the staff?
Note how optimistic Rowena Williams sounds, “At the moment we do not have any more information that (sic) what we have shared with you except that they (Coast 2 Coast) want to move quickly in order to be open for the summer period”.
But the Williamses have been dealing with Partridge for years, and they knew exactly what the plan was.
And as for the “summer period”, well, it’s mid June, Whitsun has come and gone, and in the northern hemisphere it is now definitely summer . . . but the Radnorshire Arms Hotel and the other establishments remain firmly closed, with no sign of them opening any time soon.
How could anyone ever trust these people?
COUNT THE SPOONS!
You’ll have noticed that Paul and Rowena Williams and their sidekick Partridge buy property almost indiscriminately, and then they just strip them to the bare bones and let the buildings deteriorate.
This is because they have no interest in actually running hotels. The racket is to buy a property, with a loan or a mortgage; announce a big investment, lots of jobs; then strip the building of anything valuable; sell it on within the gang at an inflated price (or simply transfer it); dissolve indebted companies; pull down whatever grants are available, use these grants and new loans to service old loans; while paying yourself handsomely behind this fog of deceit.
With all the debts accrued, this is a house of cards. Collapse must surely be imminent.
Consequently, to have any dealings with these people would be foolish. To give them money would be insane. And yet, this is what I’m told has happened, and probably explains why they’ve moved their operations to Wales. For it’s claimed the gang has already received hundreds of thousands of pounds from the ‘Welsh’ Government, with more in the pipeline.
I have submitted a Freedom of Information request to Visit Wales, but I have already been told that the Radnorshire Arms received a grant of £370,000, plus a smaller grant; while the Knighton Hotel (formerly Norton Hotel) received an even larger grant.
God knows how much they’re getting, or anticipate getting, from their foray into Gwynedd.
In case anyone is in doubt, let me make it absolutely clear: These people are liars, chisellers, scammers, asset-strippers, con men, crooks; so cut off all public funding immediately and demand repayment of what they have already received; insist on a thorough inspection of the buildings they ‘own’; and then refer them to the police.
Weep for Wales that we keep attracting people like these, scavengers drawn to a fallen beast. A once noble beast brought down by a colonial system that will always favour strangers, and exploitation; a system that will never encourage native initiative lest it gives us ideas about our place in the great scheme of things.
This system, and those who promote and operate it, must be swept away. Do that and I won’t have to write about Paul and Rowena Williams, Keith Partridge, Bore Grylls, Gavin Woodhouse and the occupying army of which they are just a small detachment.
Back in April I wrote English Tourism in the Colony of Wales, which focused on Gavin Lee Woodhouse and ‘Bear’ Grylls, and their plans for the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. I wondered in that post why the ‘Welsh’ Government – even given its record of doing business with numerous crooks – was involved with an obvious spiv like Woodhouse.
Why is the ‘Welsh’ Government prepared to hand over a valuable piece of land in the Afan Valley to a man with a net worth of minus six million pounds? A man who starts and dissolves companies more often than some people change their socks. Over a hundred to date. And yet he seems to have been a late starter; for he’s 39 now but according to Company Check he didn’t start his first company until he was 34. What else do we know about him?
A company closely associated with Woodhouse is Properties of the World, run by Jean Ann Liggett, this company helps “property buyers make informed decisions on select UK properties, ensuring their purchases tick all the boxes”, as Liggett’s Linkedin profile tells us.
Ms Liggett is an American, whose family was involved in property back in Ohio. She herself has sold property in North Africa, and has worked for some interesting companies; among them Sunsplash Homes, which lasted for less than three years but “sold properties all over the world”.
Though the Linkedin profile tells us that since January 1985 she has also worked as a media planner for Ogilvy and Mather, a major US advertising agency, founded by Englishman David Mackenzie Ogilvy, regarded as the Father of Advertising. I say ‘English’, but Ogilvy and Mackenzie are of course Highland names, and that’s where his father came from.
During WWII Ogilvy worked for British Intelligence, hardly surprising because there’s no real difference between propaganda and advertising, both want you to buy their ‘product’. Which explains why, in the Britishness offensive we’re currently enduring, so many businesses – perhaps advised by companies like Ogilvy – cover their products in union jacks and other BritNat symbols.
In addition to helping Woodhouse make “informed decisions on select UK properties”, such as Plas Glynllifon, Liggett went into business with him, briefly. The company was MBI London NW8 Ltd, another of Woodhouse’s short-lived enterprises, lasting barely a year and doing nothing, or so it would appear.
But it’s Liggett’s other companies I want to concentrate on, because these throw up an interesting name. Let’s look first at Sunsplash Homes, the company selling property all over the world. If we look at the founding directors we see three names, among them, Barbara Z Kahan. Turning to Properties of the World, the only director other than Liggett was Barbara Kahan.
Kahan ‘lends’ her name to help form companies (and resigns the same day the company is Incorporated). Allegations have been made, in the Times and elsewhere, that she helps those who might have difficulty setting up a UK company – though God knows it’s easy enough! – form companies for nefarious purposes. In a nutshell, money laundering.
My source suggests that the answer to why the ‘Welsh’ Government is involved with a chancer like Woodhouse at the Afan Valley Adventure Resort may lie with his partner, Grylls, who contributes the Bear Grylls Survival Academy to the package. He already has one such establishment on Llŷn.
Grylls is a regular presence on the television screens of those who like to watch overpaid and well-connected self-publicists. Fortunately, I don’t watch any programmes on which he is likely to appear. But his background is interesting.
On his mother’s side, his roots are in Donaghadee in County Down, Northern Ireland, where he spent his early years. His maternal grandmother and maternal great-grandfather were both Ulster Unionist MPs. His father, Sir William Michael John Grylls MP, was caught up in the same cash-for-questions affair that netted our very own Neil Hamilton AM. (Christine Hamilton was Grylls’ secretary.)
Grylls Senior was very well connected, his father had been a brigadier in 15th/19th the King’s Royal Hussars, he himself served in the Royal Marines and belonged to the exclusive Royal Yacht Squadron. His son, Edward Michael ‘Bear’ Grylls, went to prep school and Eton, did a few years in the SAS, is now Chief Scout, a lieutenant commander in the Royal Naval Reserve, and holds the same honorary rank in the Royal Marines Reserve.
There can’t be many outside of the Sachsen-Coburg und Gothas who better represents the establishment and the Union. It can only be a matter of time before ‘Bear’ Grylls is knighted, ennobled, and finally made a saint. There’s no question that Grylls, with his ‘pull’, can get anything he wants out of the ‘Welsh’ Government.
AN INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
It could be that Woodhouse has now served his purpose, or may have bitten off more than he can chew, for he appears to have been promoted sideways in favour of Peter Moore, former MD of Center Parcs. Moore coming on board suggests that Caerau Parc, the name that now seems to have been adopted for the venture, is a nod to his former employer rather than a show of respect for the Welsh language.
But whoever’s running the show, and whatever it’s called, this project will attract those looking to avoid taxes and other irritations by investing in UK property. These needn’t be tyrants from the -stans and their families, or Russian oligarchs, just well-to-do people, of the kind Liggett and Grylls have mixed with all their lives, seeking a little nest egg, as the Properties of the World website makes clear.
In addition, the Elite Investor Club website reminds potential investors that the lodges at Caerau Parc are free from stamp duty, and, “If you have a buy-to-let property that you are worried about after all the recent tax changes you may be able to part exchange it against a lodge at Afan Valley”. So it’s also seeking to attract the buy-to-let types?
Though I’m not sure if those involved in this scam scheme realise that in April 2018 stamp duty will be replaced in Wales by the Land Transaction Tax, to be administered by the ‘Welsh’ Government. But then, they’ve probably had assurances from Cardiff Bay that nothing will change . . . it never does.
Because the term ‘holiday homes’ carries a lot of baggage in Wales this project had to be dressed up as something more than property investment, which is where ‘Bear’ Grylls comes into the picture.
We know that the London property market launders many billions of pounds, it’s only natural that those seeking a UK property investment, but who can’t afford London prices, will look elsewhere. With Ms Liggett’s contacts I’m sure we’ll see some interesting buyers turn up for the lodges at Caerau Parc.
In fact, the whole Caerau Parc project of 900 lodges could be a money-laundering operation in itself.
THE BIG LIE
Wales is under attack today as never before. Our country is slowly being dismembered and we Welsh replaced as its inhabitants. One of the principle engines of our destruction is tourism. Yet we are asked to welcome an ‘industry’ that ignores our identity, treats our homeland as a playground, and marginalises us by encouraging colonisation.
Caerau Parc is typical of ‘Welsh’ tourism. The land on which it stands is owned by the UK state and managed by its Cardiff branch office. Those seeking to make money from this venture – Woodhouse, Grylls, Moore – are all English, or in the case of Liggett, American. Those who’ll buy the lodge-investments will almost certainly come from outside of Wales. The top jobs, the permanent jobs, have already been allocated to English ex-military types and the well connected.
So what will be left for us Welsh at Caerau Parc? Well, as usual, we’ll get the shitty jobs, the low paid jobs, the seasonal jobs; for this is how tourism in Wales operates. Wales in 2017 is treated little different to Africa or India a century ago. It seems that Wales exists for no other reason than to enrich our English masters.
Yet those apologists for colonialism in the so-called ‘Welsh Government’, jumped-up little shites like Ken Skates, tell us we should be ever so grateful for this! We should be thankful that rapacious bastards like Woodhouse and Grylls have come to gorge themselves on the carcass of Wales.
But then, we are lied to at every level, whether it’s the Westminster government, BBC Wales, Llais y Sais, or Carwyn Jones and his band of the hopeless. Welsh public life is thoroughly corrupt. The problems facing us are so entrenched, in both our national life and our collective psyche, that nothing will change by a different party running the Notional Assembly.
The current system is beyond tinkering with, it must be swept away entirely and a new Wales created in its place. Let’s start that revolution by rejecting Caerau Parc and all other forms of colonialist tourism. Let’s make it clear that we shall no longer accept it, nor shall we celebrate our subjection.
Woodhouse’s Northern Powerhouse website tells us, “Proposals will be available to view from 20th – 28th July at Cymmer Afan Community Library, Station Road, Cymmer, Port Talbot, NPT, SA13 3HR during normal opening hours”.
Why not pop along and tell them what you think of this project. There’s no need to be rude; ‘Fuck off, you exploitive, colonialist bastards!’ should suffice.
Bear Grylls: ‘It’s not for me, you understand . . . ‘
I’ve written about Bear Grylls, the television personality, survival expert and tourism operator a couple of times recently. Now I find myself writing about him again.
My first mention of Grylls was an almost light-hearted look at his ‘survival camp’ on Llŷn, done only because I’d picked up a leaflet for this nonsense on a visit to Porthmadog. So demanding and dangerous is this camp that it caters for drunks on stag and hen parties. (Scroll down in this post.)
I next wrote about him was in more serious vein, after learning of his involvement with wide boy Gavin Lee Woodhouse – of ‘Wynnborn’ fame – and their joint attempt to take over another piece of Wales and re-name it the Afan Valley Adventure Resort. Read English Tourism in the Colony of Wales.
I have been in contact recently with a Gwynedd councillor who had more to tell me about Bear Grylls, and although this tale takes us back to July 2014 I think it deserves an airing, so I’m reproducing in full an e-mail exchange that took place between Bear Grylls and Councillor Craig ab Iago. (You can either click on the image on the right to enlarge it, or read it in pdf format by clicking here.)
At the time of this exchange Grylls was applying for planning permission to build a new stone jetty on St Tudwal’s Island (which he owns) off the coast of Llŷn. As a follow-up to the official planning application he wrote to all members of the planning committee.
I’m unsure about the propriety, or the legality, of seeking to influence elected representatives in this way. Maybe an Old Etonian who is now a ‘celeb’ regularly uses back channels in order to get what he wants. Of course, what works in London doesn’t always translate to Gwynedd.
First off, let’s remember that this is a planning application by a businessman to make one of his assets more profitable. That’s all there is to it, really, it’s about Bear Grylls seeking to make more money.
But he can’t say that, so he has to try a different tack; he starts off by mentioning his “young family”, which might influence an application to build an extra bedroom but is totally irrelevant in this context.
Then he presents himself as the benefactor to the local community “in and around Abersoch” (i.e. the Cheshire set), and the partner of Trinity House, which maintains St Tudwal’s Island lighthouse.
At which point you might, like me, be wondering: if Trinity House needs a new jetty why couldn’t they apply for it themselves? Come to that, does a body like Trinity House even need to apply for planning permission?
This appeal by Bear Grylls is nothing but simpering, self-serving bollocks; just a cut above, ‘think of all the drowning kiddies, sob! sob!’ I don’t want to dwell on this stomach-churning bullshit any longer.
Thankfully, Craig ab Iago was able to answer Grylls, and he did so with dignity and passion. It is a response worth reading for its honesty, and how it contrasts to Grylls’ artifice and dissimulation. I urge you to read Craig’s cri de coeur and ensure that it has the widest possible audience.
Tourism and the colonisation it encourages is the surest way of destroying our rural way of life. That’s why Wales is being offered little other than tourism.
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Redrow Homes, Goetre Uchaf
One of Wales’ great success stories, so the media would have us believe, is Redrow Homes. A company formed by Steve Morgan, with headquarters in Ewloe, Flintshire, and quoted on the FTSE 250. The truth is that Redrow being in Wales is just an accident of geography, there is no commitment to Wales or things Welsh whatsoever.
Proven by the twee names Redrow gives to its developments and the names of its house types – The Ludlow, The Warwick, The Cambridge, The Windsor, The Shaftesbury, etc. But occasionally Redrow gives the appearance of recognising it’s in Wales by using a Welsh name for one of its developments. An example would be Goetre Uchaf in Bangor.
Unfortunately, the ‘commitment’ is just skin deep. Because of course, like so many companies operating in the building trade and property development – and especially in the north – Redrow targets English buyers. So it is with Goetre Uchaf, as this advertisement proves with, ‘Move to North Wales with Redrow Homes’.
If you want further proof, then listen to the start of this video and hear the mangling of Goetre Uchaf. And if these houses are not needed in Bangor – and seeking buyers over the border suggests they’re not – then why was planning permission granted?
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I am indebted to another source for making me realise that, with two elections coming up, ‘Welsh’ Labour will again target the Polish vote in Llanelli (and perhaps elsewhere). For Labour has worked assiduously over the years to exploit forge links with the Polish community in the town.
The starting point would appear to be 2004 when, according to this WalesOnline article from May 2014, a desperate Pole went into the office of the SaveEasy Credit Union in downtown Llanelli, where manager Jeff Hopkins was eventually able to find a Polish speaker to help him.
From this encounter grew the Welsh Polish Mutual Association which opened in 2006 to help Polish migrants arriving in the town. The chairman of the Association is the aforementioned Jeff Hopkins. In an earlier incarnation he had been the agent for Denzil Davies, the town’s Labour MP from 1970 until 2005.
A SaveEasy Credit Union employee involved with the new Association was Halina Ashley, Polish herself. It should go without saying that Mrs Ashley is also a member of the Labour Party. I suppose it’s reasonable to assume that Mrs Ashley was the Polish speaker Jeff Hopkins was able to find on that Sunday morning back in 2004.
The official opening took place in September 2006, conducted by Edwina Hart. From its outset the Association was funded by the ‘Welsh’ Government, partly through the ill-starred Communities First programme, which was finally put out of its misery in February.
Though the Polish-Welsh Association was not registered as a company until 27 February 2013. On the Companies House website you’ll see that the only director other than Hopkins is Janice Williams, a Labour county councillor. Williams has also been a director of the local Citizens Advice Bureau, that body taken over by the Labour Party years ago.
To this day, I understand, the ‘Welsh’ Government funds the Welsh Polish Mutual Association centre in Llanelli, and pays for the ‘Welcome’ packs for arriving Poles, with the SaveEasy Credit Union paying the overheads for the building.
Though I must confess to being appalled to read my source suggesting, “It would not be a surprise to discover that the packs contain postal voting forms . . . I am led to believe that Llanelli Labour have form regarding this”.
I had just put away the smelling salts after reading that when I found myself scrabbling for them again on reading that Hopkins and Ashley have access to confidential data that could be of great use to the Labour Party in targeting the Polish vote.
As I said to myself, ‘But they would never do anything like that, because to do so would contravene the Data Protection Act 1998.’ That said, there is some evidence . . .
The leaflet below, for example, from last year’s Assembly election, is obviously for the benefit of Polish voters; and seeing Mrs Halina Ashley, a woman they know, in the company of the Labour candidate, clearly carries the message, ‘Vote Labour!’.
The Polish vote in Llanelli may not be as large as in some English towns, but it still makes up five or six per cent in the wards where Poles tend to congregate. The percentage is higher in the Tŷ Isha ward where not so long ago the Safer Community Action Group was set up to counter the allegedly anti-social behaviour of gangs of drunken young Polish males.
The group was supported by thirsty Labour councillor and recipient of someone else’s liver, Keri Thomas, on the grounds that the Polish influx “put a burden on services, on the GPs and the hospitals and the schools”. (You couldn’t make this up, could you?) Like most Labour politicians, Thomas is talking rubbish.
The Polish migrants are overwhelmingly healthy young men, consequently they are unlikely to be a burden on the health service. If Keri Thomas and others are so concerned about people moving to Wales and putting a strain on our services why do they say nothing about retirees, or the substance-abusing riff-raff and others with ‘issues’ who get priority treatment from housing associations and other agencies?
Knowing ‘Welsh’ Labour as we do, and with the evidence from last year’s election to guide us, it is entirely reasonable to assume that ‘inside information’, unavailable to other parties, is being used to target the Polish vote in Llanelli for both the council elections and the UK general election
Footnote: Councillor Janice Williams is standing down next month in the Lliedi ward, where one of the Tory candidates is a Stefan Ryszewski. Woe! Woe! Even the Fates mock Labour!
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Pond Life in Ebbw Vale
A Gwent source tells me of an interesting sale taking place at 5pm today, in the Park Inn Hotel at Llanedeyrn in Cardiff. (If you hurry, you might still make it!) His interest was aroused by one particular lot of three former feeder ponds for the local steelworks and the land around them.
The catalogue makes interesting reading, for it contains all manner of properties but a majority seem to be small terraced houses of the kind that often make the news when a London ‘paper reports, ‘Englishman buys whole Welsh street for £37.50, ha! ha!’
Which says something about many things, such as the ‘Welsh’ Government’s neglect of the Valleys, and our relationship with England. Consider also that many of these humble dwellings being auctioned are repossessions, each one representing someone’s dashed hope of owning a home. But the Daily Mail don’t give a fuck about that.
In March 2009 the Newport-based South Wales Argus reported that the ‘Welsh’ Government had given £150,000 to transform the site in question, the Argus even saying that work had started. Yet to look at the site now it appears that little if anything was ever done.
So the questions are:
What happened to the £150,000?
Why wasn’t the area improved as promised?
What’s been happening for the past 8 years?
Who owns this land today?
Why is it being sold?
Maybe the ‘Welsh’ Government is hoping that Bear Grylls and ‘Wynnborn’ Woodhouse come galloping over the Beacons, bugles blowing and flags fluttering, to unveil their plan for the Waun-y-Pound Aquatic Adventure Resort, replete with crocodiles and piranhas – let the good times roll!
THIS PIECE BEGAN LIFE AS JUST ANOTHER ITEM IN ONE OF MY REGULAR NEWS ROUND-UPS, BUT AS IT GOT MORE INTERESTING I THOUGHT IT MERITED A POST TO ITSELF. SO HERE IT IS
About a week or so ago WalesOnline, one of Trinity Mirror’s Labour Party mouthpieces, told us of an exciting new development in Cwm Afan, behind Port Talbot. The article generated some interesting comments, here are a couple, but I urge you to read them all.
As the comments tell us, this development is fronted by television ‘personality’ Edward Michael Bear Grylls, though it seems to be the brainchild of a Gavin Lee Woodhouse of Yorkshire, through his Northern Powerhouse Developments. There are a number of companies – all new – sharing that name.
In addition to being new companies these five also share a single director – Woodhouse – have just a few quid in share capital and are yet to submit any accounts or returns.
Alternatively, another company that might fit the bill for Cwm Afan is Active Resorts UK Ltd, which, again, was set up last year. Or perhaps Afan Valley Ltd (formerly Caerau Parc Ltd). In fact, Gavin Lee Woodhouse has been involved in a surprising number of companies for a man of 39 years. As many as 78, many of which seem to change their name soon after starting up, often the address as well.
And yet, I cannot find him shown as a director of any company before the latter part of 2014, so what was he doing up until then, and why so many companies since? If we go back to his Linkedin profile it doesn’t really help. For it tells us that he founded the MBi Group of Companies in November 2011 with nothing before that except, under ‘Education’, “Norwich City, Law 1995 – 1997”. Which means what – did he do night classes while playing for Norwich City Football Club?
The Company Check website (below) confirms a sudden irruption into the world of business some three-and-a-half years ago but does nothing to explain what he was up to between 1997 and 2013. Also note that according to this source Woodhouse is a director of 58 extant companies, and has been involved with 45 dissolved companies. All in the space of less than four years!
Just one more company might be worth mentioning. Again, this is a company set up very recently, on 10 November 2016, and once again Gavin Lee Woodhouse is the sole director. Though what the purpose of Woodhouse Family Overseas Ltd is I do not know, but the name does make one think.
At this point you’re probably shouting, ‘No more bloody companies!’, so let’s continue in my coruscating – yet informative! – narrative style.
Looking at those companies in the north you might think – as I did – that Newborough Hall is somewhere near the village of that name on Ynys Môn, but no, Newborough Hall was a name used to market Plas Glynllifon, near Caernarfon. A short time later, in what became something of a minor cause célèbre, the former mansion of Lord Newborough was marketed as Wynnborn.
The Daily Post article I’ve linked to tells us that late in 2015 Plas Glynllifon was bought from receivers by “MBI Hotels, part of the MBI Consulting group”. MBI Hotels was a relatively new company Incorporated with Companies House on 13 May 2015. The two founding directors were Robin Scott Forster and Gavin Lee Woodhouse.
Following the furore over ‘Wynnborn’, Forster and Woodhouse resigned as directors on 11 November 2015 and were replaced by what a cynic might regard as stooges. To further cover their tracks the company name was changed on 1 February 2016 to Giant Hospitality Ltd, under which name you can find the information I’ve just given. Woodhouse re-instated himself as a director of Giant Hospitality Ltd on March 30 2017.
Despite all the ducking and weaving, it appears that MBI’s purchase of Plas Glynllifon fell through, for the Daily Post reported in April 2016 that the pile had now been bought by a “mystery buyer”. The mystery buyer turned out to be a couple named Paul and Rowena Williams who, despite the name, are not Welsh.
The couple have promised to keep the name Plas Glynllifon and that seems to have satisfied Plaid Cymru. For superficial displays of outrage while ignoring the underlying colonialism is Plaid Cymru’s trademark.
Putting it all together there seems to be no Welsh involvement at all . . . oh, wait, I’m forgetting, the Daily Post report told us that Paul and Rowena Williams are “in talks with the Welsh Government about grant support”. So Welsh involvement might be limited to paying for another piece of Wales to pass into English hands!
I suppose the Charges Companies House lists against Plas Glynllifon Ltd could be bridging loans until the ‘Welsh’ Government grants come through.
Let’s get back to Cwm Afan. I don’t know how well Grylls and Woodhouse know each other, where or when they met, but their relationship makes sense for the following reason.
Woodhouse is a property developer in the tourist accommodation sector, who also has stakes in student accommodation and care homes. Which fits, because, fundamentally, this new development is about 900 lodges in the £149,000 to £249,000 price range. Let’s split the difference: 900 x £200,000 = £180,000,000. There’s also a 5 star hotel, spa, and other facilities. We’re talking big bucks here.
To disguise the fact that this is just an upmarket caravan site (which is all that ‘lodges’ are) Bear Grylls is brought on board to give it that, je ne sais quoi, that, ‘outdoory’ appeal. Bingo! now we have the Afan Valley Adventure Resort, pulling in overweight suburbanites then getting them wet and dirty so they can fantasise about doing special forces training. Much as Grylls has done since inflicting himself on Llŷn. (Which I wrote about quite recently, scroll down in this post.)
Wales’ past prosperity may have been built on agriculture, coal, steel and other heavy industry, but the ‘Welsh’ Government now believes that any prosperity we might enjoy in the years ahead depends almost solely on zip wires and the like; the more the merrier, zip wires everywhere. ‘Wales – the country with the zip wire economy!’
As one of the comments to WalesOnline (above) suggest, there is already quite a lot in the Cwm Afan area for the public to enjoy, almost all of it paid for by the public purse. I’ll let Brychan, a regular visitor to this blog, take over:
“There are leisure facilities already present in the valley, most notable a mountain bike centre which has had substantial council investment from the taxpayers of Neath Port Talbot, and of course a building up at Glyncorrwg which has a café, which was funded by Communities First.
The ‘ponds’ at Glyncorrwg are a series of reclaimed colliery reservoirs stocked with fish. The cycle paths, which taxpayers paid millions into, are the ones which run along the trackbed of the old Rhondda to Swansea railway line from Blaengwynfi (Rhondda tunnel) down to Port Talbot, and its spur up to Glyncorrwg.
The forest plantation came into the possession of Natural Resources Wales (Forestry Commission). The old coal tips were reclaimed at public expense, the land having been gifted to the council from the National Coal Board.”
So we see that a large amount of public money was spent healing the scars of previous exploitation . . . only for these public assets to be handed over to twenty-first century exploiters in the forms of Gavin Lee Woodhouse and Edward Michael Bear Grylls. Two men with nothing but contempt for what makes Wales Welsh.
Who are these bloody people that own so much of our country!
We are dealing here with people who see easy money to be made turning Wales into a recreation and retirement destination for England. They don’t even need money, for they can borrow it on the value of the asset being acquired, or get it from suckers investors, while also relying on the ‘Welsh’ Government chipping in with grants and gifts of public assets. It’s a no-lose situation, for them.
There’s nothing surprising about this, it’s how British business operates. The UK state itself is floating on an ocean of debt, disguised by accountancy practises that have got some people banged up. What should disappoint anyone reading this is that the ‘Welsh’ Government is so ready to be part of this. But then, when you’ve got no ideas of your own on how to generate wealth or create employment you’re going to welcome with open arms any shyster who comes along with a ‘project’.
And as I asked earlier, what do we know about Woodhouse’s background? Well, for a start, he seems to have been convicted for driving while disqualified in June 2009. (Ban extended.) I also learnt that, “Prior to founding MBi in 2011 he (Woodhouse) was a director of several other companies”.
The same source tells us that Woodhouse has – according to his lawyer – also suffered the misfortune of holding “short-lived directorships of two businesses that left debts when they were wound up. He was appointed without his knowledge and/or not removed when he should have been”.
The same Bureau of Investigative Journalism report found that MBi’s chief commercial officer was a struck-off solicitor named Alan Cockburn, who “had acted for the buyer, seller and lender in the same transaction and caused the Yorkshire Bank to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
The report also informs us that “Companies House lists Woodhouse as director from late October 2012 until May 2013 of Harjen Limited, which held a sexual entertainment licence for the Leeds strip club, Wildcats, throughout that time. Woodhouse’s lawyer said his client had not been involved with the management of the strip club and that the dates of his directorship listed at Companies House were incorrect. The lawyer said Woodhouse had “immediately resigned” when he found out about the business.”
This is terrible! Some unscrupulous bastards keep making Gavin Lee Woodhouse a director of dodgy companies without his knowledge. Should the ‘Welsh’ Government be doing business with such an unlucky man? Come to that, how did the ‘Welsh’ Government get involved with him in the first place, didn’t they do background checks?
Still, this explains the gaps on his Linkedin profile. Now if I was Bear Grylls I’d use my SAS training to melt into the shadows and then put as much distance as possible between me and Gavin Lee Woodhouse, the Wolf of Wharf Street.
All joking aside, the examples of Plas Glynllifon and Cwm Afan are all too representative of ‘Welsh’ tourism – no Welsh involvement, no Welsh benefits yet, somehow, we end up paying for it! I often think that if Venice was in Wales then the gondoliers and everybody else making the money would be English. That’s because Wales is ruled by England, in the interests of England.
It’s called colonialism; it’s been around since the dawn of time, and although it’s fallen from favour elsewhere in recent decades, here in Wales our elected representatives still prefer supporting colonialism to standing up for Welsh interests.
Unless we start calling time on this variety of tourism we shall increasingly find ourselves strangers in our own country, for the trend is already established along the north coast and elsewhere – where tourism takes hold Welsh people lose out and Welsh identity becomes weakened, trivialised, and eventually destroyed.