West Wales News Review

Economy, environment, sustainability

News: Carmarthenshire School Transport Costs Exceed £11 Million

The bill for transporting children to and from school in Carmarthenshire is set to exceed £11 million in this financial year, over £200,000 more than expected.

The county council’s Executive Board will be told on Monday (November 18th) that the cost is forecast to be £11.195 million, £214,000 above the budgeted amount.

For comparison, this is equivalent to 22.6%, between a fifth and a quarter, of the entire £49.501 million delegated budget for the county’s secondary schools, which is itself £1.4 million above the budgeted amount of £48.101 million.

Primary schools’ delegated costs are expected to come to £57.452 million in 2019-20, and special schools’ to £4.264 million. The total including secondary schools is £111.217 million — so school transport at £11.195 million adds another 10% to this substantial sum.

The county council explains the transport overspend as “mainly due to an increase in the number of Additional Learning Needs pupils transported to Special Schools. In addition a number of recent appeals have been successful, as well as increased contractor costs, diminishing market supply and increased minimum wage.”

The explanation suggests that minimum-wage payments are probably common in the business of school transport, and that although wages may be low, fewer businesses are competing for contracts.

Years of closures of local schools have forced more  children to depend on commercial carriers to get them to school, at significant and rising financial cost to the local authority as well as at time cost to the pupils.

PDR

News: One Planet Smallholding Plan Divides Local Opinion

A One Planet Development application for Penybanc, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, has drawn criticism from some local residents, as well as warm support from several others who back the project for many reasons such as being ‘forward thinking”, “carefully considered” and “in harmony with our environment”.

Looking south-east over part of the application site, backed by mature woodland.

 

Manordeilo and Salem Community Council “strongly objects” to the application by Claire and Matthew Denney-Price of Llangadog, Carmarthenshire. The community council cites 11 reasons including worries about water availability, siting of solar panels, lack of public transport, and over-optimism in the business plan.

These concerns were repeated in other objections. For example, if the family’s four children cycled to school they would have to negotiate single-track lanes without paths, and cross the A40 Llandeilo bypass. The distances are not huge – 1.7 miles to primary school and 2.3 miles to comprehensive school – but there are no cycle paths from Penybanc to Llandeilo, and along the lanes, lacking speed limits, vehicles were observed this week travelling too fast to stop quickly in an emergency. The barriers to eco-friendly travel highlight the difficulties of trying to live an environmentally sound lifestyle safely in a mechanised world where roads – even twisty lanes dating from the before the Industrial Revolution – are regarded as existing principally for motor vehicles.

The family has now been assured that their children will be taken to their schools by bus from Penybanc, and so will not need to cross the A40. This removes one of the objections..

The pony in the background will be one of two working on the land and supplying manure briquettes for heating. 

 

The 8.9-acre application site is at grid reference SN618245, between Cwmwern and Caegroes farms, north of Penybanc hamlet. The land, part pasture and part deciduous woodland, slopes southwards to the Nant Gurrey Fach, which flows into the Tywi north of Llandeilo. The management plan states that rain will be a main water source, there will be a composting toilet, two ponies will be used for work around the holding to avoid compacting the soil and because they will not consume fossil fuels. In addition, their manure will be compacted into briquettes for heating. Other sources of income and self-sufficiency include honey, point-of-lay pullets, eggs, herbs, fruit, vegetables, and salads.

Commenting on the criticisms, Claire Denney-Price said: “I’m in the process of composing a supporting document addressing some concerns raised by local residents. We have a lot of support, including from the One Planet Council and One Planet Centre, which is very heartening.”

Single carriageway lane bordering the site near Penybanc: on routes like this fast motor vehicles can create problems for other road users. 

 One Planet applications must be accompanied by detailed financial projections showing how at least 65% of basic household needs will be supplied from the land after no more than five years. “We’ve had great feedback which all helps our cause,” said Claire.

PDR

 

 

 

 

 

 

News: Councillors Keen to Learn More About One Planet Developments

Wales’ One Planet Development policy for environmentally beneficial farms and smallholdings is almost a decade old, and thanks largely to supporters including the voluntary One Planet Council, has become an important part of rural regeneration especially in West Wales.

One of the latest applications, by Brendan and Ludka Powell, drew questions from Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning committee when they considered it on October 17th. The committee approved the project, with no votes against and only two abstentions, but Cllr Joseph Davies (Manordeilo & Salem, Independent) wondered about the feasibility of the Powells’ business plan. He wondered if he had “wasted my life really” working on the land, when the business plan indicated that six acres could support a family of two adults and three children. “Who is looking at these figures?” he asked, referring to the predicted over £2,000 a year from honey bees, £1,000 from selling fermented vegetables, and £4,000 from selling vegetables.  “Where can they get all this produce from?” he wondered.

He was assured that an agricultural adviser had examined the figures and reckoned they could be sustainable, although there would be some risks.

Cllr Carys Jones (Llansteffan, Plaid Cymru) said she would like to see an up-and-running One Planet Development, and asked about an exit strategy if the enterprise failed to meet the criteria (a minimum of 65% of basic household needs from the land within five years). Planning officer Charlotte Greves replied that the Powells have an exit strategy in their management plan, and that newly constructed buildings could be removed if the project ended.

Llangeler’s Cllr Ken Howell (Plaid Cymru), also keen to see an OPD in operation, said he would like to be able to advise potential applicants in his ward about One Planet Developments.

Committee chair Cllr Alun Lenny (Carmarthen Town South, Plaid Cymru) agreed that it would be a good idea for the committee to learn more about the One Planet policy in operation, and commented that OPDs accord with the council’s own ambition to be carbon-neutral by 2030.

The Powells’ application, on former smallholding land at Parc y Rhodyn, Hebron, Whitland, is for horticultural and silvicultural enterprises requiring a tree nursery, herb garden, vegetable-growing area, an existing and two new polytunnels, a workshop, processing unit and office, and an extended shed, as well as a house. The buildings would be timber-framed and larch-clad.

PDR

Comment: Over-60s Without Computers Face Struggle to Renew Bus Passes

Over-60s bus pass holders in Wales have to renew their passes by the end of December this year. The new passes will, unlike the old ones, be recognised by electronic readers on public transport.

I applied online to renew mine yesterday and it took about five minutes.

Not so easy, though, for over-60s without a computer, or who are not confident about using a computer. Transport for Wales, the Welsh-Government-owned not-for-profit body that is issuing the new passes, expects applications to be made online. There is an option to complete a paper form, but this has to be downloaded and printed out, it cannot be requested to arrive in the post.

The ‘no computer’ problem is less of an issue for people in their 60s than for the over-70s, especially those over 75. The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Helena Herklots, said in her October 2019 report ‘State of the Nation’ that 60% of the over-75s do not use the internet, compared with 37% of those aged 60-74. Yet even 37% is approaching four in every ten of this age group.

Thus six in ten of the over-75s, and nearly four in ten of those aged 60-74, may struggle to replace their bus pass, especially if they do not have younger friends or family members to help them apply.

The passes are valid on some train services as well as on buses, giving them extra value. In West and Mid Wales, for example, pass holders can travel free on the Heart of Wales line, between Swansea and Shrewsbury, during the months October to March.

Nearly 730,000 people, between one in four and one in five of the whole population of Wales, hold the expiring passes, the BBC has reported (‘Free Wales bus passes: Users crash website ahead of card changes’, September 11. When the compulsory renewals were announced, the applications website quickly crashed).

PDR

 

Opinion: For the Lack of 2.64 Inches of Insulation, £8,000 Evaporates

The prospect of receiving Renewable Heat Incentive payments from the UK Government, estimated at £8,000 over seven years, was enticing. It hasn’t worked out, though.

I inherited a Victorian terraced house, which is now let to a local couple. An ancient oil boiler powered the central heating, the oil supply coming from a tank in the back garden.  To fill the tank, the oil tanker driver had to lug the hose through the house, an action not covered by my buildings insurance or the oil delivery company’s liability cover.  It was time to change the heating for a more eco-friendly system.

The walls are stone

Main gas is not available, and of course is also a fossil fuel. The same applies to coal and to LPG, liquefied petroleum gas.  Wood or wood pellets would be cumbersome for an elderly occupant, and also need a big storage space. An electric boiler would cost the occupants a lot to run, typically between 40% and 50% more than a gas boiler. The garden is too small for a ground source heat pump. In the end I opted for an air source heat pump, an 8.5kW Vaillant Arotherm. All the existing radiators and pipework had to go, and the system cost £8,725, about twice as much as a replacement oil boiler would have done.

“But you will qualify for the Renewable Heat Incentive,” I was told.

Actually, no.

Computer says no

It’s because of the ‘Standard Assessment Procedure’ software used by energy performance assessors. At least, that’s what I understand. You get different answers from different people in the information chain.

The method for creating an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is ‘standard’, in that it is a tick-box exercise using assumptions about construction based on the regulations (if any) applying when properties were built, unless there is validated evidence to the contrary.

The rules for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) state that if the property’s EPC requires cavity wall insulation or more loft insulation, this must be done before any RHI will be approved. The EPC for the old house in question did not insist on cavity wall insulation, because it is built of stone “and so requires further investigation to establish whether these walls are of cavity construction and to determine which type of cavity wall insulation is best suited”. Yet modern assumptions about the defects of traditional materials may not be correct. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) points out in its 2014 briefing ‘Energy Efficiency in Old Buildings’ that

“….standard U-value calculations, used across the construction industry to measure the rate of heat loss through materials, underestimate the thermal performance of traditional walls. In some instances, it now appears that actual heat loss through vernacular materials such as wattle and daub, cob, limestone, slate and granite can be up to three times less than previously calculated. These findings – and those from Historic Scotland and English Heritage which have looked at sandstone and brick construction – are significant. They tell us that we need to think very carefully before rushing in because they suggest that conventional industry practices are struggling to accurately represent the thermal performance of traditionally built walls. Ultimately, this could have negative consequences for historic buildings as calculated theoretical U-values, suggesting a poorer performance, may lead owners and professionals to adopt disproportionate energy saving interventions that may not only be unnecessary, but also invasive and potentially harmful to the fabric of a building and its occupants. U-values are not the complete story.” (p6, in the section ‘Understanding old buildings, by Jonathan Garlick)

The EPC for the Victorian house does stipulate increasing the loft insulation to 270mm, 10.63 inches. The problem here is the depth of the joists supporting the floor of the loft. They allow 8 inches (203mm) of insulation under the floor, 67mm (2.64 inches) less than amount required.

The loft, which has a window and a pull-down access ladder, is used for storage, so it did not seem a great idea to remove the floor to add 2.64 inches of insulation, or indeed to put 2.64 inches above the floor. A supportive adviser on the RHI helpline suggested contacting a chartered surveyor, which I did. He proposed insulating between the rafters. Before going ahead, I asked an EPC assessor if insulation between the rafters would be added to insulation between the joists, to give the required total.

The boarded loft 

The assessor asked the technical department of their EPC certification body, and returned with the answer “No. If there is insulation between the joists, only this can be counted, and insulation between the rafters will be ignored.” This is what the software mandates, apparently.

At first this seemed counter to common sense, but then I wondered if putting a rigid insulation board between the rafters would help or hinder the longevity of the building. Condensation and moisture retention could damage the timbers and create an unhealthy atmosphere. The SPAB briefing says:

“Achieving a coherent insulation strategy that actively deals with moisture is relatively difficult in many older buildings, particularly around openings and junctions and in complex structures. If it is too difficult to achieve, it is sometimes better (as far as moisture risks are concerned) to have no insulation and just ensure that the heating and ventilation systems are good.” (p.20, in the section ‘Ventilation and health’ by Neil May)

If you have a listed building, or one in a conservation area, you can claim an exemption from the insulation requirements. You can also claim exemption if a protected species, such as bats, lives in the property, or if there are adverse environmental conditions, verified by a chartered surveyor. If a chartered surveyor says the property is not structurally suitable for insulation, that might also count. Might.

Age discrimination against heritage homes

The CLA, Country Land and Business Association, calls the EPC requirements “age discrimination against our heritage homes”. The CLA says:

“Some of the energy efficiency improvements being recommended on the EPC are unsuited to properties built using traditional construction techniques. These buildings were designed to be ‘breathable’ and allow moisture to pass through the structure. The effect of modern insulation on these properties could be similar to wrapping fruit in impermeable plastic, the moisture cannot escape, moisture builds up and the contents start to rot. This is particularly worrying for listed buildings and those within conservation areas.” (press release from the CLA for ‘The Retro Fit-Up’, March 2017)

It seems that although insulation exemptions can be claimed for listed buildings, they may not be exempt from the requirement to have an EPC when sold or rented, unless it can be proven (probably by a local authority conservation officer) that work to improve energy efficiency would damage their character.

It would be better, but more expensive given that an EPC can cost under £100, to create a bespoke energy improvement plan for every building, taking the impacts on structure and character fully into account. That would require people to spend heavily, probably £500 and over, to obtain what is currently a compulsory document, and would surely be criticised as an unfair burden unless it had a long validity, say 10 to 20 years.

As for the standardised EPC, I rather wish it will go the way of the late and little-lamented Home Information Packs – into oblivion.

PDR

News: Community Orchard Plan Bears Fruit (but not yet literally)

A community orchard is growing in Llandovery, thanks to the generosity of the landowner, Llandovery College. Native fruit trees were planted two years ago in 2017, and most are doing well. The orchard is a learning zone for children at the college’s Gollop Preparatory School, and is also looked after by Transition Tywi Trawsnewid, the transition town group for the upper Tywi valley in Carmarthenshire.

The photos, by Katka Dvorakova, show maintenance work on Saturday, October 12th, when six Transition Tywi members cleared weeds, cut brambles and mulched the saplings, also trying to protect the biodiversity as much as possible.

The orchard is still too young to provide a crop, but in three to five years’ time trees should start to yield.

New community food source taking shape at Llandovery College

Sue and John clearing weeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve with the mulch bucket 

 

 

 

David inspects a sapling

 

 

Bramble buster Pat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News: Llanelli MP Officially Opens Office for News Services

Llanelli-based news services Llanelli Online and Wales News Online, run and edited by Alan Evans, have opened a town-centre office at 1A John Street. Llanelli MP Nia Griffith, also the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, performed the official opening on Monday October 7th.

The new office is opposite the closed premises of the Llanelli Star.

Nia Griffith MP chatting to Gwynoro Jones at Llanelli Online’s office opening. 

Gwynoro Jones, Labour MP for Carmarthen between 1970 and 1974, is working with Alan Evans to expand Welsh-language content on the news services.

Nia and Gwynoro both have professional backgrounds in education, and both worked as school inspectors for Estyn — in Nia’s case before she became an MP in 2005, and in Gwynoro’s, after serving as an MP.

Staff include Ron Cant, formerly of Carmarthenshire County Council, as associate editor, senior reporter Jo Elizabeth, and reporter Lucy Thomas. Delyth on 07935 454406 handles advertising, and Angharad Evans is in charge of administration.

The Llanelli Online and Wales News Online office in John Street, Llanelli. Photos courtesy of Alan Evans.

To contact the editorial department, try 07760 453350 for Alan Evans.

Llanelli news is at llanellionline.news, and all-Wales news on walesnewsonline.com. Both are also on Facebook and Twitter.

West Wales News Review wishes every success to Llanelli Online and Wales News Online.

PDR

Update: Afan Valley Adventure Resort Down But Not Out

Investors in the proposed Afan Valley Adventure Resort at Pen y Bryn, between Caerau and Cymmer, stand to lose much or all of the money they paid in, but the scheme itself may be resurrected and financed with capital provided by corporate investors.

Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council’s planning committee agreed unanimously on September 24th to extend, by six months into March 2020, an expired deadline for a legal agreement between the developer and the council for structural landscaping, habitat management plans, improvements to a national cycle route, and provision of a farm of solar photovoltaic panels.

The site of the proposed Afan Valley Adventure Resort, which could give a big boost to tourism in Neath Port Talbot. Photo from Google Earth.

Mr Peter Moore, who was key to Center Parcs’ success in the UK, has told the council he is working with Zenzic Partners, merchant bankers for ‘alternative assets’, to achieve the resort development, but has now less than six months to achieve the crucial legal agreement with Neath Port Talbot Council.

Sales agents for Northern Powerhouse Developments, the troubled group of companies behind the adventure resort and numerous other hospitality ventures, offered lodges on the Afan Valley site for sale before Neath Port Talbot Council had granted outline planning permission. Mr Moore was formerly the non-executive chair of leisure at Northern Powerhouse Developments, but has severed his connection with the group.

The stacked network of companies specific to the resort project includes only one, Afan Valley Ltd, currently in administration, now managed by a branch of multinational Duff & Phelps in Manchester. Afan Valley Ltd is controlled by Northern Powerhouse Developments Adventure Resorts Ltd, which in turn is a subsidiary of Active Resorts UK Ltd, and that is a subsidiary of Northern Powerhouse Developments (Holdings) Ltd, listed as under the control of Mr Gavin Lee Woodhouse.

Active Resorts UK Ltd also has Northern Powerhouse Developments Adventure Resorts Management Ltd in its stable, and this company has, as a subsidiary, Afan Valley Management Ltd.

Northern Powerhouse Developments (Holdings) Ltd’s accounts for the year to March 31st 2018 included an independent assurance report by Manchester accountants Williamson & Croft Audit Ltd, who say on their website that “We truly understand that our business is invested in our clients, and that our success is reliant on theirs. This is why we go beyond the usual responsibilities of an accountancy firm, to ensure our clients have every possible chance at the success they desire.”

In the assurance statement, signed on November 27th 2018, Williamson & Croft say: “The terms of our engagement exclude any requirement to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the risks of material misstatement, a consideration of fraud, laws, regulations and internal controls, and we have not done so.”

Property revaluations inflated balance sheet

Those accounts highlight the extent to which revaluations of properties underlie the apparently rosy picture presented in 2018, when it looked as though the holding company was sitting on equity of £11,246,564, even after allowing for short-term liabilities of £19,055,076, and long-term liabilities of £40,564,056, namely the obligations to investors.

Revaluations of properties during the year amounted to £21,725,862, almost £22 million, showing in the profit and loss account and more than compensating for the operating loss of £14,193,019. The accounts state that “Consideration has been given by the directors as to the fair value of properties held by the group. In determining the fair value they used representations from suitably qualified third parties who have considered the open market value of the property based upon their knowledge of the open market.” One problem may be that there is little open-market experience of trade in rights to income from leased hotel rooms.

Afan Valley Adventure Resort took the invest-to-rent concept to the level of a whole resort, 327 acres on which would be built ski slopes, zip wires, high wire, an aqua park, equestrian centre, mountain biking track, BMX track and skate park, plus a 100-bed hotel, spa, retail and restaurants plaza, the European HQ of the Bear Grylls Instructor’s Academy, and parking for 800+ cars. There would also be 600 lodges as holiday homes, over phases 1 and 2 of construction.

What exactly do investors ‘own’?

There is already doubt whether the investors, as lessees, can be classed as ‘owners’ of their investments. The view of Northern Powerhouse Developments (Holdings) Ltd, expressed in the notes to the 2017-18 accounts, is this: “It is the belief of the management of the group that the risks and rewards of ownership do not pass to lessees of the hotel rooms, as the group maintains control over the room operation, maintenance and insurance. In addition, the lessee receives fixed annual rental income and there is a fixed price for the group to buyback the room in the future. As such the transaction is treated as an operating lease for the group as lessor.”

In this view, the investor does not acquire the physical asset for the stated number of years, but the right to a specified quantity of income from it.

This ‘management belief’ would also mean that the physical assets could be offered for sale without the agreement of investors.

It does seem clear that investors are down the pecking order when property is disposed of. Anyone with a secured charge on the company’s assets comes at the head of the list. In the case of Northern Powerhouse Developments (Holdings), that is Mysing Capital Ltd, which on December 6th 2018 recorded a charge over “All freehold and leasehold properties (whether registered or unregistered) and all common hold properties, now or in future (and from time to time) owned by the borrower, or in which the borrower holds an interest, and property means any of them.”

Mysing Capital Ltd is owned by Steven Turner, civil engineer Matthew John Ferguson and engineer Robert James (Rob) Coxon, the founding trio of the Castleford-based Stroma Group in 2002. Stroma provides building control and compliance services, certification for the construction industry and software to the energy and operational efficiency markets. Private equity firm LDC bought in to Stroma in 2014. LDC, Lloyds Development Capital, is a subsidiary of Lloyds Banking Group.

Investors’ prospects unclear

The dozen or so operational hotels within the Northern Powerhouse Developments (Holdings) group contributed turnover of only £6,413,624 in 2017-18, an average of about half a million pounds each. The hotels employed 422 people of the 466 in the group. The hotel workers were probably not among the highest paid, but even so could have accounted for over 80% of the £4,522,962 staff costs. The group’s ambitions to upgrade the hotels would appear to mean more staff, and therefore higher wage costs, further squeezing the possibility to pay room rents to investors.

When Northern Powerhouse Developments’ public website was online, the group’s financial model was explained like this:

“The group is funded utilising a tailored funding mechanism known as sale and lease back. The business operates an op co (operational company) prop co (property company) business model. In its most simplistic form the prop co provides individuals the opportunity to buy a room in the hotel and then rent the hotel room back to the hotel operator. This is an alternative to the residential buy-to-let market.

We sell our properties through a global network of sales agents who offer private and institutional buyers the opportunity to buy individual rooms, multiple rooms or whole developments within a given project.

Our team welcomes enquiries from agents, Financial Advisors, Fund managers, UK and overseas estate agents, wealth coaches or property networks.”

The word ‘buy’ appeared to have a conventional meaning in this publicity, and was compared with buy-to-let residential property. The language in the accounts, as highlighted above, contradicts this understanding by stating that investors are not owners. Foggy, puzzling language like this does not help investors to make sound decisions.

Currently it seems likely that investors in the hotels, and in the off-plan lodges at Afan Valley, will emerge with badly burnt pockets and depleted savings, but the adventure resort project itself lives on for another six months, at least.

For previous reports on Northern Power House Developments and the Afan Valley proposal, see for example here and here.

 PDR

News: Dark Days for Investors in Tenby Holiday Hotel

Tenby’s landmark Fourcroft Hotel, run by the Osborne family for over 70 years, was sold to Northern Powerhouse Developments less than three years ago, in January 2017.

Northern Powerhouse Developments (NPD) itself, the creation of 41-year-old Gavin Lee Woodhouse, is already in administration. So are numerous other companies in its portfolio.

NPD created two new companies for the well-known 40-bedroom hotel in Tenby on the coast of south Pembrokeshire. One was Fourcroft Hotel (Tenby) Ltd, the hotel operating company, which went into administration on August 8th 2019. Fourcroft Hotel (Tenby) is now in the hands of insolvency practitioners Philip Duffy and Sarah Bell, in the Manchester office of New York-based multinational Duff & Phelps, a multi-faceted valuation, restructuring, corporate finance and consulting organisation active in 28 countries.  The day-to-day management of the hotel was taken over by Iain Shelton, who until the end of April 2018 was a director of Assured Hotels Ltd.

 

Fourcroft Hotel

The Fourcroft Hotel in Tenby. Where has investors’ money gone? Photo from Google Earth

The second company was property holding company Carmarthen Bay Hotel Ltd, which also went into administration with Duff & Phelps on August 8th. This company had the task of selling off individual rooms on leaseholds. The intended plan was for the rooms to be rented back to the hotel operating company, which would receive guests’ payments.

The accounts for both companies make interesting reading. In both cases they are for the year to March 31st 2018. Carmarthen Bay Hotel Ltd’s balance sheet values the hotel at £2.760 million, compared with £527,916 the previous year – a more than five-fold increase. This ballooning valuation made the hotel appear profitable, when subsequent events show that it was not. In the year to March 31st 2017, the company had negative value of £480,722, and a year later an apparently healthy surplus of £1,317,237 – all due to the supercharged property revaluation.

Fourcroft Hotel (Tenby) Ltd reported turnover of £812,423 in the year to end-March 2018, £67,702 a month. This was better than the average of £49,913 a month during the previous 18-month accounting period, and contributed to a healthy gross profit of £696,780. But not so fast! Administrative expenses amounted to £1,059,192, or £88,266 a month. Over the 18 months from October 1st 2016 to March 31st 2017, administrative expenses were less than half that at £41,033 a month. The higher expenses led to 2017’s £22,939 operating profit transforming into a £350,205 operating loss in 2018.

So the Fourcroft Hotel’s acquisition by the Northern Powerhouse Developments business group quickly turned into a financial bad news story – even worse when charges against assets are taken into account. Both the Carmarthen Bay and Fourcroft companies were subject to comprehensive charges in favour of North West Asset Finance Ltd, a small company controlled by Shays Assets Ltd, the sole director of which was Robert Ashley Hall from near Skipton, North Yorkshire.

During 2017 investors were drawn to the Fourcroft/ Carmarthen Bay by agents promoting benefits like these:

  • “Operational 40 room hotel in Tenby with sea views
  • Full refurbishment to bring up to stunning 4 star modern standards
  • 23 rooms have sea views
  • Full suite prices from just £60,000 (with the option of just £54,000 total cash input)
  • All rooms to be finished with sumptuous décor and high quality furnishings
  • 10% NET return for 10 years
  • 125% buyback option in year 10 (or the option to extend the 10% for another 5 years, or take a 50/50 room revenue split)
  • 2 weeks free usage in your room each year”                                                                         (from the agency Emerging Developments)

Those investors are now worried they will lose every pound they put in. For unregulated investments such as this, it is always a case of buyer beware, but the advertising can be very persuasive.

If investors paid £60,000 each for all 40 rooms in the Fourcroft/ Carmarthen Bay – and some were more expensive — the total investment would be £2.4 million.  This accords well with the revaluation of £2.76 million recorded in the 2018 accounts for the Carmarthen Bay Hotel Ltd. But it is extremely hard to see how a room costing £60,000 could yield a 10% return — £6,000 – annually, let alone £75,000 for a buy-back in year 10.

By September 2019, Fourcroft Hotel (Tenby) Ltd and Carmarthen Bay Hotel Ltd were just two of the failed companies in the Northern Powerhouse Developments collection. Duff & Phelps were managing about 20, including Afan Valley Ltd, a company behind the proposed Afan Valley Adventure Resort in Neath Port Talbot, and at least four more companies were being administered by CG & Co.

Woodhouse Family Ltd, Gavin Woodhouse’s own property company, is also in the hands of Duff & Phelps.

PDR.  More will follow

News: Llangadog Egg Firm Applies for Lorry Restrictions to be Lifted

The new intensive but legally-named ‘free range’ 32,000-bird poultry unit at Godre Garreg, Carreg Sawdde, Llangadog, is ruffling neighbours’ feathers once again.

The indoor unit was constructed before farming company T V Hughes & Co provided a lorry passing place on the single-track access road, as a condition of planning permission. The passing place was supposed to be in an easily seen location on Carreg Sawdde Common, but it transpired that the land selected was owned by the Cawdor Estate, and not by T V Hughes & Co. The company eventually secured agreement from Carmarthenshire County Council for a passing place less visible to traffic approaching from the Llangadog to Bethlehem road.

Now the company is asking for restrictions on lorry visits to be amended so that deliveries and collections can take place on any day of the week, including Sundays and bank holidays, between 8am and 8pm, and at other times provided that the county council is notified in writing.

The existing condition is for deliveries and collections to be Monday to Saturday, 8am to 8pm, and never on Sundays or on bank holidays and other public holidays.

Location of the 32,000 bird egg unit, near the confluence of the Sawdde and Tywi rivers at Llangadog

The company’s reason for seeking to dispense with the condition is that they have changed to a different egg collection firm, and now collections are on Wednesdays and Sundays. The new arrangements have started without permission.

Mrs Sara Banner, who lives near Godre Garreg, has submitted an objection saying “What is the point of having planning conditions if they can just be varied to suit the requirements of the applicant?” She says that the conditions were put in place “to protect the amenity of local residents including not having deliveries and collections outside what are considered sociable hours”.

People living opposite the entrance to the chicken unit, and residents living alongside the lorries’ route, and in the village of Llangadog, will be greatly affected, Mrs Banner continued.

Comments on this application, E/39337, must be received by the county council by Friday September 27th.

Carmarthenshire County Council will not provide information to Econews West Wales on the grounds that we are not currently a member of a UK-wide media regulation scheme. Nevertheless, an earlier story about the egg unit, and opposition to it, is here.

PDR

 

 

 

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