West Wales News Review — analysis with a sustainability slant

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Thriving Local Food Scene

West Wales is now an important  centre for sustainable food, and to celebrate that the Llandeilo Local Food Guide tries to record important participants. The guide would appreciate both suggestions for new firms to include, and notifications of any mistakes  made.

A strong network is developing, with wholesalers, retailers and restaurants buying from local producers, and some producers selling direct to the public.

Added today: Carreg Cennen Tearoom, Dryslwyn Community Shop, Rhosyn Farm Produce, The Castle Hotel, The Warren, and Watson and Pratt.

See the Llandeilo Food Network / Rhwydwaith Bwyd Llandeilo page on Facebook — something new added most days.


Corran Missing Millions: Police ‘May Be About To Decide’ Not Pursue the Case

The Corran Hotel and Spa, on the marshlands west of Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, has swallowed some £17 million net of investors’ money, money long ago disappeared to destinations unknown (although they can be guessed). The story is chronicled here, herehere, here , and elsewhere on this blog — just search for ‘Corran’.

Courtesy of Simon Hart, MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, we have an update into officialdom’s investigations into the missing millions. The message is from the Financial Crime Team at the Crown Prosecution Service:

“Dear Mr Hart, I apologise for the delay in responding to your email, however I’ve been chasing the City of London Police trying to ascertain what decision they have made in relation to this matter.

“I have now received a response and it would appear that having carried out an initial scoping exercise they may be about to decide to not take it on. I am led to believe they are currently assessing the level of involvement of other interested parties, namely the FCA [Financial Conduct Authority], Insolvency Service and the SFO [Serious Fraud Office].

“I have been promised a full assessment of the review within the next 7-10 days and have been assured that we will be given the opportunity to discuss the outcome of their review.

As soon as I know more I will come back to you.”

….So the lost £ millions are not being wholly ignored, but may be in danger of being dropped down a black hole as the investigation parcel is passed from regulator to bankruptcy investigator to police and back again.

No wonder the UK is so popular with organised financial crime;  we don’t seem to be anything like world class in conducting complex, multi-layered investigations.


Lampeter Church Service for Cancer Care

Jane and Steven Holmes from Ffarmers are keen runners and supporters of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. Jane has successfully recovered from lung cancer — which affected her although she did not smoke and made sure she kept fit. In fact, she is a marathon runner and intends to be in the Snowdonia Marathon on October 28th.

“I am organising a church service to be held on Sunday October 22nd, at 2pm in St Peter’s Church, Lampeter,” said Steven. “It’s a bilingual inter-denominational service open to anyone affected by cancer.”

The service is called Pause for Hope after the charity of the same name founded by Professor Raymund Donnelly, whom  Jane and Steven met in 2015, and will be the first to be held in Wales. Local congregations, and Ysgol Bro Pedr, are supporting the event. Young people from the school will be singing and taking part in a poetry competition.

Back after a Break

West Wales News Review will soon be back after a break of several months. The author has been fully occupied with a project titled ‘Affordable Homes and Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Wales’ with the sub-title ‘Feasibility of a resilient neighbourhood at Llandovery’. The report of the project, commissioned by Calon Cymru Network, will be presented to a public meeting at the Castle Hotel, Llandovery, on Tuesday November 14th at 7pm.

On West Wales News Review there will be more to say about the scandal affecting investors in the Corran Resort, Laugharne. Investors bought fractional shares, or so they thought. Instead of benefiting purchasers, fractional ownership schemes have become an easy way to siphon money from unwary investors. British people buying fractions of properties in other EU countries are likely to find that Brexit will reduce their capacity to obtain redress in cases of fraud.

Also planned, an update on the ‘Wellness Village’ at Llanelli, looking at the prospects for investment by the private sector; the impact of Brexit on Welsh farmers; financial problems in the Wales NHS; and no doubt a great deal more.

It’s worth making the point that at present West Wales News Review is entirely a voluntary effort, with no funding whatsoever. This means that it is dependent on spare time.


Easter Break

West Wales News Review is taking a break over Easter — back at the end of April

Christmas Holiday

Wishing everyone a happy Christmas and New Year.

West Wales News Review will be taking a break until January. Thank you to everyone who has read posts and commented during 2016.

Self-sufficiency enthusiasts rush to buy cottage with zero mod cons

See also the Carmarthenshire Herald, July 29th, p.13

You won’t by troubled by incessant road noise. You won’t be hindered by doorstep canvassers. Few people will even find your doorstep, if you live at Llainfedw, Llanfynydd. Just in Llanfynydd, on the boundary with Talley’s community area.

Llainfedw is was for sale, a smallholding of almost six acres at the bargain price of £145,000. Still on the market? No, sold subject to contract almost immediately.

Yes, there’s a cottage. No, it doesn’t have main electricity or piped water. Drains? Er, no, but who needs drains with all that land surrounding you?

Estate agent inundated

Estate agent Martyn Buck of the Smallholding Centre, Brongest, near Newcastle Emlyn, said he has been inundated with calls and emails, and is glad it sold fast because responding to all the enquiries meant he had little time for anything else.  Even getting in touch with the owner to relay an offer was a major task. Well, “no mains services” means totally off-grid, no modern communications, and you can’t just drive up to the door. First you have to park and find the correct path. And then climb uphill for half a mile.

Above Llainfedw, at over 1,000 feet, is Crown Estate moorland. Below, there are neighbours:  the 70 to 80 downshifters, self-sufficiency enthusiasts and alternative lifestylers living on their own plots totalling about 200 acres in ‘Tipi Valley’, a collection of mainly temporary homes forming a community which has survived for 40 years despite all attempts of Dinefwr Borough Council and its successor, Carmarthenshire County Council, to force the occupants to move on. Tipi Valley is now ‘established’.

Potential for hydro power

The Smallholding Centre describes Llainfedw as “a self-sufficiency project in the making”, with potential for hydro power from a stream, a borehole (unused), lots of timber for firewood, gardens which were cultivated until recently, and a wooden building of 158 square feet used as a craft studio.


Llainfedw: accessed through a maze of narrow lanes and then a long path — but the cottage’s remoteness is a big draw

The cottage, old and stone, has two wood-burning stoves, two living rooms — one with a mezzanine platform — and potentially two bedrooms on the first floor. One of the living rooms has a kitchen corner, but water has to come from outside. There is a butt to collect rainwater from the roof.

The huge interest in Llainfedw – so inaccessible that regular commuting would be a nightmare, and even a shopping trip would need careful planning – highlights the revival of the 1970s self-sufficiency phenomenon, expressed in the TV series The Good Life. This time though, self-sufficiency with remoteness as an added twist.


Legacy Eases Financial Strain at Llandovery College

Llandovery College’s over-stretched finances started to recover in 2014-15, the charity’s newly published accounts show.

Huge efforts by governors, staff, parents and friends of the independent school — which was making unsustainable losses before a complete restructuring in 2012 — turned a consolidated loss of £387,906 in the year 2013-14 to a much smaller loss of £57,161 over the 13 months August 1st 2014 to August 31st 2015.

A legacy of £450,000 bolstered the resources, adding to trustees’ confidence that “the college has more than sufficient assets to support its operations for the foreseeable future”.

The more cheerful financial news follows some unflattering press reports of compensation sought by staff whose contracts were terminated as a consequence of the emergency restructuring. Last month (May) an employment tribunal upheld the latest case, an unfair dismissal claim by the former head of history, and ordered compensation of £15,000.

The college’s financial difficulties have not been helped by its location in one of the UK’s lowest-income regions, 200 miles from affluent South East England. The full termly fees, ranging from £2,875 in Year 1 to £5,600 in Year 13 for day pupils, and from £5,505 in Year 1 to £8,470 in Year 13 for boarders, are beyond the means of most local families.

Pupil numbers fell from 316 in July 2014 to 266 in September 2015, but academic results improved substantially, which could make the college more attractive to parents from beyond West Wales. At Advanced level in 2015, A*-C grades rose from 64.4% to 77.9%, and at GCSE A*-C grades improved from 78% to 84%. The top A* grades advanced too, from 3.0% to 8.2% at A level and from 11% to 18% at GCSE.

The college is an important employer for Llandovery, and provided more jobs in 2014-15, the full-time equivalent of 120, compared with 99 the year before. The governors, chaired by Professor Medwin Hughes, vice-chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity St David, say that the “growing success of our Nursery feeding our early years of Prep school will support our growth plans. The Nursery offering after-school club will also cement our connections with local schools and families.”

The attractive rural setting, and reputation for sporting prowess, may also help in the steep climb back.

Bursar Stephen Baldwin said he hoped the college would come very close to break-even in the current year. With pupil numbers more stable, staff were more confident and happy to remain in post. “Our goal is to deliver a great education which is enjoyable for pupils and staff,” said Mr Baldwin. “Seven of our A level students have unconditional offers of university places, so we think the breadth of their experience at the college is impressing admissions tutors.”

also printed in the Carmarthenshire Herald, June 17th 2016

Taking a Break

West Wales News Review will be dormant for a few weeks due to other commitments.

Thank you for reading, hope to be back soon.

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