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Company restructuring expert responds to January’s insolvency statistics in Wales

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WALES’ Chair of R3, the UK’s insolvency and restructuring trade body, Tim Sloggett has commented on the publication of the January 2024 personal and corporate insolvency statistics for England and Wales, which shows that:

  • Corporate insolvencies increased by 5% in January 2024 to a total of 1,769, compared to 1,685 in January 2023. This is lower than the year-on-year increase in January 2023 or 7.5%.
  • Personal insolvencies increased by 4.3% in January 2024 to a total of 8,089, compared to 7,756 in January 2023. Despite this recent increase, personal insolvencies still remain 17% below January 2019 before the pandemic.

“On the face of it, the declining year-on-year rate of growth of corporate insolvencies appears to be positive news. However, underpinning this is a decrease in Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidations (CVLs) and an increase in administration appointments.

“In recent years the story has been very much a high volume of small companies closing and being placed into CVL.  Administrations are more often used with larger companies compared to CVL’s, With news that the UK slipped into a recession at the end of last year, this now appears to be feeding through to larger businesses.

“In particular, the data shows that the main sectors facing challenges include retail, construction and accommodation and food services with insolvencies in these sectors significantly higher than they were prior to the pandemic, rising 141%, 68.5%, and 119.6% respectively compared to 2019 figures.

Tim, who is a managing director at business advisory firm Quantuma, continues: “Personal insolvency numbers rose year-on-year. This is not unexpected given the cost of living crisis, but interestingly volumes still remain below levels before the pandemic.

“This may be because the number of Breathing Space processes used also soared to the highest levels since the process was introduced in May 2021, which indicates that this process may be achieving its purpose of providing people with more time to resolve their debt issues and avoid bankruptcy.

“Whilst there are positive signs of lowering inflation, food, fuel, housing and energy costs remain high and are likely to remain key concerns for many households.

“Since the pandemic insolvency practitioners have been given new tools to help rescue businesses. The introduction of the moratorium and restructuring plan help provide businesses with breathing space and an increased chance of restructuring its debts. However, these take time to implement, and anyone worried about their personal or business finances should seek advice as soon as possible. It’s such a hard conversation to have, but the sooner you take that step, the more options there are likely to be to rescue the business.

“Most R3 members in Wales will give a free consultation to prospective clients so they can understand more about their circumstances and outline which options may be best suited to them.”

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Business

Plans for house in Dinas Cross pub car park in Pembrokeshire refused

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AN APPLICATION to build a three-bedroom house on the site of a north Pembrokeshire pub car park has been refused by national park planners.

Julian and Alison Parkes, of The Ship Aground public house, Dinas Cross, sought permission to build the house on nearby land used as a car park for the pub, creating seven new parking spaces nearby to replace the site.

A report by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park planning officers, recommending refusal, said: “The principle of residential development is normally acceptable within centre boundaries, subject to detailed design considerations and compliance with other policies in the local development plan.

“Following consultation, objections have been received from statutory consultees including the Welsh Government Truck Road Agency who have concerns regarding the proposed parking that will serve the Public House. They have directed that planning permission is not granted on the basis of insufficient information.  Concerns have also arisen from third-party letters.”

The report said the design “incorporates a traditional form with modern features and design detailing and will ensure the privacy of neighbours is protected along with the special qualities of the National Park when viewed from the immediate and wider landscape” but added: “Key information relating to the loss of parking to the Public House has not been addressed and how the loss of parking could have an economic impact, also considering that the proposed parking does not meet parking safety standards and further amendments would be required.”

The application was refused on the basis of Trunk Road Agency concerns including a lack of information to demonstrate the number of parking spaces offered would comply with current car parking standards, layout designs for the proposed replacement spaces, and also that insufficient evidence submitted to support the granting of permission for the car park spaces to serve the public house.

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Business

Scheme to upgrade Dinas Cross holiday park withdrawn

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PLANS to create a ‘five-star resort’ in one of Wales’s most popular holiday locations have been withdrawn.

In an application submitted to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Chester-based Boutique Resorts Ltd sought permission to relinquish 50 mixed touring pitches (caravans and tents) at Fishguard Bay Resort, Dinas Cross, replacing them with “36 high quality timber-effect holiday lodges”.

The application, recommended for refusal at the April 24 meeting of the national park’s development management committee, also included an increase in the site area of the approved park, a new entrance, a new reception lodge, staff and visitor parking area, with extensive environmental improvements.

The site, established in the 1950s, currently has planning permission for 50 static caravans and 50 mixed touring units, and it is intended 23 of the proposed lodges to be sited at the entrance, with a further 13 throughout the site.

Despite the proposals seeking a reduction in outright numbers, the applicants say the scheme would see an increase in the number of full and part-time jobs associated with the resort, from 29 to 62 jobs.

A previous application was refused in 2019, mainly on visual impact, ecological impact and highway impact, and the applicant has sought to address the issues raised by that refusal, a supporting statement says.

It adds: “The applicant purchased the site in 2014 with the intention to upgrade the site into a five-star luxury resort. This is very much still the applicant’s intention and whilst he has replaced some existing static caravans with luxury lodges, he also seeks to replace the touring caravans and tents with luxury lodges too.

“The resort is now considered one of the most desirable holiday parks on the Pembrokeshire Coast which is evident on the number of holidaymakers who return to the resort year on year. Such is demand for luxury lodges on the site, the applicant requires additional units.

“The applicant now wishes to move the resort further by replacing the mixed touring pitches with luxury lodges but also provide a much-needed new entrance into the resort.”

Objections to the scheme were received from the National Trust, the national park’s strategic policy and ecologist, and the South Wales Trunk Road Agency, and 12 members of the public, along with one letter of support.

The application was recommended for refusal for reasons including it was “likely to have a significant detrimental impact on the special qualities of the National Park by intensifying the visual impact and intrusion of a large static caravan site within the extensive coastal views of this section of the National Park,” it would represent an intensification of the site, and was likely to “have an unacceptable impact on neighbouring residential amenity through increased noise and traffic movements”.

The application, listed for consideration by park planners next week, has since been withdrawn.

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Business

Bluestone National Park Resort payments expected to end 

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A CALL to end a legal agreement for financial contributions associated with the creation of Pembrokeshire’s Bluestone National Park Resort is expected to be backed next week.

In a submitted application to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park on behalf of Bluestone Resorts Ltd, legal firm Red Kite Ltd asks for a cessation of a 2004 Section 106 legal agreement used to pay towards various projects including enhancements to footpaths and bridges.

In a supporting statement says most agreements of this type are time limited, and “today such an arrangement without a timeframe would likely not be considered acceptable by either side.

“However, no such end date was placed on this one. More recently, it was agreed between the parties that the payments would cease in 2025, also known as a ‘statement of common ground’. This is why a formal agreement now has to be made by each of the parties involved.”

The statement says that, since the agreement was made, Bluestone has paid nearly £280,000 through the agreement, adding: “As part of the Statement of Common Ground, it was agreed by Pembrokeshire County Council, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Bluestone that a final fee of £113,000 would be paid, spread over 2023, 2024, and 2025 in annual payments of £38,000.”

A report by national park officers, ahead of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Development Management Committee meeting of April 24, where it is recommended for approval, says: “The applicant has applied to discharge the Section 106 Legal agreement but the supporting text notes that they applicant is agreeable to making two final payments.

“Having considered the information submitted, officers consider that provided the two final payments are received the legal agreement has served its purpose and can be discharged.

“In order to ensure the two final payments are made, a modification to the Section 106 legal agreement is supported.  This decision is supported by Pembrokeshire County Council, who have received a concurrent application which is also recommended by officers for modification.”

The report says the £280,000 figure presented by Bluestone actually amounted to £318,703.87, taking into account a 2023 payment of £38,891.73, with Pembrokeshire County Council’s S106 monitoring officer confirming the contributions have been spent on a range of public rights of way improvements, primarily in nearby Canaston Woods.

Recommending approval, the report adds: “The authority is satisfied that subject to two further payments of £38,000 to be made in August 2024 and August 2025, the obligation no longer serves a planning purpose and can be discharged and as such the obligation should be modified accordingly.”

The 500-acre Bluestone resort near Narberth has, since its opening, contributed to “more than £100 million to local suppliers, £7 million annually into the local supply chain, £13 million annually into the Pembrokeshire economy through its payroll, and more than £1.5 million spent annually on marketing Bluestone and Pembrokeshire.”

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