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Scenes from "the Edge of Madness"

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Water's Edge: The very inappropriate, incongruous, oversized, ugly, unsympathetic urban-style Water's Edge development currently being built by Opco Construction on the former site of the Fountains Cafe on Tenby's South Beach.


There's a large sign on the ramp to the beach advertising the "19 luxury apartments - with stunning sea-views". Just after those words, in neat handwriting, someone has written - "Totally Destroying South Beach".

Planning permission for this "monstrosity", as some people have referred to it, has been sanctioned by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

The Fountains Cafe, which was built in the Fifties, needed replacing, 'tis true - but with something on a similar scale, something subtle, unobtrusive and in keeping with the Victorian buildings that line the Esplanade, and the Georgian townhouses at the other end of the beach. A small cafe/restaurant, a beautiful terrace with tables, chairs, parasols, a shop for buckets and spades and beach equipment, an ice-cream kiosk, something tasteful, good to look at, simple in design, made out of traditional materials, painted in pastel colours, with an overall seaside flavour. That's obviously all that was needed here.

The developer hopes to sell these apartments for around £600,000 each on the basis of their location, the "stunning" beach and sea views they afford. The developer hopes to profit from the beauty of the beach by building something which has greatly diminished the beauty and character of the beach.

The developer is a Mr. N. Kelly, director of Opco Construction Limited, Cardiff. The architect is Howard Wainwright of Powell Dobson Architects/Urbanists, also of Cardiff.

Opco have attempted to pass themselves off to the people of Tenby as merely the construction company who have been contracted to build by an external property developer or external developers known as: "Mandaco 538" and "Wanchai Developments"; but these are, in truth, merely front companies.

At a public meeting Opco's site manager denied, when asked, that he knew who the developers were. He was informed that Mandaco 538 and Opco Construction have the exact same registered Cardiff address (and, of course, the exact same director - Kelly). His reaction, and the reaction of a female representative from Opco, was quite something to see.

The site manager obviously knew the score - his face crumpled, he shielded his eyes with his hand and looked to the floor, shaking his head, inwardly saying: "Oh, no!" But the woman seemed genuinely shocked - she shook visibly, and practically squealed: "THEY HAVE THE SAME ADDRESS!?!"

There were a few "Ooohs" from the crowd.

There was misleading signage down at the site entrance for a long while also - which read: Opco Construction (South Beach Tenby Apartments) for "Mandeco 358" - instead of "Mandaco 538". That made it a little more difficult to find out who they were, than it otherwise might've been.

But when "Mandeco 358" yielded no search results on the internet (I even asked the National Park Authority who they were), I tried a few possible alternatives, thinking maybe I'd misread the sign, and "Mandaco 538" was one alternative I tried in a Dun and Bradstreet search - and it came back with the same address as Opco.

The name, "Wanchai Developments" may have been chosen to give the false impression that the developers are somehow oriental, maybe Chinese or Japanese (one person I knew thought that to be the case), but a Dun and Bradstreet report confirmed that Kelly is also the director of Wanchai Developments and the registered address is 34, Eastmoors Road, Cardiff, whereas Opco and Mandaco 538 are registered at 54, Eastmoors Road, Cardiff.

Whatever the reasons, it's obvious that Opco didn't want their true role regarding this development to be known.

When I first encountered the site manager, he seemed nervous, shifty, worried, even. He told me I was standing, filming, on private property. I was standing on a makeshift temporary walkway, above the sand. I looked below me and asked how he'd managed to buy part of a public beach. He said: "By means of a complex legal process."

I wrote to the National Park Authority and asked how they'd come to sell part of the beach into private hands. They replied that they hadn't sold part of the beach, that the construction company were building within the defined limits of the deeds, which turned out to be not quite the case - Opco needed to exceed the tight boundary of the deeds in order to provide enough room for the outer building, and the National Park's planning documents show a much larger area than shown in the title documents which we purchased from the Land Registry last year.

A Facebook "cause" - "STOP WATER'S EDGE CONSTRUCTION ON SOUTH BEACH" - was set up in February 2011 to protest against the development. Over 600 people signed up within a few months.

Most people, both locals and visitors alike, are apalled, angered, saddened and incredulous that the strict (especially in regard to minor alterations to listed buildings) National Park Authority granted planning permission for this unsympathetic, oversized development, - as it seems to fly in the face of their avowed role to "protect the landscape".

The National Park Authority have even allowed the construction company to cut back into the cliff, to completely destroy the cliff face, in order to make room for the rear building, and, as mentioned above, have allowed Kelly to exceed the bounds of the deeds of the Fountains Cafe and to smash up the perfectly fine ramp walkway, which provided access to the beach, and replace it with one that is unnecesarily four times as long.

The character of the South Beach has undoubtedly been ruined forever - at least it's been ruined until these two steel-frame buildings are completely demolished, and are either replaced with nothing at all, or with something that would meet with the wholehearted approval of a man of integrity and aesthetic vision like Clough Williams-Ellis, architect and artist of the masterpiece known as Portmeirion.

Clough Williams-Ellis said he built Portmeirion in order to show that you can, if you put in a bit of effort, build in harmony with the landscape and thereby enhance it.

Kelly, Wainwright and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Planning Committee have proved you can also do the exact opposite.

Related Videos:

Wrecking the Cliffs for Profit

Along the Beach to Water's Edge

The Desecration of Tenby's South Beach







(The views expressd here are those of the author and are not necessarily held by Virtual Tenby.)

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