Sir Terry threatens to quit Newport over ruin row
SIR Terry Matthews has said it is the end of the line for his investments in Newport after city planners forced him to keep a ruined farmhouse next to the prestigious Ryder Cup clubhouse.
The multimillionaire threatened he may even consider selling the Celtic Manor Resort and expressed his disappointment and anger at the decision by councillors to block his proposal to move the 400-year-old ruin to a farm on Catsash Road, Newport.
“I have spent about £40 million on bringing the Ryder Cup to Wales and on a personal level I would like to see it go well,” he said.
But he said the world’s TV cameras will be spotlighted next to the ruin as they view the last 18th hole of the Ryder Cup course.
“Leaving this building as an eyesore for an estimated one billion TV viewers around the world I believe is a problem for Newport and a problem for Wales,” he said.
“A billion people will think what the hell is going on?”
Sir Terry said the Ryder Cup will attract many high profile visitors that could contribute to the economy of the area.
But he said the building was “an indicator that the city cannot make sensible decisions.”
“The future of regeneration in Newport is not good,” he said.
He then went on to suggest that it could be curtains for Sir Terry and the city of Newport.
“My next project won’t be here,” he said.
“Newport no more. I will move out. I think they have blown it.
"I will put this energy into Cardiff and Swansea and they will be delighted."
He added that he will “have to rethink the Celtic Manor. I could perhaps set up in the Caribbean, and they will welcome the investment.”
Asked if he would consider selling up, he said: “I am a businessman, what's it worth? I thought if the offer is large enough I must just move out.”
Last month the Argus reported that that Sir Terry had huge plans for the Celtic Manor Resort, potentially building a facility to host professional Tennis events and concerts at the site.
The chief executive of Sir Terry’s investment company Wesley Clover resigned from the board of regeneration body Newport Unlimited yesterday, following the decision by Newport Council's planning committee.
Simon Gibson said they were hugely disappointed by the outcome of the planning meeting, held on Wednesday.
“They went against the golfing community in the shape of the Ryder Cup. They went against the advice and opinion of an awful lot of the general public. It will become a laughing stock,” he said.
He said: “There were more planning conditions applied to the movement of this building than there were to the building of the whole golf course. We were prepared to comply with all of these but that didn’t seem to be good enough.”
“Clearly I cannot work with the planning committee if this a demonstration of their collective wisdom.”
But he said: “I think if you speak to property developers they will find it very challenging to deal with the council here. The answer is always no - now what’s the question?”
“We do business in other areas of the world and if you went to some other jurisdictions and said we were to bring the Ryder Cup to their area the conversations would be along the lines of how could we help out.”
“They think they are stopping Sir Terry from succeeding. But he’s doing it for the city and for the nation.”
Newport Unlimited did not respond to a request for comment.
Council leader 'bitterly disappointed'
Newport council leader councillor Matthew Evans added: “I am bitterly disappointed and mystified by the planning committee’s decision.”
A spokeswoman for Newport Council said: “While we can understand the frustration that Sir Terry is feeling at present, we would very much hope that our good and strengthening relationship over the last two years on all our joint projects will not be impaired.”
She said: “We are extremely grateful for the ambassadorial role that Sir Terry has undertaken in promoting Newport to the rest of the world and we totally recognise the entrepreneurial focus he brings to the city as well as the economic benefits of his investments here.”
But she added that the planning committee is independent, although officers had felt moving the building was the best solution to this situation.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Folly that may harm the city
WE are not in the least surprised that Sir Terry Matthews has reacted with such unbridled anger at the decision by Newport City Council's planning committee to refuse the Celtic Manor permission to move a derelict farmhouse away from the 2010 Ryder Cup course clubhouse.
As we said yesterday we believe this short-sighted decision has made both the council and the various heritage groups who have advised on the decision look ridiculous.
More than that we said that Sir Terry had given Newport a great deal with his massive £130 million investment in the city - not least the 600 jobs he created at the Celtic Manor.
As we report today the telecoms tycoon is furious at the decision which means that a crumbling wreck of a building, complete with quantities of toxic asbestos, must be left for the world to behold when the golfing superstars of Europe and the USA and 160,000 spectators descend upon the Celtic Manor for the Ryder Cup at the end of September.
As our picture shows the ruined farmhouse is only yards from the multi-million pound 2010 clubhouse and effectively blights the stunning views of the Usk Valley on one side of the clubhouse.
The Celtic Manor has offered to relocate the ruin on to another part of the estate.
When you think how many heritage buildings have been removed from their original sites and relocated at St Fagan's museum of Welsh Life it makes you wonder why it was so vital to keep this ruin in its original location.
We hope that when he calms down Sir Terry will think again about his declaration that he will invest no more in Newport.
We also hope that he is not serious when he says he would consider selling off the Celtic Manor in protest.
Only a few weeks ago we carried an interview with Sir Terry in which he stated that after the Ryder Cup he wanted to increase the activities at the resort, including the staging of music concerts.
We realise how passionate Sir Terry is about this project and we can well understand why he feels so bitter. We too are gobsmacked by the decision, bearing in mind the high stakes involved.
What on earth will potential investors think of Newport after this? What will key decision makers think?
If the Celtic Manor has said that it simply wanted to destroy what was left of the derelict farmhouse and throw the rubble into a skip we would have supported the planning committee's decision.
But it offered to preserve it on another location.
All that was needed was a bit of common sense.
Instead we're left with monumental folly.