Support our Nation today - please donate here

Development Bank of Wales criticised for funding ex-rugby player’s property firm

01 May 2024 4 minute read
Xavier Rush in action for the Cardiff Blues in 2012. Photo by Sum_of_Marc is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Martin Shipton

The purpose of the Development Bank of Wales has been questioned after it loaned £1.1m to an All Blacks rugby player turned property developer so he could convert a disused chapel into six townhouses.

The renovation of the Grade 2 listed Pen-y-Fal chapel in Abergavenny was undertaken by Xavier Rush’s X-Stream Properties Ltd. One of the houses is currently on the market for £550,000.

But a source who contacted us said: “My concern is, what is the purpose of the Development Bank, which is wholly owned by the Welsh Government? Making property developers rich? And who picks up the bill for their gambles?”

Secretary of State for Wales David TC Davies has raised concerns about the Development Bank’s losses, which amounted to more than £62m last year.

The spotlight has been on the Development Bank of Wales (DBW) since Nation.Cymru revealed that it loaned £400k to a subsidiary company of the Dauson Environmental Group, which subsequently donated £200k to Vaughan Gething’s Welsh Labour leadership campaign.

David Neal, the businessman who owns Dauson Environmental Group, has received two suspended prison sentences for dumping toxic sludge in the Gwent Levels, a sensitive landscape south east of Newport.

All Black 

Xavier Rush, now 46, played domestic rugby in New Zealand for Auckland and the Auckland Blues. He gained eight All Black test caps during his rugby career. After relocating to Wales he played for the Cardiff Blues before retiring as a player in 2011, when he stayed on with the club as a coach.

As well as developing properties, Mr Rush also has a hair transplant company called Head Quarters based in Cardiff city centre.

When the DBS loan was agreed, Mr Rush said: “The loan from the Development bank will enable us to breathe new life into the chapel to the highest specification; creating accommodation that exceeds the expectations of the most discerning buyers.

“What’s great is that the decision-making process on the loan has been really quick and straightforward, plus we’ve had the help of a dedicated property development executive to ensure that the finance is tailored to meet our exact needs.”

Unique living spaces 

Nicola Crocker, property development executive at DBW said the bank’s role was to help SME (small and medium-sized) developers make a big impact across Wales. She said: “Xavier’s vision is to create unique living spaces in desirable locations and this will hopefully be one of many similar developments for Xavier.

“We were immediately keen to support his latest development given the attractiveness of Abergavenny and the appeal of the properties being created. The short development period will enable us to recycle the funds into further development opportunities in Wales.”

Publicity material for the current sale of one of the Abergavenny town houses states: “Originally built in the late 19th century to serve the patients and staff of the nearby hospital, Pen Y Fal Chapel boasts a striking façade crafted from bull-nosed red sandstone, complemented by a majestic tall slate roof. The chapel’s cruciform layout features an impressive octagonal fleche at the crossing, adding to its architectural allure.

“Throughout the conversion, great care has been taken to showcase the building’s heritage, with arched stained glass windows, meticulously preserved hewn stonework, and an awe-inspiring wooden vaulted ceiling serving as focal points of the interior. This property offers a rare opportunity to own a piece of history while enjoying modern comforts and stylish living.”

A spokesperson for DBW said: ““In 2018 the Development Bank of Wales supported X-Stream Properties with a £1.1m property development loan to renovate a chapel in Abergavenny. Working closely with Cadw, the developer converted the Grade 2 listed building which had been boarded up since 1996, into six townhouses. The company repaid the loan in April 2021.”

The spokesperson added: “DBW provides commercial loans and equity investments to small businesses based in Wales. Lending and investment decisions taken by the Development Bank are wholly independent of the Welsh Government.”

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
21 days ago

Somebody sort this out now. The people damaging democracy in Wales are the Labour Gvt and their cronies aided and abetted by a cowardly PC who refuse to withdraw from this farcical ‘agreement. Somebody grow a back bone in the Senedd

20 days ago
Reply to  Gaynor

Rush is probably a safer pair of hands than Gething’s sponsor at Dauson. However your point is well made as the absence of transparency will arouse suspicion every time a loan or investment is made.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
20 days ago

There is an important issue here and the rules on public funding need to be understood – they clearly are not at the moment.. The government inherited two specific investment instruments, the 1972 Industrial Development Act and the powers of the WDA under the 1975 Welsh Development Agency Act. The former had grant awarding powers and the latter investment funds. There were – and I assume the statutory duty laid down in these original Acts has not changed – clear rules for funding from either source. The first was the additionality criteria, that the scheme had to be viable but… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
20 days ago

Again the alleged misuse of organisations & institutions funds by those who use nepotism. I had the naive idea this Development Bank of Wales was there to not only support and nurture but be a stepping stone to the creation of a National Bank of Wales that has the ability to print our own paper & coinage, not be a dip fund for celebrities , family & friends. And we don’t need any input by that Conservatives clot WS David TC Davies, who I might add conveniently turns a blind eye to his own party’s corruption. Less we forget the… Read more »

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.