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   Inside Out - South: Monday March 6, 2006

Timeshare troubles

Frank Madden
Time share deals - hard sell or business proposition?

Have you got a timeshare you are desperate to sell?

If so, you could be contacted by a company called Gold Quest Marketing, based in Bournemouth.

Inside Out reveals the real story behind the time share deal that seems too good to be true.

But this turns out to be a new twist on an old scam - this time, you pay up front for the privilege of a three-hour hard sell.

Admin fee

Gold Quest Marketing cold calls timeshare owners all over the country and promises to buy their timeshares off them for thousands of pounds.

All you have to do is pay an "admin fee" of £325 upfront, and come down to Bournemouth to complete the deal.

Denzil Evans
Denzil Evans - initially pleased with the deal

So what’s the catch?

Well, Denzil Evans, 77, from Wales, seemed pleased with the idea.

He was told on the phone that his timeshare was worth £4,800 and that he would get the £325 back when the deal was done.

But what Mr Evans didn’t know was that the man behind Gold Quest Marketing was Frank Madden.

His previous holiday companies had been compulsorily wound up, and he’d been investigated by the Office of Fair Trading for misleading consumers just to get them to attend his sales presentations in Bournemouth.

Cold calling

One man who had had experience with Gold Quest Marketing was Yorkshire man Ken Bellwood.

He signed up to sell his timeshare after a cold call, and paid his £325.

He believed he was going to get £6,400.

Ken Bellwood
Ken Bellwood - signed up after a cold call

But when the letter came from Gold Quest Marketing, he noticed it mentioned a "trade" rather than a "sale".

He called them back just to make sure he wouldn’t end up empty-handed.

Ken was assured on the phone that it was a straightforward sale, so he travelled down to Bournemouth to meet Frank Madden.

But there was no sale - only a hard-sell to join Mr Madden's latest holiday club.

The problem for Mr Bellwood and all the others we’ve spoken to is that what the salesman promises in his call is different from what is said in the small print.

The paperwork never mentions "buy", only the word "trade".

And consumers just can’t prove what was said on the phone.

Consumer complaints

The Timeshare Consumers Association says it has received a number of complaints about Gold Quest Marketing.

Sandy Grey, from the Association, says, "If people read [the letter] very carefully, it does not support the promise that was made on the telephone [that] you're going to get money for your timeshare."

So how could we prove that what’s being said on the phone is different from what’s in the small print?

Well, Mr Evans agreed to lend us his identity for 24 hours and posing as him, we called Mr Madden’s office to check that Gold Quest Marketing really intended to buy his timeshare.

Bournemouth Trading Standards Officer, Colston Nichols, listened to our phone call - and heard the clearest of promises to buy the timeshare and return the £325 "admin fee" to Mr Evans.

Keeping the business promise?

Next, armed with recording equipment hidden in a jacket, we set out to discover if they’d keep those promises.

But after several hours with several salesman, we got nothing.

There was no returned "admin fee" and no purchase of our timeshare.

What we were offered was a trade-in deal.

We could trade our timeshare for membership of something called a holiday club which entitled us to discount holidays over a period of time.

We were told that far from being worth £4,800 as promised, our timeshare was worth "peanuts". We left empty-handed.

What was promised on the phone simply never materialised.

Frank Madden did not want to be interviewed.

He told us that he offers a true gateway for people wanting to trade their timeshare and that he is running a proper business.

Mr Madden says that he will put new safeguards in place to ensure no one is misled.

Mr Evans said:

"I hope these people can be caught so more people don't have to go through what me and my wife went through."

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Spitfire

Spitfire in flight
Sports car in the sky - the iconic Spitfire

Inside Out presenter Chris Packham celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Spitfire by taking to the skies in Britain's most famous plane.

The 30 minute flight from Southampton airport was a dream come true for Chris, because he has been obsessed with the Spitfire since he was a child.

"It's like a little sports car in the sky," says Chris, after the flight.

"It feels like you can reach out and touch the wings.

"It's so manoeuvrable and so personal."

First flights

Charles Dack tells the programme how he watched the first flight of the Spitfire at the same airport on the 5th March 1936:

"The aircraft came out on the field and took off. It wasn't even painted.

"It sort of dived down toward you and then went up again, which took your breath away."

Just four years after the first flight, the Spitfire played a crucial role in the Battle of Britain.

The programme explains how the Government kept production going even after the Southampton factories were bombed by the Germans in September 1940.

Within 48 hours of the attack, small businesses were being requisitioned to start building Spitfires.

Chris Packham in Spitfire
Chocs away - Chris Packham flying in a Spitfire

Harry Griffiths, who worked for the manufacturer, Supermarine, says there were hundreds of subcontractors.

"The diversity of companies and organisations which made parts is quite fantastic.

"There were small garages and we took over a laundry in Southampton."

Today, 70 years later, the Spitfire is one of Britain's most enduring wartime icons - a symbol of Britain's wartime spirit and national pride.

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Seven Man Made Blunders

Brighton's West Pier
West Pier - the first pier in Britain to be listed, now beyond repair

Inside Out presenter Chris Packham explores his personal list of seven man made blunders of the South of England.

The West Pier

Chris starts with the grade one listed West Pier in Brighton, built in 1866 and once a beautiful living piece of seaside history.

But this is a structure left to drown in the waves - its decaying remains now a constant reminder of what could've happened but didn't.

Since it closed in 1975, the West Pier has struggled for breath.

But two fires and too much bureaucracy stopped it ever being rescued.

Local historian and former trustee of the West Pier Trust, Nimrod Ping, is ashamed that it was never rescued and says now it should be taken away:

"'It actually stops Brighton from getting a blue flag because of all the bits of scrap metal in the sea," he says.

Stonehenge

There's absolutely no doubt that Stonehenge is a man made wonder - in fact it was the only site in the Britain nominated to be one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Stonehenge
Traffic trouble at stunning Stonehenge

But here's the blunder - this mega megalith is surrounded by traffic.

Two plans, two reviews and eight years after it was decided something simply had to be done, the cars drone on, and the cost of a solution rockets.

To date £23 million has been spent just thinking about whether to build a tunnel under it or a road round this fantastic World Heritage Site.

"Yet nothing's happened and probably never will. And sorting out this renowned bottleneck in this world famous location has now been deemed a regional problem.

"Paying for a tunnel would eat up the entire road budget for the South West for a year in one fell swoop," says an exasperated Chris.

Farringdon

And now from a building which hasn't happened to some which shouldn't have.

Farringdon flooding
Flooded Farringdon - drainage problems

Chris' next choice is the Hampshire village of Lower Farringdon.

In December 2000 East Hampshire District Council said it was aware the area flooded from time to time.

It accepted advice from the now defunct National Rivers Authority that drainage would solve it.

Unfortunately the village flooded very badly.

All but four of the houses at Lower Farringdon were pulled down - the area will eventually become the village green when new developments take place.

Canford

Canford Heath just outside Poole in Dorset is home to Dartford Warblers, and Nightjars.

It was the place Chris saw his first Sand Lizard at the age of eight.

Now only part of this extremely rare habitat is left because a housing estate was built here in the 1980s.

Chris calls it, "Surely the biggest environmental disaster in the South in my lifetime."

Oxford

Blunder number five is on the outskirts of that quintessentially English seat of learning, Oxford.

"'Even as you enter the city, there's this rotten old silo," says Chris.

The grain silo at Kidlington was built in 1940 by the Ministry of Works, but hasn't stored grain now for many years.

What's worse is that it stands empty on Oxford's green belt with no one actually willing to pull it down.

Reading

Chris' sixth blunder is Reading.

Reading
Brutalism par excellence - Reading's carbuncle

He specifically cites the cable and wireless building, known locally as 'castle grey skull'.

This concrete 'carbuncle' of a structure is one of the town's worst eyesores according to Chris.

"If I had my way, I'd paint it yellow and fire rockets from the roof to be sent out across the South to save us from architectural oblivion," says Chris.

But the former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects has an even better idea.

George Ferguson calls it, the X list:

"The X list is about speeding up the process of demolishing bad buildings, many of which we've been stuck with since the war.

"And Reading has too many of these type of buildings. Buildings on the X list would be fast tracked for demolition making room for better buildings in their place."

Bournemouth IMAX

Chris' final blunder should in his view, top any X list.

The Bournemouth IMAX was recently voted the most hated building in the south.

"I mean, look at it," says Chris, "if that wavy roof line is supposed to be some sort of nod to the sea, it hasn't worked… oh dear, oh dear, oh dear."

After three years the IMAX cinema closed.

But the building does house, amongst others, a southern fried chicken outlet, a pub, a night club and a whacky warehouse style ball pit for kids.

The current owner is a pensions company based in Ireland.

We spoke to its fund manager who told us if anyone wants to pull it down they're welcome to. They just have to buy it first.

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