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Council loses High Court bid to block asylum seeker hotel plan

07 Jul 2023 5 minute read
Stradey Park Hotel. Photo via Google

Carmarthenshire County Council has lost a bid for a High Court injunction to temporarily block plans to use a four-star hotel in Llanelli to accommodate asylum seeker families.

At a hearing on Friday the council failed to secure an interim order preventing migrants being placed at the Stradey Park Hotel while their asylum claims are processed by the Home Office.

The local authority claimed proposals to house up to 241 people at the 77-bed site that hosts “major stars” from TV and film, represented a “material change of use from a hotel to a hostel” and would be a “breach of planning control”.

The housing of migrants at Llanelli’s largest hotel by bed space, due to take effect from Monday, “would undoubtedly cause harm” to the local economy, the council’s lawyers argued.

This included potentially losing more than 25% of the town’s hotel rooms, job losses, cancelled weddings and an impact on tourism, a judge at the High Court in London heard.

Urgent need

But a lawyer for Stradey Park’s owner, Gryphon Leisure Limited, opposed the bid to prevent it helping with a “clear, pressing and urgent need” for asylum seeker initial accommodation, arguing there would be no breach of planning rules.

The court was told that Gryphon director Robert Horwood had warned that, without the “injection of funds” from a contract with accommodation provider Clearsprings Ready Homes Limited, there was “a serious risk that the use as a hotel would be lost in any event”.

Judge Gavin Mansfield KC dismissed the injunction bid and will give his reasons at a further hearing on Monday afternoon.

Craig Howell Williams KC, for the council, told Friday’s hearing that it was “well aware of the pressures on the Home Office” over housing migrants but there was a lack of information over efforts to find alternatives to Stradey Park.

He said the “unique” hotel, a former Edwardian stately home, was “at the height of luxury end” of the market and played a “fundamental role for the tourism sector” due to its spa facilities, restaurant, proximity to a golf course and stadium and use by film crews.

The barrister said the hotel was “busy and well used” and that there were “good reasons to doubt” Mr Horwood’s claims that the business would have to close down and enter bankruptcy if an injunction was made.

Mr Howell Williams said couples had “recorded their disappointment” over weddings being moved to another venue amid 40 celebrations being cancelled, while there were also fears over the impact on the 85 people employed at the hotel.

In written arguments, the council’s lawyer said there was limited information over how the site will be operated for migrants, with plans for one family per room, catering and security.

Bodyguards

The use of bodyguards and perimeter patrols at other asylum seeker hotels was “alien to a residential neighbourhood”, Mr Howell Williams said.

He added that the council had “serious concerns” over “the strength of communal feeling in the locality against the proposed use which has ‘already manifested itself in unauthorised action at the entrance into the hotel’”.

Mr Howell Williams said concerns also covered the “potential for unrest within the community”, the impact on “social cohesion”, as well as on the police, schools and health service.

Jenny Wigley KC, for Clearsprings, Gryphon, Mr Horwood and his co-director Gareth Street, said in written arguments that using the hotel was “a temporary solution of last resort to the immediate emergency crisis caused by the unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers currently entering the country”.

She said Clearsprings, contracted by the Home Office, had responsibility to house some 48,000 asylum seekers, and was working with 225 hotels in the south of England and Wales.

The provider had to house around 800 to 1,000 new asylum seekers per month, with Stradey Park being “the only hotel available for new arrivals over the next seven days”, Ms Wigley said.

She added that if people were not accommodated “it would lead to the risk of asylum seekers being kept for longer in sub-standard, overcrowded conditions in facilities such as the Manston Centre, or in the worst-case scenario being made homeless”.

Lack of space

Ms Wigley said the number of asylum-seekers needing accommodation was “at record level”, adding that “the lives, health and wellbeing of large numbers of people are directly impacted by the lack of space at existing facilities”.

She said there would be “no physical alterations” to the hotel, adding that “the actual day-to-day use of the hotel by asylum seekers is largely indistinguishable from the use of a hotel by other guests”.

Ms Wigley said in court that “a handful of staff have been retained” at the hotel, adding that there was dispute over the causes of this, including over the impact of “negative publicity”.

The Carmarthenshire case comes after the UK Government lodged a bid to take a legal battle over its Rwanda asylum seeker deportation policy to the Supreme Court.

In June, Braintree District Council lost a Court of Appeal challenge over plans to house asylum seekers at Wethersfield Airfield in Essex.

In May, West Lindsey District Council lost its bid for a High Court injunction over placing migrants at the RAF Scampton base in Lincolnshire.

In January, East Lindsey District Council became the latest authority to consider legal action over using hotels for asylum seekers, which has already been pursued by Fenland District Council, in Cambridgeshire; North Northamptonshire Council; East Riding of Yorkshire Council; Stoke City Council; and Ipswich Borough Council.

Some have had their claims dismissed, but successful legal action pursued by Great Yarmouth Borough Council, in Norfolk, saw a High Court judge rule that seafront hotels there could not be used to house migrants.


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Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
9 months ago

If you wanted proof that the Westminster Government only care about themselves, here it is. Wales will always be treated as a third class citizen for as long as we let them get away with it!

A.Redman
A.Redman
9 months ago

No welcome in this hillside then?

Riki
Riki
9 months ago
Reply to  A.Redman

Not for those who want to replace the native culture as opposed to adapt and embrace it.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago

Jenrick eh! Tries to nick £50 odd million off the poorest Londoners to get in with his millionaire porno mate and now the true measure of the man, his boss and the criminal organisation they work for…

George Thomas
George Thomas
9 months ago

Westminster government under-invest in the UK over 15 years plus leading to weak, inefficient, cruel systems. They then target poor, small areas not fully equipped to offer the services asylum seekers need.

Croeso the new people moving into this hotel. I hope you’re welcomed well and looked after, but realistically this probably isn’t the best place for you. It’s a sh*tty Westminster government that has let you and local people down.

wayne
wayne
9 months ago

Time for change. Election coming time to vote with our feet. The argument to vote Labour to keep the Tories out does not hold water. Ditch the donkey vote and vote for a party that will give Wales Independence. No more unionist parties and their hanger on’s. Time we Welsh stood up for ourselves, and govern ourselves. Pleidiol wyf i’m Gwlad.

Phil
Phil
9 months ago
Reply to  wayne

Good rant, but what’s it got to do with asylum seekers or the Stradey Park Hotel?

Frank
Frank
9 months ago
Reply to  wayne

I agree about your “Time we Welsh stood up for ourselves and govern ourselves” remark. Believe me Wayne I am with you 100% but I fail to see who, out of the current available bunch of politicians, could lead the way. I don’t hear any of them promoting this and I don’t hear of a plan on how things would succeed if home rule was achieved. Is there a plan? Is Rhun ap Iorwerth in favour?

Last edited 9 months ago by Frank
Phil
Phil
9 months ago

Nation of Sanctuary or not, this court loss was always on the cards. More fool Carmarthenshire Council for wasting ratepayers ‘ money on an idea which was doomed to fail right from the start. Anyone hazard a guess at the cost of the exercise?

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
9 months ago

Wow this is a bit rich from the Plaid zelots when this is what they are doing constantly throughout Wales with their attacks on anyone wanting to promote tourism “would undoubtedly cause harm” to the local economy, the council’s lawyers argued.
This included potentially losing more than 25% of the town’s hotel rooms, job losses, cancelled weddings and an impact on tourism” 

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