Woman denies blocking access to asylum-seeker hotel
A woman has denied blocking access to a hotel in Llanelli where asylum seekers are due to be housed.
Helen Thomas, from Pentrepoeth Road, Furnace, near Llanelli, is charged with locking on to an object, other persons or land on July 9 with intent to cause serious disruption to those wishing to enter Stradey Park Hotel and Spa.
The 52-year-old appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Thursday and spoke only to confirm her name, age and date of birth and to enter a plea of not guilty.
More than a dozen protesters and members of Save Our Stradey Park And Neighbourhood (Sospan) watched proceedings from the public gallery while a larger group stood outside the court while the hearing took place.
Several of them wore red T-shirts with the Sospan logo on the front.
After the hearing, Thomas emerged from the court to a round of applause from the demonstrators.
Sospan is one of several action groups opposed to plans for the venue to host up to 241 asylum seekers which were announced in June.
Andrew Isaac, defending Thomas, said the case is “not a straightforward one” and there is much body-worn video footage of the alleged offence to examine.
District Judge Mark Layton set a date for a further case management hearing for September 28 at 10am.
Crown prosecutor Ryan Colamazza asked that the defendant be released on conditional bail.
Other Stradey Park Hotel protesters are due to appear in court on separate charges on August 10.
Carmarthenshire County Council lost a bid for a High Court injunction on July 7 to temporarily block plans to use the four-star hotel to accommodate asylum seeker families on the basis that it represents a material change of use and would be a “breach of planning control”.
The 77-bed site is said to have once hosted “major stars” from TV, film and sport, including the 1972 Llanelli rugby team that beat the All Blacks.
Hotel owner Gryphon Leisure is now seeking a High Court injunction to prevent the trespass and obstruction of the venue by protesters.
A hearing on Tuesday was adjourned until 2pm on Thursday after the judge received a number of emails from local residents.
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