Following a meeting between Carmarthenshire County Council officers and the Home Office on 30 May, Council Leader Darren Price says he has written to the owners of the Stradey Park Hotel, Llanelli urging them to provide an honest answer to the people of Llanelli as to whether they are in discussions with the Home Office regarding the potential use of the hotel to accommodate asylum seekers.
Carmarthenshire County Council say their officers were informed by a Home Office official that the Minister of State (Immigration Minister) in Westminster has given agreement for the use of Stradey Park Hotel to proceed to house asylum seekers, subject to a contract between the hotel owners and Clearsprings, the operator who works on behalf of the Home Office running these sites.
To be able to secure a contract with the hotel owners for the placement of Asylum seekers, the County Council say they understand that Clearsprings have a range of assessments and work that is yet to be completed, including a fire risk assessment. The use intended by Clearsprings is still for 207 asylum seekers in the hotel rooms and up to 107 emergency provision in communal areas. The County Council say they are yet to receive any of this information in writing despite repeated requests.
They add that public sector partners have also raised concerns regarding health services and have been advised that additional funding for this would be the responsibility of the Welsh Government.
The Council say they are firmly against the Stradey Park Hotel proposal going ahead and are exploring a range of legal routes, including planning, to persuade the Home Office and hotel owners of the unsuitable nature of the site for this purpose.
Cllr. Darren Price Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council said: “It is time for the owner of the Stradey Park Hotel, Sterling Woodrow, to come clean about its discussions with the Home Office. I have written to them to demand answers on the future use of the hotel, as the local community of Furnace and Llanelli need answers, as do the staff of the hotel, Carmarthenshire County Council and our range of partners.
“Only this week, the Home Office, once again, repeated their intention to use the Stradey Park Hotel as a site for contingency accommodation for in excess of 300 asylum seekers. The hotel owner, Sterling Woodrow, must now be open and honest with the people of Carmarthenshire; yes or no, are they in discussions with the Home Office and, if so, do they intend to proceed with the planned proposal to concentrate a large number of asylum seekers at the hotel?
“The Stradey Park Hotel plays an important role within our county as a venue that is often used by local people for events such as weddings, conferences and social events. It is also popular with tourists and visitors to Carmarthenshire. The hotel has enjoyed a significant amount of support from the local community over the years, it is only right, therefore, that they are honest with the local community.
“As a local authority, we want to be able to work with the hotel to encourage and develop tourism and growth in the area. The experience of the past few weeks has left the local community feeling very disappointed, with wedding receptions being cancelled due to the uncertainty. It is having a very real impact on people’s lives in the area. It is not fair on couples looking forward to their wedding day, it is not fair on the local community, and it is not fair on the staff at the hotel. The hotel owners have an opportunity to put a stop to all of this by telling the Home Office that they do not want to proceed, and I would urge them to do just that.”
Meanwhile, the leader of Llanelli Rural Council, the community council that covers the village of Furnace where Stradey Park Hotel is located, has also denounced the plans.
Cllr Sue Lewis remarked: “The notion being considered by the Home Office cannot be supported as it doesn’t make sense on so many levels.
“Personally, I am greatly concerned by the news and I know my fellow councillors feel like I do and share my concerns about the detrimental impact this will have locally on the hotel and its staff but moreover, the residents of the village of Furnace and the wider community of Llanelli.
“The council will be fully discussing the issue at its forthcoming meeting on 13 June with a view of lobbying the Home Office not to proceed with such a controversial and ill-considered proposal.
“Placing a large number of asylum seekers in one venue or one particular location in Llanelli is not the answer. Put simply, Llanelli is not equipped to cater for such a large processing facility. It will significantly increase pressure on all the public service agencies but particularly Carmarthenshire County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board.
“If this goes ahead it will have a significant and negative impact on services and will completely transform the village of Furnace. School places and access to local health services and GP services are already over-stretched, not only this but who will have to pick up the bill? I’m sure it won’t be the Home Office.
“I am very concerned about the impact this will have on the future status and standing of the Stradey Park Hotel and the general community. I’m sure I speak for all councillors when I say the council fully supports Carmarthenshire County Council’s dispersed model for accommodating asylum seekers across Carmarthenshire. This model seeks to integrate asylum seekers in a more measured and sustainable way. It has already been successful as we have seen with the successful resettlement of Syrian, Afghan, Ukrainian and other general asylum seekers in recent times.
“I fully support Carmarthenshire County Council pursuing this with the utmost importance with the Home Office in the hope of preventing it from going ahead.”
(Lead image: Google Maps)
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