THE team behind the Furnace Action Committee is continuing to keep investors in the Stradey Park Hotel in the loop while speculation continues over the venue’s future.
It is now more than three weeks since the Home Office announced the scrapping of a flawed plan to house more than 240 asylum seekers at the four-star hotel.
“Sadly, there are still massive question marks over the future of the hotel,” said Steve Williams, a member of the Furnace Action Committee, the volunteer group which has been campaigning against the asylum seekers plan since June.
“We have carried out extensive research into the ownership of the hotel,” Mr Williams added.
“And we have been in dialogue with some of the investors since early in the summer. It became apparent early on that the investors were getting more information from us, as a campaign group, than they were getting from the hotel owners.
“Investors purchased different packages in the hotel – packages which were sold through very glossy and attractive portfolios, advertising the Stradey Park Hotel and Spa as the jewel in the crown of Carmarthenshire’s tourism industry.
“Plainly, there is a massive difference between the Stradey Park operating as a much-respected four-star tourism attraction and it being turned into accommodation for asylum seekers.
“As a campaign group, we felt the investors hadn’t been given the true picture of developments at the Stradey Park Hotel, so we have worked hard (through emails and airmail correspondence) to keep the investors fully in the loop with what’s going at the hotel.
“In particular, they will be interested this week that it is now three weeks since the Home Office scrapped the asylum seekers plan.
“The owners have given vague promises on social media to reopen the hotel – but the reality is that, on the ground, there is little evidence of any activity or work going on to renovate the hotel and bring it back to its glory days.
“This is very alarming. There is nothing stopping the owners cracking on and reinvesting in the hotel to bring it back up to standard. Instead, they seem to be bleating like sheep and whinging about a blockade of the site. No such blockade exists.”
Mr Williams explained the hotel ownership structure.
The family firm of Gryphon Leisure sold Stradey Park Hotel and Spa to Sterling Woodrow Investments in 2020 off an asking price of £3.2m.
Visitors to the Sterling Woodrow website today (October 31) were directed to a bare looking holding page carrying the message ‘There has been a critical error on this website’.
It seems that the ownership of the hotel lies with a firm called Gryphon Leisure Ltd, with Sterling Woodrow acting as agents to sell off leases in individual rooms. These packages were advertised in glossy brochures and impressive online videos.
In 2020, rooms in the Stradey Park Hotel and Spa, Llanelli, were for sale from £59,950 for 999 year leases.
The unregulated investments offered a return of 10% a year for five years before buy-back.
The agents suggested that buyers would receive an annual 10% yield for five years, and buy-back at the purchase price plus 115% or 120% at the end of that term.
Investor details on company documentation researched by the Furnace Action Committee include addresses in the UK, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Finland, Spain, Qatar, Israel, Nigeria, Unite Arab Emirates, Australia, Malta, Cyprus, Malaysia and Singapore.
The sale of hotel rooms is unregulated in the UK, meaning that investors carry the whole risk.
Sterling Woodrow is not authorised or regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Investors were advised the products offered by Sterling Woodrow were not regulated by the FCA or covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Investors were told they would not have access to the financial ombudsman service.
Mr Williams added: “Our research showed that there were 65investors in 76 units (rooms or suites) at the hotel.
“It is worth noting that some investors put money into more than one unit/hotel room.
“Some investor packages consisted of companies or groups of people, including some families.”
Mr Williams concluded: “The lack of urgency to renovate the Stradey Park Hotel is obviously a cause for concern for the community of Furnace and Llanelli.
“It will also be a cause for concern for investors in the hotel, who may now be worried about the hotel’s long-term future.
“Plainly, the hotel owners need to get a grip on the situation very quickly. The people of Furnace and Llanelli need to see physical signs that they are willing to back up their wishy-washy statements on social media and actually return the hotel to its key place in our tourism industry.”