THERE was widespread anger at the role of the police during a tense stand-off between campaigners and the team behind the Stradey Park Hotel asylum seekers plan yesterday.
Fencing which had been erected and locked at the private land at the entrance to the hotel was broken and moved by a security team from Lead Element, working for asylum seeker site operators Clearsprings Ready Homes.
“Much of this took place under the watchful eye of police officers, who were deaf to appeals by local residents that their land ownership rights were being overlooked,” said Robert Lloyd, a spokesman for the Furnace Action Committee.
“To our mind, it was a clear case of trespass over private land, criminal damage to the locks and fencing and theft of metals barriers, which were moved to land owned by the hotel.
“These issues were highlighted to the police officers present at the site yesterday.
“They were shown site plans and deed markings which clearly show the hotel does not own the land leading to the main road.
“Whether it was intentional or not, it appeared as if the police had taken sides in the row over the hotel, coming down against local residents and campaigners fighting the Home Office plan.
“With that in mind, we will be contacting the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), the Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner to register our complaints.
“It was clear to us that there were breaches of law and there was an unwillingness by the police, whether by accident or design, to do anything about it.”
It was the last day of business at the hotel on Monday – an emotional day for the nearly 100 full-time and part-time staff who were callously sacked by hotel owners Sterling Woodrow last week.
Sterling Woodrow has signed a deal with the Home Office and tender operators Clearsprings Ready Homes to house 241 asylum seekers in 76 rooms at the hotel from Monday, July 10.
There has been widespread concern over the plan, with the battle to save the hotel being led by the Furnace Action Committee, a volunteer group formed after a well-attended public meeting in Llanelli.
The entrance to the hotel off the B4309 has been a focal point for protests since the asylum seeker plans were revealed nearly six weeks ago.
Furnace Action Committee spokesman Robert Lloyd added: “What is even more bizarre yesterday is that this action by Clearsprings, the hotel owners and the Lead Element security team was going ahead at exactly the same time as a High Court judge was considering a Carmarthenshire Council planning permission case against the hotel owners and other parties.
“You can call us old-fashioned, but most of us have been brought up to respect the rule of law and to start yesterday’s action before any judgement had been made in the case was a clear sign of contempt for the rule of law.”
The fencing panels were later returned to the area owned by neighbouring residents – but only after lengthy negotiations which saw Sterling Woodrow boss Robert Horwood and other Clearsprings staff trapped inside the hotel grounds by sit-down protestors.