South West Wales

'Cwtch' occupiers at the Dolphin Hotel in Swansea lose eviction challenge

A group of people who have been occupying a vacant hotel in Swansea city centre have lost their challenge against eviction.

A county court judge granted an interim possession order on Tuesday.

The Cwtch Community Centre group will have to vacate the Dolphin Hotel Hotel within 24 hours of it being served or risk breaking the law.

The group wanted to turn the building into a community resource and has already opened a coffee shop.

The landlord of the building, businessman Altaf Nanji of Yeovil Marsh in Somerset, applied to the court for the interim order.

His barrister Natasha Moran told the court he took on the lease at the end of last year and had appointed property agents to market it as a hotel and cafe.

It had been vacant for about two years.

Miss Moran said it was costing Mr Nanji about £100,000 and he was actively working to bring the building back into commercial use.

She said the group were "unlawfully occupying" the hotel and he had the right to immediate possession.

The court heard the group entered the hotel in the early hours of 30 January through an upstairs window.

One of its spokeswoman, D Murphy, said: "We did gain entry to this building through legal means."

She said they had opened accounts for the water and electricity and they would pay the bills.

For the last two weeks the group gas been running the 60-bedroom hotel as a community centre.

There is a cafe in the foyer serving hot drinks to the homeless, people in temporary shelters and the wider public.

There have been arts and music workshops and performances.

'Peaceful'

In arriving at his decision Circuit Judge Christopher Vosper QC said numerous letters and a petition in support of the group had been handed in to the court.

"Undoubtedly the work which the Cwtch Community Centre is doing is work that benefits the community," he added.

But he said in law he could not exercise any discretion as to the use of the building and Mr Nanji had shown he had the right of immediate position.

Once the interim order is served then the group will have 24 hours to leave.

Speaking after the hearing a man who gave his name in court as Rev of The Cwtch Community said he expected most members of the group to vacate the hotel.

"It's very disappointing, it's not what we wanted," he added.

"Each and every person is their own individual but the Cwtch Community is peaceful and we obey the law."

Mr Nanji said he did not want to comment as a full possession order hearing will take place at a date yet to be fixed.

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