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Weddings cancelled after Grantham hotel takes in Afghans

A decision by hotel owners to allow their venue to be used by Afghans fleeing their country has left people angry and upset after weddings and other events were cancelled.

Afghans began arriving at the Urban Hotel in Swingbridge Road on Monday after its owners agreed with the Home Office to let them stay there. The arrangement is believed to be for at least six months.

This has meant the cancellation of numerous events, including blood donor sessions and entertainment.

Urban Hotel (51056878)
Urban Hotel (51056878)

Helen Kettle was due to be married to her fiance Robert Berry at the venue on October 16, but the day which was to include a wedding breakfast and an evening reception for 150 people, some of whom were due to stay there, has been cancelled.

Helen, of Gonerby Hill Foot, said: “That company has sold out. They have realised they have got a fantastic deal from the Home Office for the next six months and they have shafted every single couple, bearing in mind they are a licenced wedding venue so it was likely they would have weddings booked particularly after Covid.”

Helen said she had had to rearrange her wedding at the Urban three times because it had been booked for April last year during the pandemic and and then put back to June, and again to April this year.

Helen said she and Robert had had their final meeting with the events manager at the hotel last Monday and received an email on Saturday asking them to call the hotel urgently.

Urban Hotel (51056897)
Urban Hotel (51056897)

Helen described the way she had been treated as “disgusting and despicable”. She said: “At the end of the day everyone has empathy for the Afghan people that are coming over. They have been in a terrible situation, but why have the Urban offered their property when they have got contractual and emotional commitments with people?

“It’s absolutely disgusting what they have done.

“I want emphasise this is not a political debate. What I will never understand is why do this when they are a licensed wedding venue with imminent wedding bookings, not just a reception venue?”

The couple say they have been lucky to rearrange their wedding for the same date at the Red Lion in Newton.

While many people have been left disappointed by cancellations, other Journal readers have been supportive of the hotel's decision.

Sue McQuinn said: “I can’t imagine what these people have been through. The refugees, not the people who’ve had their venue cancelled. I can imagine having a birthday or wedding cancelled - very disappointing and upsetting. But not life threatening. I hope the refugees will be welcomed and can make a good life for themselves in the UK, once they’ve got over the trauma they’ve suffered. But for an accident of birth anyone of us could be in their shoes.”

Rob Richards said: “As an armed forces veteran who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan I am in a privileged position to say I served alongside Afghans in their country.

“Think past your own personal feelings and try to see it from their point of view. Please welcome them not shun them.”

A spokesman for the Urban said those people arriving at the hotel this week are Afghans who have worked with the British forces as cooks, drivers and IT workers as well as in other jobs. Families are among those who are being given accommodation.

The spokesman apologised to guests who had had events or bookings cancelled and claimed they had tried to find alternative venues for couples due to get married, although it had not been possible to find somewhere for all of them as there were few venues in Grantham large enough.

The spokesman added: “Some people have been understanding, some people have been obviously upset.”

The hotel was approached directly by the Home Office, said the spokesman, who added that it was a “hard decision” to take to offer its help.

He said all rooms at the hotel had been given to Afghans who had started arriving on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said it could not comment on the circumstances surrounding individual hotels but venues were chosen where there were facilities such as shops and schools.

The Urban is a four-star hotel with a pool, gym and spa. It has 89 en suite rooms.

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