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Caerphilly Politics South Wales

Protester chains herself to pillar at council headquarters over gas test dispute

A protester chained herself to a pillar at Caerphilly County Borough Council HQ (Pic: LDRS)

POLICE were called to Caerphilly Council’s headquarters on Monday (October 30) after a woman chained herself to a pillar in reception.

The lone protester told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) she had been embroiled in a long dispute with the local authority over a gas test, culminating in court action earlier this year.

Sitting atop an orange mat and displaying a homemade sign outlining her claims, the protester – who wished to remain anonymous – said the row stemmed from her decision to install her own oven at her council-managed home near Rhymney.

“I’ve had problems with germs since I was 11 years of age,” she told the LDRS. “Around food it’s really terrible [and] especially bad around things like my cooker.”

Covid-19 presented heightened challenges, when messaging around infection control and how easily germs could spread meant the pandemic was “a really difficult time”.

The protester said she “couldn’t have anybody in my house” as a result, and her specific fears around kitchen hygiene meant she decided to install her own oven.

But when the council announced it would carry out an annual gas safety check, her attempts to exclude the oven from that inspection – on the basis the council, as landlord, was only obliged to examine its own property – were challenged.

The council also rebuffed her offer to compromise and cover her oven hobs with protective plastic sheeting during the inspection, she alleged.

Then, as the situation escalated, the council sought a court order compelling her to comply with the gas inspection, and in May a judge sided with the local authority, she told the LDRS.

While the protester was telling her story in the council headquarters, two police officers arrived to monitor her sit-in, and asked her whether she would leave the building if asked to do so.

Tearfully, she recounted how the legal battle had taken a toll on her health, and said she had received a new legal summons which she fears will end in her imprisonment because she has failed to comply with the court order.

“I’m going to prison because I wanted to put a plastic sheet on my cooker,” she said. “They started a campaign against me.

“How can this be fair? How can this be right?”

A spokesperson for Gwent Police told the LDRS: “We received a report of a single person protest at Ty Penallta, Ystrad Mynach at around 12.40pm on Monday October 30.

“Officers attended and engaged with the protester as part of our duty to ensure public safety and protect individuals and organisations going about their lawful business.

“Following discussions with officers, the protester, a 57-year-old woman, was transported home. No arrests were made.”

Caerphilly County Borough Council declined to comment.