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Press Association
Thu 18 Mar 2004
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1:58pm (UK)
Hollywood Star Loses Final Round in Planning Battle

By Antony Stone, PA News

Hollywood superstar Catherine Zeta Jones today lost the final round in a fight to stop a businessman running his firm from a base close to her new luxury home.

Councillors in her home city of Swansea, south Wales, voted to allow entrepreneur Steve Gwynn to continue using a barn as headquarters for his IT company.

In a final affront to the local girl made good, one councillor suggested the Oscar-winning actress should have built her luxury mansion elsewhere instead.

Another councillor claimed they had all been put under undue pressure because of the celebrity dimension to a simple planning matter.

Zeta Jones has put the quaint Swansea Bay village of Mumbles on the map since she opted to build a £1.1 million luxury home there last year.

Tourists flock to see the imposing property the local celebrity and her husband Michael Douglas will call home on future visits to Wales.

Dai and Pat Jones, the star’s parents, are understood to be preparing to move to the mansion, which is part of an exclusive development, soon.

They have put their own four bedroom home, in the nearby Mayals area, on the market for £425,000.

But Mr Gwynn has been managing his telecommunications business from an outbuilding of a house on the prestigious estate for 17 months.

He sparked a series of strong local objections when he applied to the Swansea Council for permission to keep using the first floor of the garage as an office.

Two weeks ago a council planning committee gave him the green light to carry on operating for two years, after which the decision will be reviewed.

They came to their decision after visiting the site itself and despite the fact that their own planning officers were recommending refusal.

At the time they read through eight separate letters which objected to allowing the business to continue to operate at the present location.

Among them was a letter from a solicitor representing Miss Jones’s parents and CZ Investments.

The letter speaks of their extreme “concern and alarm” at any continued business activity on the site.

It spells out their concern that visits by staff members working for the IT firm would jeopardise both their privacy and security.

It added the family bought the building plot “on the clear understanding that it would be private, prestigious and exclusive and extremely safe and secure as it was a ’gated’ development”.

A letter from Mr Gwynn pointed out that his property generates minimal traffic and far less than his new celebrity neighbours through interest from tourists.

A meeting of the full council today upheld the previous decision to allow the firm to continue operating as it has done since the end of 2002.

Labour Councillor Des Thomas spoke in favour of the business and said Mr Gwynn had made a reasonable request to carry on as before.

He said the luxury compound was close to a cricket club and all the facilities of Mumbles village, where a lot of activity took place.

He suggested that the family should have built their home in Llandeilo, 40 miles inland and to the west, if they sought more privacy.

“If they wanted peace and security, why didn’t they buy somewhere else in a place like Llandeilo?” he asked.

Lib-Dem councillor Mary Jones, said she thought that councillors had been put under undue pressure to close down the operation.

“The only reason that we are having this pressure put on us is because it happens to be the parents of a very influential couple,” she said.

“If it was one of us or anyone else we would not have this pressure put upon us.”

Mr Gwynn, who was not available for comment, has previous called the council’s decision “a vote for common sense”.

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