Archive for February 2002
THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK)
A bid has been made for Otterburn Hall by a company who place asylum seekers provoking protests from furious residents. The move was confirmed last night at a heated meeting of residents who oppose the plan in the Northumberland village. Villagers have vowed to fight plans to convert the former hotel into a hostel for up to 250 asylum seekers. They believe it will ruin the character of the village, seriously jeopardise tourism and add too much strain to already limited services and resources. Last night a committee formed to fight the plans held a public meeting at Otterburn Village Hall, which was packed with 200 residents of the 500-strong community. Hexham MP Peter Atkinson confirmed yesterday that London-based The Angel Group had told his secretary they had put a bid in for Otterburn Hall which is valued by auctioneers Christies at 1.4m and is owned by the YMCA. Mr Atkinson is vehemently opposed to the proposal and said he is lobbying the Home Office minister responsible for immigration, Lord Rooker, to prevent it from going ahead. A letter from Mr Atkinson to Otterburn residents was read out at last night’s meeting. In it he said The Angel Group aims to provide asylum seeker accommodation among a “well established multi cultural neighbourhood, close to local amenities and conveniently situated for local transport services”. Mr Atkinson said: “I think it would be hard to find anywhere which fails this criteria so dismally as Otterburn Hall.” The MP has urged residents to call on the YMCA not to sell the hall to The Angel Group. The YMCA has confirmed there are companies interested in buying it but will not say who these parties are.
THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK)
February 21, 2002, Thursday Edition 1
Villagers who believe 250 asylum seekers could be placed in their remote Northumberland community are considering a go-slow protest on a key road to Scotland. At a meeting at Otterburn Village Hall last night a London-based company, The Angel Group Ltd, was named as being interested in buying the Otterburn Hall Hotel complex and turning it into a hostel for asylum seekers. A separate plan by Wearside-based charity The Lazarus Foundation to convert the hotel into a hostel for asylum seekers is now “miles away” from fruition, according to its head Chris Jones. But villagers told the meeting, which was attended by almost 200, they had a strong belief The Angel Group has now approached the owners of holiday chalets within Otterburn Hall’s grounds with a view to buying them. In The Lazarus Foundation’s original plan the chalets would have been used for asylum seekers’ families and the villagers believe that any plan to buy the chalets could point strongly towards the purchase of the hall itself. Villagers stressed they were not racist but feel that their 500-strong community would be ruined by the placing of up to 250 asylum seekers at the nearby hall. Last night they suggested holding a legal go-slow protest, similar to those of the fuel protest in September and November 2000, in a bid to slow traffic on the A696 road through the village to attract national attention to their concerns. A protest outside the hall was also suggested. Villager and former postmaster Bryce Watson, who last night chaired a committee at the meeting which has been formed to fight any asylum seeker plans for the village, said: “We have information which points towards The Angel Group being behind offers for the chalets.” He was responding to villagers’ claims during the meeting that they believed The Angel Group was one a number of prospective buyers for the hall. The YMCA Otterburn Hall Trust which owns the hall have confirmed it has parties interested in buying it but will not confirm who these are. Mr Watson added: “We are not against asylum seekers as people. We actually would feel very sorry for them if they were to be placed so far into the country with so little to do. Having said that, the village is important to us and we must make sure it does not get swamped and ruined.” When contacted by The Journal last night a spokesman for The Angel Group, said: “We cannot comment on this matter [Otterburn] and it is our policy not to comment at all to members of the Press.” A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed that a Newcastle-based hostel for asylum seekers named Angel Heights is run by The Angel Group.
THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK)
February 21, 2002, Thursday
A COMPANY that rehouses asylum seekers is to fight a decision not to allow it to turn a former Wakefield prison college into a hostel for up to 200 refugees. The Angel Group has lodged an appeal against Wakefield Council planning board’s decision to turn down its application to convert the building, next door to the city’s top security prison in Love Lane. But Wakefield’s MP, David Hinchliffe, a staunch opponent of the scheme, said he had sought further assurances from Home Office Minister Lord Rooker. “The Home Office said last year it had no use for the building as a centre for asylum seekers. “Representatives of the National Asylum Support Service, including their contracts manager, were present at the meeting with the Minister. “Lord Rooker again stated categorically that the Home Office had no intention of using this building for asylum seekers. “He indicated that the Government will be making an announcement in the near future regarding the location of a series of new reception centres for asylum seekers. “The Wakefield building was not appropriate for this use, being too small for the function envisaged and sited in an urban areas.” Angel’s appeal is likely to anger the majority of residents living near the former college building, 120 of whom objected to the application in November last year. The rejection came as a major blow to the London-based company, which was understood to have invested a large amount in refurbishing the building. At the time, the Angel Group said that more than 75 people would be employed at the hostel. It stressed that asylum seekers would only be there for 21 to 28 days. Risk But the planning board, which visited the site, unanimously refused approval. It claimed that the scale and location of the hostel posed potential risk to the occupants. A spokesman for The Angel Group today refused to comment on its decision to appeal.
February 4, 2002
BYLINE: Evening Chronicle
Asylum seekers suffering race hate attacks in Newcastle’s West End are to benefit from a new initiative. An asylum seeker support worker and community beat manager are being appointed to help the rising number of foreigners in the area. Calls to police involving asylum seekers have risen from 15 a month last January to 68 per month. A Community and Race Relations Audit found 77 per cent of asylum seekers felt it served no purpose reporting incidents. Last May a Special Investigation Unit [SIU] was set up at Newcastle West Area Command to deal with hate crime. Last year a quarter of the force’s racist incidents were in that area. The new posts will help the SIU improve its service to victims and improve community confidence in the police. Money for the scheme is through a partnership of Northumbria Police, Newcastle City Council, plus Angel Group Limited and Roselodge Group, which work with councils to house asylum seekers. The asylum seeker support worker will fit in with two existing Asian link workers.