Villagers in protests over hostel
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.