Bid for hall in asylum seekers plan
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.