Atkinson calls for end to secrecy on plans for refugees
THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK)
March 9, 2002
An mp last night called for the owners of Otterburn Hall to end the secrecy surrounding the possible housing of asylum seekers there. Villagers in the 500-strong community of Otterburn in Northumberland had been worried by reports of a possible influx of up to 250 people, said Hexham MP Peter Atkinson. Page 138 Home Office didn’t know who was at riot inferno refugee centre;Leaked letter reveals Chief Constable’s fury at Yarl’s Wood security failures MAIL ON SUNDAY March 10, 2002 He called on the hall’s owners for the past 16 years, the YMCA, to reveal what plans had been discussed with London-based accommodation provider The Angel Group, and any other parties. The Angel Group has been linked with Otterburn Hall after Wearside charity The Lazarus Foundation decided not to pursue the opportunity. Neither the YMCA, nor the Angel Group were prepared to comment about plans last night. On the eve of his appearance at a community meeting about the issue in Otterburn, Mr Atkinson said: “The YMCA at Durham have apparently inserted a confidentiality clause in the whole arrangement. That’s what the Angel Group told me. “There appear to be two scenarios, one to have asylum seekers’ accommodation, and two for the hall to be a training centre for refugees who have been given the right to stay.” Mr Atkinson said the Angel Group’s managing director Julia Davey had visited the hall and talked to the YMCA staff, yet nobody in Otterburn had been formally notified of what plans were afoot. He said: “Between the YMCA and the Angel Group, you would think they would be able to tell the villagers about what is happening. Why don’t they say anything?” Mr Atkinson said he respected the need for commercial confidentiality, but the two parties’ silence on the hall’s future was causing unnecessary anxiety. The Journal first revealed outline plans to house asylum seekers in Otterburn more than a month ago. A YMCA trustee confirmed then the hall was up for sale. The Northumberland National Park authority said yesterday they had not received any applications to change the use of Otterburn Hall. Today’s meeting will start at 10am in Otterburn village hall, with county councillor John Riddle also in attendance.