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Hall sold to refugee housing company

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THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK)

March 26, 2002

Villagers received the news they had been dreading yester- day when a firm which houses asylum seekers confirmed it had purch- ased a remote hotel and conference centre. The people of Otterburn have been living with the prospect of London-based accommodation provider the Angel Group buying Otterburn Hall for the past two months. They say a possible influx of 250 asylum seekers to live in the hall would be too large for a village of just 500 people to cope with. Yesterday, the hall’s current owner, the YMCA, revealed to staff that a sale had been concluded with a company called Thornminster Ltd, part of the Angel Group. The group has been in negotiations with the YMCA for several weeks, but the two sides undertook a confidentiality agreement not to comment on their talks. The 24 staff at the hall were briefed on the sale yesterday morning, and given a letter stating that the handover to Thornminster would happen on April 29. The staff’s terms and conditions will stay the same as with the YMCA. The letter stated: “… although Thornminster have considered using the hall as a base for asylum seekers, the appropriate consents for the change of use have not been given. Accordingly, they are considering various possibilities including using the hall as a conference or training centre.” But the planning authority responsible for the site, Northumberland National Park, said yesterday it had not received any applications, so had not made decisions on a possible change of use. A spokesman for the Angel Group declined to comment on the sale, but the chairman of the YMCA company which owns the hall, Arthur Falconer, confirmed it had been agreed at a price close to its market value. Mr Falconer said: “The potential use could be for the purpose of asylum seeker accommodation, as that is some of the business the Angel Group is involved in, but they have also indicated alternative uses including for the use of their own organisation.” Hexham MP Peter Atkinson said he had hoped the Angel Group would have given information on its plans for Otterburn Hall. He said: “It’s most extraordinary. I can’t believe they don’t know what they are going to do with the building. We are talking about an experienced property company paying, we assume, over 1m for a building for which they have not decided the future use, or established a future income stream. I urge them to come forward, behave responsibly and tell the local community what is planned.” Villager Bryce Watson, who has help- ed lead the action group on Otterburn Hall, said: “We are still in complete limbo. Everything hangs in the balance until we find out what the Angel Group’s plans are.” Kevin Appleby, 41, of Willow Green, Otterburn, said: “There’s nothing for asylum seekers here. No facilities at all.”

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Written by Concerned

March 26, 2002 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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