Centre for refugees may still be built’
Yorkshire Post June 1, 2002
CAMPAIGNERS who fought off plans for a huge asylum- seekers’ complex on their doorsteps fear it may still go ahead – despite the scheme being unanimously rejected last year. More than (GBP)1m has reportedly been spent on the planned site, at the former Wakefield Prison college, to house more than 200 people despite Home Office claims that the plans have been shelved. Last night Wakefield MP David Hinchliffe (Lab) said he was meeting Home Secretary David Blunkett next week to seek further assurances. He reiterated his view that the site, close to the city centre, was totally unsuitable. The Angel Group, which rehouses asylum-seekers, lodged an appeal against Wakefield Council planning board’s decision to turn down its application to convert the building, and an appeal is due to be heard in October. But in recent months local residents claim the site has undergone a major facelift with workmen reportedly refurbishing the building. Roy Eyre, who lives nearby, said people just wanted to know what was happening. He said: There’s a million questions that need answering. It seems a done deal to many of us. There’s been a lot of money spent and people don’t spend this kind of money without good reason. Another resident, Bob Austin, said: I just wish they would come out and tell us what they intend to do with the building. Residents are being backed by Mr Hinchliffe, who has been a staunch opponent of the scheme since it first came to light last year. To place asylum seekers right next to a top security prison with murderers and rapists is completely inappropriate, he said. I believe there are genuine questions over whether there would be public order problems. Mr Hinchliffe said he had been given assurances by the former Home Office Minister Lord Rooker, that there were no plans to use the site to house asylum seekers, but he hopes to clarify the situation next week. The Angel Group was refused planning application to convert the building into a residential hostel last November, because the location was inappropriate and posed safety risks to the occupants. The rejection came as a blow to the London-based firm, which was understood to have invested a large amount of cash refurbishing the building. At the time, the company said asylum-seekers would only be there for 21 to 28 days. The Yorkshire Post contacted the Angel Group last night, but no one was available for comment.