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The Express

PLANS to house thousands of asylum seekers in mansions and hotels ignited a countrywide revolt yesterday amid fears it could encourage more to flood in. Residents in Kent are seeking a judicial review over proposals to put immigrants in a three-star hotel. A local MP condemned the Home Office plan as “outrageous”. Meanwhile, furious protesters stormed a Grade II listed hunting lodge in Lincolnshire earmarked for 500 new arrivals. One villager said: “It’s dreadful. The face of the British countryside is changing for ever.” Accommodation and property companies have been contracted to find suitable premises for a series of asylum induction centres. The firms involved are said to have been instructed to look for buildings which already have planning permission as hotels to avoid the need to consult local authorities or residents. Last night Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK, an independent think-tank, warned: “This is an appalling use of taxpayers’ money and can only encourage a still larger flow of asylum seekers.” The revelation emerged just a few days after the Daily Express revealed that some asylum seekers are to be welcomed with a luxury stay in a former Butlins holiday hotel. Residents living close to the Grand Ocean Hotel in Saltdean, near Brighton, are livid. Twin rooms cost up to GBP 100 a night at the imposing 345-room art deco landmark, which boasts colour televisions in all the rooms, an indoor pool and sauna. Close to beaches, the hotel’s other attractions include landscaped gardens, room service, a beauty salon and live entertainment. Now the Home Office has confirmed that a contract has been awarded to property company Accomodata to provide 111 places at the three-star Coniston Hotel in Sittingbourne, Kent.  The GBP 65-a-night hotel boasts 62 ensuite bedrooms with cable TV and is regularly used for wedding receptions and other functions. It has a ballroom with chandeliers, two bars and a restaurant. Angry locals are to seek a judicial review. These take place when a public body is deemed to have acted improperly or not in the public interest. A demonstration was held by furious locals. Robert Wrigley, 44, a maintenance engineer, collected 2,500 signatures on a petition asking the Government to think again. He said: “I believe people have a right to be asked about this, not to have the Government say it is coming and we can do nothing. Tony Blair and his Government are treating this like it is a dictatorship. People have cancelled weddings at that hotel because of this.” Stephen Singer, 37, a father of three, said: “We have only got one hotel in this town and it is going to be a doss house.” The Labour MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Derek Wyatt, branded the Home Office’s tactics as “outrageous”. He said the hotel’s owner believed he was selling it to another operator only to discover it was being sold on to Accomodata. “This is our finest hotel so you can imagine how this has gone down locally – weddings cancelled, ballet lessons cancelled, Rotary lunches cancelled. There has been no consultation. It has all been done in secret.” He added that Kent could no longer cope with the numbers of asylum seekers arriving. “We need a two-year moratorium. We can’t take any more, ” he said. Another contractor, the Angel Group, has a deal similar to Accomodata. The company has acquired Caythorpe Court, a Grade II listed hunting lodge in Caythorpe, Lincs, for use as an asylum centre. Villagers yesterday invaded the proposed site saying they could no longer stand idly by when their lives were in danger of being turned upside down. One of them, Janet Norman, 69, said: “This is going to change the face of the British countryside for ever. Home Office plans will destroy us. There is no work for asylum seekers.” She said the village had one shop, a post office, a hairdresser and a doctor, adding: “We are a community of only 1,500 people. “How are we going to cope with an influx of 500 asylum seekers? We invaded the grounds today and were turned back by security men. They ordered us to leave and photographed us.” Protester Philip Turner, 55, a former transport consultant, said villagers were not prepared to accept the controversial scheme. He said: “People still leave their doors open around here. Societies like this do still exist.” Retired engineer Terry Norman, 72, co-ordinator of protest group Caythorpe In Action, added: “An Englishman’s home used to be his castle, but the feeling in the village now is that soon it’s going to be his prison.” Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes said the plans had been “outlined” by ministers in October, 2001. “The Coniston Hotel would be one of a number of hotels used to accommodate asylum seekers on a temporary basis in the London area before they are moved on to accommodation centres or dispersed outside the Southeast, ” she said in a statement. “The Government recognises that areas such as Kent already play a large part in supporting asylum seekers and one of the main aims of induction centres is to make sure people can be dispersed away from the South-east as quickly as possible.”


Written by Concerned

January 20, 2003 at 11:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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