Families say no to asylum hostel plan
Anger at hostel
EVENING CHRONICLE (Newcastle, UK)
March 19, 2003, Wednesday
BYLINE: By Peter Young, The Evening Chronicle
A new battle is looming over plans to open a hostel which could be used to accommodate refugees in a Tyneside neighbourhood. A controversial scheme to convert a former residential care home into a hostel for asylum seekers was rejected by Newcastle City Council last June. An appeal was lodged by the operators, the Angel Group, and a public inquiry will be held next month. The inquiry will also consider an alternative application to convert the property, in the city’s West End, into two houses in multiple occupation. Bosses of the Angel Group now say the property will not necessarily be used for asylum seekers but could accommodate other groups such as students or elderly people instead. Members of the city council development control committee rejected plans for a 34-bed hostel plan at Bentinck Villas, Bentinck Road, Elswick, on the grounds it could lead to noise or anti-social behaviour affecting nearby residents, following objections by neighbours and ward councillors. The Angel Group already runs a bigger hostel for asylum seekers in nearby Westgate Road. Objectors say there are already enough hostels of various types in the neighbourhood and they have reached saturation point. They say there are not enough facilities such as schools, health clinics and transport and there is concern about groups of asylum seekers congregating. Coun Nigel Todd, who represents Elswick, said today local councillors are backing residents. “We are not prejudiced against asylum seekers but we are opposed to the appeal on the grounds that we think the domestic, residential character of the area should be preserved,” he said. “The issue is the changing character of properties in the area from residential to hostel use which is one we have been pursuing for well over 15 years. There seems very little in planning policy or planning law to protect the original character of the residential area. “It first came up with a flurry of planning applications for private residential care homes in the 1980s. The issue was that the character of the area was changing and our concern about that still stands.” Michael Young, chairman of Grainger Park Residents’ Association, said: “We are not against asylum seekers. We are against the grouping of this type of hostel accommodation in the Elswick and Grainger Park area.” Bosses of the Angel Group said the property could be used for various groups of people including students and the elderly, not just asylum seekers. A spokeswoman said: “The property was bought for beneficial purposes and the Angel Group would not like it to stand empty when there is a need for accommodation in Newcastle for all sorts of people. “Whether it is used as a hostel or houses in multi-occupation there are various options, not necessarily asylum seekers.” The inquiry is at 10am on Tuesday March 18 at Newcastle Civic Centre.