Families say no to asylum hostel plan
EVENING CHRONICLE (Newcastle, UK)
March 19, 2003, Wednesday Edition 1
Families fighting plans for an asylum seekers’ hostel insist their neighbourhood has reached saturation point. A number of women told a Government planning inquiry they already feel intimidated by groups of young male asylum seekers hanging around the streets and are frightened to go out. Local people are backed by council chiefs who have refused planning permission for the 34-bed hostel in Newcastle’s West End. Planners insist the project would undermine the regeneration of the West End under the council’s massive Going for Page 82 Housing earmarked for former college site Lincolnshire Echo March 28, 2003 Growth project. But the Angel Group, the company which wants to convert a former residential care home at 1-2 Bentinck Villas in Bentinck Road into a hostel, is appealing against the council decision. There is also an appeal over alternative plans to convert the property into two houses in multiple occupation, also for 34 people. The appeals, along with the objections, were outlined at a Planning Inspectorate hearing at Newcastle Civic Centre conducted by inspector Kathleen Woodling. The Angel Group already has a hostel for 200 asylum seekers in a former nurses’ home in nearby Westgate Road and neighbours said another will make existing problems worse. Jon Rippon, senior planning officer with Newcastle Council, said the neighbourhood was mainly residential in character but there were already 10 hostel- type units with 330 places including accommodation for asylum seekers. He said the council’s policy was to accommodate asylum seekers in more traditional housing where they can blend in with other families. “We are aware of the considerable concern among local residents about the impact this type of institutionalised accommodation is having on the residential character of the area,” he said. “It will harm the character of the area and will result in families moving out and new families not moving in which is contrary to the Going for Growth strategy and the strategy for the West End of the city.” Planning consultant Martin Robinson, representing the Angel Group and its subsidiary, Angel Heights, said the council’s own planning policies envisaged a range of house types in the West End and it was committed to social inclusion. “The city council have some very laudable aims and objectives with regard to social inclusion and have specifically identified vulnerable groups,” he said. “This may include asylum seekers.” Mr Robinson said the Angel Group was a well-established provider of accommodation and support services for asylum seekers for the Home Office in 13 regions including Newcastle. He said the character of the area was not just residential, but also included a hospital, business centre, bowling alley and several semi-industrial uses. Residents said the area was already multi-cultural. The inspector’s decision will be announced at a later date.