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Refugee hotel bid dropped

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THE JOURNAL (Newcastle, UK)

BYLINE: By Liz Hands, The Journal

The owners of a Northumberland hall have taken it off the Government list of potential homes for asylum seekers. People living near Otterburn Hall objected at the end of last year when the owner put the isolated country hotel and conference centre on the Home Office list of emergency asylum accommodation. Now the company, the Angel Group which houses asylum seekers and refugees across the country has changed its mind. Spokeswoman Jo Hawkins yesterday said: “When the Angel Group was asked by the Government to provide a list of possible emergency accommodation in October last year, it did include Otterburn Hall. The need for that never arose. “The Angel Group has now taken it off the list, because Otterburn Hall is being used as a hotel and it would waste Government time if we left it on there.” Protesters yesterday said that although they were pleased, they were still worried about the hall’s future. Last year, Otterburn people voiced strong protests at moves to use the former YMCA-owned hall to house up to 250 asylum seekers, arguing that the 500-strong community did not have the resources to support such a project. Bryce Watson, who led the Otterburn and District Action Group, yesterday said: “This is good news, but we are still very wary about the fate of Otterburn Hall in the long term.” Otterburn post mistress Mary White said: “The Angel Group haven’t been keeping local people informed about what is going on, so there is still concern about what will happen at Otterburn Hall.” Gordon Moore, owner of Otterburn’s Border Reiver shop, said there was still work to be done to mend relations between villagers and the Angel Group. He said: “They have now joined our Wild Redesdale Group, which aims to promote the area to tourists, and they are sending a representative to talk with us in the next fortnight.” But Mrs Hawkins said they would not be looking to turn Otterburn Hall into asylum seeker accommodation at any time in the future. She said: “The gamekeepers’ lodges at the hall have been refurbished for use as holiday accommodation, a planning application has gone in to Northumberland National Park authority to refurbish the Victorian conservatory and a caravan site beside the old farm house is also now ready. “Otterburn Hall is doing well as a hotel and will continue as a hotel.”

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Written by Concerned

April 8, 2003 at 11:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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