Hotel accommodation for migrants will continue despite costing £6m per day

The Great Northern Hotel in Peterborough

Hotels are being turned into “longer term” accommodation for asylum seekers despite a pledge from Rishi Sunak to end their use.

Owners are reopening disused hotels and negotiating “further” with the Home Office to take in hundreds of migrants.

The moves suggest asylum seekers will be housed in hotels in what ministers admit will be “longer than first thought” as they race to open other major sites such as former military bases.

The Prime Minister promised in January to “end the appalling situation where taxpayers are paying to keep illegal migrants in hotels”.

Five more sites have so far been identified to reduce the £6 million a day cost of housing 51,000 asylum seekers in nearly 400 hotels but the Government is facing opposition to transforming them into migrant accommodation.

It has now emerged that the 170-year-old Great Northern Hotel in Peterborough is to be turned into “longer term contingency accommodation”.

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, told local Tory MP Paul Bristow earlier this month that the Home Office would have to “use emergency accommodation hotels for a longer period than originally envisaged and as a result the This hotel has been converted into longer-term contingent accommodation. “.

Mr Bristow said it was “the wrong hotel in the wrong place at the wrong time” as the 41-bedroom venue was part of an £8 million regeneration scheme for the city’s quarter station.

The Home Office is also in talks to reopen a disused hotel in the center of Worthing, West Sussex, to house asylum seekers despite the recent refusal of a planning application to change its use to shared accommodation with 44 en-suite bedroom with shared kitchen. , dining and living spaces.

The Windsor House hotel in Worthing has been closed for a year and former minister Tim Loughton, the local MP, said it was the “wrong place” in a densely populated area with a large number of properties and similar pressures.

“We need to add other accommodation such as army barracks or barges. Why do we need to use more hotels if they are saying the priority is to empty them? Any attempt to rebrand them as pushovers would be dirty,” he said.

‘It’s easy to say but we have to do it’

The owners of a second disused country house hotel, Northop Hall in North Wales, are proposing to turn it into a site for 400 “mostly male” asylum seekers, 250 of whom would be housed in “modular accommodation” on its lands.

They are seeking planning permission for the plans with a pre-application consultation already completed earlier this month.

Local MP Rob Roberts, a member of the Conservative Party but sitting as an independent, warned that local services would not deal but said he had been assured by ministers that the “change of use” would not go ahead unless he confirmed the planning and all planning. regulatory approvals.

“The ministers said they were going to stop using hotels and put out press releases saying we are going to stop using them so why continue with it? It’s easy to say but we have to do it,” he said.

Ministers have not set a timetable for ending the use of hotels although they have pledged to clear the backlog of 92,600 initial asylum claims by the end of the year.

However, the Government faces legal action, with the first case due to appear in court on Wednesday when Braintree District Council seeks an injunction to block plans to turn the RAF Wethersfield base in Essex into a camp for up to 1,700 candidates refuges.

RAF Wethersfield - Martin Pope/Getty

RAF Wethersfield – Martin Pope/Getty

Similar action is being threatened against asylum plans for RAF Scampton, a former Dambusters squadron base in Lincolnshire, a barge in Portland Port near Weymouth, Dorset, and HMP Northeye, a former prison in Bexhill, east Sussex.

Regarding the Great Northern Hotel, a spokesperson for Peterborough City Council said: “We are still in ongoing discussions with the Home Office and are keeping all options open at this time, including possible legal action.”

It is thought that the council could take action on the basis that a material change of use from hotel to hostel is in breach of planning rules.

A government spokesman said: “The number of people arriving in the UK in need of accommodation has reached record levels and has put incredible pressure on our asylum system.

“Using hotels to house asylum seekers is unacceptable – there are currently over 51,000 asylum seekers in hotels costing the UK taxpayer £6 million a day.

“The Home Office is committed to making every effort to reduce the use of hotels as a contingency solution and to limit the burden on the taxpayer.”

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