Arrival of asylum seekers to Yorkshire centre put on hold at the last minute

A councillor says she hopes consultation will now follow after the arrival of the first asylum seekers to a new centre in East Yorkshire was put on hold at the last minute.

A meeting involving East Riding Council’s housing portfolio holder Claire Holmes, MPs David Davis and Dame Diana Johnson, and Home Office Minister Kevin Foster lead to plans to house up to 200 single male asylum seekers at Thwaite Hall, a former student hall of residence in Cottingham, near Hull, paused on Tuesday, just hours before the first group was due to arrive.

Coun Holmes said it is vital that residents are consulted and believes the Home Office and housing provider Mears Group should consider “a more balanced cohort”.

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She added: “I hope there will be consultation. I think unless we receive confirmation that it isn’t going to happen we should proceed on the basis that it might. Whilst this is a Home Office decision, I and officers at East Riding Council will do all they can to ensure that residents’ concerns are addressed.”

Thwaite Hall in CottinghamThwaite Hall in Cottingham
Thwaite Hall in Cottingham

Earlier this week Mr Davis said residents “deserve better” and branded the Home Office’s management of the situation as “incredibly poor”.

While every part of the country had to take their “fair share” of refugees, he said the “idea that 200 single adult men are a good fit for the Cottingham area is laughable”. The hall, which is over 200 years old and sits on the corner of Thwaite Street and New Village Road was closed in August 2017.

The men were due to come as part of an initial 12-month contract with Mears Group.

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It comes as the Home Office has stayed tight-lipped on reports it is considering delaying the opening of the planned asylum seeker centre in Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire.

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Up to 60 lone men are due to arrive at the centre in the village’s disused RAF base on May 31.

But Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake told the Commons earlier this week that officials had told him they were considering a delay.

Speaking in a debate on the centre, which has met with much opposition from both local politicians and residents of the village, he said: “There was an indication by the Home Office… that that might be delayed.

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“We do not know by how long yet, but nevertheless, none of the plan for mental health support, GP support or dental support has yet been articulated. The police plan has not yet been articulated.

“It is simply wrong.”

It comes as Hambleton District Council said it has served a Planning Contravention Notice (PCN) on the Home Office, which formally requests specific information so the council can assess if it has broken planning law.

The council has also sent a pre-action letter to the Home Office as it continues to deliberate on whether to bring a legal challenge to the planned asylum centre.

Leader Mark Robson said: “This letter outlines why we feel the Home Office may have acted unlawfully in their intention to use the site at Linton-on-Ouse as a centre for asylum seekers, highlights the adverse impact on the council, its taxpayers and communities and requires the Homes Office to justify its position.”

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And the parish council in the North Yorkshire village attacked the Home Office for failing to pay £200 for audio/visual equipment which allowed its officials to address a village meeting, and towards overtime for its clerk.

Marc Goddard, chair of the parish council, said: “We have as yet received no financial contribution. I have had an email from them saying that it is ‘not proving a simple process’.”