The owners of Blackpool’s Metropole Hotel have been told planning permission will be required before the building can be turned over to house asylum seekers.
Blackpool Council has also warned Britannia Hotels it will issue a stop notice prohibiting use of the site as a hostel if it fails to comply with the requirement.
Council leader Coun Lynn Williams said the council had no choice but to take the action after the Home Office refused to give out information about the conditions asylum seekers would be living in.
The Metropole Hotel
It was announced on Tuesday the Metropole Hotel on the Promenade will be receiving 223 asylum seekers by the end of the week – a figure which has now risen to 324.
Coun Williams said the Home Office and Serco, which provides accommodation for asylum seekers on behalf of the Government, had been unable to allay concerns from the council, police, fire and ambulance authorities.
She said: “Our concerns escalated yesterday (Wednesday) following further meetings with the Home Office and Serco.
“We are not to be provided with any of the risk assessments that have been undertaken despite asking repeatedly for them to allay these concerns.
“Yesterday we gave notice to the Metropole and its owners that using the Metropole to house asylum seekers constitutes to a material change of use and planning permission is required before they proceed.
“If they do proceed we will issue a temporary stop notice immediately, which means if they continue to provide accommodation that is unlawful.
“This is a closure of a large hotel and conversion to a hostel and that requires planning consent.
“The Government knows the problems we have here with HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) and hostels and the impact on Blackpool, and yet we are expected to accept a very large HMO in the centre of Blackpool which is one of the most deprived areas of the country.”
Coun Williams said the Home Office actions were ‘contradictory’ to other government departments which had ploughed millions of pounds into Blackpool to improve the quality of housing and reduce the spread of HMOs.
She added: “We are not doing this out of lack of sympathy for the asylum seekers but because this is entirely the wrong place for these people.”
She said the Home Office had failed to grasp the fact Blackpool’s season was still in full swing with millions of visitors in the town for the Illuminations which already put extra pressure on local services.