Blackpool in the dark over hotel asylum seekers plan as Home Office stays quiet

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Blackpool MP Paul Maynard stated the pause was down pressure placed on Home Office ministers

 

Metropole Hotel, Blackpool
Metropole Hotel, Blackpool (Image: JThomas / Geograph)

The Home Office has refused to offer an explanation why plans to relocate hundreds of asylum seekers to a Blackpool seafront hotel has been ‘paused’ and isn’t going ahead.

The decision to house hundreds of asylum seekers in Blackpool’s Metropole Hotel was approved by government earlier this week as part of the response to the growing number of migrants crossing the English Channel.

The original announcement stated that the hotel was to receive 223 asylum seekers, later rising to to 324.

But on Thursday, Blackpool Council told owners of the seafront hotel that they must must apply for the correct planning permission before housing any asylum seekers.

Shortly afterwards the authority then revealed it had been advised that the relocation of the asylum seekers to the Metropole Hotel would not take place today (September 10) as expected – but that the council understands government will still pursue this plan.

The council revealed its stance still remains the same in that the decision is ‘a wholly inappropriate and ill-conceived placement’.

The council has also claimed that the Home Office refused to address “grave concerns” raised by the council, NHS, police, fire service and public health officials.

MP Paul Maynard
MP Paul Maynard (Image: Manchester Evening News)

In response to the “pause”, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys Paul Maynard issued a statement saying: “Pleased to see my pressure on Home Office Ministers has seen these reckless plans paused, so Blackpool Council can take necessary action to close the Metropole Hotel if planning law infringements occur, meaning it cannot be used to home those seeking asylum in this most unsuitable location.”

When asked by LancsLive for the reasoning behind the pause, with reference to My Maynard’s comments, the Home Office issued the same statement it gave LancsLive yesterday.

LancsLive approached the Home Office again for a fresh statement on an explanation as well as a timeline concerning the housing of asylum seekers in Blackpool, only to be told by a spokesperson the department had nothing else to add.

On Thursday, Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We have now been advised that the relocation of the asylum seekers to the Metropole Hotel has been paused and will not take place tomorrow (Friday 10 September).

“However, our understanding is that the Home Office is continuing to pursue this plan. In that regard, our view remains exactly the same in that this is a wholly inappropriate and ill-conceived placement.

Home Secretary Priti Patel. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Home Secretary Priti Patel. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

“We stand by our assertion that the Home Office has failed to satisfy any of the grave concerns raised by local services including the Council, NHS, police, fire service and public health officials. Collectively we have requested answers to a number of questions relating to suitability of location, the timing of this placement and the need for a thorough risk assessment particularly in terms of the potential impact on these vulnerable and traumatised people.

“None of those questions have been answered to date and there is growing dismay over the way in which this situation has been handled.

“As a result, we will exercise every available power to prevent the usage of the Metropole in the way that is intended. We have served notice on Britannia Hotels advising that if they close the hotel and use it for the purpose of housing asylum-seekers they will need planning permission for a change of use of the building. If they ignore that advice, we will issue a temporary stop notice and enforce if necessary.”

Before the statement was released, the Home Office stated it has consulted with public services over the matter. It claimed consultation happened in August with police meetings also taking place.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office wrote to the Chief Executive of Blackpool Council and the local MPs on the planned use of the Metropole hotel on 25 August.

“The council replied to us on 27 August and we submitted a written response yesterday.

“The Home Office has also met with local stakeholders such as police and public health providers as well as officers from the local authority. All the hotels the Home Office uses must meet relevant health and safety legislation and provide their latest health and safety risk assessment.”