'Can do' call to asylum hotel plan

HOWLS of protest have greeted government move to turn hotels into centres to house asylum seekers - yet some Felixstowe hoteliers saying it is a viable proposition.



HOWLS of protest have greeted government moves to turn hotels into centres to house asylum seekers – yet some Felixstowe hoteliers say it is a viable proposition.

Arrival points in the UK such as Felixstowe could prove to be a popular place to buy a seaside hotel to house the refugees temporarily until they are moved to accommodation centres or dispersed around the country.

Some hotel owners in Felixstowe disagree with the scheme but have said they would consider selling their hotels to be used to house asylum seekers if they were given the right price.

"If they gave me twice the market value of my hotel I would sell it. We are all here to make money," said Sudeep Singh, owner of the Marlborough Hotel in Sea Road.

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However he acknowledged it would not be "a very good thing to have in the town".

The owner of another hotel in Felixstowe said: "If someone offers you a lot of money you would think about it."

"I think the whole asylum seekers issue needs more thought than just buying up hotels, the government should have a better system for entry points."

The owner of the Dolphin Hotel in Beach Station Road, Heinz Hoffacker, said: "I don't think Felixstowe would go for that. We wouldn't do that because we only have nine rooms".

A 28-room hostel in Trimley St Mary was met with opposition after residents suspected asylum seekers were living there. Seven Oaks, in Church Lane, was closed in 2000 after villagers objected that the hostel was too large and was having an unsettling effect on the community.

At least ten centres have been planned in the UK and the scheme is expected to be rapidly implemented compared to other attempts such as in Bicester and Oxfordshire where local planning authorities have rejected the plans and appeals have taken months.

This new scheme would by-pass the local authority as the government is only buying buildings that already have planning permission to be used as a hostel and do not have to go through public consultation.

The mayor of Felixstowe, Malcolm Minns, said: "I think it would be a question of a culture clash. My first sentiment is that we hope that the appropriate local authorities would be consulted in advance, I think it quite wrong were they not to be consulted."

He added that he did not think there were any hotels in Felixstowe which would be suitable or large enough to house a high number of asylum seekers.

All the UK sites for the housing of thousands of asylum seekers are being sought by 20 accommodation and property companies working for the Home Office.

The locations of the sites have not been revealed yet but it is intended that the induction centres should be close to the main arrival points for asylum seekers.

The scheme has been met with fury in Sittingbourne, Kent, where the first hotel has been bought to house 100 asylum seekers.

A Grade II listed hunting lodge has also been bought in the village of Caythorpe in Lincolnshire and may be converted in to an accommodation centre. However residents have set up a protest group to try and block the move.

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